Kingdomtide

Loving Our Enemies and the Exodus

12-30-09 Sunrise 010

As I age I have more questions than answers. They say this is wisdom, I think it’s dementia. The questions come faster and more furiously when I try to wrap my brain and body around Jesus admonishment to love our enemies. You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be                   children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. –Matthew 5:44-45 NRSV

Two nights ago we were reading the Exodus story. A story where there is a good guy and a bad guy; or so my dualist mind thought. This is the story I have known for what seems like my whole life. It is neat. It is tidy and I knew who God disliked- I knew the bad guys.

And then I read it with my children. I was cheering when the Israelites made it across the Red Sea. The wonder of it all, all those people crossing on dry land- miraculous. When we got to chapter 14: 26-28 our exuberance diminished. As is our custom I stopped and we listened to what the Holy Spirit had to say about this.

One child asked, “I wonder how God felt when all those Egyptians died?”

I was frozen in my thinking, frozen in my heart. “Well, of course.” I thought, “They were the enemy. So… happy?” (Thank you God for keeping my mouth shut. At this point I was the student needing to be taught.)

Another child answered, “God made them, even if they didn’t know it. So I think he was sad. He loves everybody. Yeah, he was sad.”

The moment was gone in a flash. The children were on to other topics, but I couldn’t shake this one. Two days later it’s still teaching me. How do we love our enemies?

We love by realizing we don’t have enemies. Yes, there might be people who want to hurt us, but is that what makes an enemy? If we are in Christ, can anyone cause everlasting damage? I came to the conclusion that we are all created by God. We are all loved by God. We are connected whether we like it or not.

Perhaps this is the starting spot. Children of the Father will see all people as siblings. Children of the Father will really see them. (Matthew 5:45)

Governments, religions, families often thrive on having an enemy. Having someone to hate provides more energy that Starbucks can harness. I hang my head in shame that much of the energy in Christianity has been focused on creating and hunting enemies.

Father, help me to see the connections I have with every living thing on this earth. Help me to love my siblings.

On Suffering and Memories

A good friend of mine’s husband has been battling cancer for a while now. They are the kind of family that everyone loves, totally committed to God and such people of faith. During this journey they have seen amazing miracles when the doctors said such and such would happen and it didn’t and great seasons when it looked like all was well, then one day it wasn’t. Today is looks to be that he may be entering into his last days. Personally I cannot imagine what is going on in the heart and mind of my friend or her children, to be where you have to say goodbye to one of the closest person in your life… words fail me. The other day, the children and I were reading our daily Good Dirt devotional, it was in Mark 14 when Jesus and his disciples were in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed in full faith, “Father all things are possible for you, remove this cup from me.” And it stuck me, Jesus in all of his humanity and all of his godhood, he desired to be removed from suffering. He prayed this prayer over and over again that night and although this may not be a huge revelation for most, to me it was a comfort. Jesus was prefect and yet in his perfection he still longed to be free from suffering and pain. I long for the same, I long that my friends would be freed from suffering and pain and from the pain that separation brings. Yet, sin is in our world and with that pain, suffering and death come to.

So everyday since, as I daily pray for my friends, I look for ways to celebrate each day with my children. For life is short and we truly never know how many more days we have together. My daughter is currently obsessed with the story “Curious George goes camping” desiring it to be read daily and asking regularly when we get to go camping. For many days I said “maybe someday” thinking of when we could be in a place where poisons snakes and malaria carrying mosquitoes do not lurk in the night. But after this I thought we better make it today. So we put up a tent in the bedroom and pulled all the cushions off the couch, we roasted marshmallows over the stove using forks and stayed up late watching a movie. We took a night off and made some memories.

In that same day of devotions, we were asked, “What is something you pray for?” Well I pray for a long life so that my children will have a lifetime of memories with me to help them endure the separation that death brings, and I pray that the God of Peace would grant his peace upon my friend, her family and every other family like theirs who’s family members life was not long enough and they endure the pain of separation too soon. I pray that every day, we would remember that each day is about making memories and not about routines or schedules, about relationships and life with God above all else. Those are just some of the things I pray for.

