Hymn…or me?

My life has been a big ol’ messy pile of decisions/thoughts/confusions/worries over the past month. Job changes, desired jobs lost, patience tried, school years begun, grown-up choices required…I’m exhausted. I’m emotionally weary and worn. I feel too old and too young and too informed and too ignorant. All. And I don’t really like any of it. I’m pretty much ready for this particular season to be over.

Through it all, though, there have been these soft lyrics lilting throughthe stormy clamor in my mind. A old but precious song from my Granny’s old but precious church. If I stop thinking long enough, I can hear her warbling the words next to me. And I recall the blessed assurance she portrayed in her life. She knew who watched the sparrows, and she knew that He watched her too.

Admittedly, I had to Google all the lyrics because I could only remember the chorus. But I needed to read all the words to be reminded that the life I’m muddling through now is not what He wants for me. He wants me to look up and over the muck and trust that He is going to take care of all the details I’m fretting about.  ‘Why should I feel discouraged…Why should the shadows come..Jesus is my portion…my constant friend is he…his eye is on the sparrow…and I know he watches me…” (I’m singing it and smiling as I type).

I hope someone else can be encouraged by this today.

Why should I feel discouraged?
And why should the shadows come?
And why should my heart be lonely
And long for heaven and home?

When Jesus is my portion
My constant friend is He
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me

And I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I am free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me
 

Let not your heart be troubled
His tender word I hear
And resting on His goodness
I lose my doubts and fears

Though by the path He leads us
But one step I may see
His eye is on the sparrows
And I know He watches me

And I sing because I’m happy
And I sing because I’m free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me

His eye is on the sparrow
  And I know He watches me             

         

http://www.songlyrics.com/alabama/his-eye-is-on-the-sparrow-lyrics/

Top Ten: Life Lessons from a Navy Seal

I’ve missed a few of my ‘top ten’ days, but I’ve been saving this link for the right moment. As this is back-to-school time, I thought this might be the right time to share it. It’s time to get out of bed, make the bed, and start a productive day.

Navy Admiral William H. McRaven tells the top ten lessons he’s learned from being in the trenches. They’re so simple, but so true. Here’s the list, but the article is so much more than just the list. Read it here:

http://nypost.com/2014/05/24/10-life-lessons-from-the-seal-who-led-mission-for-bin-laden/

10. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

9. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

8. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

7.If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

6. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

5. If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head-first.

4. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

3. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

2. If you want to change the world, start singing when your up to your neck in mud.

1. If you want to change the world, don’t ever ring the bell.

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What little ears hear

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My son doesn’t like to be startled. At all. Ever. He doesn’t like alarm clocks ( I don’t either ), car horns ( unless he’s honking them ),  or fire drills ( they bring him to his knees).  I know this about my son, and I accept it. We all have our quirks. I don’t like jumpy things…grasshoppers, frogs, crickets…bunnies are only just tolerable.

We were with a well-meaning acquaintance doing a planned activity that ended up being a bit louder and startling than expected. My son balked. He ran from the fun to a safe space some distance away…and I was okay with that. I knew what was happening, and I knew he was finding his solace. Our host did not understand that so much. And there were some chastising words spoken toward my son. And that hurt me.

I wanted to plug my son’s ears. I wanted to erase the two minutes of time that had just occurred and take him back to when that person was a ‘safe’ person to be around. Without realizing it, that individual had just permanently damaged the relationship with my great kid. No longer was he a trustworthy companion in my son’s eyes because he had poked an already sore spot in my son’s psyche.

As a kid, I used to sing the song ‘Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See’ in chapel at school. (And subsequent verses, ‘Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear’ and ‘Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go’…) It was a cute little ditty, reminding us not to put ourselves in places where we shouldn’t be…places where we can get into trouble…or where trouble can find us. But what if trouble finds you when you’re where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing, with the people that are acceptable company? What then?

Oh for cotton balls to shove in my son’s ears, band-aids to wrap his heart or bubble wrap to roll around his spirit at that moment. I agonized for him because I knew he had tried to be brave, and though he had succeeded in my eyes and his own, he had failed in the most verbal presence there. And there’s the key. He had succeeded, and there will always be verbal presences. He had sought his safe space where he could still participate, but from a distance. He had not denied the total experience. He had not thrown a fit. He had not screamed at the adult. He had not reacted negatively. He knew his limits and he lived within them. And I was proud of him.

