Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Talking to My Teen about Reading Scripture

Don't you just love when you have the right people speaking into your life?

I'm writing this post more for my own purposes, so that I remember these lessons learned. When the younger boys get to these teen years, maybe revisiting this post will be a help for me! :-)  So if you've come to visit and keep up with my blogs--just know this one is a bit longer and move on to another one if it doesn't interest you!

I'm glad for my pastor's insight.  He and his son noticed my fifteen year old shifting his focus from God to academics.

My son had been homeschooled his whole life until this year. I love the lifestyle and the close family ties we've enjoyed, but that wasn't the only reason for homeschooling this son. I was told early on that he suffers from auditory processing.  It's not a paralyzing problem, but causes just enough issues with learning that the special attention at home helped terrifically. Specialists have told me that in his teenage years much of the difficulties in learning will naturally dissipate has he develops.

Now he is in a public school--a really good one that challenges him.  It's going pretty well, mostly because he and I have attacked his studies together as a team.

Problem is, there was a cost.

I got a call from my pastor, whose son is best friends with my son. "My son came to me and told me he's noticing your son seems to have lost interest in the Bible.  They used to support each other, read it together. Now when my son asks him about it, your son says he's too busy with studying and sports."

It was my bad.  I confessed to my pastor that I had set aside encouraging my son to spend time with the Lord because I was so anxious to have my son perform well in school.

Martin Luther spent hours a day in the Word.  When his colleagues noticed they couldn't access him for over four hours each day they criticized him. "You can be putting that time into your work.  Think of the productivity gains."

Luther rebuked them. "I accomplish what I do because I give my first four hours to the Lord."  I knew I needed to change things.

I told my son he's doing great, and let him know how sorry I am for leading him to put school over God. I should have more trust in the Lord. From now on, he and I have agreed to begin homework by first getting into the Word.  Since his circle of friends are going through the Book of John together, chapter by chapter, and commenting together on a blog they've formed (here's a link to that blog-- this month my oldest son is running it), we had the perfect reading plan to go on.

But even though fifteen-year-old was agreeable to get back into the Word, he's a gut honest kid, and he has repeated gut honestly, that he can't seem to get the same zest out of it that he had before.

Now that academics is so stepped up, he's putting so much energy into his performance with school that he's probably tired out.  Now I'm relaxing the academics a bit and trusting God that if we invest the time with Him first, He will help my son with the academics. 

Besides, isn't it better for a teen to have a less scholarly resume but know the Lord than to get into Harvard with no love for the Lord?

As we talk about the Word, I help my son go deeper.  Soemtimes I wonder if the auditory processing keeps him from receiving or retaining what I have to say.  I asked him if it's alright if I recap what we talked about and send it in an email to him.  He said yes, and I'm thinking as long as I keep private information out of it, it might be okay to share here.  (Besides, the teens really aren't interested in this website).  

Here is my letter to him on John Chapter 16. If it comes across as one sided, please know it's only because I'm jotting notes here and that's not how my conversations with my boys go.  I do less of the talking and just listen.  I'm recapping some of them like I do here, but remember that my son was involved in the discussion and had his own contributions.  

So here are my thoughts about John 16. I totally get why you just don't seem to have the interest like you used to have in the Bible.  A year ago you were reading it on your own every day and loving it.  You would come to me with interesting questions and talk to Nathan about it a lot.

Now you're reading it along with the other highschoolers, but you don't comment so much on the blog, and it doesn't seem to draw you in as it used to.

I totally get that.  I think it's because since you started at public school, the stresses of the academics has gotten both of us focused so much on school that we haven't had much time and so we've pushed the Word out of your life.  

Pastor Rob suggested that I begin each school study session with both of us by first reading in John where the other high schoolers are reading and then working on your homework. I know in time it will help, but I get it when you admit it just doesn't hold your interest like before. 

Yesterday we were reading John 16 where Jesus was telling the disciples he's about to leave them, but that he will be sending the Holy Spirit to be with them and that the Holy Spirit is really part of Him, and that the Holy Spirit will guide them and comfort them and counsel them.

This didn't seem to affect you much, so I tried to explain it this way.  Just like the Holy Spirit (as part of the Trinity) is also Jesus, the Bible, Scripture, or Word, whatever you want to call it, is actually alive.  John 1:1 says "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  In Revelation (19:13), John talks of Christ coming down from the Heavens and defines Christ by saying, “His name is called the Word of God.”  So, in many places in the New Testament where it describes the Word becoming flesh, it’s speaking of Jesus.

So what I said last night is that the Word is alive-- it really is an extension of Christ, Himself.  When you immerse yourself in it, you become more relational with Christ, Himself. You had been immersing yourself in the Word for a year when you were 14, and it made such a difference--you were seeking, asking questions, being very intuitive about faith.  

I love your discernment last Spring when I told you I discovered someone's faith wasn't on solid ground as he had tried to claim. You were absolutely unwavering--"Mom, don't see him anymore. He's not a Christian."  You're right, and that wisdom came from the Holy Spirit, and you were really in touch with the Holy Spirit because you had been immersing yourself in Jesus--immersing yourself in the Word which is Jesus Christ. That made it easy for the Holy Spirit to guide you--speak into you so that you could speak into me.

But since school started, I saw you backing away from it and immersing yourself instead, in studies, and sports, and just holding your own in school.  I was talking to you last night about the role the Holy Spirit plays in your life.  I said, "When you choose not to hang out with the kids who cuss or talk about drugs, why do you do that-- Who's guiding you?"

"That's my decision," you answered, matter of factly, "because I know it's bad for me to."  

