Eastertide

Lewis, de Cassade and a Goat

Calypso

This morning as I was making breakfast and preparing my daughter’s lunch for horse camp, I was informed that our elderly goat was kidding. (Not cracking wise, but having babies.) We had hoped that she might have one more batch of kids, but her due date was two weeks past. The next hour flew by with preparations of one child off to horse camp, trying to calm the horse who was left behind, Lady, preparing for goat birth all the while reminding small humans to eat their breakfast and brush their teeth.

Finally when the camp people and horse were feed and departed, I sat next to our goat, Sally, and held her head in my lap as she labored. I thought of Jean-Pierre de Cassade.

“Every current, every technique, thrusts us onward in our voyage to the Infinite. Everything work to this end and, without exception, helps us towards holiness” (Cutsinger, 35).

How could I be a calming presence to Sally and Lady? “Where is the holy in this?” I wondered. I thought of C.S. Lewis “The objects around me, and my idea of “me”, will deceive if taken at their face value. But they are momentous if taken as the end-products of Divine activities. Thus and not otherwise the creation of matter and the creation of mind meet one another and the circuit is closed.” (164).

Sally was struggling. She had been in labor too long and we both knew it. “How, Lord, does this thrust me onward in my voyage to the Infinite?” I rubbed her belly and under her chin. When the first kid came, we breathed a sigh of relief. Breathing. Bonding. Check.

But the second kid didn’t come for a while, and when he did, I knew. As best as I could, I helped, but he was gone before he got here. I wanted, as I have done in the past when these lifeless ones are born, to hide him away from his mother. This time though I thought of de Cassade, “Our only satisfaction must be to live in the present moment as if there were nothing to expect beyond it.” (35).

I laid his little body before her. She licked him, working to bring him back. She called to him, working to call him to life. But he was gone. This present moment called for both celebration and grief. Two sides of the same coin, it seems one cannot exist without the other. A paradox of presence perhaps, (too much alliteration?) where what “thrusts us onward in our voyage” is the encounter of the Infinite, (what is more infinite than the cycle of life and death?), who is not only in the present, but is Presence.

References are from Not of This World: A Treasury of Christian Mysticism compiled and edited by James S. Cutsinger

Good Dirt Eastertide

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Excerpt from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide. Easter is the day our lives are changed forever. Nothing, absolutely nothing will ever be the same. But for many of us Easter is as mundane as Tuesday’s Twinkies. We put on clothes we hate, hunt eggs we will never eat, and yawn through the Easter service. It wasn't always this way.

Easter is Christianity’s oldest celebration. It began with the day Jesus rose from death, and the celebration hasn't stopped! Long before the church celebrated Christmas, we celebrated Easter. Easter should never play second fiddle to Christmas. We have Christmas because of Easter; Easter is the reason we celebrate Christmas. The Bread of Life conquered death—that’s the best news there is! As we've been journeying with Jesus this year, we have heard over and over again his teaching about the Kingdom of God. We've seen him claim to know God in a unique, one-of-a-kind way in the Gospel of John; we've watched as he heals and forgives and loves.

At Easter, we get the best news of all—this Kingdom life is the real deal! By overcoming death itself, Jesus proves that the with-God life simply cannot be held down! So as we set out to imitate his life, we can have confidence and joy that Jesus’ abundant life truly is the best life on offer. From the drab, cold winter days of Lent to the dark sadness of Holy Saturday, the question is raised—how can any joy come out of such loss and sadness?

Easter answers: God’s power and life is so strong that it can go through death and come out victorious the other side!

Till: Hallelujah! You are risen, Jesus, you are risen, indeed! Nothing can stop you from giving us new life, because you triumphed over death. Hallelujah!

Plant: John 1:1-18

Water: Light it: Be sure to light the Christ candle.

There are so many special things going on today that there probably won’t be time to sit and have a usual activity time today. Instead, enter fully into the joy of Easter. Go party! He is risen, indeed!

Weed: What did it feel like to rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection today? What made you happy today?