I cannot follow my son everywhere and protect him from everything. That would create more problems than it would solve. But I can help him become strong enough inside that he is prepared when trials come along, expectedly or unexpectedly. I cannot shelter him from meanness but I can teach him to be brave in spite of it. I cannot block him from the evil that resides in this world, but I can show him that God is bigger than evil and that God lives in him…and loves him more than anything.

People hurt us. People close to us that know our inner struggles can hurt us deeper because they know our weaknesses. But we can heal and learn from those painful times. We can learn to protect ourselves emotionally when we’re around those people, and we can be compassionate enough not to act that way to others.

Oh, be careful little ears what you hear, and don’t become like the voices that spoke those words.

Psalm 103…parenting like God.

(Picture courtesy of blog.childandfamilydevelopment.com)

Top Ten: Life lessons from sandcastles

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10.  The obvious, it’s free! All that’s needed is sand and hands. Buckets and spades are bonuses!

9. The other obvious: imagination stimulation!

8. Unchanging physical properties- The force of water v. the strength of sand; construction qualities of wet sand v. dry sand; incline v. recline; condensation v. evaporation…the list is somewhat endless…

7. When to stop– There are limits to how much sand can be built up, how deep a shovel can effectively slice without causing a collapse, how much water can be added to make the correct ‘paste’. Observing such limits and working within them builds structural and personal integrity.

6. Where to start–Start too close to the tide line and the masterpiece will be washed away before it’s even built; start too far away from the water source and water will be distantly inaccessible. High tide? Low tide? Research and reconnoiter before beginning the task.

5. Use what you have–Hands are all that’s really needed, but shovels and pails are great too. Need a new angle or a deeper scoop? Manipulate what is available…squeeze the bucket, turn the shovel…make it work! Adaptation is a crucial life skill.

4. Get more–If the sand is too wet and slippery, add dry to soak up the water. If it’s too dry to stay in place, add a bit of water. Want decor? Go find shells and sea grass. Want a different dig? Might be time to spring for a new spade. Sometimes is best to seek other options.

3. Networking–If you begin to build it, they will come. Little boys, big boys, curious onlookers of every age. Helpful advisors, eager engineers, passing critics. Listen to the advice, accept the outstretched hand, ignore the scoffers. The sandbox of the world is filled with diverse friendships waiting to start.

2.Dealing with loss–Inevitably, the sandcastle will become part of the shoreline again. But crying over a flattened sand structure is as useless is crying because there is sand. Millions of architects have knelt in those tiny grains and constructed greatness only to have it washed away with the timeless tide. Beginning this job is knowing that this is a temporary investment but the memory of it will be long-lasting.

1. Beginning again–Survey the scene, take stock of materials, and plan for the future. Yesterday’s masterpiece was colossal…for yesterday. What’s next? Breathe the salty air, admire all the expansive greatness and have a seat. Start anew, start renewed…but don’t let the ocean keep you from your sandcastle.

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24/7

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Photo courtesy : twentyfoursevenmusic.wordpress.com

My son has always had a fascination with firemen, fire trucks, fire stations…anything related to fighting fires and keeping people safe. We are fortunate to live down the road from a small fire station, the ‘retirement station’ they call it, as it rarely gets calls. Due to such local access, my little guy likes to stop in and chat with the heroes therein.

He has recently been introduced to the phrase ’24/7′, though he’s still struggling with the exact meaning. He thinks it means starting work at seven in the morning and working a full twenty-four hour day, as the guys down the street do. I have tried my mother’s best to explain to him what it really means, but at his age, he’s more determined to be right than correct.

Those numbers took on a new meaning to us this week. The evening of July 24th, (7/24) as we snuggled in bed at story time, my little theologian asked, ‘How do you ask God to come into your heart?’. I smiled a little smile, not wanting to imply teasing but happiness. ‘Well, you just ask him…really. It’s kinda that simple.’ He pondered, not certain I was right about such a monumental event. So, I went on a little further.

‘Do you remember that Bible school song that said ‘A…admit to God that you’re a sinner and you need him…B…believe that Jesus is God’s own son…C…confess that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord…’?’ Still pondering and not making eye contact, he nodded.

‘Do you know that you sin and do bad things sometimes?’

‘Oh yes!’ He nodded and released a wry smile, probably remembering some events of that very day.

