Church Year

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

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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.

 

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

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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.

 

God Always Answers

Last week as we read Good Dirt and focused on the passage from Luke 11 where Jesus teaches the disciples to pray with what later has come to be known as the Lord's prayer, we talked with the boys at some length about how God always answers prayer. We've talked about it many times, but again there was some argument. "Well, God doesn't always answer prayer, like if you ask to become a millionaire. God might not answer that prayer," offered one of the boys.

And then we talked about how God may answer by saying, "No, I know what is good for you and I want to give you my best. I am not going to make you a millionaire but I will make you rich in other ways that will bring you much more joy."

And then we talked about how as we grow closer to God we begin wanting what He wants for us more than what we in our limited understanding can want for ourselves. We begin to have God's desires for our life rather than our own desires.

And then we talked about how Jesus taught his followers to pray for their everyday, usual needs. Our prayers don't have to be complicated. They can be simple. And we talked about what some of those everyday needs are. The boys reviewed the ways we pray from day to day--asking for help on a test at school, asking for healing from illness, asking for guidance in making a decision.

And after that time together and as the week proceeded, I began to think about how in parenting, with all the changing of our kids' stages of life and with all the challenges we have in knowing how to parent a child who is different from us, with all the waiting of months or years to know whether the decisions we are making now in parenting our kids are going to end up being the right ones to help guide and mature them--with all these unknowns it's a big comfort to remember that God always answers our prayers.

Mike and I got a glimpse of it twice this week with our teenager. An issue we have prayed about for years and not known if we were deciding rightly in the way we have gently but firmly kept him involved in something he didn't want to be doing has come full circle. He has suddenly embraced it and is seeking further involvement on his own and it's meeting a  place of passion inside of him. Another issue as well, he has embraced after some off and on complaining and resistance.

There has been much comfort not in feeling like "we were right" but in the realization that yes, God answered all those prayers, day by day, about how to guide him. In the end, it doesn't matter so much whether Collin stays involved in these particular areas or not. What matters is that we've tried to put our need before God and then follow the ways God seemed to be leading. The rest is up to God and He will take our child where He wants him to go over the course of his life if Collin learns to follow daily the leading of the Spirit as he places his needs before God.

"Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come." Thank you for teaching us to pray, God. And thank you that you always answer.

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.”

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.

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!

 

Fire is Fun or Minding the Light

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My favorite church service of the year is the Easter Vigil.  For those who don't know, the service is built around the movement from dark to light, the movement from death to life. It has hours (2 hours for us) of Scripture readings that trace "The story." Adam, Noah, Abraham, Issac.... you get the point, there is singing interspersed and responsive readings. All the while the building is moving from dark to light. The readings are done by candle light (candles that have been lit by the Christ candle) and each person in the congregation is holding a candle as well... for nearly 2 hours. For nearly 2 hours I sat by children with fire. After an hour and a half one gave up, but honestly its nothing to be ashamed of... she fought the good fight. There were several close calls, like the first time hot wax fell on her hand and she refused the urge to drop the candle into my lap. This is the child who has naturally curly hair and likes to wear it long and wild, and therefore we did slightly exude the smell of burnt hair, but only briefly.

Round about minute forty a sneezing fit nearly blew the light out. But no, she kept it safe and lit.

It was shining bright in the darkness making it possible for us to read and therefore pray with the rest of the congregation. That little light made it possible to worship and to hear "the story."

When she was too tired to hang on safely, I held it for her. She curled up next to me and slept, after making me promise to wake her for communion. It's her first communion after being recently baptized and this was a big deal for her.

Managing two candles and a fire friendly paper prayer booklet was a harrowing task. All my senses were focused on not burning the church down.  I had to mind the light.

Mind the Light is a Quaker phrase.  It means to pay attention to the light of Jesus within us, is it bright or dim? Is it going out, or setting our neighbor on fire? There are two ways to be a light to those around us, one is harmful and can leave permanent damage, the other shows the way, brings warmth.

This is what we're talking about these days. Minding the Light.

In the morning, How can I mind the light of Jesus today? (Bible reading, prayer, solitude, a walk outside, forgiving others, asking forgiveness, making space for mistakes)

In the evening, How did I mind the light of Jesus today?

So it's the evening of Easter Sunday. Jesus is the light, how are you minding it?

A Life That's Cruciform

© JD Warrick, used under Creative Common License.
© JD Warrick, used under Creative Common License.

It's those bedtime questions that can require the very most we have to give.

