Thursday, November 12, 2015

How to be a Christian on the Internet

Equate your life choices with God's Word. Do you work, or do you stay home with your kids? Do you drink beer or abstain? Do you read the NLT or the ESV Bible translation? How many kids do you have? How big is your house? Did you breastfeed? Do you vaccinate? Be sure that everyone knows that Jesus agrees with you.

Forward out of context or loosely translated verses around all of the social media sites. It doesn't matter what God's Word really means, as long as it benefits you. I'm so glad God wants us all to be healthy and wealthy, if we only are faithful enough. Aren't you?

Don't get mad, ever. Don't judge, ever. Sorry if you need to choose where to go to lunch. No discernment allowed. But if you do get mad, make sure it's over Starbucks cups. Don't get mad over Starbucks cups. And definitely don't say that you shouldn't get mad about Starbucks cups. Can you not just be more courageous, for heaven's sake?

Don't ever vote for anyone, unless you write in Jesus.

Got a problem with society? Repeatedly say that our country was founded by Christians, regardless of what any documentation says, and that we need to go back to that. Also make sure you let everyone know it's a result of taking an all-powerful God and forcefully removing him from schools, because we can totally do that.

Enjoy every moment. Every. Moment.

Try. Try so hard. Try harder. Make sure the burdens of righteousness are on your own shoulders, where they belong. Read parenting blogs for tips. If they pull you in too many different directions, you probably just need to have more faith.

Focus on grace. Focus so hard. Focus harder. Focus so hard on grace that you don't have to see your sin or ever repent. This is definitely why Jesus died.

If you're a woman, make sure you check the list of female-approved careers. Your pastor should have a copy. Also, be sure you are always *available* for your husband, or you might cause him to commit adultery, and you wouldn't want to have that on your conscience. Never raise your voice, and always be sure you fix your hair. Jesus said so.

Never acknowledge a depraved and deceitful heart. I'm quite sure that's not even in the Bible. Enough thought about a topic can always put the fault of sin (such a yucky word!) on another person or situation.

Don't be a police officer, but if you are one, be sure you check with the social media church leaders before you handle any situation. They have never done your job, but they are so insightful.

If you feel sad or anxious, remember that this is never the result of faulty brain chemistry and should always be treated with worship songs and devotionals. There is nothing in the Bible about Zoloft!

Be sure you share this blog, or Jesus will blot out your name from the Book of Life with his own tears.


This is entirely sarcastic, save one sentence: "Don't get mad over Starbucks cups." I have seen each of these things on the internet with my own eyes, and have usually been appalled, and occasionally have felt guilt or sadness I shouldn't have about the false truths being spread so readily, even by people who should know better. So I wrote this. Maybe I should know better.

Yes, I am too sensitive, but yes, people should stop saying this crap.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Making Lego Houses New

I built the boys a little Lego house because they can't build more complicated things at their age, but they love playing with them and the "Lego guys," as they call them.

I finished the house just before lunch and I sat it on top of their Lego table, and then I went to the kitchen to get lunch together for everyone.

I don't remember exactly what happened, just that one of the boys was having some kind of meltdown. Justin was trying to talk to him, but his anger still escalated. I heard Legos smash. I could tell from Justin's disappointed reaction that it was the house I had just built.

I thought, "I am not rebuilding that." I think I even said it to Justin. "Well, I'm not fixing it."

By the time we finished lunch, the meltdown was resolved, and things were going fine. The boys laid down for a nap.

I have been thinking a lot lately about redemption stories. Sometimes things go wrong, but then God works in our lives to make it right again, and there is earthly restoration in that. I think we all long for those stories: cancer healed, friendship restored, a marriage saved, a lost person coming to Christ.

Revelation 21:4-5 says, "'He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'"

In the final restoration, the former brokenness will be gone. All things will be made new. No crying. No pain. No meltdowns. No smashed Lego houses. And it won't be because we deserve it - we will be able to see this restoration because of the grace that covers our sins, because of Christ taking the punishment that we deserve.

And so I sat down in the floor and searched for and gathered up all of the pieces of the smashed Lego house. I pieced the house back together, tiny brick by tiny brick - an earthly restoration, a little bit made new in our living room.

He exclaimed when he saw it later, "Mommy! You fixed the Lego house!"