‘Do you understand that Jesus died on the cross to clean away your sin, so that you can be with God?’ Nodding…we’d had a thorough discussion about this ever since Easter this year…

‘And you know that Jesus is God’s son…You just kinda talk to him about all those things. Tell him that you know you do bad stuff and that you realize he loves you enough to forgive you and he wants to be with you.’

He still wasn’t really making eye contact with me, and admittedly, I couldn’t read him at that moment. I gave him a few moments to process what I’d said. The way his active mind works, he might have been finished with the whole topic and ready to discuss where firemen store their breathing apparatuses. I didn’t want to push my spiritual excitement on him, but after a minute or two I quietly asked, ‘Do you want to talk to God about it all?’ He said he did, but he didn’t want to do it out loud.

He put his hands over his face and curled up in a little ball and was silent for about a minute and a half. I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed my own little prayer, that he would truly know what God’s forgiveness meant… And then he opened his eyes, looked right at me and smiled. ‘I did it.’

It doesn’t matter to me that he will argue about the daily work schedules of the firemen down the street. What matters is that on that night, 7/24, I knew that he understood the forgiving faithfulness of God. Yes, he’s young, but he’s old enough to know that he needs forgiveness because he sins…and that God not only provides forgiveness, he does it with open arms. And he’s old enough to know that God wants us to care for others and share his loving ways with others. Isn’t that the gist of it all? Forgive and love on.

 No matter what he does during the twenty-four hours of his seven days a week, God will be by his side.  Dawn, dusk, noon, midnight, afternoon, evening, midmorning, midday…no matter the time, God is with him, forgiving and loving him and directing him to others who need the same.

Thank you, Father.

John 8:34-36 (www.biblegateway.com)

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Top Ten: Ways you know it’s Bible School week

It’s been Vacation Bible School week at our church, as my past two posts have indicated. We’ve had an amazing week, with very nearly 100 kids in attendance, approximately 50 volunteers, $500 collected for Heifer International, and youth and leaders who have grown and shown the love of God.

After waking up at 3:38 this morning in an absolute panic because I totally forgot to sew 40 teddy bear forms for the youngest kids to stuff during our mission craft time, I realized that this week’s top ten list would be most appropriately themed around Bible school.

Top Ten: Ways you know it’s Bible School week

10. You have stacks of magazines, cloth, coffee filters, pipe cleaners, and/or construction paper in various, yet strategically placed, parts of your house…and every one knows NOT TO TOUCH THEM!

9. You find foam shapes sticking to random parts of your body or clothing…while you’re at the grocery store.

8. Heading to the pool for an afternoon of fun with lots of neighborhood kids AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN THIS WEEK.

7. Figuring out a discipline plan that will work for 20 minutes of classroom time, for 5 days this week…not too strict like a school room, but structured enough to get stuff done.

6. Singing cutesy, memorable Jesus songs…24 hours a day.

5.‘THAT’S PERMANENT MARKER!!!’

4. 3:38am panic attacks about what today’s craft project is supposed to be…and if we have everything we need for it.

3. 6:51am text messages about where the Easter egg box is located at church (subsequent to #4)

2. An afternoon with your own (small) family is suddenly solace.

1. 2,000 toilet paper rolls

Props to Group Publishing’s VBS curriculum ‘Weird Animals’. The KidVid component with short video clips about how God has worked in the lives of real (vastly different) kids was an excellent resource to communicate the message of God’s love. The catchy songs and the dog tag Bible verses make the lessons from this week long-lasting in the lives of our kiddos. We loved this kit!

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Holy water is antibacterial

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As Pastor Jason began washing the feet of the second grade Vacation Bible School kids, following the story of Jesus’ washing his disciples feet, he offered, ‘If you don’t want me to wash your feet, I can wash your hands.’

It was a kind gesture, cautious for those who may not want to remove their shoes out of personal preference. But, I (leader of these impressionable young children), in my snarky sarcastic, not quite spiritual enough temperament, said, ‘With the same water you’re washing their feet??’

Jason, knowing and loving me, gave me that ‘you’re ruining this moment’ glare, and said, ‘Yes…’

But it was Anne, a veteran teacher, mentor, and spiritual leader who replied, just as casually and sassily as I had begun, ‘Holy water is antibacterial’.

Touché, my friend, touché! I admired her quick wit, so well-matched with mine, and then, I went back to attending to the kids who were removing and then replacing their shoes after being holy washed.