I remember hearing Chuck Swindoll say one time that for parents, it's those moments we're tucking them in when kids are the most talkative. Don't rush through bedtime with your kids, he encouraged. They'll do anything to delay switching off the light. Talk to them. Listen to them. Take advantage of their open hearts and listening ears no matter how tired you are and no matter how ready you are to be done with parenting for the day.

Austin, my 11-year-old, asked this one as I was giving him a final kiss at the end of a trying day, to put it mildly. Our 8-year-old had been through two meltdowns, our high schooler had been home sick from school and then had gotten his braces tightened. We'd been to music lessons which meant a late dinner. The boys had been squabbling.  Fishing poles and line were spider-webbed around our family room in an effort to de-tangle. And Austin and I had just finished studying for a surprise test. It was time for bed.

"Mom, if Jesus asked God a question on the cross--'My God, why have you forsaken me?'--then how could Jesus and God be just one God?"

The Trinity. Who really understands it? And how do I talk about it, and Jesus' most difficult moment here on this earth, to a tired pre-teen when I am feeling on the edge of sanity myself? Many times we've talked about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as 3 persons in one God, like an apple or an egg or a pumpkin--all different parts of one whole. That's the best way for our human brains to grasp what we can't really get. And this is what I pulled from down deep on this night. "Because the Bible tells us that Jesus cried out to God, we know he was talking to his Father. But the Bible also tells us  that Jesus is God, and that the Lord our God is One. So, even though our minds have a hard time really understanding it, it's true. Someday we'll understand it much better."

Now that I'm rested and the fishing poles are put away, I'm thinking a little more coherently. Not about my words to Austin, but about this place of mystery in our lives. The way we all deal with the unknowing that is an undeniable part of our Christian faith. As parents, and as people in relationship with God, we want to nail down the answers. We want to figure it out and learn it so we can defend it, and more, so we can live in an inner place of comfort.

I'm reading a book that pokes at this tendency of ours to want neat and tidy answers. To beneat and tidy people. It's titled Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron and is the fictional story of a pastor who has a breakdown of sorts and travels to Italy to encounter Francis of Assisi in his millenia-old surroundings.

In talking with a few priests who are hosting him, the pastor begins to see his own unknowing, his own brokenness, with new eyes.

"You'll never be able to speak into their souls unless you speak the truth about your own wounds," one of the priest says. "They want a leader who's authentic, someone trying to figure out how to follow the Lord Jesus in the joy and wreckage of life. They need you, not Moses."

And then the priest says, "Do you know how Simon Tugwell described Franciscanism? He called it 'the radically unprotected life,' a life that's cruciform in shape. ... Maybe living the unprotected life is what it means to be a Christian."

That night with Austin and a house full of tangle--it was the right night for a question without a good answer. It was the right night to remember Jesus' agony in relationship with his Father. And, perhaps my weary attempt was what it needed to be. The mystery of God, the cries of our suffering Servant, and the untidiness of me--they're things my kids need to see. And that image of the cross, I hope it comes to mind every time I'm spent and need to share just a little more of myself.

*The TAU cross shape in the photo above is the one that Francis of Assisi used in all his writings, minus the head. He painted it on the walls and doors of places he stayed and used it as his only signature. The TAU is a letter in both the Hebrew and Greek alphabets and has long been used as a sign of the cross. This stained glass is found in the St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Sacramento, CA.

Whats in a name?

"Call me by name oh Lord, when you call me into your kingdom!" In the last of our Lenten adventures we wanted to identify with people of a different race. Being multi-racial in our own family we had to stretch our imaginations a bit. So we went to a nearby ancient cliff dwelling national park called Mesa Verde. We have been there before and it is always interesting and fun to see and think about how people lived there. 7000+ feet elevation, 700+ years of civilization, farming, hunting, living to survive. This time was different though. We stayed on the Ute Nation reservation. Any person there could have told us what tribe they hail from. They could tell us stories from their ancestors. They could tell us their name and why they are named that. But the people that lived at Mesa Verde, that build these amazing feats of engineering (that have lasted for 2000 years), that survived in this area for over 700 years have no name. The government powers that be, have called them Anasazi for as long as I can remember but we now know that is a derogatory term from another large tribe in the area. So they are now called Ancestral Puebloans as ancestors of the modern tribes. However, no group claims this people now. They are nameless.

Even the term "indian" that we use comes from the fact that the early explorers thought they had found the East Indies. We use it to classify many people that don't identify with that name personally at all!