Resurrecting Hope

resurrection toy

At this writing it is Holy Week, arguably the saddest week of the year. This week, my Lord dies, hope dies and we are left with nothing but the empty space of Holy Saturday. There is a commonality among the children at Haven House. Each time I sit with a child in spiritual direction, I first ask them to choose a picture of Jesus with children from a stash of many. This is our rhythm when they come. They choose the picture of Jesus they most need to see and then together we turn on a battery-powered candle to remind us that God is with us. Then they are invited to share their thoughts about the picture. Children who have heard Bible stories usually tell me something about Jesus’ death, even children who know little about Jesus know about his death. Some even know the gruesome details. The children at Haven House know death; they know emptiness, loneliness, and hopelessness. Often I will say, “Did you know, God brought him back to life?” Without fail, I am met with blank stares and even disagreement. Death they know, resurrection they can’t imagine.

So in the last two weeks during spiritual direction (We call it Holy Listening.) we have used a wooden play set of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus to play out the whole story—resurrection and all.

I tell the story first and then invite the children to play with the pieces and retell. They are invited to add their own twists and turns, as this is how they make His story, their story. Interestingly, this is also how they mourn their own sorrows. In the death and sadness of Christ they are able to express their own pain. We keep the candle near, to remind us that even in great pain, and great sadness, God is near.

We are careful to include Jesus’ resurrection each time. In the resurrection of Christ there is hope and joy-- and as one child taught me, forgiveness. In the story he told of the resurrection—Jesus went chasing after the soldiers who were guarding the tomb. “Hey, no wait,” he said, “I forgive you, come back.”

Hope lives in Jesus’ resurrection.

The hope that says God is with you in your greatest pain.

The hope that says God is with you even if you are buried under shame, doubt and fear.

The hope that says “Hey, no wait. I forgive you, come back.”

The hope that says there is something better, unbelievably better, coming.

 

Compassion

“Of these three men, who do you think was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by robbers?”  The expert said, “The one who was kind enough to help him.”  Jesus told him, “go and imitate his example!”  Luke 10:36-37 GWT One of the most important things that I want my kids to learn and to carry with them is compassion.  We talk about this often.  Don’t stare.  Always offer help.  Pray for those who need it and for those who don’t know they need it.  Offer the kindness to others that you would like to receive.  This is tantamount for living out the call of Christ.  Be Jesus for those around you.  Let them see the grace that He has given you so that they can wonder what it’s all about and so through you they can’t help but want to know more about Him.

I crave compassion.  There have been times, as the mother of a child with autism that I have longed for compassion in a way that I can’t even put into words.  People can be so cruel to anyone who is the slightest bit different.  So when you are talking about someone who is VERY different…well, let’s just say you don’t always see the best that people have to offer.  I remember the sight of Genevieve’s face when, as a very little girl, someone made nasty comments about her sister in the grocery store.  I remember having more heart-to-heart discussions than I could possibly count with a very sad big sister who could not understand why others couldn’t see the wonder that was her little sister and why people would choose to stare or offer unsolicited advice on what they would do different “if that child was mine”.  And more recently, I remember the face and searching eyes of one precious 10-year old who was completely confused by strangers’ stares.

At another time in my life, this would have made me bitter.  There were times when all I wanted to do was be angry.  I wanted to tell off that elderly gentleman behind me in the checkout line who suggested that perhaps my child needed more spankings.  But what I realized was that in those moments, my children were looking to me more than they were looking toward those strangers.  Those people may not have been showing compassion for our situation but I could certainly show them compassion.  Because I knew better.  Because I had a Savior who showed me the ultimate compassion.  He offered me mercy when otherwise I would have been left behind.  So, eventually, as my heart softened, my children saw me speak kindly to these people.  They heard me explain to the gentleman in the checkout line that he was not witnessing a tantrum but the evidence of too much stimulation.  They saw me deal patiently and with grace as I dealt with other parents who just didn’t get us.  My children saw me explain to other children that though the little girl they were staring at was different from them in a few small ways, she was just like them in the most important ways.  And what they learned from this was that it is always possible to extend compassion to others.  Even the ones to whom we don’t really feel like extending compassion.  Especially them.

And so while we may not be saving a life in the literal sense as in the story of “The Good Samaritan”, we are choosing to make our own lives better through the compassion that this story teaches us.  And we just might be pointing to the Author.

