Thursday, April 17, 2014

Homespun advice from a hedgehog

I have another child graduating from high school.  I have a different child almost done with college.   The one between those two just announced that she will finish college in one year.  And the 16 year old is starting college next year, whether he is ready for it or not.

 It's impossible to encapsulate all the doubts, fears, excitement and energy that I feel during this time.

and I wonder-- Did I tell them everything?  Were they listening?   Did they "'get" it? Does anybody ever get it?

So, sometimes it's just easier to write it down.

So, with that..  advice.. to children.. my oldest four children who are all sprouting wings and flying.  My baby?  She can read this in the archives some day.  For now.. it's for you oldest four.  This is on my heart.

1) Success really is up to you.

There are no such things as luck, opportunities or free lunches.  Hard work, consistency, and dependability are where it is at.  The harder I work, the luckier I get.  I hope you will develop a love for work and surround yourself with those who love it also.

2) Talent is God-given.

And so is the ability to be gracious and kind and generous with others.  You all have many earthly talents.  That's always the easy part.  The hard part is developing a godly character while using your gifts.  I've lost some friends this way.  Don't make this mistake.  People are more important than things.

3) Legality is not a license.

Just because our crazy laws legalize something, doesn't make it a playground for experimentation.  It's legal to kill your own child, fry your brain with marijuana, marry whomever or whatever you want, live without fiscal responsibility, and claim that you are Jesus.   Neither of these things will give you peace and happiness.  Seek a higher standard than the law.

4) Tradition is not your prison.

Just because something hasn't been done before doesn't make it wrong.  But don't just pursue something just because it is off the norm.  There will always be someone on the cutting edge, just one step ahead of you.  But many things are worth trying--even if no one else is doing them.

5) Family is just that.

You have been given something that very few people have-- a secure family.  As crazy as we are, we are.  While the role of the family changes as you become an adult, the emotional trampoline of your experiences can always be boomeranged right back at us.  We're strong.  We can take it. (I think?) But don't be surprised if we tell you if you're being an idiot.  If you don't learn it at home, you'll have to learn it on the street.  'aint nobody got time for dat.

6) Trials are your friends.

Strength comes through training.  Training comes through stress.  There will be no greater opportunity to grow and seek God than during a good trial.  We expect you to have trials.  We do not  expect you to give up.  We won't be bailing you out of your problems, though.  You will reach down deep and find ways to solve them.  You are smart.  You have God.  You can do this.

7) and finally: I'm proud of you.  The reason I am "impossible" and doing crazy things that mothers do is just that-- I'm over-the-moon proud of my kids.  You all know how I love to invest in other people's kids, but the truth is this: no one will ever take the place of my own.  All of those braggy mommy posts on my blog.. all those impossible reposting of fb pics.. and trying to speak your language (even though it is often failed attempts) are just because we love you and are so stinking proud of you guys. When the rest of your fan club is not cheering, the family will be right here cheering you on.



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Groups of Grace

A few years ago, I was asked to lead a women's Bible study at the home of a friend.  Out of that group, another group sprung up that included our husbands and families.

It was a magical time.  Our family had just started working with a young man and it seemed to be the perfect thing for my husband and this young man to lead the Bible study together.  Through this, we saw God doing great things in this little group.  We saw lives being changed.  We saw our own lives being transformed also.

But things changed, and the group fizzled out--primarily because of the distance between our home and theirs.  But God planted a seed in our hearts of--what could be.. or what should be.

Fast forward a few years.  The young man grew up.  He has a family and home of his own now.  Our kids are growing up and capable of helping in the ministry.  But the little group continues on.  At the present, none of the original members are in the group, except our family.

But many new ones have come and are still coming.

And I am trying to get my head around what is the core difference between this group and other groups that we have been involved in.

And I have been reading this book that referenced the great revivals during the Wesley/ Whitfield era.  Yes, God used the preaching/teaching of these godly men.  But long before this preaching occurred, there were small "societies" of people gathering-- think "small groups" for Christian fellowship.  Their hearts were so prepared to hear the preaching because of what was occurring in these small groups.

And a lightbulb went on-- "that's it!!  That's exactly what we are trying to do here!!"

In the past, every other Bible study (that we've been exposed to) comes with an agenda attached to it.

An example of agenda-laden Bible studies are like this..  "now we are going to study the book of Acts.. (may or may not be overtly expressed) for the purpose of learning.. church truth"

Or--"now we are going to study xyz to expose the.. fornication, the taming of the tongue, or the lack of modesty..or rebellion or whatever in someone or something"

But do we ever just let the Scripture speak? My husband calls it "big idea Bible study"..  where we put aside our pre-understandings and just let the Word speak.

And AFTER we have (in community) discovered what the author intended/ what the Holy Spirit is teaching, it is only then that we make the personal applications to our lives.