Kids Devotional Activity: Four Seeds

Seed on the path kidsA few weeks ago in our Good Dirt devotions we read the Parable of the Sower, the passage that inspired the title of the book. We had just finished dinner on our back patio, enjoying a warm summer evening together.

Per usual, the children’s attention was wandering, so we did a spontaneous outside activity. We have citrus trees in our backyard, so I had the kids run and grab a piece of fruit. Then I asked them to open up the fruit and grab four seeds each.

The Parable of the Sower describes four soils: the path, the rocks, the thorns and the good dirt. Armed with their four seeds, I sent them off to find each of the different surfaces and see what happened when they tried to plant them. Seed on the path The path was easiest to find, as the kids threw the seed down on the concrete patio. Next was the rocks, which was mix of wood chips and a few large stones. Then came the thorns--we have rose bushes and blackberries, but that didn’t seem to fit the story. So we decided to plant the seeds among the weeds (those were easy to find in my backyard).

Lastly, the good dirt. The children found a soft, loamy section of ground and buried their mandarin seeds there.

In our little exercise, the children were able to see the simplicity of the message. Which one of these seeds is more likely to grow? Clearly. the one in the good dirt. It is soft, able to receive both the seed and the water and sun required to nourish it. The path, however, is hardened against the outside world and cannot receive.

May our hearts be like the good dirt, able to receive the Word and be changed by it.

Happily Ever After

© Dennis Jarvis. Used under Creatives Commons License. Sometimes the happenings of this world feel beyond what the heart can bear. A beloved comedian's tragic death. Reports of horrific conflict and genocide in the Middle East, with many of the victims children, their pictures transported thousands of miles across oceans to verify the reality of carnage. Closer to home, this moment, a family gathers at the deathbed of a dear husband, father and grandfather whose body succumbs to cancer, none ready to part with him.

Tragic pain. Heartrending loss. Inner and outer turmoil that the spirit in its purest place knows don't belong in this world, really. As parents we shudder and push through our days. As love-invaded friends of God we offer silent prayers framed with unspoken questions. And then a child's query breaks the silence.

"Why did he die? What happened?" And we have to find words somehow that are truthful and that teach.

Today I came across a gingerbread house-shaped book my third grader wrote last spring in school. His class was studying fairy tales and had the chance to write one. Derrin titled his "The Rabbit Prince and the Bunny Queen." The story unfolds complete with magic wand, castle, and dungeon, and it ends this way:

The prince got the key and got the princess. They ran out of the palace. They got in love and got married! and they lived happily ever after!!!

I smile at a child's simple resolution to problems and his belief in uncomplicated happiness-ever-after. If only ...  And then I think about Bartimaeus, the blind man who Jesus healed. We read about him together with Good Dirt a few nights ago. Bartimaeus received his sight "and followed Jesus along the road, " according to the Gospel of Mark. He begged Jesus for mercy, received it, and then  followed the Savior. It wasn't complicated.

I'm not sure if Bartimaeus lived happily ever after, but in following Jesus he had what he needed most. The evil in the world certainly raged on--Jesus would soon be killed, and death eventually came to this follower, but a bigger reality encompassed Bartimaeus. His life was hidden not in a dungeon or a castle, but with God in Christ for each moment and into eternity. He couldn't be touched by a mean rat (as in Derrin's tale) or an act against himself, a sword or invading bodily cells. Following Jesus put a greater reality in place.

We still stand against evil and illness, yet as we do we seek more and more to know Jesus' mercy in our lives, as Bartimaeus did, and to speak His mercy and life to a hurting world.

Thank God for His Word. It straightens crooked and broken hearts. And as we weep with those who weep, it holds out the promise of lives hidden in Christ for ever after.

