Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Prince of the Pile

One fall it was time for a little yard work. The dump truck backed up the driveway and dropped a load of dirt mixed with manure in the yard. This proved too great a temptation for my six-year-old son.

"Can I play in the dirt?" he begged.

I recoiled at the thought of my son playing in the manure pile. I had to be firm as he kept asking all morning to climb the dirt heap.

Around lunchtime my son tried one more desperate plea to get near the earth pile. "Well, can I just take my lunch outside and sit and look at it?"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Follow Jesus--and Rest?

Resting is not something that comes easily for me. Psalm 23 reads, "He makes me lie down in green pastures" (emphasis mine). That is what it takes--God making me lie down. I doubt that I am alone in this restlessness. As women, we keep going if there is a job remaining.

Yet, rest is part of God's plan from creation. If we are to be truly like Him, we must also learn to rest. On the seventh day God declared His handiwork, "Good!" and He rested.

When Jesus stilled the storm in Matthew 8, the most amazing detail to me was not that He calmed the water but that they had to awaken Him to get His help. Jesus was asleep while others manned the ship.

Jesus had a work ethic we can imitate. It is shocking to realize that He walked away from hurts, ailments and pressing crowds. He accepted that His role was not to do everything but to carry out the tasks His Father assigned Him. We need to learn, likewise, to leave a job undone if it is not our job.

We have One who promises to teach us: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My load is light."

We can take our IPhone, Palm Pilots and calendars before our gentle Father and ask Him to prioritize our schedule. When we feel overwhelmed with marriage, children, work, ministry and the many other responsibilities that pull on us, we should pause to consider, God's intention is not to drive us into exhaustion. On the contrary--His desire for us is rest.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Can you spell Bibliophile?

"What age should your child be when you begin reading to them?" This question was asked by my college professor as I sat in my Elementary Education reading class. Anyone who stated an age older than birth flunked, according to this expert.

If you visit my house, you will see that I took this advice to heart. We are bibliophiles--we love books. There are bookshelves in every bedroom and my children have their own book collections with inscriptions commemorating various birthdays and other celebrations.

One of my favorite memories is of my three daughters, ages 2, 7 and 10, sitting in a row on the couch after a trip to the library. I was fixing dinner and they were totally engrossed in their "new" books. They each had their stack of books and they pored through them one by one. It is a cute memory but more importantly, I am delighted that my kids still love books.

As my kids have grown older, and it is time to part with books that are too young for them, we have kept some favorites. We have such great memories or our read aloud times. Grand kids will be here before I know it and I know I'll want to read to them.

Picture books for really young children are my favorite baby gift. Young moms are usually surprised to get a book in with the booties and bottles. I've learned that those little board books with colorful photoes will soon become a favorite toy. Even if the babies are gnawing on the books, I still think something important is conveyed about books and reading.

I read recently that a Museum of Picture Book Art compiled this list of the top-10 children's picture books:
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
  • Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  • Madeline by Ludwig Bemellmanus
  • Frederick by Leo Lionni
  • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • Curious George by H. A. Rey

If you go to you see illustrations from these classics.

Giving children the gift of books early is important, whether they are enjoying them through the sound of your voice or they are able to sit up and look at them, books are treasures.

Did any of the top ten books listed above make your family favorites list? Leave a comment and tell us your picks.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Church Starts in the Driveway

The enemy seems to work overtime on Sunday mornings. After my family arrived at church repeatedly in a state of discord and not ready to worship, I began to rethink our routine for getting to church.

We have a long drive to church - just over 30 minutes. I decided that it could be put to better use than 5 separate sets of earphones plugged into IPods, DVDs or radio channels with each of us in our own zone. We now listen to one worship channel corporately - no earphones and we always start the trip with a time of prayer for the church service.

Attending church and "getting something out of it" is as much about preparing for the time and bringing something to the gathering than sitting and receiving. Our prayers reflect that.

What do we pray?
  • For the pastors, teachers and worship leaders to be anointed and speak, live out and sing God's message
  • For those attending to get there - no excuses - and have hearts to hear God's Word
  • For our hearts to be ready to hear God's message for us
  • For each of us to see those in need who are attending and to reach out to them

This plan took tweaking to get it where it is today. Each family member prays out loud on the way to church but in the beginning the younger kids were clueless about what to pray. I had to model the prayers but they caught the enthusiasm.

I am careful not to "fix " their prayers. If they pray in their own ineloquent words for something I don't pray again for the same thing in correct theological terms. I know and they have learned that God hears our heart prayers, not our fancy words.

So if you feel like your enemy, the Devil, is prowling in your part of the country on Sunday mornings, consider this last piece of spiritual amour outlined in Ephesians 6.

...and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Angels on the Bunk Bed

Christian kids often play strange games. We have all probably played "wedding" and we may have heard the humorous story about the kitty being "baptized" after coming forward in an altar call.

My kids tell me about a game they used to play when they were entertaining themselves in their room. They used to imagine how many angels were in the room and where they all were sitting, standing or floating. They discussed how many would fit on top of the bunk bed and how big they were if their wings were unfurled.

My children wondered what the heavenly beings did when they hung around. Did they help them win their games or just stand around and watch what they were doing? Did the angels ever wish they could play, too?