If that is true, then you're missing something important that John talks about in Chapter 16. It's Holy Spirit driven discernment. Maybe you are using the Holy Spirit to make choices, and it just comes so naturally that you think it's your own choice, not the Holy Spirit's.  I only encourage you to really pray about it, because it does matter whether you're doing things because of your own will or because you've surrendered your will to Christ's.

There are so many traps students can run into and one of them is doing the right things on their own strength and thinking they're good with God that way--that's works driven theology.  If you hang with the right people because it's your choice because you don't want the bad influence, that's great, but that's not winning you points with God.  God wants your heart, not your actions.  God would rather that you chose not to hang with the wrong people because you're trusting Him and He's guiding that decision and you're obeying.

Why the difference?  Because eventually the difference between a wise and unwise decision will be that you have to give up something you don't want to give up, and then, if it's on your own strength, you're own strength can fail you.  But if the difference between a wise and unwise decision is that you trust God and want to please God and you believe He has your back, you'll be willing to make the wise decision, even when it's hard, because you love God more than you love the thing your giving up. 

Remember my tears when I decided it was best that I not marry that man even though we knew giving him up was the right thing to do?  If I did that on my own strength, I might have failed, and we would end up with an ungodly man, just so that I wouldn't have to be without a husband anymore.  It was a lot to give up, but because I didn't do it on my strength but because I was obeying the Holy Spirit, it was easy to make the choice, painful, but easy--it was like I had no choice-- I couldn't do the unwise thing.  

To put into practical words, if you choose not to hang with the crowd who cusses or does drugs on your own strength because you don't want the bad influence, what if there is a pretty girl in that crowd and you really want to hang with her, but you can't if you don't hang with that crowd?  Now, choosing the wise decision has a big cost.  And if it's on your own strength, you might start to rationalize-- Satan might come in and attack-- tell you "hey, cussing's not that bad.  just because they talk about drugs, doesn't mean they do it, and even if they do, doesn't me you have to."  Wow can that be a dangerous lie.  Do you see the danger and the difference? 

Be encouraged that there is strength to be won out of digging into the Word.

I feel  your frustration. It seems like you want to be into reading the Bible again, but this time, it's not coming so easily.  What I was trying to explain to you about the Bible last night is that if the Word is alive and relational, then when you were spending daily time in It, It spoke to you, pulled you in.  Now that you've been away a while, it will take time for It to have that rejuvenating power again.  But it will come.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How I met my three Valentines…

How I met my three Valentines…

The thing about a valentine is that you can only have one.  He’s your one-and-only, the only one who gets to set roots in your heart.  So how do I write about Tom when I’ve now been dating a man for almost a year? How does a widow convince other widows that she understands the loss of a husband when she’s now in the process of dating to find a new one? 

Here’s the answer on my heart. Those years of walking it alone with God before dating were a time where I wanted to hear from women around me who had been there and get how it feels to be widowed, but can demonstrate that there is the possibility for a new valentine.

So I will candidly tell you how I met both my valentines—one at a time. I’ll remember Tom, but also think of the man who represents moving forward into my new future. There is a third Valentine—One that was there from the beginning and carried me between these two valentines. I will talk about Him too.

I met Tom accidently.  I was young, with no family responsibilities—my future a blank page. Tom blew in like a crazy, fun March kite-flying breeze, his page not so blank. He brought with him two kids who had been through heartache and chaos and depended on his level-headedness and fathering. These challenges along with his spontaneity turned my world upside down until we both laughed and filled in my blank page together.

The only reason I happened to be at Benny’s the night I met Tom was that my friend Suzie didn’t want to go alone.

He showed up with his beautiful grin and asked me to dance. What struck me about the grin was that it never left his face as we danced and talked and danced and talked. I started to wonder how was it possible to meet a wonderful man in a place like Benny’s—until a gorgeous redhead approached us—hands on hips and a glare at Tom.  He was on a date!!

“I’m sorry,” he pleaded. “Diane is my sister’s friend. She’s been begging me to take her dancing. She’s way too young for me and I told her I wasn’t interested, but I finally gave in. As soon as we got here, she took off to hang out with other people, so I figured I was free to dance.”

Well, Benny’s was a HUGE place and Diane obviously hadn’t been around for over an hour while Tom was dancing with me. Still, what a jerk! It didn’t take me long to forget about Tom.

But two weeks later he called.  “It took me that long to get the nerve to call you.”

All my skepticism about him melted away on our first date when he introduced me to his favorite people—his brothers and sisters with their spouses. It was the beginning of seeing Tom for the man he was—a family man. More than just a family man, a dedicated husband and father—fun, lovable, spontaneous to the point of chaotic—that was Tom.

When he was ripped from my life, I still felt him—everywhere. I thought of the incredible adoration I felt from him. It hung in the air all around me, lifted me, carried me.  Yes, I was alone, but few women have ever felt loved the way I felt loved by Tom. Do you know he used to paint my toenails, call me Lady Kathleen and himself Sir Thomas ready to serve his lady?  In those last years of his life, my friends  asked me to stop telling them about the way he romanced me because it only reminded them of how far their husbands fell short.

So when I lost Tom, I told myself I’d never need another love again. After all, few women had experienced being so adored. I rested on this for a while, and then the loneliness hit.  I was surprised how quickly it came.

That’s when my eternal Valentine stepped in. I always knew Him, but never like my true love. Never with that intensity you feel from a man who lovingly looks into your eyes. He knew how much I missed it, so maybe that’s why He gave it to me, in a dream just about the time of my first Valentine’s Day after losing Tom.  I wrote about it here at a Widow’s Might. In my dream Jesus looked straight into my eyes, The rush I got from Him was like a thousand butterflies in my stomach—that love-at-first-sight tingle!