The Biggest Piece

I was sitting at a baseball game for one of our boys last week and chatting with my mom, who had come to watch the game. She shared with me about a dream she'd had the night before. In the dream, she was with an extended family member of ours who has recently moved to another city, and they were visiting a church in the area. As they were celebrating the Lord's Supper and my mom's turn came, there were only crumbs left and she felt like she couldn't partake.  We smiled at the odd course that dreams often take. The next day, as our church celebrated the Lord's Supper and I sat next to our 8-year-old, the  dish of unleavened bread came down our row. Just like he always does, Derrin took a few seconds to survey the contents and pick the largest piece he could find. This one was particularly big. (I wonder if the deacons do that on purpose for kids like Derrin?)

He proceeded to whisper, too loudly, about the really big piece he got, and then he did the same with the tray of grape juice cups. He picked the one most full and let me hold it to prevent a purple spill, which has happened one too many times. We ate the bread and drank from the cup. It was good. The bread of forgiveness. The cup of new life gained through Jesus' suffering. A Good Friday celebration that comes to us again and again throughout the year. Solemn and sobering. Burden-lifting. Spirit renewing, even in the company of a squirmy, talkative child .

As many of us have reflected here at Good Dirt Families, it is the child who leads us. And the grandparent too. We want the biggest piece of Jesus we can get. We want to stop and survey the situation, and then choose carefully. We can't help but tell the one next to us in a loud voice about what we've found.

No, crumbs won't do. Being new and showing up only to find there's not enough--that scenario just doesn't fit the abundant life Jesus died to provide. How great to imagine each of us, like an 8-year-old, being intentional, selecting carefully  from this smorgasbord of life, eyeing Jesus, reaching for Him, and taking all we can get.  O Bread of Life, may it be so.

Rotten Apples in this Basket

When we were waiting for our son to come along, my husband and I agreed that we wouldn’t immerse ourselves in all the parenting books that are available out there. We didn’t want the confusion that is inevitable with so much conflicting advice and felt that our time would be better spent elsewhere. Looking back, I’m really grateful for that intentional move because I’m quite heavily influenced by what I read. And recently our Good Dirt devotions have been cutting me to the quick.  

You know how parents are told to make sure to shape their child’s attitude so that their behavior is just right so that their lives will turn out perfectly? (Even in Kingdom Living, we find ourselves losing track and aiming for ‘perfect’, so bear with me here) And you know how no matter what you say to your child, what you do is about the only thing they’ll actually pick up? Well, I’ve been doing my math lately and concluded that my poor son has little hope of ever being perfect. Not because of his attitude or behavior……but because of mine.

 

We came across some evening questions recently that went something like this: “How did you work with God today? What kind of good did you spread?” Good Dirt – Kingdomtide

 

I had allowed a dark cloud to remain over my head the whole day that affected every behavior and decision. So would you believe, I actually skipped over those questions and didn’t ask them? I didn’t ask them because I didn’t want to answer them. I didn’t want to consider them. The very thought of examining my own attitude and trying to answer how I (hadn’t) worked with God that day made me feel narcoleptic. Sleeping is an effective way of hiding. I really wanted to just sleep it off and wake up to a new day. In fact, I did. And of course I found that the new day required the same humility and repentance of me.

 

And then I saw this on the opposite page: “Tell about a time today when it was difficult to tell the truth.” (Stop it! Just stop!)

 

Isn’t it such a wonderful thing that bad attitudes and a refusal to work with God are redeemed at the cross?

“Lord, my heart turns toward you in repentance. Please transform my indignant attitude into a flexible one – one that works with You. Help my eyes to remain focused on You and not to look for an alternative goal. Thank you for drawing me to Yourself. I rejoice in You!”

 

If you need some time to reflect on the Grace and pursuing Love of God, take a long, quiet moment to read through Psalm 139. I’m writing that here so I can remember where to go when I need to turn my attitude around tomorrow. I’m glad I’m heavily influenced by what I read.

