Tuesday, November 8, 2011

This Little Light of Mine

“OK, Grant.  What’s this business about 4th graders being mean to each other?”  I asked my older son after he came back from school the day I got an e-mail from the principal addressing this situation.  The conversation went something like this:  “Are you involved in it in any way?”  “No.”  “Have you been mean to anybody?”  “No.”  “Has anybody been mean to you?”  “No.”  “Have you seen it happening?”  “No.  I’m not involved in it,” he said sounding annoyed, and hoping I’d leave him alone.  But I didn’t. 

“If you say you are not involved, I believe you because I trust you.  I just want to make sure I understand the situation.”  I reassured him, and pressed again, “…but have you been there when it has happened to someone else?”  “No…well…once.”  “When?  What happened?”  “Well, I heard when a kid called another kid ‘cheese’…”  “???...OK…  Is that it?”  “Yes…” he said unconvincingly, which prompted me to press him some more, and then lecture him on how as a Christian he has the responsibility to witness to the truth.  Of course he had no clue what I was talking about, to which I responded with more theology that went WAY over his 9 year old head.  I was afraid I was not reaching him at all. 

“Remember the golden rule?”  “Yes.”  “What is it?”  “Do unto others as you’d like it to be done unto you…”  “Give me an example.”  I thought this was it because he was going to say something profoundly relevant to this case like “well, if I don’t want people to be mean to me I should not be mean to them!”  But instead he said, “…an example…it means…well…that if you hit someone, he’ll hit you back.”  “?????WHAT???”  I sighed and reiterated the golden rule in less King-James-like words.  Then, I asked him again for another example, only to hear the same kind of thing one more time.  It was official.  I was not getting to him.

“That’s an-eye-for-an-eye-rule.  That’s not what Jesus taught!”  I said frustrated.  I was out of words and clever thoughts.  I had nothing left.  I relinquished to the Holy Spirit and He moved me to grab my son by the shoulders and say, as a final attempt, “listen, I don’t care what the other kids do.  If they don’t have the Light in them and they do the wrong thing, that’s between them and God; but you have the Light; and you have to let it shine!”  I turned and began to walk away, but somehow, with the very corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of Grant’s face, and on it, there was the hint of something clicking.  I stopped on my track, turned around to face him again and said, “yes, that’s what it means to let your little light shine.”  I looked him straight into his eyes for an instant, and walked away to let his young brain process his thoughts on his own. 

I look back on that incident now and marvel at the power of the Holy Spirit.  He speaks to us in Scripture, in nature, in old familiar children songs.  It really doesn’t matter; He can use it all to get to us, if we let Him.  Once I let Him take over, He moved me to use something my young son would understand and then He moved me to give him the space he needed to let the thoughts sink in.  May we tune into the Holy Spirit so we can see truth clearly revealed.

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.  John 12:46

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thank God for Delayed Answers to our Prayers

This past Saturday was the annual Bazaar at our church, and the boys and I headed out there around mid morning.  As soon as we got out of the car, Grant and Dylan went off on their own, and began their quest for “treasures.”  Grant inherited my love for rummaging through old things to uncover hidden jewels among the…how shall I put it?...refuse? 

A while later, as I was trying to decide if I should buy a really neat red-bottle-lamp, Grant came in the Christmas room excited and confused at the same time.  “Mom, come with me,” he said, pulling me away from the red lamp.  He took me into the “electronics” section of the “trash and treasures” room, and walked me to a table from where he got a small black thing.  “Look!  It’s a ‘walker’!”  As he said that, he placed the small gadget in my hands.  I looked at it, laughed and said to him, “Not a ‘walker,’ this is called a Walkman…” 

I continued to contemplate the thing as it took me back to my teenage years.  The feelings came back like a rushing flood.  Just like today, as a kid, I loved listening to music.  It was my escape from the trials of adolescence.  So ever since I was about 13 or 14 years old, my love affair with the Walkman began.  A Sony Walkman with a built in radio…sigh…that was my dream.  I prayed many times that God would let me have one, but I knew that there wasn’t even a slim chance of my parents ever buying me one.  So I began to save every penny I got.  I drooled every time I saw them in TV commercials or at the stores.  I saved and saved and eventually, years later, I was able to buy one that was on sale.  By the time I got it, however, there were “better” systems in the market which ended up forcing the Walkman to be discontinued.  I was cool for a very short time.  Now, a good 30 years later, my 9 year old son placed one in my hands.  I couldn’t help but smile. 