During the next couple of years Christ as my Valentine held me tight, comforted me, and gave me that assurance of being truly beautiful and adored. Soon I found myself being able to remember Tom without so much pain.

I walked the next couple of years with my Heavenly Valentine until He began to whisper in my heart that He wanted me to be ready for another.

My new valentine comes at a new season—one where now, my page isn’t blank—there’s a purpose in my life with these boys I’m raising, and it’s I who has the spontaneity I learned from Tom—the spontaneity that allows me to let my boys be boys, happy and relaxed in the love of Christ. It’s no longer a crazy fun March kite-flying breeze I’m looking for. A whimsical breeze might turn our lives upside down, No, I want a breeze, but not a whimsical one—a peaceful one, full of gentleness and the guidance of an earthly husband who gets who we are in Christ and can lead us God’s way. Can that happen and still be capricious as a Valentine should be?

If God’s in it, it can.

Ladies, I sometimes struggle over whether to share about my experience in dating with you. If I don’t share it, I’m holding back lessons and praises I have for God showing me the benefits of doing the courtship dance His way and in obedience to Him.  But I never want widows to feel that my love for the husband I lost is in any way diminished by a new love in my life. And I know that in the early years of widowhood, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than the husband you lost being your valentine.

Everything about this valentine was not accidental or whimsical. We were introduced, and started getting to know each other through phone calls and letters.  When he finally came to meet me from another state, I was amazed at how he courted me—with complete honor and integrity. He insisted on staying in a hotel, he drove up practically every weekend, he invested as much time in my boys as he invested in me—taking them bowling, playing monopoly with them, taking them to parks and on hikes. He understood that hanging out with my boys and me together was an intentional way of telling me he loves me. When I turn and see him laughing when the boys act silly, I feel love.  After almost a year of hanging out with us, he has never once lost his patience or gotten cross with us, even after seeing the boys drop things, break things, tussle with each other, run late, and climb on his good furniture. As time passes, I watch him speak gentle guidance to the boys, and the boys appreciating his wisdom. I know this man loves me enough to love the boys too. When he sees me struggle to get the boys to tennis on time, he comes along and helps me arrange my schedule so it works. He brings order to chaos, and even my boys notice and like that.

And he romances me intentionally too. Each weekend visit is planned with a night out, and each night he calls me is spent talking about our hopes and dreams along with the minutia of the little tasks we do throughout the day. Even the tiny tasks are fun to talk about because behind it, I can feel him planning and figuring out how our lives filled with all the tiny tasks would meld together as one.

Because it’s the melding of two lives that scares a widow with children. Would it be as good as before?  Will four boys, doing as well as they are doing without their father, still do well or even better with a new man in their family?  The love I feel from my new valentine is shown in his patience to wait and date me God’s way while I sort these concerns out, letting them melt away until all I see is him—my valentine, loving, gentle, confident enough to lead me, tenderly, into the future.

I’m still meeting my valentine, and the story isn’t completely revealed. Thank you, God, for stepping in when my earthly valentine wasn’t there, and showing me how much You adore me. Thank You, for bringing a new valentine this year, and helping me see that remembering my husband on Valentine’s Day can honor him.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Best Present Ever!

Christmas 2011!  

The best present I can offer my kids this year is time. 

I always knew this, but my Christmas card this year convinced me.  It's beautiful, but… I saved time on it.  These professional photos were taken a year ago.  No one will notice.  But I will.

Beautiful images that don't tell the truth.  I know, it's not a biggie, and I'm glad I saved the energy and time so that I can enjoy the advent season without chasing another photographer down!

But it got me noticing how precious time is.  Especially as these boys are growing up and will be out on their own in no time!

Adolescence is a precious commodity because every moment of it is spent learning, whether we consider it learning or not. Most parents miss the real lessons-- they think it's about grades and sports and responsibility, but what it's really about is heart.

I never want to miss the heart.

So, my writing will wait.  My kids will only be adolescent once! I remember when my husband was alive, and we never let a day go by without romance and attention to each other.  Just like marriages, parenting relationships demand investment.

I never want a day to go by when the boys don't laugh together and with me.  I never want a day to go by when we don't romance the Lord--worship him--serve the weak. Humble ourselves.

I love to write, and sometimes we sacrifice our loves in obedience to Him.

So fewer postings, for this season of life, means I'm doing my job--investing in my kids, in God, and my community!  But I'll be back, when God leads me to return!

What an adventure!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Emperor’s New Fuddrucker's Tee Shirt

Carter, my eleven year old, is the kid who calls it like he sees it.

And he saw Fuddruckers (no matter how much he loved the place) for what it was—naked.

No doubt when you have four hungry boys, there’s no better restaurant.  It’s clean and  fun for the family. And  their burgers—fabulous!

We’d eaten there so many times I began to take for granted the surroundings and the d├ęcor. 

Until Carter pulled on my sleeve, a confused expression on his face.  “Mom!” he whispered.  “Why would Fuddruckers put THAT on the wall?”  

I looked at what most of us would tune out like I did. A simple white tee shirt imprinted with bold black letters:  What the FUDD?”

I shrugged.  “That’s just the way the world is.”  I was ready to let it go.

Carter wasn’t. He pulled at my sleeve again. “But, Mom!”

I looked again at the tee shirt.  It was pretty awful for a family setting.  Carter’s in the fourth grade where even some of the sweetest kids start experimenting with foul language.  I’m grateful Carter’s not one of them. “I don’t get it, Mom,” he says.  “They all think it’s funny.  I think it’s stupid.”