This astounded us. They have no name. Are they remembered? Are they valid? Are they significant in history? They were building a temple when there civilization stopped.  Why did they stop building it?  Who were they? We, in our culture, place so much value on a name.  We named our kids very specifically for the meanings. They fit their names. We wear names on our clothing. We drive vehicles with names. We associate names with our foods. We know that the name "Donald Trump" stands for money and risk," McDonalds" is fast food, "Hawaii" is sun and beach, "Mercedes" is nice car, "Organic" is better for you. "It's just a name" does not apply in this day and age. We use names to identify, to classify, to differentiate, to recognize, to assign, to clarify. These people from Mesa Verde have no name? How is that?

God calls us many things in His word...

"child of God"...John 1:12

"branch of the true vine, conduit of Christ"...John 15

"justified and redeemed"...Romans 3:24

"child and heir"...Galatians 3:28

"temple of the Holy Spirit"...1 Corinthians 1:30

"beloved"...Song of Songs

"new creation"...2 Corinthians 5:17

I could go on and on. HE calls us by name... HE changes our names to what HE knows us to be... HE names us!

 

Our "Lenten Adventures" have taken our hearts to see that the homeless need to be seen, the religious are doing what they think is best for them and their families, that those around us that speak other languages can be beautifully accepting, and that we all feel the need to be named. I'm not sure that the kids see how this applies to their lives or their relationships with God, but I certainly hope it makes us better parents to teach them the characteristics of God.

 

 

Never Give Up!

never-give-up-11-5 When I was talking with Kaiser about what he might consider giving up for Lent (knowing he had no comprehension of a 40 day fast no matter how I worded it), he responded oh so quickly and with such certainty, “Mom, I don’t give up!” And he’s held his ground on that throughout. I have really been enjoying reading the Scriptures with my son each day. This month we stopped our morning reading unintentionally and I really miss it. We are getting back into the swing of good mornings again as spring blooms around us and our health is restored.

Our evenings continue to be full of good conversations, though. I really appreciated Lacy’s “The Opportunity of Night” post – it’s the perfect time for heartfelt talk. It’s so good. Of course, with Kaiser “heartfelt” includes discussions on aliens and poopy diapers. And there are many, many nights where I’m too tired to answer his questions with any semblance of reality (usually because I’ve answered 3,568 similar questions throughout the day). But I know these times are precious and I know God’s Living Word is moving and working in the heart of my little boy.

When we entered the season of Lent, I decided to forego facebook and coffee – two precious things to me – with the intent of looking to God more often and with more longing. I couldn’t have anticipated how deeply this last minute decision would impact me. This is my first time giving anything up for Lent (that I can remember – I think I’ll give up remembering things for Lent next year). And I’ve found that I miss coffee far more than I miss facebook. Missing coffee has turned the very center of my being into an ocean of longing – which I direct to Christ, allowing that longing to reach for Him instead of for coffee. It’s surprisingly physical, this longing. I feel it. Everyday. I smell coffee and I reach for Christ. I like it that Kaiser sees me giving up coffee. He knows that I really like it, so doors have opened up for talking about how this makes me feel. And I like having conversations with him about when we don’t give up – and when we do.

Facebook has had a very different impact on this season of my life. Although it has been inconvenient at times (when I need to get directions to folks who are coming to my house for dinner and email or phone numbers haven’t been exchanged), it has been incomprehensibly freeing. My time isn’t bound by “catching up”. And my emotions aren’t on the roller coaster of cheering with friends who bought a new house one second and weeping with friends who lost a house the next. In all honesty, I feel anger and frustration more than any other emotion when I’m on facebook. I didn’t know that about myself until now. I like this freedom. It will certainly change the way I use facebook in the future.

Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week & Eastertide (Week 4, Thursday Prayer)

“Jesus, help us to live in the truth so we can be free from the tangles we get caught in. Lies trap and tangle us, but your truth sets us free!”

John 8:21-32

 

-Tamara

God Lives on a Disney Cruise Ship in the Caribbean

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IMG_5248

We don't travel long distances very much--partly because we've had young kids for the last 8 years, partly because we're definite homebodies, and partly because we already live in the most beautiful place in the world. But this past week we spent on a Disney cruise in the Caribbean, thanks to some very generous grandparents and a willingness to venture out of our comfort zone. And you know what I discovered? My view of God is so very small.