It was later that I processed the depth of what Anne had said in her moment of quick repartee. We rely on antibacterial soaps and gels to remove the unwanted filth of the world around us…the germs from the gas pump handle, the residue from the public bathroom door, the grime of any surface at the Y. We want the yuckiness of the world to disappear…and be replaced with cleanliness.

Just as Jesus showed his followers to replace the bad with good, the sorrow with joy, the weary with comfort, so must we go about the work of wiping away the filthy residue of the world and leave behind the sparkling newness of God.

Let’s approach the world that way, and wash it with the antibacterial properties of holiness.

Want the rest of the story, try here John 13.

Holy water

The Bible verse for today’s Vacation Bible School lesson was ‘Do to others as you would like them to do to you.’ Most kids in the class knew it as ‘The Golden Rule’ because they’d heard it from their families or teachers as such. We discussed what it meant in daily life…sharing, showing kindness, using polite words…And then we went to hear Pastor Jason tell the Bible story for today, and the verse took on a new meaning.

Pastor Jason had a basin (plastic dishpan) and a pitcher of sink water (but it came from the church bathroom, so that made it ‘holy’ to the kids). As he prepared his object lesson, he told the story of what occurred in the upper room, the night Jesus was arrested. He poured the ‘holy water’ into the ‘basin’ and explained that Jesus had offered to wash the tired, weary, dirty feet of his disciples that last night that they were together. The disciples had followed him throughout his three year ministry, laboring through their doubts and waiting for the lingering ones to be resolved. They needed a respite in their travels, a moment of pampering before the real journey began.

As Pastor Jason told this story to the second graders, they were a bit grossed out…’He washed their feet! Gross!’ ‘They took their shoes off and showed him their feet! That’s disgusting!’ Then, his materials prepared, Jason offered to do the same for these children. These sweaty, rowdy, earth-covered children. And they obliged. Some reluctantly, some eagerly…this was quite a treat.

When he finished, he explained that the kindness he has showed them should be shared with others…perhaps, yes, through washing the tired feet of working parents or carrying out the dirty trash or cooperating with the nasty sibling. Doing to others…sharing Christ’s example. For who knows what is ahead in someone’s journey…and just how much they need a hand right now.

 

Root beer floats

Women are such saps. Hallmark commercials, Lifetime movies… We quote movie lines like, ‘You had me at hello’ and ‘Some people are worth melting for…’ Thanks, Jerry and Olaf, for adding that extra emotional sigh to our already sappy lives.

We also fall for those witty pick up lines. ‘Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?’ ‘You should come with a warning sign that says ‘Dangerous Curves Ahead!’ ‘You must be tired…you’ve been running through my mind all day.’ Oh, ladies, you know we’re goofs for that stuff. It may not get us now, but it got us back then…when the guy was trying to make us smile in that ‘oh, you’ve got me’ kind of way.

For me, it was a line about root beer floats. We both had the idea about a root beer float, and then he added, ‘With two straws.’ (*Sigh*) Insert eye roll and dreamy smile here and mental wedding checklist here.  Oh, I was a goner…

But that root beer float never happened. The two straws weren’t for us. They were for him and someone else somewhere else. And so I banned root beer floats. I refused to have one until the right guy came along. Only then would I allow that float-loving-two-straw-sharing-maudlin weak spot in my heart to be vulnerable again.

Well, little did I know who I would share my next root beer float with…or how long it would be.

My nearly-seven-year-old son overcame a big hurdle in his little life recently. He has been afraid of a particular thing, and  when he finally conquered that fear,  there was reason to celebrate. We had had ice cream the day before, so I considered something different. The same little ice cream stand also advertised the elusive root beer float. And I realized if he, with his brave little internal strength, could celebrate overcoming a fear as big as he was, then it was time to overcome my distant disappointment and celebrate with him.

I asked him if we could share the treat, and he said, ‘With two straws…or maybe in two cups.’

Oh, that very statement that made my heart melt two decades prior…that statement that I thought meant we were M.F.E.O. (‘Made For Each Other’, Sleepless in Seattle). Oh, those wistful haunting words…with a twist that brought me reeling back to the present. The twist that made it belong to my slightly germophobic boy…this boy, my boy.

I looked down at his precious doe eyes and realized that I was still a sucker for that line. Only, the one I would truly share the float with was the one who deserved it most of all. I would melt for his sappy lines for as long as he would dish them out to me.IMG_2764

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