I do too.  And I told him. And we told Fuddruckers.

We didn’t nag or complain, mind you—just quietly told them they’re better than that. 

We told them the truth—that we love everything about them and would love to keep coming.  But I have to back Carter’s values and decisions here.

Because when we came home that evening, he decided (not me—this had to be his call) that we won’t be going back.

His brothers agreed, and we told the restaurant with respect. After all, not going back meant giving up Carter’s favorite eatery.

When the owner of the restaurant called to follow up, he listened patiently. 

“Thank you, Carter,” he said. “I already felt uncomfortable about that shirt. It’s coming off the wall today.  I hope you’ll come back.”

I know. It’s just a tee shirt.  But with an eleven-year-old, it means learning that you can battle for good in a fallen world.

And win.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Moon Scraper

From time to time, I get a new "memory" of Big Tom from one of my little Toms.  Today it was from Christian.  "Mom," he said.  "I remember Dad had this squishy blue ball he used to take into the back yard.  He'd throw it way high up in the air.  So high up we couldn't see it!   It took forever to come back down.  Then Dad would catch it and say, 'Did you see that?  It scraped against the moon and came back to us!'"

If we could bottle fatherhood and spread it around the world.  Maybe all little boys would be as joyful as these four!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mom is the Bomb

Mom is the bomb.
She is awesome.
She's like the possum.
She really rocks.
Cause she's a fox.

Years ago when my youngest was asked to write a poem about Mom around Mothers Day, he came up with the funniest poem and presented it in front of the whole class and all the moms at a Mother's Day party.  It was so funny that my boys have repeated it to me over the years.

It was even so catchy that sometimes they thank God in a prayer using the funny poem.  You know, "Thank you, God, for Mom.  She's the bomb…."

Okay, so he's not ready for the beatnik scene, and maybe I'm a bit biased, but I like it!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Unplugged in Appalachia

Have you ever had an unplugged moment when you saw the world for what it was—its beauty and its downfall?

When I came home from a weekend mission trip in the Appalachian mountains with my church, my world looked different.

It was as though God pulled the plug on all the distractions that were weighing me down and keeping me from Him.  I thought of one of my teenager’s favorite rock songs called Comatose.  The band Skillet wrote it to describe the world around us as filled with people living in a comatose state—minds saturated with media and world messages that keep us from seeing the reality of God.  The CD artwork shows a little boy standing with a spellbound look on his face and a giant plug, which he must have just pulled out from a wall.  When you open the artwork, you see what he’s looking at—a twisted discombobulation of electronics which must have been keeping him in a comatose state, until that moment.

This weekend brought my family to that moment where the bigger picture came into view.  I wanted to describe it for those of you who prayed over us and wanted to know how it went, and for some of you who haven’t yet tried a mission trip, to encourage you to go and see what it does in your heart!

Some of you are visiting from the Proverbs 31 blog, so you already know the introduction.  The details follow.

My two older kids and I joined a team of thirty people from my church who partnered with Samaritan’s Feet to bring hundreds of pairs of shoes to a coal mining town in Virginia.

The little church we worked with in Virginia allowed us to set up in their basement and added their hands to our team. The pastor there has a heart for his town and welcomed us with open arms, encouraging his church members to roll up their sleeves and work side by side with us--one team on a mission.  We set up twenty stations with basins of warm sudsy water and brought the children and teens individually in with their parents.  Each individual received personal treatment from a team member. These are the steps we went through:
·     Greeting them - We greeted them and explained how we wanted to first honor them by washing their feet before giving them new shoes. 
·     Washing - We then began to wash, explaining how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to show His love and to humble Himself before them. 
·     Bracelet - As we washed, we offer the child (with the parent’s permission) a colorful bracelet that helped us to tell the story of the gospel. 
·     The Gospel - We had the child, teen, or the parent read what’s on the bracelet. Meanwhile, we talked them through the Gospel story—black for sin, red for Christ’s blood, blue for our faith in accepting the gift of Christ, white for forgiveness, green for growth, and gold for Heaven. 
·     Receiving Christ - We ask if they’ve ever accepted Christ and would they like to pray to accept Him into their hearts.  Most wanted to, but we completely respected if someone wasn’t interested and moved on to give them their shoes.
·     New shoes – We dried their feet, placed new socks and a brand new pair of shoes on their feet.
·     Prayer - As we fitted them with new shoes, we asked if there is anything in their lives they would like us to pray with them over.  Most wanted us to.
·     Connection to the church - Many times the final step was to introduce them to the local church (the pastor or one of the church members) to get them connected.

We expected nods and polite gestures as we washed their feet like Jesus did and told them about the Gospel and what Christ did for them.  What we didn’t expect was a rampant grabbing onto the gospel—a more than willingness, a craving to ask Christ into their hearts. 

We expected a need for prayer, what we didn’t expect was the shared stories of abuse and neglect and badly placed foster situations and parents in jail or on drugs.  We didn’t expect open hearts that shared their stories and asked for open prayer. 

We expected smiles over new shoes, but what we didn’t expect was the need—children walking in on bare socks that stuck out through worn soles of old shoes, feet crusted with dirt and grime and shoes so old that mold grew on what was left of the canvas.