And this is where GRACE comes in.  There might be confession, repentance, or real things that God is doing in the life of the individuals who come.

Grace allows it to happen.  Grace does not use these vulnerable moments to pounce on someone or offer a quick solution to the problem.  It's OK to let someone weep over their sins or their problems.

Sometimes we will allow someone the freedom to cry the entire meeting, if necessary.  I can remember two of us praying with a brother whose heart was breaking so much that he could not even tell us what was wrong.  It's O.K.

It's messy.  It's disorganized.  It's real.  There's no two meetings alike.  Sometimes everyone ends on a  high note with a strong desire to go "do something"..

It was like that this weekend.  My son invited one of his friends from school.  It was crazy how fast he fit in and felt comfortable sharing.

A lot of people probably wonder if this is a young people's Bible study.  It really isn't.   But young people seem to be attracted to "real-ness" of it all.  It's so much less churchy than anything they've been exposed to.  There's so much less pressure to conform to the acceptable practices. With a discovery method of Bible study, the participants bring as much to the table as the leaders do--sometimes a lot more!

The agenda-laden Bible study leaders are not comfortable with this, and most adults have usually come up with more than one agenda by this stage of life.  That is probably the only thing that hinders growth in a group like this.  Acknowledging our own personal agendas is a healthy thing--we all have them-- but we need to drop them at the door when we come to a group of grace.

And that, my friends, is the best way to describe what is going on in our little Bible study.

Monday, April 7, 2014

You just never know...

I was picking up my daughter from (one of her many) jobs.  She works as a seamstress for a woman with a home business.  The business is thriving, and there's always a million prom dresses, wedding gowns, reenactment costumes, diapers for monkeys and an array of last minute skirts and dresses to do.

Along with the sewing, there are relationship dynamics.  The woman has a family as well as another lady working with her.  It's a full, crazy home--filled with bustle, activities, fabric, thread, and newsy stuff.  I think it's just the kind of energy level I like-- a lot of stuff going on at once.  

So, I was picking up my daughter, and there was a woman there who looked familiar.  I couldn't place where I knew her from.

"Do you homeschool?"  I asked her, going through my mental rolodex quickly, sifting through the 8,000 people I may or may not remember.

"Yeah.. We met at Hallstrom.."  she answered.  And I was still not remembering much.  But I asked about her kids and such.  She said, "I have the two bad boys.."

And Joanna piped in, "Oh, no!  I'm sure your boys are not bad.  We were horrible when we were little..." etc.  

And I was still not recalling any details.  "I'm sure your boys were fine!  I don't remember any bad little boys.."

And I think we closed with some pleasantries and left.

When I got home, I got to thinking about it. "Oh Jo!  This is horrible.  That lady that you were sewing with..  I remember now... She couldn't stand me.  I tried everything I could do to reach out to her, and I got no response.  Every time I tried to talk to her, she acted like I was bothering her..  I'm so sorry.."

Granted.  I'm not reeling in pain over the situation and have clearly blocked it out of my mind.  But I feel bad for Jo who is working with a woman who thinks her mother is a nuisance.

The next day, Jo comes bounding into the house.

"Hey Mom.  You remember that lady that you thought didn't like you? "


"You were the only reason she was able to make it through her year at Hallstrom.  She loves you."

What??  What!!???

"You were the only one who reached out to her.  You tried to help with her boys.  You talked to her.."

But Wow!  This realization blew my hair back.  I clearly thought I failed at this encouragement attempt. At the same time that I was trying to encourage this woman, there was another woman with young children who was coming that same year.  I can't remember exactly what I did, the other woman took me aside and told me to leave her alone and that we were "not friends" etc. etc.

It was such an unusual response to my attempts at trying to reach out to the new families that I kind of was dumbfounded and just assumed all of my attempts were futile.

I just figured that I clearly "didn't have IT"-- whatever "it" is.

And now--over a year after the whole thing-- in a random meeting--in an unusual place-- I hear this positive response from an almost stranger.

 Now hear me out.  I am not writing this so that you can all put in the comments how awesome I am or encouraging I am or something lame like that.  Please don't.

The point I am making is this.  We clearly do not have the big picture of what God may be doing through us when we are attempting ministry.  What we consider a success may not be so much in God's eyes.  And what we erase in our minds as a failed attempt, may be the big reason we were there doing xyz in the first place.

I am more and more convinced that I do not have a "clue bird" of what God wants to do to me.  The best I can do for him does not always involve trying to "figure it out" beforehand.   If I walk with him, confess my sins and try to listen to him, moment by moment--that is clearly the BEST I can do for HIM.   And the results?  Those are not something we need to worry about either.

It's very freeing.  It's O.K. to take risks.  It's even O.K. to fail.  But it's not O.K. to obsess about what may or may not be happening about the many things out of our control.