 

-Tamara

Sabbath Moments

Our pastor is doing a series about the 10 commandments this summer. Our children's curriculum is following that series so the entire family hears the same thing each week. A few weeks ago was our turn to teach the kids. We even got to choose which commandment we wanted to teach on. We thought teaching the Sabbath would be easy...but to children? As we thought about it...do no work...rest...take time to do nothing and reflect...we thought about our kids...WHO DO NOTHING! Haha... don't take that the wrong way. Our kids have and do chores. They have animals that they care for. They maintain their own rooms. They do things for our elderly grandparents. But not without being asked. Not without direction to do so. If we let our kids just go for a day they will find random devices to play on or jump on the trampoline for hours or draw/write in their rooms or just plain play/waste the day away. It irritated me that I was thinking my kids whole lives are Sabbath! So we thought and pondered some more.  This is not a direction given to adults only. My kids have relationships with God so it is as much for them as for me. So what did we learn in trying to teach kids about keeping a Sabbath?

1. It does not have to be a certain day.

2. Kids are great Sabbath keepers. They are not bound up in the busy busy American lifestyle. They live to relax and recharge.

3. I need to watch and learn from them...there is a time for everything. A time to play, a time to dance, a time to clean, a time to let it go!

4. During certain times of the year Sabbath moments are all we can get. My kids are busy during school and more relaxed in the summer...my schedule is always full but I can find a moment to redirect my thoughts to Jesus.

5. Sabbath is not just a relax and do no work day. It is a set aside (holy) time to reflect on Jesus and HIS work and worth in our lives.

6. Kids know how to relax but need to be trained (as we all do) to be intentional about focusing on Jesus.

7. Some of my favorite Sabbath moments are...

a. Late afternoon (almost) every day Mike and I sit down together and have a glass of something and just be...if only for a few minutes.

b. I love to hang out laundry. I have been known to work from the outside in on my round clothesline. It is peaceful and smells like Jesus in the middle of that circle

c. Music...dancing with my people...pretending we are the band...singing in the kitchen

d. Mowing the lawn

e. Going to the mountains, beach, forest, canyon, lake, anywhere natural where again you can smell Jesus and see just how creative he is

f. Just that 5 minutes before we fall asleep.

I could go on and on because this taught us to look for and appreciate those moments. Those moments where we can make it an intentional Sabbath. We want to teach our kids that "down time" can be productive in our relationship with Jesus and to the kingdom of God.  So Happy Sabbath Friday!

 

Rain on Me

Beginning Fall 2011 092

Here in Western Colorado rain is a big deal. I live at 7,800 ft above sea level; I live in high desert. Pinion Pines, Prickly Pear and Sagebrush dot our landscape. Most of our moisture comes in the form of snow in the winter... and in the form of rain in late July and early August. After the dog days of June and July, hot and dry, fire fears, and sun burns; rain is life. Today as I packed up my things to go and listen to children, I could smell the rain coming. It's like the sagebrush let off their sweetest smells in anticipation. The cats burrowed in the hay, the goats bedded down. All the earth knew rain was coming and prepared accordingly. The horses were feeling it too, they ran the length of the fence to show me so.

I arrived at my destination and set up my things, invited a child in and listened, Holy Listening.

Rain. Rain was on the lips of the children. "What is it about the rain?" I asked.

"It's like what new feels like," said one.

"It's like God's says 'shhh. I've got something to say,'" said another.

"I like to play outside when it's raining. Have you felt it on your face?" asked a boy.

"Well yes, when I arrived." I said.

"No, not like that. When it's on your face and your just there to catch it," he replied.

Humm... when was the last time I stood out in the rain just to catch it. Just to hush up and hear God's whisper through water, to feel with my skin what new feels like.

Tonight.

Teeth brushed, drinks given, I asked my own children, "Where did you see God today?"

"In the rain," they both said.

