Heaven

Heaven should be one of those topics that brings peace and joy to one’s heart, but I think I’m a little strange. Heaven was the topic at church this past Sunday, and for at least half the sermon, I was squirming in my seat. I actually have given a lot of thought to heaven, probably too much, wondering how far past the clouds I’ll have to travel to get there, if the streets are really made of gold, and if I’ll get bored at some point during eternity (I know, I know–silly, right?). And the concept of eternity? Yeah, thinking about it can send me into a mild panic attack.

When I try to think about time that doesn’t end, something that lasts forever and ever and ever, I start to freak out. Everything’s supposed to end. How can something not end? And at this point in my thought process, my body gets tingly and jittery feeling, and I have to shake my head to get rid of the thoughts and take some deep breaths.

I am willing to admit I’m a little crazy.

I know I need to trust that I won’t want heaven to end, just the way that I don’t want my time here on earth with my family to end. I need to have faith that a God who is good and merciful and love has figured this heaven thing out so that when I’m up there with Him I won’t spend eternity trying to figure out how eternity actually works. And I need to trust that panic attacks don’t happen in heaven.

But apparently I’m not the only one who has issues with heaven. During his sermon, our pastor offered that most people want to go to heaven but not now. I could raise my hand in agreement. Yes, even though I know heaven is a perfect place with Jesus (shouldn’t He make it worth it for me?), I’m happy to stay down here enduring the hell of carpool lines at two different schools every day.

But why?

Our pastor suggested one reason is that we don’t live our everyday with eternity in mind. We forget that our stay on earth is really a passing through point. We were made for eternity, and we are to live with eternity in mind.

We looked at the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven…

(God’s in heaven right now and always has been)

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…

(My life now should be consumed with doing God’s will here on earth)

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever…

(This life is temporary, but God will reign forever)

My life here on earth is sandwiched between eternity, but I have the tendency to live my life as if it’s the main event. Perhaps this point of view contributes to my fear of that wonderful home that’s prepared for me.

The fear of the unknown also contributes to my nervousness about heaven. Everyone has a different opinion on heaven. Some think we’ll spend eternity singing praises with the angels to Jesus. All the time. That sounds nice, but I have to admit, I’ve wondered if that would get boring (I know that’s horrible–I’m just admitting the very human thought that entered my mind).

One pastor told me that he doesn’t think we’ll have any recollection of our relationships from earth because, if we did, we’d notice who wasn’t there in heaven with us. Knowing we had family or friends in hell would make it impossible to live in joy for eternity. I guess that view makes sense, but it leaves me feeling sad and empty.

I want to remember my family and friends. I want to open my arms wide and help welcome my children one day, and I want to feel the sweet embrace of my husband again. Yes, of course I want to see Jesus, but one of the comforts that Christians find in death is knowing that death is not the end. We hope to see our loved ones again. I cling to that hope. When I think of friends who have lost a spouse or a child, I find comfort imagining their sweet reunion one day.

In the second part of the sermon when I wasn’t squirming as much, we watched an interview with Colton Burpo and his father, Todd. Colton was almost four when he got very sick and nearly died. The book Heaven is for Real is his account of entering heaven. Colton’s mother had had a miscarriage earlier but never told her son; however, he told his parents that he met his sister as well as his great-grandfather who had died 30 years before. He described them in astounding detail and counted spending time with them among some of his favorite parts of heaven.

Colton also describe sitting in Jesus’ lap as one of his favorite memories. What an image–sitting on the lap of Jesus. After hearing this little boy’s testimony of a powerful God and loving Jesus and beautiful animals and welcoming family, a wave of peace washed over me. Oh how I wanted this little boy’s account to be true!

And then I realized something. Whether or not every detail of this child’s account is exactly what heaven will look like for me doesn’t matter. What matters is that the God I worship wants me to realize that He has prepared a home with many rooms. He knew what He was doing before. He knows what He’s doing now. And He’ll know what He’s doing for all eternity.

My life wasn’t made for this earth; my life was made for communion with Him, and when I reach heaven someday, I’ll finally feel at home.

So maybe it’s best if I stop trying to figure out how long eternity actually is and how it works. Maybe I should stop trying to figure out what heaven will look like and instead focus on what I do know: God is good. God is love. God is merciful. And He will always be all of these things, even when I’m a nut. So I think I’ll take a deep breath, relax, and trust Him.