Our limited exposure gave some of us an impression that perhaps poor management and oversight in local government only worsened problems of poverty, drugs, abuse and homelessness. We met a woman who had her home razed to make way for a new coal mine. She showed us the photograph of her lost home. She now lives in a trailer like many in the town do. Many children or teens came with no parent. Many don’t live with parents. One downtrodden little girl hardly mumbled to me when I asked if her parents were there. “My uncle,” she whispered as she pointed to an unkempt man in the back of the room. Her little brother explained to my 13-year-old son who was washing his feet, "my uncle kicks me every morning when I wake up.” Brian prayed with him, and walked him through the little bracelet he gave him that explained how Christ died for his sins, and then helped the boy pray to receive Christ.

Another child surprised Brian. "Mom," Brian said. "When I went to take the boy's shoes off, I grabbed the bottoms of his shoes but felt socks instead. His shoes had no heels. It was just the top of the shoes and the front-- there was nothing but socks his heels were walking on. The little boy was so happy to get a pair of shoes."

A teen from the church in the town we partnered with joined us in the foot washing. She sat next to my 15-year-old washing feet and praying with people to receive Christ. During a break she shrugged and explained to him what it was like growing up there. "It's really hard to be a Christian here in the school. So many kids are having sex and doing drugs. It's not like they even think its wrong because most of their parents are doing it too. It's hard to not do what everyone else is doing. My brother went to a party and got stabbed and was left to die in a field. A helicopter picked him up and took him to a hospital. That was a while back. I don't know where he is now. I just know he's brain damaged now. I've lived in too many foster homes to count. I'm a lucky one. I'm in church. No one around here goes to church. They're all hooked on meth by the time they're my age and you're lucky just to finish high school." Of course as outsiders, we don't know how much of a teen's story falls to elaboration, but what we saw was the core reason for the poverty.

Our pastor's wife chatted with a little boy while painting his face. He and his two sisters and a brother came with a foster parent. "Baby," she said, "where's your mama?" The boy said as casually as though she was just at the grocery store... "Oh, Mama, she's in jail." His face brightened. "But she'll be home in about 8 years."

A woman who so obviously loves the Lord told us she's a great grandmother (no older than me) who has already raised 18 children. She explained why her five-year-old granddaughter is such a handful. "She was abused in the worst way by a foster dad when she was three. I was so busy raising my other great grandchildren I didn't even know she had been taken away from her mom and dad until a few weeks passed. I got her out of there as soon as I knew she was in the foster care. I knew right away something was wrong with her because she wouldn't talk. It was a year later when another family accused the man of abuse."

Our team drove through the town to pray for it. So many trailer parks, many run down with police ribbons around them because of a drug bust. Methamphetamines run rampant.

The town also has 50 churches-- all close to empty except for the older traditionalists. Anyone thinking they need to go across the world to deal with poverty need to open their eyes. It's a simple car ride to the next state.

Please don’t read this and think the weekend was depressing. We expected the poverty, so we didn’t let it get us down. It’s what God's doing through the beautiful hearts of a tiny church in that coal mining town and what we were allowed to experience with them that’s uplifting. Here are some incredible moments for me...

A teen girl put her feet in the sudsy water and sulked. I wondered if her makeup and clothing was just the style or a sign that she had already headed into a hard life full of the pain of consequences of poor choices. She was friendly enough and wanted the bracelet I offered. She said she'd never been to church but she'd heard of Jesus-- didn't seem interested. I walked her through the black color on the band. She nodded when I spoke of sin, and did a kind of eye roll when I moved on to the red part of the band-- blood. I first described the blood as punishment for sin and her eyes glazed over. No one likes hearing that sins have to be paid for. Then I explained how when I was her age I went to a church that made me feel like I had to live perfectly to get to Heaven and that if I had any sin on me I had to pay for it somehow-- either Hell or something I do here to make up for it. Her eyes still glazed over.

"But that was wrong," I said. I bent down to wash her feet while I kept talking. "Jesus took your punishment for you. He died on the cross so that you don't have to and all you have to do is accept that He died for you and that you're forgiven and it's done. You don't have to do anything else. You don't have to work your way into Heaven." I kept washing and then I heard....

"Really? That's it?" she said. Startled, I looked up at the teen's face. She had a surprised look in her eyes and a tear on her cheek. "Is that really true?" she asked. To see the earnest relief in her eyes choked me up. I didn't want to embarrass the girl so I didn't pry. It seemed obvious her tears were for something she felt ashamed of and that she liked hearing that it's easy to be forgiven.

We take for granted that people have already learned about the gospel. So few know it and so many want and need it. She prayed with me to invite Christ in her life and I told her that many people will try to tell her that there are other things she needs to do to get to Heaven but if she's sincere about accepting God's grace's she's already forgiven. I told her it's true even if her life takes a rough direction and she makes bad choices. God still loves her, no matter what. She got up and hugged me.

My thirteen year old was washing the feet of a teen that was obviously too old to be a teen- like about 21 or so. Brian is a quiet kind of guy—small for his age so that he looks even younger, like 11 or so. But there he was washing this twenty-something’s feet while talking to the guy about Christ. What a moment to see your child doing that!

Once he was done putting new shoes on the guy he asked, "What can I pray with you about?" The young man, goatee on his chin and earring in his brow, gave Brian a list, "well little guy, ya see that girl over there-- she and I have been dating about 3 years now. And we're thinking on moving in together." My eyes got big as this guy went on and on with my little boy who never meets people whose problems are bigger than can their parents afford to get them a cell phone. I'm thinking I'd have to rescue Brian and step in to pray in his place.

Brian didn't need that, and he didn’t skip a beat. He grabbed both the guy's hands and shut his eyes, praying as boldly and articulately as though this guy’s circumstance was normal and simple. "Dear God, please help this guy and his girlfriend set up a happy home and get married, and help them with their choices and protect them." He amazed me. It’s so easy to underestimate what God can do with even the smallest of hearts.

