Sunday, June 21, 2009

To be on the list

"Afterward, Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him." - Mark 3:13

Have you ever wondered who the twelve apostles actually were? We have the list of names and we speak of them as the Twelve. As a group they show up with Jesus all the time. However, in the history of the church, recorded in the New Testament, these men seem irrelevant. Sure, Peter is important, but what about the other big NT leaders? Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Stephen, James, Timothy, Priscilla & Aquilla, Apollos...if Jesus chose twelve men to be with him, what did they DO? Surely, these were the men he would build the church upon. For the most part, however, the Bible is silent about them.

I think God might be making a point in this silence. Jesus called these men to be with him. To be with him. In fact, Jesus calls you and I to be with him. What we do is perhaps irrelevant. The closest men to Jesus, his best friends, have a few quotes, a few failures...and otherwise they are just names in a list. Jesus is stirring my heart to be part of a list like that: people that be with Jesus.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chaos and provision

This summer has been chaotic: adjusting to the kids being older and having more of their own ideas, trying new activities, Abby working more regularly, Johnny's family moving to town, my mom recovering from her chemo. Everything seems to be shifting. I used to be able to lay down and go to sleep. It was a matter of training, will power, and (as I have discovered) routine. Now that my routine is shot, my discipline is failing me. I have had several nights lately where I am awake in the wee hours, when nothing makes sense and demons come out of odd corners to mess with my mind. No wonder darkness descended during the final hours when Jesus hung on the cross. Darkness is the playground of the devil.

One of the things I find I am lacking is social time with peers. I need time with other moms to center myself: yes, it is okay to say no. Ah, someone likes being with me. Look, she laughed at something I said, instead of something I'm wearing. Today, I discovered something else about God. He truly is a provider of all things. This summer, my family has witnessed a lot of monetary provision. There have been times He has provided rest for me, or answers to issues with my kids. Today, He provided conversation. I was working at a friend's desk, making phone calls at church, and a woman wandered in, one of the secretaries in the office that I know. She asked me how I was and since I didn't sleep last night, I unloaded a bit. She made a point to sit down on the couch and listen to me, for fifteen minutes. It was just the fifteen minutes I needed.

I used to arrange time in my schedule to get together with friends (another loss in the summer chaos). What a lovely surprise to find that God knows about this need, and is able to meet it. It is rather lovely to receive from His hand, instead of my own efforts.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What chokes us

Sometimes we fail to read Scripture with fresh eyes. I like to question things, shake things up a bit. Consider the story Jesus told about the farmer who scattered seed. He was teaching about how people respond to the Kingdom--some don't quite get it, some are enthusiastic but then fall away. Some grasp the good news and produce a harvest, multiplying what they received in the world.

Jesus also said that some people would "get" the gospel, but not do anything with it. This is the group I've been thinking about. I've tried to communicate what I'm thinking in several different areas, with minimum success. I guess I'll try again here.

If you were teaching about what keeps people from being productive in their knowledge of the Kingdom, wouldn't you assume that the answer is sin? We're busy doing wrong things, so we fail to do right things. Wouldn't you think in this parable that Jesus would warn about wrong behavior creeping up on us? But He doesn't preach against sin...not exactly.

The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. - Matthew 13:22

Jesus says that people who fail to see fruit in their Christian lives are distracted by worldly concerns and a lust for wealth. Christians will not fail from chasing the opposite sex and hopping around bars. Christians will not fail because they are addicted to porn and gossip maliciously. Christians won't produce fruit in the Kingdom because they are very concerned about their children's grades and extracurricular activities. Jesus said that Christians fail to produce fruit befitting the Kingdom because they buy a house and the how to pay for the mortgage consumes them. We will be too busy being ordinary, and not make room for the supernatural in our lives. We have the key to all adventure, and we instead let the fun be choked out by...the ordinary.

This part of the story sticks with me because I am so consumed with my children right now. Homeschooling through high school, getting into college, getting a job, driving a oldest is on the verge of breaking from the nest, and there seems to be so much to be concerned with.