Would you raise your hand as one who wants to go to heaven but not now? Has thinking about heaven ever caused you fear? Linking up with Michelle and Jen today!



 

 

Learning Dependence

 

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Over the last few months, my mind has been wrestling with an idea. Many times in my life, I’ve asked to know God’s presence, for Him to feel close or real. I’ve asked for His guidance or to know His will clearly. And lately, if I’m honest, I’ve started to fear my own question a little.

I look at my friend who mourns the death of her husband. I listen to the young pastor at church who lost both his mother and father to debilitating illnesses within three months of each other. I read examples in the Bible like Gideon. And I know all of them truly experienced God.

This young pastor shared his own story of loss as we looked at Judges chapter six at church on Sunday. The Israelites were hiding in make-do shelters in the clefts of mountains and caves because the Midianites had so oppressed them and ravaged their land. Gideon is in a winepress threshing wheat to keep it hidden from the Midianites when he encounters the angel of the Lord. And after learning that God wants to use him, an ordinary man from the weakest clan in Israel, to deliver the Israelites from this oppressive hand, Gideon responds by building an altar to the Lord called “The LORD Is Peace.” And this young pastor, months after losing both his parents and struggling with questions, felt that same LORD of Peace is his own heart.

I want to know that peace. I want to have that intimate knowledge of God. But I don’t want to have to depend on God.

I know that God is available to all of us–we don’t have to experience extreme loss to know Him–but perhaps we feel Him most strongly in times of suffering because it is in those times that we can’t depend on ourselves to find the answers. Our own comfort is not strong enough. In those times, we truly lay ourselves at His feet and admit we can’t weather the storm alone.

I’m not good at depending on anyone. I don’t like situations out of my control. I try to act responsibly and make good decisions, which is good, but not if I let go of the hand that guides me.

I don’t think God hides himself until we suffer or that if I ask to experience God I need to first experience tragedy, but I do believe I need to learn how to surrender in the everyday. And if I learn to surrender in the everyday, when those times of suffering come because they will come I will know to whom I should turn.

Knowing to whom I should turn is the whole battle. The God who sends His peace out of kindness and love when we feel sorrow is the same God who wants to laugh with us when we feel joy. I want to learn to laugh with Him. I want to understand dependence. I want to want to lay myself down at the altar of ‘The LORD Is Peace.’ And I know when I do, He will be there.

Have you ever clearly felt the presence of God? Are you able to depend on God in times of sorrow AND joy? Linking up with Michelle and Jen this week!


 

Neighbors in My Jerusalem

 

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

I’ve lived in my neighborhood for almost five years. I know the names of my neighbors who live next to me and across the street. I know the first and last names of the homeowners association board members, and I know the first names of a handful of others. Some I recognize from repeated sightings at the neighborhood pool. But I’ve never had a neighbor over for dinner, nor have I been invited over to dinner at a neighbor’s house. On a few occasions, I have brought meals to those who were sick or just moved in, but the relationships ended there.

I remember living in New Jersey as a young child, sitting around the table with my mom at one of the neighbor’s across the street. I watched as the man brought his coffee cup to his lips, and I was intrigued by his pinky that he kept curling under. I eventually realized that he was missing part of that finger. Jim and Diane lived next door, and when I watch old home videos of Christmas, they are there. Jim was loud on the videos, fitting right in with family. Diane sat laughing at the goofiness. After seeing my mom push the stroller with my sister while I walked next to her in the cold one time too many, they donated an old Volkswagen bug to my family–the car that caused a few fights as my dad tried to teach my mom to drive a stick.

And there were other neighbors, neighbor kids whom my mom babysat, and neighbors who took me for a ride in the little box that attached to their motorcycle. And there were neighbors who were always ready to share cake and coffee.

I don’t know what made that neighborhood in New Jersey so different, but I don’t ever remember my family having those kinds of relationships again when we moved to Georgia nor have Matt and I formed those kind of friendships in any of our homes. Maybe life got busier for everyone. Maybe the newer houses without front porches and with attached garages encouraged people to drive in their homes and not come out. Whatever the reason, even though I was only a young girl at the time, I miss having those kind of neighbors.