And that’s simply who we are. Serving in such a concentrated way doesn’t increase you, it makes you smaller, as you should be. When we returned home and found ourselves in that moment, unplugged from our routine and from the comatose nature of centering our hearts on the problems of the day, we see the reality. That when we finally allow ourselves to become lesser, God becomes bigger in us and we can finally be used. Like little Brian being used to pray with someone twice his size and pulling it off in a huge way.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Would You Take a Moment to Consider Your Feet? (A Tribute to Marienne, my Sister)

“I took the cast-boot off to give my right foot a sponge bath. When I put my right foot on the bathroom floor next to my left foot, I looked down at them side by side. That’s when I noticed.”

She tried to hide her tears over the phone, but I could hear her fighting them back. 

“My two feet are both straight!”

Isn’t it amazing what we take for granted in our lives?  Straight feet. 

My sister, Marienne, is precious. Now in her fifties, she has spent the first half century of her life looking down at skewed feet—her left straight like everyone else’s, her right turned at a forty-five degree angle to the right.

The crooked feet weren’t just an aesthetic problem.  Marienne was born with cerebral palsy. It affected her entire right side of her body.  Doctors back in the 1950’s told our parents that she would never walk, but she did.  She took her first steps at three years old, her right foot twisted unnaturally so that she stood on the edge of her foot, practically on her ankle. 

But she walked! 

After three surgeries and years of corrective orthotics, doctors still couldn’t get the foot straightened out.  She spent her entire life willing herself to stretch her leg as she walked to minimize the sound of her limp. 

Many never noticed.  You have to convince people she had cerebral palsy, she is so independent.

Marienne finished high school like kids without cerebral pasley.  She went to college.  She even finished nursing school and practiced as a nurse for years.  She married and remains happily married today after almost 30 years.  She took up quilting, surprising everyone with the dexterity she shows in the work of her hands.

Did I mention her right hand is also debilitated due to her palsy?  Significantly to where she has trouble gripping a pencil. Yet she quilts!

Such a hero.  Such will.  Such determination.  So much so, that at 55, she decided to take up daily exercise to shed some middle aged weight.  With her limp in her right leg, she didn’t want to try aerobics or step classes.  She simply walked.  Miles a day.  The pounds were sliding off.  Like with everything she approaches, Marienne met her goals.  We call her the incredible shrinking woman!  She walked and walked.

Until she fell.

I got a call from her. I didn’t understand what the big deal was.  So what, she tripped on something!

“You don’t understand,” she cried.  “There was nothing to trip on.  My right foot simply didn’t lift right.”

I thought she was overreacting. 

Until she called the next week. “I fell again!”  This time, she got help.  Cerebral Palsy specialists studied her gate using high tech equipment that digitized her movements.  They agreed, something was terribly wrong.  Her bones had shifted and would move more and more. 

Marienne was about to enter the second half of her life with a dangerous impediment in her gate!

That’s why they operated.  It’s a tricky surgery.  They literally sawed her foot bone in half—the one that was pointing at a forty-five degree angle.  Then they filed it down (shaped it) and placed a post against it to fasten it together properly.

Recovery has been rough.  Marienne has been in a cast all summer, barely able to even stand.  Recently they removed the cast and put her into a boot.  Within weeks, physical therapists will begin teaching her new foot how to walk.

And that brings me to Marienne—seated in her bathroom, washing her new foot, and recognizing for the first time in her life…

That she’s simply like everybody else now.

Would you take a moment today and gaze down at the simple sight of seeing your two feet pointing in the same direction and think of Marienne and praise God for His healing through wonderful surgeons?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Whom do you worship?

As Christians, do my children know who it is they follow?

This week I've let that be the focus of our devotion time because I want to make sure they know where to go in the Bible to nail down a most important foundational truth.

I asked them if they know the difference between Jesus and God.

It took a moment before one of them giggled and said, “Mom! Jesus is God!”

Of course he knew that.  I’ve taught it all along.  But how often do we forget to make certain truths absolutely clear to our kids to a point where they know how to find that truth for themselves in the Scriptures?

There will come a day when my boys will go out into the world armed only with what foundational truth I’ve provided them.  They will face those who will try to water down the Gospel.  Those who will tell them, “Jesus was a teacher.  Jesus was a good man. Jesus was a prophet.”  Those who might even admit, “Jesus is the Son of God,” but stop there.  

Will my kids notice what was missing in those statements?  Can they defend the deity of Christ?

The truth that Christ is not just the Son of God, but one with the Father is our focus with my kids in our family bible study this week.

I started with a simple question.  Does it matter?  After all, those that follow Christ and don’t consider Him God, aren’t they still following Him?


How can you follow someone when you don’t know whom you are following?  

Christ is either God incarnate or not.  If He is (and of course, He is!) and someone doesn’t believe it, then the Christ they are following is not Christ at all, but a mere man.

I guess I picture us one day standing before the real Christ--the Son of God who is God Himself. If it's only then we recognize that He really is God, then we never really knew Him. Those who have denied Who He is will have to answer to Him.  They might say, “But all our lives we said, ‘Lord, Lord’.”  And He will answer, “Go away from Me, I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:22-23)

When the boys and I dug deep, we found some of these truths helpful and nailing down for us that Jesus is one and the same with our Father God...