"Today when I was going to the garden and it started to rain. It was soft and strange, but made me feel clean," says the one who hates to bathe. (I wanted to ask, so was this a good thing?)

"It's like this, Mom. Rain is like how God wants to help us be like Jesus. It's strange because, well, people are mostly dry. We know rain keeps us alive and we know we need it to keep clean, but it's so foreign and God knows it so he gives it to us in little bits."

 

And a little child shall lead them... I think I'll go sit outside, I hear thunder.

*Just in case you are wondering... the children gave me permission to use their words.

 

Gentle Whispers

Summer with kids screams the daily, material, ordinariness of life. In the prominence of all the ordinary, the tangible presses in on our moments and envelops our days as they spin into weeks and march toward Fall. Yes, we cherish the shining moments of  spectacular sunsets and interludes on the pavement viewing roly polies as they curl and uncurl. We triumph at a first ride on a two-wheeler and delight at a bouquet of dandelions. But so many other moments during summer involve the weary obligation of cleaning up after a camping trip, chasing flies around the house,  spraying stained clothing. Hanging up wet towels and clothes, pulling weeds, intervening amid squabbles, mopping the floor one more time to find missed popsicle drips, removing splinters, applying sunscreen to squirming bodies, putting away bedding from last night's sleepover, and buying yet another box of bandaids. Summertime is multi-tasking at its finest.

I find that in all the rush of nonstop ordinariness, I wonder if my kids are noticing God. I wonder if they're sensing His presence in these days that for them are magical, glorious, sun-drenched times--but times where they seem quite focused on themselves. I wonder when that awareness of God and life underneath the surface of this one finds a regular  place in their living.

The other day we were reading Good Dirt in the morning, in the family room with sleeping bags and pillows. My neice had spent the night with our two younger boys. They were up (very) early and bursting with energy. We read Mark 2:13-22, about the calling of Levi and about putting new wine into new wineskins. And then we got out paper and made two columns: The Kingdom of Me and The Kingdom of God. I expected resistance, but each child labeled their columns and readily got to work describing what each column was like.

One of them wrote this:

Kingdom of Me--bad things happen. I get disiplend (sic) Kingdom of God--Good things happen. God gets sad.

They didn't miss a beat in understanding the difference between the two kingdoms.

Later I read something by Dallas Willard. He has a new book out titled A Dallas Willard Dictionary, where various spiritual formation terms are defined using excerpts from his various books. I read the definition of "Spiritual Reality."

Spiritual reality is the hidden--because nonphysical--ultimate and powerful foundation of the visible, material and finite universe. It is the "where" of spiritual beings. It is the kingdom of God.

And this is the quote included with Willard's definition:

The visible world daily bludgeons us with its things and events. They pinch and pull and hammer away at our bodies. Few people arise in the morning as hungry for God as they are for cornflakes and eggs. But instead of shouting and shoving, the spiritual world whispers at us ever so gently. And it appears both at the edges and in the middle of events and things in the so-called real world of the visible … . the tendency of life in Christ is progressively toward the inward word to the receptive heart. The aim is to move entirely into the hidden realm of spiritual reality …” (excerpted from Hearing God)

Once again, I knew that these kids have eyes to see underneath the surface of their days. They can hear the inward word, and by and large they have receptive hearts. These kids are living in the kingdom of God. Even in summertime.

A Prayer: Be the Gardener of My Soul

My eldest daughter's favorite prayer book is Richard Foster's Prayers From the Heart. We have been working the opening prayer into our days lately and thought you might find it helpful.

 

Be The Gardener of My Soul

Spirit of the Living God, be the Gardener of my

soul. For so long I have been waiting, silent and still--

experiencing a winter of the soul. But now, in the strong

name of Jesus Christ, I dare to ask:

Clear away the dead growth of the past,

Break up the hard clods of custom and routine,

Stir in the rich compost of vision and challenge,

Bury deep in my soul the implanted Word,

Cultivate and water and tend my heart,

Until new life buds and opens and flowers.