"Yes I did, buddy." And they played.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Felt Ornament and Jesus Storybook Bible Advent

I know it is November and we have yet to cut our Thanksgiving turkeys or flip through Black Friday advertisements, but if you want to make an advent activity for Christmas, now is the time!

Advent is a time to anticipate and ponder the birth of Jesus, and not only the birth of Jesus, but the reason he came to earth - to save us!

I had wanted to do an advent activity for a couple of years before last year and I just never found "the one." Last year, our oldest was three and it was really time to start those traditions on top of what we were already teaching them, so back in September of 2014 I decided I was going to *make* an advent activity.

I decided to use ornaments made of felt (I find felt easy to work with) and I searched for Bible verses and pages/stories in the Jesus Storybook Bible (by Sally Lloyd-Jones - I recommend that every home, with children or not, have at least one copy because it is SO good) that would help the boys understand each part of the story as well as possible.

Because the story of Christmas really begins, well, at the beginning, and hasn't ended yet, I didn't want to do just a manger scene, but something broader.

After a lot of brainstorming, writing ideas, scratching those ideas out, writing new ideas, sketching, and so on, I finally decided on 24 parts to our advent activity.

We have a large Christmas tree that we have already decorated, but I got a small tree for our advent ornaments and decorated it with some clear lights, beaded garland, and a simple tree topper. I made a wall hanging with 24 pockets for the ornaments.

Each day, we get the day's ornament from its pocket, read the story/verses, and hang the ornament on the tree. We also sing a Christmas song and pray.

I don't have patterns for the ornaments; I just cut them out from felt and sewed them either by hand or with my sewing machine. Be sure to add some kind of hanger to each one as you make them so that you can put the hook on and hang it on your tree. I made mine very simple, but you can make yours as simple or as complicated as you like.

Feel free to adapt these as you need or want to. This was my first run, and I edited it a bit putting this together, and I'm sure I will change it some after I see how the boys understand it and react to it this year too. The main thing is to tell your kids about Jesus! I hope in sharing this with you, you are able to share more about Jesus with your children, and that it makes your holiday season even better.

Day 1: Creation
Ornament: Earth
Reading: The Beginning: A Perfect Home, p. 18-27, Jesus Storybook Bible (JSB)

Day 2: The Fall
Ornament: Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Reading: The Terrible Lie, p. 28-33, JSB

Day 3: Promise of a Savior, part 1
Ornament: Bethlehem (I gave it a white background to symbolize it being a prophecy)
Reading: The Terrible Lie, p. 34-36, JSB

Day 4: Promise of a Savior, part 2
Ornament: Cross (with a white background for the same reason as the previous one)
Reading: p. 174-175, JSB

Day 5: Mary
Ornament: Mary
Reading: p. 178, JSB

Day 6: The Angel Gabriel
Ornament: Angel Gabriel
Reading: p. 179, JSB

Day 7: Mary's Song
Ornament: Music Notes
Reading: Luke 1:46-55

Day 8: Joseph
Ornament: Joseph
Reading: Matthew 1:18-19

Day 9: Joseph's Dream
Ornament: Angel
Reading: Matthew 1:20-21

Day 10: The Decree
Ornament: Scroll with Writing
Reading: Luke 2:1-3

Day 11: Bethlehem
Ornament: Bethlehem
Reading: Luke 2:4-5

Day 12: No Room
Ornament: Crowded house
Reading: p. 180-181, JSB

Day 13: Manger
Ornament: Manger with hay
Reading: Luke 2:7

Day 14: Baby Jesus
Ornament: Swaddled baby Jesus
Reading: He's here!, p. 176, and p. 182, JSB

Day 15: Flocks of Sheep
Ornament: Sheep in grass
Reading: p. 186, JSB

Day 16: Shepherds
Ornament: Shepherds with staffs
Reading: p. 188-190, JSB

Day 17: Heavenly Host
Ornament: Several angels
Reading: Luke 2:8-14

Day 18: Star
Ornament: Star
Reading: The Light of the whole world, p. 184, JSB

Day 19: Three Wise Men
Ornament: Three Wise Men
Reading: The King of all kings, p. 192-198, JSB

Day 20: Jesus Teaching
Ornament: Jesus with arms outstretched
Reading: The Singer, p. 228-235, JSB (or any passage about Jesus teaching)

Day 21: Jesus Performing Miracles
Ornament: Jesus walking on water
Reading: The Captain of the storm, p. 236-242, JSB (or any passage about Jesus performing miracles)

