Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mix it ALL Up!

Well, after such an inspirational gathering of leaders a few weeks back I have had to think and evaluate what am I doing here and am I really here for God? I've had some time to reflect and truly repent and I'd like to share that with you.

The idea of repenting can be taken very seriously or it can be taken very frivolously. As one who attempts to imitate Christ, I lean toward the level of serious. I had a real self-evaluation recently and many conversations with God to figure out what did I need to repent of exactly. For I believed that because we weren't getting quite the desired result (grown kingdom) out of our work for God that I must have lead others astray somehow. I've been confused and eager to discover my pitfalls and shortcomings in hopes that this process is less maddening ;-)

So after talking with my husband and reading (the bible!) and praying I've come to the conclusion that I need to repent for not treating the children as I believe I should be treating them. I mean to say that I believe they are the most important task God hands to us. I believe children are vital to the growth of the kingdom and I believe they are too often overlooked, put aside or seen as a group of 'not yets'. I have dreams and visions of adults and children living as a unified species. Enjoying, learning and leaning on each other as a way of life. All my dreams and desires, my thoughts and blogs, my conversations and yet I am not living it to the fullest.

Sure our family has the blessing of my being able to stay home with our children, I home school them, we work to teach them about life lessons of work, responsibility, goal setting and achievement, financial direction, good and bad decision making, the reality of consequences and so many other things. But I'm not living this dream and I'm pretty sure because I'm not doing it, that if anyone else (in this house) is trying to live the dream, I'm squashing it.

I must then, acknowledge my repentance isn't just for the children I come in contact with and the adults I come in contact with through my ministries, (though they all benefit as well) no, it is for my own children. God has given me three amazing people to help shape and safely guide to adulthood where they will be released into the "Wilds of America" (and beyond?) and I have taken them for granted. I have failed to allow them to be the joy to myself (and maybe even to others) that God has created them to be. I've allowed my hurts, frustrations and exhaustion to affect how I see them. I've allowed Satan to distract me, and in some ways use me to torment them. And I am SO ready to repent now that I recognize what has been going on.

See someone said in our group of leaders that they are always told they are doing a wonderful job and receive lots of praise (too much maybe) from others in how they parent and stay involved in their children's lives. But this person said they need me to encourage them and to challenge them to do it even better. I see that and I think, "wow! yeah, we can do it better!" ...we may be doing it good, maybe even better than others, but we certainly have leaps and bounds to reach our potential. I mean, what kind of mother does God want me to be??!! I've never asked myself that question before. (!!)

More than a week ago we did this really cool lesson as a group during our worship gathering where I measured out a group of ingredients and put them in separate bowls. I then took each bowl, identified the contents and sent the bowl around the room for everyone to taste. Some things like sugar and chocolate chips tasted great! Other things likes vanilla extract and baking soda tasted awful!!! When we tasted the contents of the bowl we were to draw a parallel of something in our lives that is similar to that (we used a list or a drawing). At the end of tasting everything we had a page full of great and not so great things. Alone, some of these things we can handle (or eat pounds of!) and others we can't even bear to put into our mouths (eggs!!!). But if we rely on God and allow Him to take ALL of the ingredients and work his magic (dump all ingredients in a bowl and mix with a large wooden spoon) we get something that is wonderfully irresistible... COOKIE DOUGH!!!

I see this lesson and how it applies to my ministry, my dream and my reality and I see how if I allow God to be in control and mix up ALL the ingredients, even the ones I think are too gross to include (butter or baking powder anyone?) then He can do something amazing, but only if I give Him EVERYTHING! See cookie dough won't work if any one of the ingredients is missing. It might still be edible and may even taste pretty good, but it won't have all the perfect wonderfulness that is cookie dough. Only if I let Him work with me and through me is there then cookie dough, and not just a tiny bit of dough but enough for everyone. It is then I can live my dream which fulfills my ministry and is my reality.

What an awesome God we have!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Worshiping with Children

Well friends,

Our gathering went well. It was smaller than originally expected but wonderful none-the-less.

After our dinner, I had markers and poster boards available and gave a very nonsensical explanation of my previous post and then had the crowd break into three groups that included both adults and children and watched the fun unfold!

First, you should know that sitting and coloring and talking about Jesus in this brainstorming session where young and old were intermingled was definitely a worship experience! Second, you should know that the children taught the adults SO much about being joyful. The joy of childhood, the happiness of being together, it was truly amazing to watch.... never before have I seen grown ups giggle and be so incredibly impressed and emotionally touched when sitting in a circle and worshiping. The children brought an awesomeness that none of us were fully prepared for. Third, the list of ideas for how to worship is long and exciting. I hope our participants and our at home readers are ready to try some of these things.