I said aloud how much I had wanted one when I was a kid, and my good friend Diana, who was the sales clerk at the “electronics department,” told me, “well, He knew He’d give you one.  He just didn’t say when He’d give it to you!”  I loved hearing that.  There was so much truth in that statement.  He is Faithful!  He answers all our prayers.  The thing is that sometimes the answers vary.  At times He responds with a good resounding “yes,” whereas some other times the answer is “no,” and other times yet, the answer is “wait.” 

O how hard it is to receive one of those, “not yet” kind of answers from God.  But, O how sweet it is the day He finally comes through.  O, how sweet the sight of the lost son/daughter/brother/sister/friend when he finally is found.  O, how sweet the revelation of His presence, and how refreshing the taste of His Living Water after coming out of a period of walking in the dessert.  O, how beautiful the sunlight breaking through the clouds after the storm.  O, how delightful the light when He pulls us out of the pit.   O, how sweet the sound of His voice calling out our name and telling us to come home.

“Sometimes He doesn’t remove the mountain because He wants us to climb it to meet Him at the top and see Him transfigured,” I read in a devotional some time ago.  The magnificence of His radiance that meets us at the top of that mountain is our reward for enduring and persevering.  The Lord is Faithful and all His promises are true.  His blessings are new everyday.  Even if sometimes He makes us wait, it is worth the wait.  It is in the wait where we develop Christian character and we grow as His beloved.  It is the wait what makes the encounter much sweeter, meaningful and unforgettable.

We paid a whole dollar for that mint-condition-old Walkman.  It works beautifully.  It has been a lot of fun teaching Grant about cassettes and the heart break of having your most precious tapes all tangled up in the player.  It has been fun reminiscing with my son about the longings of a teenage heart, and how sometimes we just have to wait a long time to get what we want.  Even Dylan is interested in it.  As a matter of fact, I just went in their room to check up on them, and I saw him asleep in his bed with the headphones on and the Walkman tucked in his hand just like my parents would see me every night, O so many years ago.  Does it get any sweeter than that?   The lessons from that old Walkman will probably continue for a while as I watch my sons fiddle with old tapes.  In the meantime, I will thank God for delayed answers to my prayers. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Candy Holiday

“Mama, why do we celebrate Halloween?”  Dylan asked me as if prompted by the Holy Spirit in a moment of unexpected reflection.  The problem was that his question was met by silence on my part.  My mouth did open as if to say something, but the only thing that came out of it was CO2 for before I could formulate a coherent thought in my mind, I let out a sigh announcing my lack of any clue in the matter.

Dylan then proceeded to top my frustration by adding yet another question, why do we get candy at Halloween?  Well, that did it!  Total failure was now official.  I had nothing.  I looked at him empty-handed and did what most parents on the edge of the cliff do, I made something up.  What I said was so lame that I can’t even remember what it was.  Needless to say, Dylan walked away puzzled.  PTL for little boys’ lack of long term memory for soon after that, he had already forgotten the whole conversation and was off to better and more important things like playing with his trains.

Not me, however.  Dylan’s curiosity made me sit back and think about the holiday in question.  I had taken the boys trick-or-treating all by myself for the first time ever a few evenings ago.  I remember being annoyed at having to do that and at the persistent rain that began just the second we stepped outside the house.  I was uncomfortable taking the kids begging, or more accurately, assaulting people for candy in their own houses under the threat of performing a trick.  All these while having the children walking around in freaky costumes.  I know that the whole thing sounds perfectly normal to those who grew up here in this blessed country of ours.  To me…not so much. 

At any rate, I felt lost in my own neighborhood.  After visiting our dear next door neighbors, we got in the car and drove away in the rain to…the end of our driveway…I had no clue where I was supposed to go next?  Judy’s house!  Yes!  “Let’s go to Judy’s and Pastor Doug’s houses!” I announced in triumph.  “We can also go to Grandma’s!”  Grant said; “and to the Fire Hall too!” added Dylan.  GREAT!  We had a plan, and with a renewed spirit and a sense of direction we drove off. 

When we turned the corner to begin our mapped out route, a wonderful thing happened.  We saw a hey-ride!  We guessed that a couple of families had gotten together to hey-ride their way around trick-or-treating.  What a marvelous idea!  If I had had any guts, I would’ve asked them to join them; but my lack of confidence in the art of Halloween prevented me from making a move.  I didn’t know if that could be misrepresented as harassment or something creepy like that…so, no, we did not “join” them; but follow we did!  Wherever they stopped, we stopped.  Wherever they skipped, we skipped. 