 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, New International Version, 2011)

This Sunday our pastor explained that Jerusalem was the disciples’ neighborhood. Judea was the surrounding area, like people in our own area code. Samaria was an area full of people with whom they wouldn’t normally associate, people who made them uncomfortable. And, of course, the ends of the earth included lands they had never seen.

I know more about the little boy we sponsor in the Philippines than my next-door neighbor. I’ve done more to help people in remote African villages than those who are unemployed in my own neighborhood. But perhaps God would like to use me in my Jerusalem. Perhaps there is a little girl who needs to form the memory of sitting around a neighbor’s kitchen table while her mom enjoys a nice cup of coffee.

It doesn’t seem too hard…and while I don’t make coffee, I can bake a darned good cake. Maybe I’ll start there.

 

 

Linking up today with Michelle and Jen. Do you have childhood memories of your neighbors? Do you really know your neighbors now? How have you reached out to those in your neighborhood?

 

The Bride

I woke up that morning and couldn’t really eat, my body full of excitement rather than food, and I carried that emotion with me the whole day through–as the last pin was placed in my hair and veil secured to the top of my head, as I completed my make-up with the shiny lipstick and a smile, and as I stepped into the full, white dress that transformed me from an ordinary young woman to a glowing princess.

I wasn’t nervous, but I was eager. The day was full of newness. We would see each other for the first time that day as I walked down the aisle, and we would leave together for the first time that night as we drove away, never again to return to separate homes.

The waiting was beautiful and fun and, parts, reminiscent of elementary school as we passed notes and messages through the hands of our best friends. The waiting, which started months before and, at times, seemed to pass too slowly, was now at its end, as I stood alone with my father outside the doors to the sanctuary.

What would he think as I walked down the aisle? Would I take his breath away?

And then the moment came as the piano played, and the crowd rose, and we walked through the open doors.

And the day was beautiful, the one day in my life that was truly full of joy and nothing else, not tainted by the pain brought into a fallen world, a day when my smile stretched from ear to ear as I took the hand of the man I would love forever.

Almost nine  years later, that day can seem so far away sometimes.

But I remembered as I sang the lyrics that flashed across the screen, and, for a moment, my body tingled with joyous expectation.  I remembered feeling beautiful in white; I remembered longing to meet my groom. And for the first time in my entire journey of faith, I understood for a moment what it means to be the bride of Christ:

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing… You’re Beautiful*

The excitement, the twinge of nerves. Facing the one who knows my past yet sees me radiant, clothed in white. And finally taking His hand as we begin our new life together, no longer going home to separate places but instead stepping into eternity together, an eternity with joy, an eternity with the absence of pain or tears from a fallen world, an eternity begun with redemption.

It’s beautiful.

* “You’re Beautiful” Music and lyrics by Phil Wickham

 

What emotions did you feel as you waited for your wedding to begin? Has a song ever brought to a life for you a truth found in Scripture? Linking up with Michelle and Jen this week.

 

 

Sleeping Through the Storm

 

I originally started to write this post for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. However, a late night watching the paths of  tornadoes, early risings from the kids, and a canceled kid-swap day due to a stomach bug kept me from getting this post published Thursday morning. After contemplating the topic some more, I decided this post is actually perfect for ‘Journeys,’ but since Mama Kat gave me the inspiration, I’m linking up with her, as well.

3.) What is going on in the bedroom? Describe a memorable sleeper.

 

For the last five years, sleep has been a commodity. With three children came three more reasons that I would never be able to count on a consistent routine of  a solid eight hours. Every night this week, my husband and I have either been stalled in our desire to go to bed or ripped from a deep sleep due to cries in bedrooms down the hall. Last night was different, however. Last night my own worry kept me awake, causing me to grab only a couple of hours here and there.

I had known all day that a storm was coming. The day before our trusty meteorologist warned through the radio that there was a chance we’d wake to thunderstorms, and even though that morning passed without those flashes of lightning, he warned that another system would arrive around eight p.m. I took notice, and I sent my husband an e-mail asking him not to work past six; tornadoes were supposed to accompany this storm, and I wanted him home with us before the fireworks began.