Isaiah’s prophecy defines Christ as God:
Isaiah the prophet, over 500 years before Christ was born, prophesized Messiah declaring Him in no uncertain terms to not only be the Son of God, but God Himself.  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

John’s Prophecy defines Christ as the Word—and the Word is God:
In Revelation (19:13), John talks of the Christ coming down from the Heavens and defines Christ by saying, “His name is called the Word of God.”  So, in many places in the New Testament where it describes the Word becoming flesh, it’s speaking of Jesus.  John says, “The Word was God.”  (John 1:1)

The Pharisees Sought to Kill Jesus for His “Blasphemy” of Asserting He is God:
Jesus healed and then said, “Go, your sins are forgiven.” (several occurrences; Luke 5:23 is one example).  The Pharisees were angered because only God could forgive sins.  Jesus told them before Abraham he was the “I Am”. (John 8:58) The Pharisees accused Him of blasphemy, but Jesus didn’t deny his statements or actions.  If he was misunderstood, why not correct the misunderstanding and avoid the execution?

Thomas Called Jesus God
The disciple Thomas (the doubting Thomas) saw Jesus resurrected and exclaimed, “My God” (John 20:28) to Jesus.

We were Purchased with God's Blood
Paul explained how God purchased the Church with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

The biblical references settled what was already in our hearts. Christ is God.

But why is is so necessary for us that Christ IS God? Isn't it enough to just say Jesus is our Savior and not worry about connecting Who He is to God?

No that's not enough.

Think about why for our salvation, Christ has to be God:
  1. Christ’s deity is necessary for our salvation! The very meaning of being a Christian is to recognize the sinful nature of our souls. We needed a Savior to pay the price for sin. And nothing but a perfect sacrifice would do.  Only God Himself is perfect.  Not a human son of God who isn't one with Him.
  2. If Jesus wasn’t God, what kind of love would that show that the Father has for us?  If you stood at the street while your children were caught in a burning house and asked someone to run in for you, would that be love?  Did God send someone else into a burning house after us?  No. No one but God Himself would be adequate. As our Father, God lowered Himself enough to come down here and take the punishment for us.  That’s love.  Enough to save us.

The lesson was over and we went on with our day with deeper appreciation of Who Christ is. 

Then I had lunch with an old friend. This sweet brother in Christ told me the painful experience of having to go through divorce after his wife had cheated on him over and over. When he described the a awful moment when she was caught in her sin, tears came to his eyes. The evidence too great to deny. He had tried to forgive many times before, but this time the betrayal destroyed his trust in her completely. They both knew there was no turning back.  The marriage was over.

It was a moment when she walked through the door and he had the evidence from an investigator there in his hands.

She saw it and collapsed on the floor in a blood-curdling scream, “Nooooooooooo!”  The scream wasn’t a plea.  She knew his character and that she had been given her last chance.  He no longer trusted her.  Too late. Over. Final. She left the house into the emptiness of no further relationship with him.

To hear the description of her scream made me shiver, but not just for her.  I never met the poor woman.  The tear was for others—for an image I had in my heart.  An image of billions of souls standing before Jesus on that day knowing that they had denied him for so long that it was too late.  No turning back.  Each scream will be hundreds times worse than the woman who betrayed her husband.  I cry now for those individuals and stop to remind myself, who is it we worship?

Monday, June 28, 2010

"You’ll Just Have to Find Something Else to be Afraid of.”

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done many acts; he slew two lionlike men of Moab: also he went down and slew a lion in a pit in a snowy day.
1 Chronicles 11:22

Years ago, long before I was widowed, before I was even married to Tom, life threw a huge dose of pain my way.  A marriage I thought was going to last me a lifetime went into a tailspin when an anonymous caller tipped me off to my first husband’s affair.

At that horrible moment, I would never have imagined how the Lord was preparing the way for a new life, a new marriage, and strengthening me for a far deeper loss by teaching me never to fear being alone.

My first reaction was to drop the receiver and dash out of my office into the cool October air to catch my breath.

I didn’t stop there. I got in my car and drove away, beating back tears.  With nowhere to go, I stopped at a phone booth and called Joyce—my no-nonsense, stay cool through any storm friend.

I sobbed over the betrayal.  “This is my worst fear and now it’s happened!”

There was a pause on the other end while I knew Joyce prayed over what words to use.   The ones that slipped off her tongue might strike you as uncaring or rude, but they were perfect. “Well, I guess you’ll just have to find something else to be afraid of.”

I wiped my tears and let her words sink in.  All those years I tried to be the best wife to that man, but secretly harbored a sense that he had one foot out the door.  Was I making every decision to please him out of faith or fear?  What wasted time and effort!  Had I faced my fear and stopped placating to him, he might have respected me more and considered changing his heart towards making a strong marriage.  Or maybe not, but at least I would have been operating as the complete woman God made me to be and not have a nagging feeling that my jellyfish spine had something to do with my marriage falling apart.

Now, without Tom, I never want to avoid my worst fears and set myself up for future regret.

When people ask “what’s your worst fear?” Some think of loss or trauma, but if we’re honest, sometimes it isn’t the big stuff that we fear the most.  After all, as widows, we’ve already experienced some of the worst. Our real fears are rooted in insecurity, wondering if we’re good enough or accepted.

When Joyce told me I need to find something else to be afraid of, I chose God.  I never wanted anything in life to shake me to the core like the betrayal from my first husband did.  I wanted to be absolutely positive that I knew who I was at the core of my being so that whatever is going on around me, I still feel accepted, cherished, powerful.

And I do.  Oh, the deceiver tries to scare that sense of confidence away, but I know the signs of his presence.  It’s that gnawing anxiety….  I’m alone, I’m overwhelmed, my kids don’t have a father. Are they getting what they need?