I like to take classes, read books, do family devotions like Good Dirt--all things that help expand my definition of who God is. I learn about God's character, and I remind myself often that the God I serve is loving and generous and trustworthy and good. And yet every time I travel, I realize "my god" is still so very small. I know the God who travels back and forth to my kids' school with me 6 times a day. I know the God who helps me with my children and joins me while doing laundry. I know the God who exists in San Luis Obispo and that He loves the people here. But it is so easy to forget that "my god" is the very same God who loves rich people on Disney cruises. And He is the same God who loves people barely scraping by with servant jobs on Caribbean islands. And He is the same God flying with people in airplanes all over this world He created. He is capable of loving and being with every one of us at the same time. My God is so much more than I allow Him to be most of the time.

A few weeks ago, my daughter asked me if five people were praying at the same time, could God hear all of them? Her definition of God is too small, just like mine. I told her that if five billion people were praying at the same time, God could still hear all of them. Even as I said the words, I knew it was next to impossible for me to believe, and I knew the look on Lauren's face said she doubted it, too. My prayer is that our family devotion times will expand our view of God, and help us to see more of who He is.

God, we believe. Help our unbelief!

Lent

So our Lenten season this year will be a bit different for us. We have in the past fasted as a family things like meat, media, other items from our lives that are "unnecessary." However, this year as Mike and I are frequently reminded how spoiled we are and we are constantly telling our kids how spoiled they are, we are trying something new. We both have travelled both to places where things are easy and where things are not so easy. We consistently find happier more satisfied people in places that struggle. Here in our Colorado lives where the sun shines and we are warm, fed and clothed we feel as if we struggle when we are looking to ourselves and our things or at our "neighbors" for our fulfillment.  So begins our season of Lent. As we were looking toward this season of penitence we asked our kids about what they might feel led to fast. Isabella decided on her own to fast pizza, ice cream, chocolate and peanut butter. Since the rest of us probably could not survive without 1 never the less all 4 of these things we are letting her fast these things alone. To Quinn we suggested he fast hot sauce as he literally has an addiction but you would have thought we asked for his arms...so we let this go too. Kadin is 4 and if it is out of sight it is out of mind so fasting for him is not too difficult since he just goes on to the next thing.  Mike and I just came off a fast from last month for another thing we have chosen to do. All this to say we aren't fasting.

We have decided to make our season of identifying with Jesus' sacrifice also a season of identifying with certain people groups around us. We have chosen 4 different people groups to delve into their lives. The 1st is those that live where they do not speak the language. In our tiny town of 2000, about half are Spanish speakers. Mike calls it "little Tijuana".  I sometimes find myself thinking that "They should learn English!" That confession out there... these are the 1st we are recognizing. On Sunday we attended a Spanish mass, then went to an authentic Mexican restaurant. I know that you are thinking that doesn't sound like much of a struggle. It wasn't. I must confess...we loved the service and we loved the restaurant. The church was standing room only and the restaurant we were recognized because we frequent the establishment. We used our tiny vocabularies of Spanish words to follow the mass and to order food. What brought it home for us was that we stood out! We were definitely the odd balls in both places and everyone knew it. We were not unwelcomed or treated unkindly. Quite the opposite! Quinn did say that if he couldn't understand his coaches or  his teachers it would be "totally hard!" But it makes him understand his teammates Juan and Sergio better and why they don't talk a whole lot.

We have plans for 3 more weeks of recognizing hardships of others...of putting ourselves into their lifestyles and into their situations. We could do this for many many months without exhausting a supply of groups. We are praying that our kids realize how good they have life and that we remember that our battles in this life could be so much harder. We all need to remember that ALL good things come from God and that to HIM and HIM alone are we to be grateful.

Peace on Earth

I heard the bells on Christmas DayTheir old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

I have this song echoing in my head. I thought it a little strange that Christmas was hollering for attention just as Lent was opening his wide, grey doors.  “Hush, now! I’m trying to concentrate on concentrating. I’m trying to be Lenten intentional here.”

And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way, The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Our home has not been very peaceable this month with the stresses of illness and an unexpected hospital stay.  Yet our hearts have known peace.  Peace came with every prayer you uttered on our behalf.  Thank you.  Oh, thank you for those gifts.

Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

The world around us isn’t very peaceable. My heart groans more than it articulates words in prayer for the countries that are hurting so desperately right now. It’s difficult to talk with a 4yr old about these things. All he hears right now is……”Oh Lord, bring Your peace to Venezuela. Let your peace be known in the Ukraine. In Russia. In the Koreas. In Sudan. And South Sudan. In China. In Egypt…….”

And in despair I bowed my head; "There is no peace on earth," I said;

"For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men."