The kids were ready to make their way upstairs as Matt arrived home, and we had everyone tucked into bed by 8:15. I went downstairs to check my phone that had rung while I was rocking my daughter, and I noticed a missed call from my dad. I called him, knowing that he doesn’t usually call me in the evenings.

“I just wanted to make sure that you’re ready for the storm,” he said after I told him I saw I missed his call.

“Umm…no. I mean, we know it’s coming, but we haven’t done anything, yet.”

“Well, if you guys want to come over here and stay in the basement, you’re more than welcome.”

I got a little nervous after his suggestion. After all, Dad had never invited us to share the basement for any other storm. I told Matt the offer, but he didn’t think we needed to make the drive over there. We’d just take the necessary precautions here.

Together we pulled tray-tables and plastic bags full of party decorations out of the downstairs closet. I stacked plastic totes with red lids full of Dr. Seuss hats and paper Thanksgiving turkeys, butterflies and sundry other creations made in preschool. I found small boxes of pictures that had not yet made it to albums, and I retrieved around six blankets that Matt and I cuddled under on those rare nights when we watched a movie. And while I was preparing for the storm, I was performing a mental checklist of the items I would need to organize this closet.

Matt found all the bike helmets from the garage, and I grabbed a football helmet from the playroom. We had four helmets and five of us. I ran upstairs and threw down the massive pillows that adorned our bed and grabbed the flashlight from Matt’s dresser drawer. I remembered seeing Caleb’s little flashlight under his bed when I had hunted down the missing Easter candy earlier, and I got on my stomach, squirming my way under his bed until I could reach the little light. I set the two flashlights next to each other on my nightstand in case the power went out while we were asleep.

We were ready.

While sipping warm soup at the kitchen table, I sent my sister a text asking her to tell Dad that we were prepared now; he didn’t need to worry. She texted me back with Dad’s offer of the basement again and concluded with the words “good luck and god speed” if we decided to stick it out at our house.

Godspeed?

I had never in my life heard my sister or anyone in my family, for that matter, use those words. I reached across the table to show Matt the text, and I admitted that I was officially scared. What kind of storm did we need to expect?

After our quick dinner, I ran upstairs to take a shower before the thunder and lightning began. And as is typical for me, my thoughts took off as soon as I was alone getting ready for that shower. What if we’ve made a mistake and should’ve gone to my parents? What if we went to my parents, but the storm hit there and not here? If we have to take cover, how will I keep the kids calm? What would I do if anything happened to Matt or the kids?

I began to worry. I knew a storm was coming, but I didn’t know when, and I didn’t know exactly where. And while I didn’t want to dwell on morbid thoughts, as I kissed each kid goodnight again, I wondered if I would get the chance to do the same thing in that same room again tomorrow. I was assuming the worst–that the tornadoes would hit us–based on the urgent nature of the newscasters and the number of friends on Facebook heading for their basements. And I found it strange to know a disaster was coming and to have to sit tight and wait. And I found it unnerving to know that what I was waiting for could change my life forever.

But praying and waiting was all there was left to do. We made the best preparations we could, and now we just needed to see if they were necessary or not.

 

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

I pretended to read  on the couch where we continued to listen to the excited weatherman and watch the giant red blob work its way across the screen. I peered over the top of my book as the weatherman gave the countdown for each city in the path of the mile-wide tornado. Floyd, you have two minutes to take cover. Sandy Springs, you have eight minutes to get ready–you are in the direct path of the storm. And I knew I wouldn’t sleep tonight.

But I woke up an hour or so later on the couch to the boom of thunder and sound of rain beating on the windows. I immediately sat up and focused my tired eyes on the T.V., looking for the red blob and the small cities named on the screen. It was almost one a.m., and two different storms were nearer, yet they looked as if they would slide by us, one overhead, one below.

Matt was sound asleep. I tried to wake him, desperate to know if he had a plan for how we would hear if we needed to take cover. All of the preparations would mean nothing if we slept while the storm was knocking at our door. Matt said he’d turn on the radio on his nightstand, but I was not comforted knowing that I woke Matt, not his alarm, most mornings. But, alas, we didn’t have any other options, and from what we could tell, unless the storm turned, we should fare okay.

Good sleep was hard to come by that night. Chloe had acted upset at bedtime and awoke crying again after we had fallen asleep. And at five a.m., I again jerked awake to hear the conversation on the radio that the threat of dangerous weather for our area was now over. I no longer needed to be afraid; we were safe.