Day 22: The Crucifixion
Ornament: Cross
Reading: The sun stops shining, p. 302-308, JSB

Day 23: The Resurrection
Ornament: Tomb with stone rolled away
Reading: God's wonderful surprise, p. 310-317, JSB

Day 24: Redemption and Restoration
Ornament: Broken heart mended
Reading: p. 348 (2nd paragraph on) - 351, JSB

Friday, July 24, 2015

Lay Aside Every Weight

It's been a pretty typical week with the ups and downs of parenting. I've witnessed a few 30-minute fits and meltdowns, a few things got thrown, one kid pushed another kid a dozen times, I got many hugs around the neck, enjoyed time playing with the boys, and even listened to them put on their own (very loud) church service.

And then comes the internet, with its bloggers who say to *enjoy every minute,* *pay 100% of your attention to them,* and *be sure you're enjoying that minute because it's the LAST TIME IT WILL EVER HAPPEN AND YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW IT YET.*

Are you stressed out yet? Worrying that you should have held your child until he went to sleep instead of taking a shower? Should you have watched the middle one jump off of the couch for the 10th time in a row cheering instead of texting your husband to tell him to pick up diapers on the way home? Did you dare to clean or check Facebook or even just sit down while the children were awake?

And so we can - and I do - become tangled up in the grip of all of these internet expectations, everyone practically screaming about how their number one priority should be yours, and suddenly you have too many priorities to even be able to breathe. Or is it just me? Somehow, I doubt it.

But the author of Hebrews says,

"Let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." (12:1)

The race is our Christian life, set before us by God. The entire Bible tells us about the race and how we should run it. We must do the will of God, strengthened by Him, and do it until our time is up and we die.

All of the mommy wars priorities that are so easily pushed in our faces - THESE are weights that we need to lay aside. By all means, love your babies. Give them the attention and love they need. But don't let some person you don't even know yell at you about how often you can and cannot look at your phone between the hours of 6am and 9pm, or how much you NEED to enjoy your kids to the point where you're wondering if it is actually ok to have idols (no, it's still not ok).

The weight here in Hebrews doesn't necessarily mean sin, but rather, any burden that will hinder us. As one commentary says, "even harmless and otherwise useful things" that can slow us down from running the race are included in this "weight."

Weight here is the Greek word "onkon." (Does that matter? I have no idea - I only know this because of the internet.) Onkon means a burden, weight, or encumbrance. It's something heavy that is going to slow you down.

Friends, it is wonderful to enjoy our babies, and to appreciate the time we have with them until they grow up and move away. Time flies, and that will all happen before we know it. The Bible itself tells us in many places that life is fleeting, and it also says that children are gifts.

The problem comes, I think, when we begin to see a certain level of attentiveness, enjoyment, and relishing everything we can as some sort of duty. We can begin to strive for these things, and they can become our onkon. (That word sounds either super theological or super weird, I'm not sure which.)

Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand firm now, and do not let yourself be burdened again by the yoke of slavery."

Jesus didn't die for us to be slaves to mommy blogger opinions. He did not rise up from the grave, living and triumphant, for us to feel like motherhood is a checklist. He did not endure the cross and overcome death for us to be burdened by the yoke of the mommy wars. No, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free!

So love your babies, but love Jesus more. He will give you the strength to run the race set before you, and the ability to lay those burdens down. Loving God, seeking after God - these are the things that are going to make the rest of motherhood - and life - fall into place. You don't have to strive on your own. You don't have to present your motherhood checklist at the pearly gates.

So let's rest in that, as much as our human hearts can, and run the race without those extra weights - because seriously, diaper bags are heavy enough.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Grace, Consequences, and a Man After God's Own Heart

In 1 Samuel 13:14, Samuel warns King Saul, "But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart..."

Here, he meant David, who is also the subject of Acts 13:22, when God says, "I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will."

1 Kings 11:4 says that David's heart was "wholly true to the Lord."

There is no question that David was a man of God. Scripture tells us this.

But David, like all other men (and women) of God, wasn't perfect. Now king of Israel, David sees a beautiful woman, Bathsheba. He asks about her and finds out that she is married. Not only is she married, but her husband Uriah is one of David's best warriors. This doesn't deter David. He sends for her, she comes to his house, they have sex, and she gets pregnant.