Amen.

 

Richard Foster, Prayers From the Heart. Harper One:New York 1994. 3.

A Reminder in the Ordinary days

Big_Hand_Little_Hand

I have come to believe that children exists not for the purpose of becoming adults but rather for the purpose of reminding adults how to be childlike. Let me illustrate. Several weeks ago my husband shared with our mission community about the importance of remembering Emmanuel, God with us. It was a short sermon, mostly challenging us on how we live out every day in this awareness of God being with us. Later we were discussing what this means to us and my six year old shared that it’s like sometimes when he is sick, he forgets. He forgets that God is with him in that moment. Such simplicity and yet so powerful truth there.

As we enter into the ordinary days, the days of the calendar that is not full of celebrations or holy days to remind us, it’s so easy to forget. It’s too easy to think of Emmanuel as the phrase of Christmastide and not of the everyday. This is where children come in handy, see my three year old does not forget easily. She is very sharp and that message on Emmanuel was powerfully embedded in her heart. Sometimes as a punishment, I will make her go sit in her room “all by herself” for which since she heard this message, she replies, “Not by myself mom, because Jesus is always with me.” What do you say to that? Or when the stuff animal needed to stay home from the car trip, “Oh mom, your right it’s okay that Coco stays, because Jesus is with him too.” Most of all through I have been taught by my little girl how the full belief in this truth truly does cast out all fear. Last week, while she was playing outside with her friend, I lost sight of them for a few minutes, but being confident that they were in the area didn’t worry too much about it. Later when she came inside she was telling me a story about her going to the school, which we have on the campus but is a good 500 yards from our house down a little path through the bush, so I figured that she was using her imagination for a good story. At lunch I learned from one of the students that she did indeed walk the entire distant in the bush to visit them at school, and when the student told her that it wasn’t safe for her to come out there alone she simply said “I wasn’t alone, Jesus was with me.”

As much as I abhor the thought of my three year old tromping through the bush by herself, I am so thankful that she knows no fear. I love the fact that she isn’t unaware of the danger but rather confident of the constant presence of Jesus, so there is no fear in that danger. I have been so challenged by her complete confidence and rest assurance every day that Jesus is with her. Through Good Dirt, we aren’t just trying to teach our children how to have a family devotion or a daily quiet time, through those things are good, we are trying to teach them how to make God apart of their everyday, every moment of life. Yet, who would have known that instead they would be teaching me these very things. That moment when I am scared or unsure, how easy it is to forget Emmanuel, yet, this beautiful princess in my sight is a constant reminder that indeed God is with us.

Glad Places

IMG_1576 I've just returned home from bringing two of our boys to church camp for the week. Our other son is already away for a second week of training for a children's evangelism ministry he's taking part in this summer. And so, the house is quiet. We brought a neighbor boy and two neices along to camp, and all the way home as I drank in the blue Colorado sky with forests of evergreen and aspen, roadside streams and meadow flowers stretching mile after mile, I thought about each of the kids and each of their little personalities and passions, their gifts and their callings.

We read Good Dirt and the Bible this morning after final packing, and the passage we read from Luke 20 talked about a vineyard and unfaithful workers who mistreated all the  servants sent by the owner of the vineyard to bring back fruit. They even killed the owner's son.

"Instead of drawing the unfaithful workers, draw a picture of you working with God in his vineyard," Good Dirt instructed the boys. "How do you feel to be working with God? How does God feel to have you working with him."

And this drawing above is what my 8-year-old sketched very quickly. A big God and a small boy, working together in a vineyard, with God's response about how he feels to have Derrin working with him--an  imperfectly spelled "PERFECT!"