Even though I try to wake up at five most mornings, I decided to go back to sleep. I was exhausted. Unfortunately, my kids decided to wake an hour earlier than usual.

As I went about the morning routine of getting the kids ready for school, putting tray-tables and unused helmets back in their places, I thought about the preparations Matt and I made the night before. We didn’t know when or exactly where, but we knew the storm was coming. And while we hoped for the best, we didn’t know if we’d be counted with those who had lost something precious in the storm.

Almost 300 individuals lost their lives as a result of this storm system that swept through the southeast. As I poured milk in cereals bowls, I thought to myself that their end is no different than the one I’m going to face–I will die, too. The only questions are when and how.

And just as I prepared for a tornado last night with pillows and flashlights, there are preparations to be made for that moment when I will cease to exist in this life, that moment that we all know is coming.

I know I have areas in which I need to improve, habits I want to correct so that I’ll leave this Earth with no regrets. But I also believe that when I leave this world, I’ll enter another where I’ll meet my God. And when I see Him face-to-face, I will tell Him, “I tried to prepare, but I have done nothing that can make me worthy to enter into your presence, nothing except for one preparation–to love your Son who thought me worthy to die in my place.”

We all face the same end. The end of the story is not a surprise–it’s just the journey that’s different for all of us. So are you prepared? Do you know what you believe? And if not, when do you plan to prepare? The storm is coming while you sleep, and there is no guarantee that there will be time to get ready when you wake up.

Journeys

Please keep the families devastated by this storm in your thoughts and prayers today. Click here if you’d like to make a donation to the American Red Cross to help these disaster victims.

Have you ever had to prepare for a literal storm coming your way? What thoughts ran through your mind? How much thought have you given to the fact of your own mortality? Are you ready if you died today?

 

 

 


http://www.inlinkz.com/cs.php?id=50111

What I Don’t Deserve

A whisper broke the momentary silence, filling the black room.

“Did you have fun at Easter?”

“Yes!”

I reached over across the bed and grabbed my husband’s arm. After enduring a bedtime routine that started at 7, we thought we would finally get to go bed at 11 after bringing the two trouble-makers in our room, making little pads on the floor with the new blankets their Grammy made. But our three-year-old couldn’t resist the temptation to talk to her brother one more time before finally drifting off to sleep.

Randomly throughout the day Hannah Grace would order me, “Ask me what I did today in church,” and when I would comply, she’d scream, “Jesus is Alive!!!!”

I guess a day with that much excitement, that much candy doesn’t turn off quite so easily. And I have to admit, the frustration I would normally feel if my children were up for four hours after we began bedtime gave way to the warm sensation that filled my heart. The day spent celebrating did me good.

Many days I focus on what I don’t deserve–disobedience, totaled cars, fatigue–and those thoughts are never productive. But this day was different. I was consumed with my unworthiness.

I looked around and saw my parents and siblings, laughing and playing with five young children running around the yard. My heart ached for my sick nephew and my sister and brother-in-law at home with him, missing our celebration. I remembered the image of my husband, vacuuming and setting out chairs as we prepared for the day. And I smiled at the beauty of my two daughters dressed in purple flowing dresses, my son growing tall, but still my little boy in blue.

I don’t deserve this.

And I thought about my deeds that should leave a dark stain on my soul. And,  yet, I am marked white as snow, pure in His sight because of this day, Easter. Of all the blessings I don’t deserve, His gift is the greatest.

Today was different. As I thought about all I don’t deserve, the greatest gift that I don’t deserve, everything was put in perspective. I realized the magnitude of my unworthiness, and my heart was glad.

 

 

 

Linking up with Michelle at Graceful and Jen at Finding Heaven. How did you celebrate Easter? What does Easter mean to you?

 

Accepting Simple

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

After years of remembering ‘Good Friday,’ certain aspects of the day can fade from my memory. Yet one scene took a front seat in my mind as I watched a passion play with my in-laws.

While hanging on the cross next to Jesus, one of the criminals is acutely aware of his own depravity in light of the goodness of Jesus. He proceeds to rebuke the other criminal sentenced to die with them for the insults he throws at the Son of God:

“Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[d]

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23: 40-43, New International Version, 2010)

And I’m struck by the simplicity of the story.