How can we worship God?
  • Obey our parents (and authority figures)
  • Be with our family
  • Love others
  • Sing
  • Show kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control, love, joy, patience and peace
  • Pray to God
  • Help the Poor
  • Read the Bible
  • Be enthusiastic about Jesus and others
  • Share things like food
  • Encourage others
  • Be a friend
  • Be generous
  • Stay joyful
  • Talk to God
  • Imagine things that God does and has (like God having a pool to go swimming in). 
  • Being creative and telling stories about worshiping God (having mom in a space ship on her way to see God, having the child in the family bow down to God, having our family members who haven't decided to follow Jesus with all of their being asking questions and being curious about Christ, etc.)  
  • Stay Determined to follow Christ
  • Help other people
  • Give something God has given you to someone else
  • When we work together without fighting we worship God
  • When we show others love
  • Doing what God says
  • Letting the Lord lead you through
  • Giving thanks to God
  • Forgiving others
WOW! This is a great list and is SO diverse and flexible that almost anything you do, with the right intentions and focused heart is considered worship! So get working, see how much of your life (the whole thing???) can turn into a worship experience. Wouldn't that just be an awesome thing to share with others and an amazing legacy to leave behind??

A life of worship, that's powerful, that's obedience, that's WORSHIP!

P.S. Just because you don't have young children around you doesn't mean you can't implement these ideas into your worship experience!

Friday, November 2, 2012

What Does it Mean to Worship?

What Does it Mean to Worship? What About to Worship as a family?

The term worship is a heavy and complicated word. It has so many definitions and uses that when someone tries to sum it up or identify it there is usually great debate on whether the example is thorough enough to include all the variations and interpretations of the word. Famous theologians have argued and debated about the meaning and the proper forms and uses of the word worship and modern day bloggers whose education and discipling status is unknown offer a multitude of explanations and/or examples. All of this information however, just complicates the the question, 'What does it mean to worship as a family'?

To save everyone some heart ache, I'm going to define worship in the simplest of terms that I (a non-theologian) is capable of. I believe that worshiping is when you show people you love Jesus with your words and actions, affecting the world around us for the better. And to do that as a family means we do that together. We do not exclude anyone (especially the children).

We've been reading Mark the last two weeks as a church and as a family and in Mark 10:13-16 my bible says this:

The Little Children and Jesus

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

So I look at this and I think a few things. First, I've heard this before, in most of the gospels I believe (of which our church and family has read all of in the last 4 or 5 months). Second, the familiarity of this passage doesn't make it less puzzling. I've always felt, when reading this passage, we are missing something... but I've never been able to put my finger on what. Was it a call to be child-like? That is an easy desire to fall into, but that has just never seemed quite right.

No, today when I read this passage I noticed this:

The Little Children and Jesus

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

 WHOA!!! There it is. The thing that I've been looking for in this passage. The answer to my question, "what am I missing here, I don't get it?" Well, now I get it.

Us, the grown ups, the ones in charge, the dignified people, with our rules and expectations and our outstanding ability to complicate everything... we are to get out of the way! Stop hindering the children and allow them to come to Jesus. Allow His blessings to flow and be abundant in their lives.

Of course, this is another one of those easier said, than done type of things, but I personally think that phrase is a cop-out. It's an excuse to not change or improve. A reason to feel good about being convicted but do nothing different and let's just all hope that the arrow of guidance we shoot in the dark rooms in which these children live, growing up in this world, hits them. The statistical chances of success in that scenario probably justifies the decline of Christ like disciple making individuals in our world today.

So how do we worship as a family?? We work together to impact the world around us for the better. I believe that children are amazing at impacting the world, naturals! They can bring both joy and destruction in mere seconds and some have the special talent of going between the two extremes while making pit stops between the two in just a few minutes. The reality is, we have been told to get out of the way! So let's get them involved and take some cues from them, "because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Our exercise for the evening is to brainstorm (using markers and poster board). We will come up with ideas on how we as families can impact the world around us through the following avenues:

 Generosity       Thanksgiving         Encouragement                Enthusiasmm           Kindness         Obedience         Respect               Reliability 

p.s. for those of you that might be interested in our discoverings, i do in tend to post our findings.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hardly an Expert

Friday evening I am to present, or orchestrate rather, an evening of family worship time that is instructive and inspirational and though I've had more than two months to prepare, I'm two days away from said event and still have little clue of what will occur. Now I want to be hopeful and say the Holy Spirit will lead us and everything will be awesome but let's be realistic on my role of being prepared. I've felt very lost when it comes to the planning stages and though I've attempted to make an outline dozens of times I'm no closer to figuring it out, YIKES!