Celebrations

As we follow the church calendar for our daily family devotions, we find that Eastertide is about celebrations, first and foremost celebrating who we are as redeemed in Christ thanks to the work of the cross, and second as those whose hope is in the power of the resurrection. Personally I love celebrations, I have often thought that if I could do a career change I would be in big event management because I love a good party. I love seeing people come together and laughing together, telling stories, allowing the cares of this world to pass away if only for those few hours. I love Christmas and Thanksgiving and well, every holiday, because I get to use them as an excuse for celebration. A few days ago was my birthday, and every year I struggle with wanting to do some big celebration due to the reasons stated above, however this year I decided that as long as I wasn’t required to homeschool my son and actively participate in normal community life on my birthday I would be content. This was the first year that we has a family celebrated with just us. And it was beautiful. My husband led our children in singing to me happy birthday, not once but three times, with the last time bringing out the guitars (husband knows, son is still learning) while my daughter danced around in joyful glee. It was one of those moments that I know that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Dallas Willard said “We engage in celebration when we enjoy ourselves, our life, our world, in conjunction with our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness.” In that moment as we as a family were celebrating my birthday, I felt the delight of God himself in us. Zephaniah 3:17 says that “He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” If we serve a God who delights in us and rejoices over us with singing, how much more should we be doing the same thing over each other? In the country where we currently live, rejoicing over others or even with others is not common, it’s actually very rare. Yet I have seen first-hand what power there is in celebrating each other and celebrating with each other. The Bible tells us Nehemiah 8:10 that the joy of the Lord is your strength. I quoted this verse for years and years never realizing that this statement comes directly from a command to go and feast in the goodness of God, to celebrate before the Lord. It literally says to go and feast “for this day is holy to our Lord.” Yes, the joy of the Lord is our strength and it that joy is renewed, our strength is revitalized in the celebration unto God.

In light of that, I am now more determined than ever to teach my children how to celebrate, maybe in simpler ways but in every opportunity to celebrate all that God has done for us, through us and with us. I want my children to know the delight that God has in us and how as messenger of His good news, we sure should delight in others as well.

God's Ways

I must admit that this used to be the time of the year that I struggled with how to teach my child who has autism about the Resurrection.  As Easter approached she sensed the anticipation.  She could feel that there was something different in the days as we waited with wonder and expectation for Sunday morning.  She understood the joy and even picked up on the traditional greeting, “He is risen!” and its response, “The Lord is risen indeed”.  The bigger issue, for me, became how to make this real throughout the year?  How do I make her feel and understand the enormity of the sacrifice made for her beyond Easter morning? There are so many options available to us as modern day parents to teach our children, in a tangible way, about the truth of the Resurrection.  Resurrection eggs, empty tomb cookies and rolls, and countless books written just for them.  I used all of these when I served as a director of children’s ministries.  All of those and so many other activities are perfect ways to share the Good News with children.  Well…with typically functioning children.  For a child with autism, sometimes these lessons get through but, more often than not, they fail to make the connection for a child who is more literal.

The answer came in the simplest way.  Walking into pre-school every day we walked past a wall lined with crosses.  She was charmed by each and every one.  Every day she would pick a new one to stand in front of and just take in every little detail.  And so I began to ask her what they were.  She answered “cross” but wouldn’t answer any more questions.  I continued to talk to her about Jesus, hoping that it was all sinking in and that she was feeling connected to an ancient truth that I felt powerless to make truly real to her.  That her Savior had loved her so much, He had given His life in order to ransom hers.

Then one day, one beautiful day, we walked past the crosses.  She stopped in front of one that depicted the life of Jesus.  I watched as her eyes took in every little detail and I asked, “what is that?”.  She answered, “cross”.  I asked, “What does it mean?” and she answered “Jesus”.  I told her that the cross means that Jesus loves us.  And she repeated it to me.  Over and over.  “Jesus loves us.  Jesus loves us.  Jesus loves us.”  I watched while it took hold in her heart.

Though I had known that God’s ways exceed all my expectations, in that moment I felt that truth become so real to me.  I realized that God’s love was not something that I needed to push on my child.  She already had a relationship with Him.  He didn’t die on the cross only to ignore the needs of those who learn differently.  My job was simply to place truth before her and to let God do the rest.

A Ramble of Motherings

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While Mother’s Day is this Sunday, we celebrated several weeks ago when we were in the UK and I learned that they call it Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday is a similar holiday celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This year my thoughts are leaning toward, “Mothering Sunday.”

When I take stock of all the mothering it took raise me and all the mothering I still need, one person is a great start, but not nearly enough. My cast of mothers crosses all boundary lines, including gender.