This man didn’t know the doctrine of the Trinity. He didn’t formulate his position on the ideas of predestination versus free will. He didn’t state his preference for infant versus adult baptism. And he didn’t recite an eloquent ‘sinner’s prayer’ highlighting each key tenant of the Christian faith.

He simply knew that he deserved death for his sins, and he turned to Jesus.

And thankfully, that story is just as simple for me.
Remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Remember me, a sinner. You didn’t deserve death, but you died so that I wouldn’t have to.

It’s that simple.

Journeys

What strikes you about ‘Good Friday’? Share in the comments below, or link your own post describing a spiritual journey. And have a Happy Easter!

 

http://www.simply-linked.com/listwidget.aspx?l=0deeb9ca-e146-4305-bc3d-318f297d6f72

Ripping Out Pages

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

 

Last week in church, we finished up the “Puzzled by the Bible” series with a look at Revelation and the end times. Scripture references alluding to evil and suffering and hell are never among my favorite, so I chose to pass on writing a post for Michelle’s “Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday.” Instead, I wrote about the hell of shoe-shopping with my daughter.

However, as the week went on, I couldn’t escape one image that my pastor created. He recognized that some people don’t like discussing hell–they’d rather ignore those passages in Revelation–and by doing so, they are effectively ripping out the pages of the Bible they don’t like. The only problem, he pointed out, is that if we rip out those pages in Revelation, then we have to rip out the passages in the Gospel where Jesus alludes to hell. And if we rip out the passages with Jesus, then we have to rip out the prophets who foretold of Him, and so on and so on.

And as he started ripping pages,  it became obvious that soon we’d be left with nothing.

While my pastor later revealed that he was actually ripping pages out of an old encyclopedia, the image stayed in my mind. Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we all figuratively rip out pages every day.

Perhaps we are very comfortable pointing out the sins of society, take a literal view of Creation and God’s commandments, and strive to live a righteous life, but we gloss over James 1:27:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

All of a sudden, our literal interpretation of Scripture becomes figurative or allegorical. We read a general mandate of doing good deeds, so we’re content to continue pointing out the sins of others while 143 million children live without parents in this world. We drive by the nursing home on our way to work, not once stopping in to visit that widow without family.

Or maybe we devote our life to doing good deeds and working for social justice. We do care for the orphans and widows and spend our Saturdays in the soup kitchen. Yet, when it comes to the reason for why we are compelled to act with mercy and love, we stay silent. We read the story of Peter healing a paralytic, yet we ignore the most important words he speaks: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6, emphasis mine).

Perhaps we don’t want to call sin, sin. We look to the changing time and culture, so we rip out pages there. We don’t want to forgive our brother for offending us ten years ago, so we rip out the passage that says to forgive seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22). We keep ripping and ripping, and pretty soon, we’re left with some passages from a good book.

But not the Word of God.

Because we wouldn’t dare destroy words that God himself instructed.

As I walked through last week thinking over this image, I became fearful. Where was I ripping out passages, and what do I believe? Do I truly believe the Bible is the Word of God, or have I made it a good book, treating it like a buffet where I grab a little of this and a little of that?

The implications for either are great. Because if the Bible is the Word of God, then there are serious commands that I must follow, but there are also wonderful blessings. However, if this book is a just a good book, then I can pick and choose what I want, but there is no more power in those words than the bestseller I grab off the shelf in the bookstore.

And on which type of book would I rather place the foundation of my faith, the reason for how I live?

So this morning I knew I needed to at least give the topic consideration. I could no longer ignore the question chasing me last week. And so I ask (nervously) this morning, God, where am I ignoring you? What pages have I ripped out of your book?

 

Where are you ripping out pages, and are you content to do so?

One Special Boy

photo via photobucket

We pulled into the parking lot, and I was immediately struck by the cars lining the curb. Every inch of asphalt was taken, in addition to the lined parking spaces. The lower lot was was blocked with orange cones, and the kids and I noticed the abrasive sound of machinery at work near the facility. Some sort of maintenance was taking place. I stuck out in the middle of the lot as I tried to create my own space as others had done.