I long to be an instrument of God’s peace. But I’m not always ready. I want this season of Lent to be a season of being ready.  May the Lord cut through my fundamental understanding of what peace looks like and how it needs to be brought to the hearts of those around me. May my son recognize the effects of God’s peace and become a herald of it.

“How can you prepare your heart today for Jesus tomorrow?”

-Good Dirt (Epiphany)

-Tamara

Everything Is Awesome

BeAwesomeWallpaper (If you've seen The Lego Movie recently, you will now have this song in your head for the next 12 hours. You're welcome.)

For about a year, the wallpaper on my phone said simply 2 words: be awesome. As cheesy as it is, there was something about that phrase that struck me--in a good way. Because there are so many things in this world that aren't awesome, and yet they are able to take up so much of our time, money, and thoughts. It was my reminder every time I turned on my phone to return to what is awesome.

For some reason, this is what came to my mind the other day when my 8-year-old asked, "Mommy, why do people give up things for Lent?"

Now, this blog already has some awesome explanations of what Lent is and how to celebrate it with children, so I won't repeat all of that here. But I can tell you the answer I gave to my daughter. I fast from something in Lent because it is an opportunity to let go of something that isn't awesome. Something that has crept into my life and taken over in a way that keeps me from living my best life with God. It's a chance to create a new habit or give up an old one and turn our lives back in the direction we're wanting to go. Because everything is not awesome, and we have the ability to choose what will be a part of our lives.

So what am I giving up for Lent? In a word, shopping. If you know me in person, this may surprise you, as I am a fairly... frugal person. But giving up shopping for Lent is more about my time and less about my money. Because, as a homemaker, much of my responsibilities involve spending our money in the best possible way. And a cheap perfectionist can spend hours trying to find the absolute best deal on everything. So I have found my days have gradually become more and more about searching for deals and coupons online, driving around to different stores to buy everything at the best price, and even occasionally rewarding myself by wandering through the aisles of Target or World Market while the kids are in school. And while I don't think any of those things are necessarily bad in and of themselves (and it is certainly important to be good stewards of our money), they are not the best way for me to be spending so much of my time. I think God is far more concerned with how much time I spend with Him and serving others than with how many dollars I saved on my last shopping trip.

So I am receiving Lent as an opportunity to make changes in my life. I will still do the grocery shopping every week (because it's my job!) and I will still buy the necessities that my family needs. But no online shopping for me, no window shopping, and no hours spent in search of the best possible deal ever. I see it as a chance to take back some of the hours in my day and an experiment in being more awesome.

What about you? Have you asked God what He would like you to give up for Lent? Are your children participating this year? I really would love to know--and feel free to ask me how the shopping fast is going. Have a blessed Lenten season.

~Carolyn

The Eyes to See

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Often in Good Dirt we asked reflective questions. These are great for children beginning in about late 2nd grade depending on the child, but any earlier and it goes something like this... On Mark 10:32-45, "What has the Son of Man come to do? How can you serve others today?"

After asking this young children will often look at you with a blank stare, or if you've got a budding comic on your hands it might be more like, "I think he's come to eat dinner with us. And Legos are my favorite."

For children under the age of roughly eight, the beauty of the Seasons of the Church are in the ritual. ("Rhythm" if you are not Catholic.) It's the daily opening of the Bible and quietly listening to the same stories that will seep in over time, over years. The reflective questions are of little help.  The questions will help the older children and certainly the adults, but the younger folks don't quite have the language to express what they know is true. Their knowledge of the subject is limited.

I know you're thinking, "Just what do they know?"  They know that goodness is something they want. No kid wants bad stuff. None. In my years of teaching I never saw a kid who wanted to be bad. Yes, there were many who couldn't find their way to goodness, but they always wanted it.  Goodness is a characteristic of God.

They know that truth is good. They may not always tell the truth, but they always want the truth told to them. No child likes deceit.  Truth is a characteristic of God.

They will always stop and wonder at beauty. Children under the age of eight will still follow a butterfly around the yard just to catch a glimpse of it's beauty. They will pick the petals of a rose to feel the beauty in their fingers. Beauty is a characteristic of God.

So how do we teach them the language they need? How do we help them connect with the goodness, truth and beauty of God?

When you tuck them in for the night ask,

"When did you see something good today?" Then remind them that God is good.

What made you happy or sad today? (This is telling the truth about themselves. This is the first truth we learn.)

What did you see today that was beautiful?

Don't choose all of these. and don't look for a specific answer. Let them simply work their knowledge of God into language. It's a bit like when they first learned to talk. Lots of babbling, many mispronunciations, joyful laughter and celebration.