After a while, we parted ways with the hey-ride and went to see Grandma.  “Hey, don’t forget the Fire Hall!”  Grant reminded me.  So after a quick stop at Grandma’s, we drove down to the Fire Hall to enjoy pizza, treats, pictures and conversation with neighbors. 

When we finally arrived home, it was already dark.  I went outside to check the bowl of candy that I had diligently placed on our front porch as instructed by Dan.  I was very happy to see that it was almost empty.  Great!  I thought, candy is gone!  My feeling of elation was short-lived, however, for as soon as I brought the bowl back inside, my sons emptied their booty in it.  The result was a bowl overflowing with the most unimaginable assortment of treats.  My teeth began to hurt…

Dan came home late that night and after a very lively-sugar-induced conversation with the boys, he asked me how the whole thing went.  I thought for a minute, and then I said, “I…I had fun.  It was a lot of fun.” 

Now, thinking back on the day, I believe that the next time someone asks me about Halloween, I would say, “well, it is a rather nonsensical holiday, and most people who celebrate it, can’t fully define it; but Halloween gives people, young and not so young, a chance to be silly and light in a world that is becoming increasingly grim and heavy.  And of course, most importantly, it is the mother of all candy holidays.”

 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
  Psalm 51:12

Thursday, November 3, 2011

He will never leave us

He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Deuteronomy 31:6

After God revealed to Moses that he would not be the one leading His people across the Jordan, the great patriarch addressed the Israelites and told them the news.  He then presented Joshua, the new leader of Israel, and passed the torch with magnificent-God-inspired words, “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,” Deuteronomy 31:8.    

These words spoken a few millenniums ago are just as alive today as they were back then.  They are words eternal that touch the most inner corners of our souls when we find ourselves face down, on the deepest pits of despair.  These divine words bring light into the darkness and a breath of fresh air into our lives.  They bring hope to the hopeless; and peace to the shaken.  They remind us that He is faithful and that He leads us.  When we belong to Him, there isn’t a place we go that He does not go with us. 

Though the world, our family, our children, our friends, and everything and everyone we love may disappoint us, betray us, abandon us, forget us, leave us behind, reject us, discard us, hurt us, or even die on us; not the God our Lord.  He will never leave us, nor forsake us.  He is the Great I AM, who was, and who is and who is to come, the Almighty! (Revelation 1:8)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Fatherless

5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
   is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families… 
Psalm 68:5-6a

With the passing of Steve Jobs, much was said about his accomplishments.  Not much was mentioned, however, about the fact that he was adopted as a baby.  Can you imagine if Jobs had spent his life in an orphanage?  What would his life have been like?  I wonder if he would have ever met his buddy Stephen Wozniac, his business partner, with whom he built the first model of what would become the Apple Empire. 

How about Babe Ruth?  He was placed in an orphanage at age 7 and classed as “incorrigible.”  At age 19, the scout who discovered him became his legal guardian and mentor.  And Dave Thomas, he was also adopted!  Can you imagine the horrible repercussions?  Had he not been adopted, there might not be any Wendy’s!  No Wendy’s?! NOOOO!!!

The ripple effects of adoption are immeasurable.  Once we begin to speculate “what would have happened if,” the implications are overwhelming. 

November is National Adoption Awareness month.  An entire month dedicated to think about the miracle of adoption.  The United States is the adoption country of the world.  Families and individuals formally adopt more children foreign and/or domestic than any other country in the world, and that is something worth being aware about.  Adoption is a relationship so blessed by the Most High that He placed His beloved Son in the arms of an adoptive father when He came into this world in the flesh.  Adoption is also what defines our relationship with God for He adopts us as His sons and daughters. 

The fatherless are very near to the heart of God.  He repeatedly calls on His adopted children to care for orphans.  We find many passages in Scripture that exhort us to “defend the cause of the orphans,” and to care for the abandoned.  So throughout this month, let us think about the thousands of children who have no family to call their own.  Let’s keep them in our prayers.  The Lord, Our Good Shepherd, already knows their fate, but we should join in prayer and grow in awareness of their needs so we pray for the will of God to be done.  His good and perfect will; which I’m sure involves a forever family for each one of them. 

And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.  Matthew 18:5