A lady signaled to me from her car that she was leaving, and I watched as she backed out of her own impromptu space, a bigger home for a car than the one I had just created. I slid in next to the grassy curb, and Caleb immediately unbuckled and walked down to the front of the van. I came around to the kids’ side, washcloth in hand, ready to make clean the chocolate-covered hands and faces before me. Today was special, and I gave in to earlier requests for doughnuts, a treat that the kids had not tasted in probably over a year.

I unbuckled Hannah Grace and looked over at Caleb, already bouncing off of one foot and then the other. I began to regret my breakfast choice that morning, worried that mixing young children hopped-up on sugar with the elderly residents of a nursing home might not have been the best idea. As I lifted Chloe from her car seat and grabbed my purse, Hannah Grace skipped next to Caleb, and I took the opportunity to warn my kids about the behavior I expected:

“You guys cannot bounce around like that. You can have fun, but we have to stay calm. Some of the people here might not feel well, and they’re not going to want to watch kids who are acting all crazy.”

After about three attempts, all four of us finally connected hands, and we proceeded to walk, with a little less bouncing, down the small flight of concrete stairs to the front of the center. We walked quickly as the activity hour had already begun. We reached the front door, and I opened it while looking down at my three helpers, doing my best to usher them in and keep them from running straight back to the large room where we had played parachute last week.

But before I had even looked up, a woman blocked my way.

“Can I help you?”

“Well, we’re here to help with the activity today,” I said while looking around, suddenly noticing people working in the dark, a lack of residents sitting in the front waiting area like last week.

“We’re closed,” the lady politely, but intent on making this conversation quick, replied. “The roof caved in the other day, so we won’t be open until we get everything squared away.”

“Oh my goodness!” I replied, wondering if I should’ve noticed a missing roof as I walked up to the building, suddenly understanding why the phone just rang and rang the two times I tried to call earlier to prepare them for our visit. I felt silly, wondering how long the center had been closed.”Where did all the residents go?”

The woman explained that they had been moved to various facilities in the area, and then she checked to see if we had family staying at this center.

“Oh, no. We’re just here to help with the activity.”

“Well, thank you; we appreciate that. But just try calling to check when we’ve reopened.”

She wasn’t sure when that day would be, and I apologized for just walking in to the closed center.

I ushered the three kids back out the door and tried, once again, to create a chain of all our hands. However, Caleb wouldn’t join in. He walked ahead quickly, his shoulders hunched forward, his head hanging down.

“Caleb, are you okay?”

He wouldn’t answer, and I knew from his posture that he was crying.

“Sweetie, do you want to talk about what’s bothering you?” He could’ve just been disappointed that he wasn’t going to get to play parachute that morning, but I sensed he was feeling more than disappointment.

He grabbed the van’s door and began pulling on it, willing it to open so that he wouldn’t have to look at me.

“Okay, you don’t have to talk, but if you want to, let me know,” I told him as I unlocked the sliding door.

He hopped in the van and went back to his seat silently, and I watched as the back of his hand moved up to wipe his eyes.

I know my son, and I know he was worried. He heard that the roof caved in, and when my first thought was, “How did I miss that?” his first thought was, “Are the people okay?” I found out later from my husband, always quick to do an internet search, that all the residents were, in fact, okay; none were present in the dining area when the roof, undergoing a renovation, collapsed.

I started the van and pulled out of the space we had made and drove around the circle. I looked in the rearview mirror at Caleb, who didn’t want to talk, and we headed toward home. And as we drove, with little talking at first, my heart warmed. When God made Caleb, he made one special little boy.

Contemplating this week’s sermon on ‘Being the Church,’ and am grateful for the example found in my children. When was a time you witnessed a young child sharing the heart of God? Linking up today with Michelle.

 

And now I need your help. For the last couple of months, I have written a blog each Friday for ‘Journeys,’ the last few weeks being devoted to the fruits of the Spirit. I provided the opportunity for others to link their own posts, but there really wasn’t that much interest. The ‘Journeys’ topics have been good for me, and, while this blog is mine, it’s also yours! You all have been faithful readers and commenters, and I am interested to know what you’d like to read.

Before I eliminate the link-up all-together, would you be willing to link up on a less specific topic, perhaps just an open-ended God journey each week? Do you have another idea for a link-up? Or would you prefer to just read my take on ‘Journeys’ each week but not actually participate?