David tries to cover up his sin. He brings Uriah home from battle and tries to convince him to "go down to his house" and spend some time with Bathsheba so that Uriah will think the child is his own. Uriah refuses to go, and David sends him back into battle. David then orders that Uriah be sent to the front of the battle and that those around him will draw back, leaving Uriah to die.

And so it was. Bathsheba mourned her husband, and David took her as his own wife.

"But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord."

God sends Nathan the prophet to come and rebuke David.

"Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife."

David probably thought he got away with it until this point. His sin would go undetected, he would probably eventually repent, and life would go on.

Nathan tells David that there are going to be public consequences for his sin, that God will later bring calamity on him from within his own family:
"For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun."

David admits, "I have sinned against the Lord."

Nathan says, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die." Grace! Forgiveness! David's sin is put away.

But Nathan continues, "Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you will die."

And so it was.

Later, long after David had died, God says to David's son Solomon (who was king after David and eventually turned away from the Lord), "Since you have not kept my covenant and my statutes, I will tear the kingdom from you. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days. I will not tear away all of the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant."

God demonstrates his lasting love and forgiveness of David here. He demonstrates his grace. This grace is neither contradicted by nor canceled out by the negative consequences of David's sin. God does not withhold discipline in favor of grace, and God does not withhold grace in favor of discipline.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

fearfully and wonderfully wild

Justin works evening shift, so five nights a week, I do post-nap, supper, bedtime routine alone with three boys three and under. It seems like the closer we get to bed time, the crazier the boys become. They'll run giggling and screaming all around the house, jumping on the bed, falling off of the couch on purpose, wrestling each other - it's wild.

I love it - I love that they have such energy, and that they love each other and play together. But some nights, I get exhausted before I get them in bed, and when I'm running on empty, sometimes I run out of grace.

Our middle boy, if you don't know already, is THE wild and crazy one. He invented the bedtime games. He could climb before he could walk. He is daring, bold, brave, and an assortment of other adjectives along those lines. He is afraid of very little (birds and squirrels, he tells me, because they will bite him).

He is sometimes like a bull in a china shop. He crashes over and into people and things. He has all that energy and has the coordination of a two year old, as well as the guts (insanity?) to do it on purpose sometimes. He's not malicious. He's actually a softie and my snuggliest kid. But he gets a thrill out of being wild. He also does what a two-year-old wildboy does, and that is just run, and not really think about what will happen.

Tonight, I got onto him for climbing/rolling/barging through a stack of coloring pages and hitting the computer with a toy sword. Both were unintentional side effects of some crazy game he was playing. I didn't think too much of it, because the bedtime routine is a busy one and I was distracted after that.

Tonight after the boys were all in bed, I came to sit down and I saw the coloring pages and the toy sword sitting on our ottoman. The coloring pages aren't important. The computer has withstood much more abuse than a whack with a toy sword.

I do believe in discipline, and in training up your children to know right from wrong, and to know appropriate from inappropriate, and so on. But did I get onto him for doing something wrong or inappropriate? I didn't yell, but I spoke roughly. It didn't really have much of an effect on him, as he was in the middle of being a human steamroller - but if I do it over and over again, getting onto him for things he doesn't intend to do, as a two year old little boy, then what?

Shame on me if I let my exhaustion stamp out his energy and daring. God made him this way. Yes, he is a sinner, just like everyone else, but a little boy being wild and crazy is not a sin. God made him bold and brave and crazy. God made him rough and silly. He is fearfully and wonderfully made.

And for one day when he might read this - I love you, Levi James. I'll try to keep the wild in you, where God put it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

holding the baby

the baby cried from his bed,
so i scooped him up and carried him to the couch,
where i snuggled him back to sleep.

his head rested in the crook of my arm
and a blanket was tucked around his chin.
i felt his weight, his breathing, his stillness in sleep.

i kissed his forehead and put my cheek against his hair,
the hair that had grown and swirled around in front
to match his brothers.

i rubbed his head, part for me and part for him,
feeling the softness of his still baby hair and still baby skin,
as much with my heart as with my hand.

i watched him fall deeper to sleep,
remembering his dark hair the first time i held him,
now lighter, just like the others.

i took in his dark eyelashes,
how they brushed against his cheeks,
and how his little lips parted in his slumber.

he was warm against my chest and belly,
the place where he grew just a year ago
now a soft place for him to rest.

he was settled into sleep then,
but i still held him, part for me and part for him,
feeling his weight, his breathing, his stillness in sleep.