Every day, I need to ask my Jesus for ears to hear. When he was telling the story to the crowd, Jesus said, "Anyone who has ears to hear, let him hear." I need to hear Jesus' voice telling me what is important in each day, and to trust Him that the "important" things (like my kids' character and education and social lives) will be taken care of. I need to trust Him as easily as I breathe with the ordinary, so that I can participate in the extraordinary: the Kingdom He is establishing on the earth.

I started off by saying that Jesus did not preach against sin as being the thing that distracts us. However, the Greek word for "sin" means to miss the mark. In our culture, sin is equated with the VERY BAD, but in Greek, it meant failing to do the exact thing. When Jesus said that the worries of the world and lure of wealth would choke our the good news, deaden our ears to His call, He was indeed talking about sin.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

If I remember correctly, there was once a time when raising my family, doing this full-time mom & teacher thing that I do, stressed me. If I remember correctly, I got pretty good at handling the chaos, and I called that spiritual growth. Lots of crazy stuff happening, but I still walked in God's wonderful peace. I am pretty sure I had learned something.

In the last six weeks, my in-laws have moved back to town. School has dwindled and shifted. I have had to make decisions that affect the next two years of our homeschool. Johnny has worked a mammoth amount of overtime. Abby has acquired a part-time job babysitting. My youngest daughter has successfully petitioned for a pet rat. My mom has recovered from chemo, meaning that my family of origin is back in the plans of my life. Things are spiraling so quickly into new territory that I no longer recognize where I am. I am starting to feel anxious.

In fact, I am beyond anxious. Anxiety is sitting on my chest on a daily basis, and my body is viscerally reacting. I was able to handle all of this change and all of this stress just fine initially, but it has gone on too long. I miss routine; I miss landmarks. I am drowning.

I feel as if God has pushed me beyond my ability to endure. What does it look like, to trust Him here? It is one thing to say, "I can swim" when one is swimming. I just can't swim anymore--what does that look like? And I don't remember how You help me here, God. How do I break down gracefully, without hurting the people I love?

"Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall into exhaustion. But those who trust the Lord will find new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not grow faint." - Isaiah 40:30-31

Lord God, I really don't have a plan B. If you don't help me, I will fail.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Godly coffee cake

I have a few feminist impulses. Most American women do, I suspect. One of my most ugly thoughts arises over men and women serving God in a traditional Baptist environment. Somehow, I always hear teachings about having time alone with God with a jaded ear. I envision a man, rising to spend time with his Lord, while the woman takes care of the household and keeps him from being disturbed. Okay, I know this is a jaded view, but it is necessary background.

This morning I was up before the kids (not hard, since it's summer vacation), and I'm researching some things in the Bible and writing up some teaching on the computer. As I'm clicking happily along, one of my daughters approaches me and asks, "Mom, what about the coffee cake?" I remember that I had told the girls I would make coffee cake, probably before they were up so it would be awaiting their darling sleepy heads as soon as they roll out of bed. However, I had forgotten, and I am currently swept up in Bible study...which is IMPORTANT. In fact, it's GODLY. Little snots, they're interrupting GOD.

This is when my feminist demons begin plaguing me. If I were a man, studying the Bible would be more important than making coffee cake. And because I know that this voice is not my Father, I begin to question what is running through my mind. (Even as I write this blog, I have had to stop to listen to a description of a rat that my daughter wants as a pet and a long discourse on how my other daughter is starving and cannot possibly have juice on such an empty stomach. The coffee cake is baking...)

There is a knob in my brain that I can use to tune out those complaining, accusing voices, and seek the quiet voice of my Good Shepherd. This is what I think He says: making coffee cake is important. Not the cake so much as the ability to put other people before myself. It's great that I am studying the Bible, but it is even better that I can make my daughters a priority. He designed my family intentionally to grate away at my selfishness. If I allow normal life to chip away at my character, then my Bible study will truly be profitable. If I shut down people in order to pursue the "spiritual," then I am well on my way to Pharisee Land.