One of my first memories of being mothered is of my PaPete. The memory consists of me standing on the deep freezer in his deli quoting Bill Cosby and being constantly harassed about food. “Are you hungry?” “You can’t eat a pimento cheese sandwich without chips.” “You want hash browns with your eggs.”  If you met him, he’d try to feed you.

My fourth grade teacher, Miss. Walker, did more than teach. She mothered. She said wild and crazy things to me like, “You are smart,” and “One loyal friend is worth more than a thousand popular ones.”

My Aunt Nita mothered less with what she said and more with what she did. Over a Dr. Pepper she’d listen to my hare brained ideas, and give me opportunities. She believed the very best about me.

Jimmy Daniel, my BSU director, mothered me through college. Feeding and challenging me to live into who God created me to be.

The woman who actually claims to be my mother has a lion’s share of courage and a fierce protection of her cubs. I remember a day in middle school when a boy I liked, (who didn’t know I was alive), accidently slammed my hand in a door. My mother, “accidently” let the same door fall on his head. She locked eyes with him and said, “Oops, these doors are tricky, aren’t they.” Incidentally this is also the day I most wished for an invisibility cloak.

Today those who mother me take the shape of friendships; male or female, we mother each other, we nurture, love, and protect.

I burst with gratitude when I see the mothers in my daughters’ lives.

My father mothers like no other. He is a professional enabler, enabling these quirky little girls to follow wherever their hearts lead.

Our neighbor, Peggy, mothers with her stealthy intellect and wise presence.

Jim, mothers by laughing at the jokes of budding joke tellers that fall way short of funny.

Russ, our former worship leader, mothered them into the throne room of God and taught them to dance with their soul.

I suspect they also will require a small army of mothers. There is one Mother though, one whose presence is constant.

God frequently plays the mothering role. God taught me to walk into the dark spaces and then reached in and healed my wounds. (Hosea 11:3-4)  God fed me with words like “You are made in my image.” (Genesis 1:27), and gave me the courage to fly. (Deuteronomy 32:11-12) God has never forgotten me, (Isaiah 49:15) in fact God has tirelessly looked for me when I have gone and gotten myself lost. (Luke 15:8-10) After four decades Mother God still invites me to crawl up on her lap, she rocks gently, whispering that I am safe and her love is the deepest, most pure love that I will ever know. (Psalm 131)

* The image used is from Rector Jonathan's blog.   http://rectorjonathan.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/a-mothering-sunday-reflection/

Life on the Road

Used under Creative Commons License. I'm guessing that most parents who are following Jesus and helping their kids to live with him struggle in the same way I do. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about who and what is most influentially forming my three kids. When I say "forming," I mean forming them spiritually in a way that affects their identity, their passions, their understanding of living and being in this world, their view of God and what He means in their life.

With our youngest child being close to 9 years old and our oldest at 15, immersed in high school life, they are at ages where home, parents, and church are a big influence, but peers, media, and pretty much all of life outside our front door also play a big role in who they are becoming. Many times I have, in my mind, whisked my kids to a remote jungle or a country home far from civilization where all the competing influences would take a much more distant and manageable role in who they are becoming. You can probably relate.

God, though, through the Holy Spirit's whispers in response to my thoughts, has affirmed again and again that the Quinns are where He's placed us as a family and we are to choose carefully within this context how we will influence our kids' formation day by day and year by year.

Good Dirt. It has been a good and powerful family guide into God's Word and life with Him on this daily journey. Last week we focused with the kids on Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the boys drew pictures that they used for a few nights.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and you have seen him."  ~ John 14:6-7

The boys were instructed to draw a road, because Jesus described himself as the road to God. "With his whole life he showed us how to live a life with God." And then they were told to write on the road some of the ways Jesus showed us how to live a life with God on the road. For three nights we read from Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, talked about it, and wrote on the pictures.

It was on Night 3 that I realized something. On this night we read these word from Jesus' prayer. He is "not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours" (John 17:9). Here is what he said:

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them, I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

On Night 3 as we began to talk about that very-religious-sounding word sanctify, I realized that God is so "with me" on this hard road of parenting and of yearning for my kids to be formed by God and not by the world. Of all things, just a day or two earlier I had heard a radio preacher talking about sanctification. Being sanctified, he had said, is being "set apart." His words had stuck with me, and that night with the boys this definition was ready and helped to frame our conversation. It gave us a picture of who we are as people who want Jesus as our Life. We are different. We are chosen. We, indeed, are ones who are set apart, belonging to God.