As I drove today I thought about my own process as a girl and young woman of learning who I was and learning how my growing passion for God could best be lived out in this life He'd given me. I remember road trip vacations as a child when we listened to a couple cassette tapes of country music over and over and over to pass the time--and how I realized later that this style of music, though my parents' favorite, definitively  was not "me." I remember my dad's encouragement toward the study of law as I entered college, and how I wrestled with his prompting but determined I wasn't created for this profession. Just two random examples, but they remind me that my kids, and each child I know and love, is created to meet God in particular ways and to work alongside God in ways fitting so rightly for him or her.

I pray this week that my two boys at camp, and my teenager sharing the Gospel with kids, will keep learning who they are and how they can best meet God. I pray they experience ways of loving God and worshiping him where they're at this week that fit who they are. And I pray they learn just a little more about how God has formed each of them to work with him in his vineyard.

Jesus talked so often about bearing fruit, about loving in action with God's love. I know my kids pretty well, but God knows them intimately in a way I never will fully know them. I pray that Mike and I can be parents and aunt and uncle and neighbors who will help the kids in our lives to pursue their passions along with God in the way Frederick Buechner described:

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

I pray they pursue a life where they know God is smiling as he works alongside them, even in them, and where they sense him whispering something along the lines of  "Perfect!" as they are glad together.

 

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.

Routines of the Heart

Teeth are brushed, we’ve all gone potty and we’ve read through, “My Crayons Talk” and “Dr. Dog” twice already. As I lean back against the headboard of the bed, Kaiser turns to me expectantly and says, “I’m ready, Mom.” I ask what he’s ready for. “For telling you when I felt happy or sad today. Can you read it?” This is the first time he’s asked for our Good Dirt reading and I smile at the thought. It’s wonderful when a good routine is embraced. Our culture talks a lot about breaking out of the routine, the mundane. But the Kingdom of God is furthered by the small things – often the things found in routine.

When we are living the Kingdom Way, our routine expresses repentant responses.

When we are living the Kingdom Way, our routine develops a rhythm of forgiveness.

When we are living the Kingdom Way, our routine nurtures grateful hearts.

When we are living the Kingdom Way, our routine challenges us to choose joy despite dire circumstances.

When we are living the Kingdom Way, our routine demands that we remember.

When we are living the Kingdom Way, our routine builds courage.

This routine isn’t the time of day we wash the dishes and clean the house or feed the chickens. It’s not the time we set aside for hobbies or visiting friends. It’s not the time we set on our alarm clock for waking up the next morning. And yet it’s in all those things. Kingdom routine is set in the heart and is the regularity of reaching for God. Looking toward Him. Longing for Him. Worshiping and glorifying Him. Crying out to Him and talking with Him.

Without this routine, we won’t develop any of the characteristics of those who walk the Kingdom Way. When we aren’t walking the Kingdom Way, this routine cannot be established and we will wallow in the shallowness of simply filling our time.

If this heart routine is fed and watered by sitting down at the end of the day with my son to read the Scriptures, quiet ourselves before God and let him tell me when he felt happy or sad today……well then, we have a good routine.

-Tamara

A Summer of Serving

Summer 2011

With only 4 days of school left until summer, the excitement level at our house is running extremely high. I clearly remember that feeling as a child, with all of summer before you. No real commitments, just lots of lazy mornings and free time. Heavenly. As a mom, I’m still excited about summer--especially the part where all of us don’t have to be ready to leave the house by 8am each morning. But there is also a sense of trepidation, and any other mom with school-age children knows exactly what I mean. Because there will be no more alone time for 2 and a half months. There will be two children who become better at bickering by the day. There will be “I’m bored,” “I’m hungry,” and “He hit me!” And there will be a sense that every other “good mom” has daily creative art projects and science experiments and other Pinterest-inspired boredom-busters, all ready to go on day 1 of summer.

One of the internet’s favorite ways to deal with all of this is a summer bucket list. Mommy bloggers everywhere are creating chalkboards and signs and printables full of great summer ideas: Camp in the backyard. Have a water balloon fight. Make s'mores and smoothies. Play in the sprinklers. It’s a nice idea, as it gives you something to do when boredom sets in and helps you keep track of all that you hope to accomplish before the first day of school. We’ve made one every summer for the past few years, and plan to do it again this year.