Let's take this back just a bit, just in case there are some new readers out there. My husband and I love Jesus with all of our beings. We strive to honor him in every aspect of our life (though we readily admit there are many aspects in which we struggle and do not yet honor Our Father). Almost 3 years ago we sat in our mansion, slaves to our bills with two tiny wild boys and the most perfect baby girl in the world and said, "...this doesn't feel right." Sure we were living the American dream and we've impacted people's lives, but we felt like our life was for SO much more. So we prayed and read and with great counsel we decided to be radical. We sold our dream home and moved into a diverse, working class neighborhood where we live as missionaries to our community. We've created several outreach ministries and facilitate several weekly gatherings in which people are encouraged, allowed and pushed to see Jesus in a whole new way. So far it is going very well (most days!) but I still feel like I'm not doing it right. 

See, my heart is for children. My children specifically, but all children I come into contact with as well. I have always loved children. As a teenager I loved teaching swim lessons, working as an after school counselor, a lifeguard and coaching. Whatever it was that allowed me to share my passions of activities with children was where I belonged. Of course I planned to be a teacher but when it came down to it, I wanted my own children to hold and mold. So we started our family instead of me pursuing a teaching career... how funny that I am now pursuing that teaching position in our home!

All this background to talk for a minute about what happens when I share my heart with others. Often we talk about our family's desire and willingness to obey God in all aspects of life. This doesn't just include parenting but especially parenting and I usually get responses of interest. Occasionally responses of excitement and always nods that agree our role as parents is confusing and therefore a very grey area of life that no one gets right. But I look around and see young adults (and some older ones too) and I think to myself... "no, some parents get it right."

 I inquire the parents about how they parented, I inquire the grown children about what they thought and perceived of their parents' parenting that makes them so different from the world. Of course we know the answer is Jesus, but it's not just Jesus. There is something different that makes these individuals stand out. I think to myself, I want my child (and those God has allowed me to reach) to have those qualities and not just a few of them but all of them! I desire for the fullness of Christ to be in their lives very much real and even tangible, for them to be open, artistic, expressive, confident, adventurous, skillful, intelligent, curious, courageous, honest and in short, GREAT!!

But I fear when we muddle the black and white that exists (and I believe greatly in black and white) and take comfort in the greyness of it all we forfeit those dreams.  I look at it all and think man, this is what I want to figure out. And sometimes other people are really excited and say, "Yeah!!! That's a great idea, let me know what you come up with!" Then I'm left feeling alone and unsure.

Yes this is important, yes this is my passion, but no I don't have a clue about what to do. I'm hardly an expert!

Monday, October 29, 2012

growing into adulthood

     Something you tend to figure out when you become a parent is that you had NO idea what you were talking about when you spoke to a parent whose children were going through a phase, giving them your advice or opinion. Parenting is a full time commitment. On top of your duties to provide for these small humans, you now are responsible for helping shape them into a productive, helpful, self-sufficient, God-loving adult. True we have years to do this so it's not necessarily as overwhelming as it seems. But really, this is a huge deal!

     As a child of God, that has been given the gift of children, I am responsible to teach these children how to learn, how to grow and how to mature in ways that God wants us to. This is a big task and sometimes makes me cry when I know I'm failing in a particular area or moment. These are the times I read Proverbs. The parents handbook!

     I learn SO much and gain a clarity that simplifies my role or lessens my importance when I read Proverbs. After all, I have given my children back to God. He is responsible for growing them into wonderful, Godly, mature adults. My biggest job is to help them find their way without getting too much in the way and teaching them what I know, encouraging them to learn more as they go.

     Over the years I've seen myself in many different lights and discovered huge holes in my own maturity or adultness that I had no clue was there. I look at myself and think, "Wow! How did I not learn that before I was 30??" Sometimes it's disturbing and other times it's embarrassing and still other times it's so, ... well, I don't have words to describe it. I wonder what I'll be learning when I'm 50 or 80??

    Then I wonder, "Who is responsible for teaching me if I didn't learn it while growing up? Where will my children learn to be adults if I, for some reason or other, fail to help them mature properly? Are they going to be 30 year old teenagers? Are they going to be drains on society? And more importantly, are they going to be surrounded by love and accountability to encourage the growth and maturity versus the enablement of childhood??"