At family reunions now my grown girls laugh about this childhood pastime. I am glad that as young children they had such a firm grip on the reality of the spiritual realm. They knew that angels were all about them.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 18:10

These are probably good truths to ponder when it comes time for my children to learn to ride a bike, drive a car or depart for foreign mission fields.

There is so much we don't know about angels but of this I'm sure: The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Psalms 34:7

And are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14

What a comfort. I will think twice, however, next time I make up the bunk beds - how many angels do fit up there?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In the Tree and Out of the Box

I couldn't wait to teach my first child about the Bible. I took that verse seriously about training my daughter when we lied down, rose up, were on the way... and in the car.

One morning, I taxied about with my two year old in her car seat. I retold the story of Zacchaeus in the tree while craning my neck to see two pony tails bob up and down in the rear view mirror. For the third time and one time too many, I asked, "Now, why did Jesus tell Zacchaeus to come down from the tree?"

She never missed the answer before but apparently she had grown tired of this story. Maybe a new answer would end my repetitive questioning. With a deep sigh she said, "Because Jesus though it was his turn to play in the tree?"

Now that was a new version of the Zacchaeus story. My daughter was learning early to put God in a box. She knew about playing and trees and sharing. She knew nothing of tax collectors and stealing and saviors.

How often do we place God in a box -- limiting Him by our earthly understanding? We place on the God of the universe human characteristics because those are what we understand and know best.

We think God values others as we see them. WE believe his resources are as limited as ours. We think God is angered by what angers us. The trials that enter our life are seen as mistakes rather than stepping stones to grow in our faith. We believe our righteous acts impress God and perhaps make us His favorite. We believe God looks upon our outward appearance and status rather than our hearts.

"Who has known the mind of the Lord?" Romans 11:34 asks. God makes it clear when he tells us in Isaiah 55:8, "My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways!"

I now have 4 children and a son-in-law. The story telling era is behind us but now I pray for our family.

Lord, please give us hearts like yours. May we love the things you love and hate the things you hate. May we see people as you see them and place value on them as you do. Please open our eyes to see you in everything that we encounter and may we know that nothing is more than we can handle when we are hidden in you. Amen.

My daughter could not understand the Zaccheus story that day when she was two but she didn't need to worry. Assuredly, Jesus would have His turn in the tree and He would share -- with the whole world.

"For God raised up Jesus for us after we hung him on a tree." Acts 5:30.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sex Ed 101

When my daughter was very young I struggled with explaining the facts of real life. She was only in her early grade school years. How could I explain adultery or any of the many other ways the world has invented to distort God's plan for marriage without just reciting a list of rules?

My child's artwork plastered my refrigerator and pantry doors. Each picture came with love notes scribbled to me across the top. Throughout the day as more "masterpieces" were proudly presented to me, I had to make more room. These pictures were my inspiration -- for a lesson.

"Did you know that God sends us artwork and love messages?"

My daughter's head snapped up from her coloring. "No-o-o," she drawled quizzically.

"He gave the world the gift of marriage and mommies and daddies and families. It is a picture sent to us with his special love note written on it. He wants us to know that in much the same way a husband loves and cares for his wife, he loves us."

"The husband and wife relationship is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one." Eph. 5:32 NLT

I explained that God's plan includes one man and one woman committed for life. When God designed marriage, he wanted to show us how much He is committed to us and wants us to love only Him, always.

"When you give me your pictures, I am so proud that I hang them up for everyone to see. The world sometimes takes God's pictures and rips them up and tosses them in the trash."

By my daughter's shocked expression I wasn't sure if she understood everything that day. But, it was the first of many talks to lay the foundation for seeing God's heart regarding the mystery of marriage and not the world's discarded masterpiece.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Father's Eyes

My oldest daughter loved to go to the mall when she was four. As a social butterfly she liked to be around the crowds. She never met a stranger. She had no fear.

This also presented a problem. My daughter did not feel a need to stay with her parents. She could handle the excursion on her own and expected us to keep up.

My husband decided on one Mall outing that he would teach our daughter about staying with her parents. He explained what he expected before they got out of the car. It was simple: stay with Daddy, do not get out of his sight -- do not wander off.

It took only a few minutes for the lure of the clothing racks to call my daughter from her father's side. My husband was ready. He retreated to a corner and stood watching and waiting. A few more minutes and my daughter looked up to see only clothing racks and lots of tall legs but no Daddy smiling down at her.

She panicked. My husband never let her out of his sight but he waited until she was truly ready to find him. He stepped forward and she ran to him We did not have problems with Mall wandering again.

I love this story and we often laugh over it. My daughter is now 24 and it is up to her husband to keep up with her at the mall.

As a parent I have come to understand so much more of my heavenly Father. I choose to wander from Him more than I'd like to recognize. I often think that I have a better plan. How God must grieve as He waits in the corner for me to look up and begin to search for Him.

I know He never lets me out of His sight. His heart and eyes are steadfastly fixed on me as he waits for me to turn to Him.

"The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.. The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him." Psalm 34: 15, 22

Lord, thank you that we can never run away from your watchful eye. When we turn back to you, you receive us without condemnation.