I appreciate your feedback. Feel free to give your opinion in the comments below or e-mail me at jennifer at  matt dash davis dot com. Thank you!

Faithfulness

Every Sunday afternoon, I would rush into church, typically with one child hanging off of me, another sprinting ahead, and one more holding my hand, trying to break free. I’d rush over to the computers to print my children’s name tags, hating that I was always late, trying to contain the three that wanted to take off as soon as I let go.

Mr. Michael witnessed this routine every week, and, eventually, he began to look for us. As Caleb walked with me hand-in-hand to the four-year-old room, Mr. Michael would open the door to take him from me before I even had him signed in. And when I’d pick up the pen to write Caleb’s name, it was already there.

Every week, like clockwork.

When Matt stepped down from leading the tech team so that I could try going to church without arriving in a bad mood, we decided to go to the 9:00 service instead of the one I had been attending at 12:30 (and, yes, I was still late every week when I went at 12:30). When we first made the decision, I was reluctant to give up the afternoon service. After all, Caleb wouldn’t have Mr. Michael as a teacher, anymore.

Normally, Caleb looked forward to church, but there were those occasions when he cried. But Mr. Michael had the key to Caleb’s heart–he’d whip out his phone and let Caleb play games until it was time for the kids to put away the toys and learn the lesson. Caleb expected Mr. Michael every week, and I took comfort in the fact that every week at least one of the volunteers was the same, someone who was actually growing to love and care for my son.

And then my admiration for Mr. Michael grew. That first Sunday that we attended the 9:00 service and walked up to the four-year-old class, who was there to meet us? None other but Mr. Michael.

Yes, there are many individuals who volunteer every Sunday, giving their hearts and time to our precious children. For all of them, I am so thankful. Crouching down on the floor with a bunch of preschoolers every week, dealing with crying and elusive attention spans from toddlers, changing poopie diapers so that Daddy and Mommy can attend church–these men and women truly are special people.

Yes, there are many individuals who volunteer every Sunday…

…but not many are only 17.

I remember when I was 17. I was a good kid, and I loved to help others, but you wouldn’t find me arriving early for a 9:00 service so that I could care for kids every week. And you definitely wouldn’t find me spending my entire Sunday at church, volunteering for two services and attending a third. I wasn’t immune to the narcissism that tends to run through the veins of many teenagers.

But, apparently, Mr. Michael is.

The other day, as I was rounding the corner of the Chick-Fil-A drive thru, I saw a young man coming out the back doors with a huge trash can heading for the dumpster. It was Michael.

“Hi, Michael!” I yelled through my open window. “I didn’t realize you worked here!”

“Hi! Who else do you have in there?” he asked smiling, trying to peer through the windows to see what kids filled the car seats.

“Just Chloe. Caleb and Hannah Grace are in preschool.” “You know,” I went on to add, “Caleb is really going to miss you. We just started attending the Saturday night service.”

Michael went on to explain that he actually wasn’t helping anymore. He had started working with another church plant in the community. But he promised he’d visit one Saturday night to see Caleb.

As a teenager, Michael had probably spent more hours volunteering in church, sharing his time, effort, and heart for the glory of God, than most adults. And now he was helping with a church-plant in the hopes of teaching another community about the love of Jesus.

I’m so proud of him, but, selfishly, I wish I were going to see him every weekend, walking alongside us as we teach Caleb our faith. But I realize that just as I’m watching my own son grow, over the past two or so years I’ve watched Michael grow from a teenage boy of 17 into a young man. And this young man’s path is taking him in another direction.

As I’ve walked my own journey, I’ve learned that many people have great intentions but few follow through. Witnessing the faithful example of Michael has been refreshing, and he’s shown me that when a heart is turned toward God and filled with His love, commitment to His work is a natural result.

Michael during Superhero Sunday

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version, 2010). Emphasis mine

JourneysWhat examples of faithfulness have you witnessed in others? How have you seen the Spirit of God working in young people in your own church?

I’d love for you to join me in this week’s journey on ‘faithfulness.’ If you have a post that relates to this topic, enter the link below. Thanks for joining me this week!

http://www.simply-linked.com/listwidget.aspx?l=7fc01357-e8c4-4ee8-9965-edb8d4653f0e