    All these things I try not to worry about, even when they cross my mind =D

Thursday, August 16, 2012

And Lead Us Not Into Temptation

I was praying with my three year old daughter last night (we recite the Lord's Prayer with the kids), and I came to the following line of the prayer:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

This line contained new meaning for me.  In the past, I always recited this passively.  To me, it meant
"hey God, I'm just going about my life here, trying to follow you.  Please don't throw any curveballs my way and please keep Satan from messing things up."

Last night, I felt active when I prayed this line.  The meaning changed for me.  I thought,
"God, there is temptation all around me.  Please guide me and give me wisdom so that I am able to dodge and deal with those temptations."

I started asking God to move instead of asking him to stay back.

My focus changed last night in my prayer life.  The Lord's Prayer came alive for me in a new way.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Forgiveness and What I know About It

I do not intend this post to sound arrogant, so forgive me if you read it and it comes across that way. My intentions are merely to share my experience with forgiveness.

We all (at least that is the hope) know that God sent His son Jesus to die for us so that our sins will be forgiven. Generally speaking, amongst those who have faith in Christ, we accept this truth and live with it as a safety net. We don't always use it, feel like we need it, want it or understand the details of it. BUT! It is always there.

However, when we fall, and realize how important that safety net is, we learn to appreciate the net, taking in not only it's usefulness, but it's beauty and intricate detail as well. We are assured it works beyond our wildest imagination and then we are comforted and empowered to try again, maybe taking an even bigger risk.

I've had a few rough patches in my life, and a few not so rough patches, that left me hurt and broken. In many cases I was even unaware of the brokenness or hurt until I was confronted with a trigger that made me relive that particular event (not literally, I'm speaking about emotions and memories). It seems since I've known Christ as an adult and spent time intently seeking Him I discover wounds from my past all the time. When this first began happening I was confused as to my role in this journey. What was I to do about these feelings? How was I to heal? To move on? To rebuild? I thought following Christ meant that I was not defined by those events.

Well, I believe because I was seeking Him, I found people who were so full of passion, grace, mercy and a willingness to walk this path with me that I found my way in and through the path less traveled of forgiveness. I learned from these amazing individuals that forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Offering forgiveness doesn't mean that you no longer hurt or have negative feelings about the offense or offender. Offering forgiveness is simply freeing yourself of the burden of the ordeal and allowing yourself to move through the process of healing. Without forgiveness I don't believe you are truly capable of healing, no matter how much time has past.

Forgiveness, I believe, in our society is seen as something we offer to benefit the offender and so we choose very regularly to not offer this gift up. After all, it is socially acceptable to deny the one who hurt us no matter how deeply or insignificant the pain is. But this my friends, is where we miss the mark. In doing this we torture ourselves. Forcing our heart, mind and soul to continue to relive the moment of pain. We freely add baggage with heavy chains to our souls.

It's like picking at a scab every time it forms. It never allows the cut to heal properly. It can get infected, never heal, get staph or many other bad things. However, if you acknowledge the hurt and pain, allow the bleeding to stop, clean it with soap and water, bandage it and wait it'll get a little bit better everyday.

Forgiveness isn't a solution to problems either. It's not something we can earn. It is not for sell. It is not a one-step process. It is not weakness. It is not a one-way ticket. Forgiveness is not a get out of jail free card. Forgiveness is not ignoring or denying that you are broken. Forgiveness isn't a misjudgement or misunderstanding.

Forgiveness is Free. It offers Freedom. It is Powerful. It is life altering. It is amazing and wonderful and terrifying all at the same time. Forgiveness is Difficult. Forgiveness often requires many attempts. Forgiveness is good. Forgiveness is allowing God to be in control.

There are so many times I've forgiven those that have hurt me and yet, I regularly am reminded to continue to forgive. For me, it's difficult to remember when those memories creep up and the emotions take over that I have already forgiven for that. So I must get on my knees and forgive again. Asking God to be in control, help me to let it go, heal my heart and soul back to wholeness and show me how this pain will benefit others around me.

God uses all things for good. Even those bad, nasty, ugly things we don't like to talk about or deal with. Forgiveness has to be the first step on the road to healing so that you can change lives through your misfortune. It's symbolic of the cross and how Christ died for us, because of us. He was wonderful and perfect as a human, just as we see all new babies. And some people with evil in their hearts came along and messed it all up. Then He was forced to walk a road so painful He couldn't even do it alone. He relied on God to get through the rough patch and the healing began even before the hurt was over. Forgiveness was requested and offered and then given. And our Saviour rose so that we all may receive this remarkable gift and then follow in His footsteps.