When I was a teenager and going through family crisis, a friend gave me Oswald Chambers' devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest. I dove into this classic book that focuses so deeply on sanctification. I underlined like crazy and I prayed a lot that God would work out this process of sanctifying my life for Him. Chambers is more wordy when he talks about sanctification, but just like the shorter definition, he gets to the heart of what God does in us, if we allow it.

"In sanctification the regenerated soul deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ, and identifies himself entirely with God's interest in other men [and women!]."

And, "Are we prepared for what sanctification will cost? It will cost an intense narrowing of all our interests on earth, and an immense broadening of all our interests in God. Sanctification means intense concentration on God's point of view. It means every power of body, soul and spirit chained and kept for God's purpose only. Are we prepared for God to do in us all that He separated us for? ... Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the disposition that ruled Him will rule us. Are we prepared for what it will cost? It will cost everything that is not of God in us."  

Sobering words. They give me pause, once again, as I consider my own life.

This idea of being set apart, though, isn't too big or too incomprehensible for my kids. Even on a night when they are a little distracted, are trying to fidget with each other, and one is dissatisfied with his drawing, I know they get it. I know they can understand that it's really special to be set apart. And that God deserves all of us.

So today, and again tomorrow, we enter another day seeking to live it all, and give it all, for Jesus, for we are "not of this world." And we're also not doing any of it without God's help.

***Parent friends and readers--It is a comfort and much-appreciated joy to walk this road of parenting with you, in community with you through the writing at this site. We are all in different places with God and with our kids as we parent. If you sense Jesus drawing you to come to know Him as you read here, know that you and your children, too, are chosen by God to belong to Him. You and your kids can come to know God by praying simple prayers to God together and by reading the Bible together, listening to God speak to you. Any of us who are writing here would love to correspond with you, just as a follower of Jesus who lives near you would also love to do. Reach out--we  need each other as we journey with God!

Oh, how he loves us...

Easter is over... but some of our questions still remain. All of our kids are adopted and we knew that someday they may want to know more about their story. Our daughter is 15 and very 15. She is fun loving and sensitive. She is searching and pushing. She is sad about some bad decisions. She wants and needs love. She does not want to talk to many people about her adoption. She is not embarrassed or afraid she just isn't sure what she thinks, what she knows or what is right.

According to Websters dictionary adoption means to take by choice into relationship, to choose to embrace as one's own. Adoption to us means family and inheritance. We have NO QUESTION that these 3 kids are our very own. They could not be more ours than if they looked like "Mini-me's". We do not question or wonder or doubt. We would lay our lives down for these 3 amazing beautiful people we call ours.

When we chose to adopt it was because we wanted a family. We chose adoption before any medical option for pregnancy. After Isabella came to us we never considered another route. She is ours. She is our 1st born. There are no doubts. So we wonder why would she question and doubt. Then I realize that this is a picture of us and God.

We are adopted by God. We are his chosen heirs with Christ. We search and push and wonder if God knows, cares or loves us at all sometimes.

These are just a few scriptures that remind us that we are adopted...

John 1:12 -But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

Romans 8:14-16 - For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, "Abba, Father."For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children.

Galatians 4:4-6 - But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.

John 3:1-2 - See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!

Galations 3:29-And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.

God has no questions, no doubts. We do. We wonder and wander and push and search. To HIM he just waits for us to realize that we are His and have been all along.

The David Crowder song "How He Loves Us" describes it well.

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, And I realize just how beautiful You are, And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh, Oh, how He loves us, How He loves us all

And we are His portion and He is our prize, Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes, If his grace is an ocean, we're all sinking. And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, And my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don't have time to maintain these regrets, When I think about the way...

He loves us, Oh, how He loves us, Oh, how He loves us, Oh, how He loves. Yeah, He loves us, Oh, how He loves us, Oh, how He loves us, Oh, how He loves.

As we walk through these questions of adoption and belonging with our kids we will remember that we feel the same sometimes. We question "WHY? WHY would God die for ME? Does He even know or care..." and then I think of  MY kids and know.

OH! HOW HE LOVES US!