And yet… One of my favorite parts of “Good Dirt” is the daily questions, when we have time to intentionally ask our children things like, “Where did you see God’s goodness and love today?” “How did God meet your needs?” “What did you do for others today?” It was that last question that got me thinking about our summer list. Every year we fill it with fun ideas that will grow us together as a family. That's wonderful, except it doesn’t teach my children much about serving others. That's when I remembered that somewhere, filed away in the back of my mind, was this list written by a local blogger. A Summer Service List, loaded with acts of service that help our children think outside of themselves and see the ways they can meet others needs right where they are. Things like:

  • Write letters to grandparents
  • Do your sibling's chores
  • Bring flowers to a friend
  • Surprise someone with a “just because” gift
  • Donate toys and clothes

This year our family will be adding in some service ideas to our summer list, so that it’s not just about us, but also about ways we can use what we have to love others. What about you? Does your family make a summer list? Any other service ideas to share?

Happy summer!

-Carolyn

Ordinary Time is just so... Ordinary

Learning to Ride a Bike on a Dirt Road 009

During the summer these words bellow from the porches and couches of millions of homes in America: “I’m bored.” Every kid in the free world, having prayed fervently for school to end, is now proclaiming that the day of perpetual boredom is here. In our culture the tendency is to fill up the summer with camps, classes, and distractions of every shape and color. What would happen if we halted our planning and pondered the wisdom of Kingdomtide, or as it is traditionally called, Ordinary Time?

What is ordinary? Oatmeal for breakfast is ordinary. Laundry, the sun coming up, rain, reading to my kids, mowing the lawn, feeding the chickens, making the bed, napping on Sunday—all ordinary. Without these ordinary actions, our lives lose a sense of rhythm. In fact, without the ordinary we don’t grow, not physically or spiritually. There is nothing fancy or fabulous about a meal of beans and cornbread, except that it sustains our bodies, and thousands of people eat it every day. It is an ordinary meal that does extraordinary things. The fact that the sun comes up every day is an ordinary event most of us ignore, but without it nothing could live.  Jesus was so fond of teaching out of ordinariness, over dinner, in a wheat field. He taught the foundational truths of the universe out of an ordinary body, using ordinary words, to ordinary people.

For six seasons now, we (Lacy and Ben and you!) have looked forward and backward; we’ve celebrated and mourned. Now, during Kingdomtide, we settle in: we find our stride. For 29 full weeks we all have the chance to establish a family rhythm that will grow us and ours.

Many families practice the spiritual discipline of vacation during Kingdomtide, but for most vacation is just one week in the midst of 29 weeks of ordinary. The other 28 weeks are the lazy days of summer, complete with marshmallow roasting, watermelon seed spitting, and bike riding. We intermingle these sorts of activities with the open space of unscheduled time. For children and for their adults, this is the season of rhythms to build a life on.

We might think that the rhythms and lessons of ordinariness will just meander their way into our homes—and maybe this used to be so.  But in a culture built on desire and distraction, ordinariness is endangered. Building a life on the rhythms of ordinariness takes intention and attention. We will have to intend to walk slowly with our kids to the mailbox while stopping and looking at every bug that passes by. We will have to think to grab a stick and play pirate with the neighbor kids. We will have to watch for the teachable moments of forgiveness when siblings quarrel. We will have to be determined to teach the time-honored skill of pancake flipping infused with thankfulness. We will need to plan to lie in the backyard and teach the names of the constellations, or make up our own. During the ordinary routines of eating and sleeping, rest and work, moments will slip up on us that are golden for teaching the way of Jesus. It is our job to lessen the distractions so we will recognize these moments when they come our way. If we do this, our TV’s will grow dusty, our schedule will look empty, and when people ask what our big plans are for the summer, we will say with a knowing smile, “Oh nothing, absolutely nothing.”