In my bible lessons this week I learned about a great soldier of David’s named Benaiah.  He was courageous.  Courage means doing what needs to be done in spite of your fears. Can you imagine the fear he had to overcome to get into a snowy pit and kill a lion with his bare hands?
So back to anxieties.  When they whirl, I say…


These are feelings.  They aren’t truth.  I stop, and I refocus on Scripture.  On truth.  I am incredible and loved in the Lord.  Through Him, I’m unstoppable, because He does all I can’t.  He will be the father of my boys, my husband.  He cherishes me and loves me and I will respond with obedience.  I will ignore the anxious thoughts—endure them as a sort of pain like a steady leg cramp and get to work… one foot in front of the other.  I will act accordingly to His grace. I will do all those things I would do as if I were loved and cherished, not because I feel loved or cherished but because I know I am loved and cherished.  It’s truth, and I believe it, so my feet and hands and mouth follow my beliefs, in spite of any lingering anxiety the deceiver tosses at me.

I stop pacing the house and do what I'm asked to do. Clean up my office, get back into the Word, spend time with the kids. Sometimes it's just grabbing a deck of cards and hanging out with the boys.  I pull out five bibles—one for each of us, put on some Christian music, and have quiet reading time in the Word with the boys followed by prayers.

And guess what, the boys LOVE it.  “Thanks, Mom.  Can we do this every day?”  My heart fills with centered clean joy.  I’m back.  I remembered who I am.

The world sees widow, but when I remember who I am, in that moment, I’m not the pitiful widow. I’m Kitty, a woman of God.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Brother's Day

It's Father's Day.  Around our home that means Brother's Day.   We started this tradition after we lost Tom a few years ago.  Our first Father's Day without him was difficult, but we made the best of it by making cards and letters expressing our feelings for him and getting out in the beautiful sunshine to enjoy the type of things that Dad used to do with us.

When the second Father's Day rolled around, I figured it was time for a fresh approach. We came up with Brother's Day. Here's how it works.  I let the boys sleep in while I prepare their Brother's Day breakfast in bed.  This morning it was french toast with sausages and OJ.

The breakfast trays are prepared with colorful messages from me with one particular character trait each one has shown in the past year that reminds me of their father.

And finally, I write a letter to each one of the children explaining that character trait, how I saw it shown in the past year, and how their father had that same trait in him.

My boys are beginning to look forward to Father's / Brother's Day, and I pray that it inspires them to earn their rights to have Father's Day breakfasts in bed when they are old enough to rear a family God's way!

We're not done after breakfast.  They boys consider our chocolate lab puppy a brother too, so after church we're off to a hike with the dog.

Church on Father's Day is always tough on a widow.  I'll most likely choose to sit near the back and step outside when I feel myself missing the presence of a husband in the home.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Widow Ruth

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:4.

Sometimes thriving in life as a widow means listening to how God wants you to participate in His divine nature.  It’s different for each of us because a widow’s walk is never carved in stone.  The Lord asks some of us to weather it quietly—grieving and accepting the loss as your heart allows you to—one step at a time. The Lord sometimes asks us to move forward boldly, letting go of fear so that through our boldness, we protect the younger ones He has put in our care from the corruption in the world.

When the Lord leads you to step forward boldly, you might have fear over what the world thinks of you as you move forward and lead your own life into the future without leaning on an earthly husband.  I think of the widow, Ruth, and her obedience to the Lord and how it led to bold steps on her part, choosing to remain with her mother-in-law, choosing to gather grain behind the harvesters in Boaz’s fields, and presenting herself to Boaz in a humble but brazen gesture to petition him to claim her as his wife.
Ruth was brave, and yet so loved by the Lord for her obedience that He blessed her by allowing the bloodline of His only Son to run through her.

Imagine how fear could grip a woman in her situation faced with deciding whom to align herself with, how to provide for herself, and whether to pursue a new marriage.  As a widow, you might feel it too.  Widowhood can be a life full of fear if you allow yourself to get overwhelmed.

I’m reminded today to stop fear in its tracks for it is not from the Lord. I consider what my pastor told me after he took three of my sons on a Gettysburg Father-son retreat. He reassured me that decisions I’ve made since Tom has died have been good ones, evidenced by a Christ awareness my kids displayed on that trip with him.  He told me my children seem to have no trouble going against the grain of the world.  In other words, under my leadership which came straight from the guidance of the Lord, for the time being, they have escaped “the corruption in the world caused by evil desires”.

The Lord sometimes speaks through the words of blessings from others, and my pastor’s words were well-timed at a moment when I felt overwhelmed. I marvel at their progress, because many times my decisions go against the grain of this world, to the point of coming under scrutiny of others who aren’t sure what to think when a widow steps out in boldness. Some don’t understand that my choices are not my own. I’ve allowed the Lord to lead.

Sometimes people of the world want to tell you how as a widow you’ve been beaten. You’ve suffered loss. You’re supposed to recoil, curl up in a ball and feel sorry for yourself.

There is that place where you need to be alone and recover.  And sometimes that can take a while, but there was a point after Tom died where the Lord told me, grieve but don’t recoil. Break free. Burst forth in radiance because my four boys will watch and follow. They will be marked forever in their souls by the choices I make as a widow.

They will either see themselves as victims or see themselves as stepping forward by following and staying safely inside the Eye of the storm—accepting that what Satan doles out with the intention of evil, God takes and turns around for His Glory.

If you feel a prompting in your heart to follow a purpose the Lord has laid out for you, I encourage you to pray about it.  Don’t let fear stop you. Let the peace that only comes from the Holy Spirit prevail over you.  He will lead you.  It’s His great and precious promise.