When I was little, pre-school, I would hop off the wooden pews every Sunday to make my way over to the place where Clarice Lemley sat. Clarice, was in my mind, exactly Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith show. She was plump and grey headed and wore flowered dresses. And she always had gum to give to kids who asked for a piece. She also had a beautiful garden and made a mean pot roast with gravy and mashed potatoes for Sunday dinner.
Clarice is one those women who influenced my life without trying. She was just her kind self. She made me feel welcome. And she evoked a desire to make something delicious and beautiful.
Today at church, a smiling, silver-headed woman, asked me about my week and listened as I shared my current struggle with the transition into mothering young adults. She shared some of her experience and hugged me.
This kind of modeling and engaging conversations between generations is something I value and deeply desire. When I experience it, I feel built up. I feel connected to something greater than me and my circumstances. I’m part of a one-anotherness. A community. I need the elders and I need the young-ones too. And they need me.
I hope to be a Clarice to children growing up in the church where I teach them in Sunday school, and sing with them on the front row. And I want to be the woman who hugged me and encouraged me today from her place a few years up the road in motherhood.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.
This is my neighborhood. We are people trying to get away from the city just enough to escape the rules and regulations, but not so much that we have drive too far to get to Target. We’re American consumers, blue-collar workers, homemakers, nurses, police officers, small business owners, veterans and retirees.
Listening to Wendell Berry this evening got me thinking about the culture I live in. The culture I’ve built. The economy I’m part of.
I buy clothes with tags that say they were made in Taiwan, Indonesia and China. I buy milk, ground beef and chicken thighs at Sam’s club. My neighbors, like me, probably give little thought to where our food and cloths come from. But we’re also a people trying to take the dirt on our little 1-2 acre plots of desert and produce something good from it.
My neighbor has a wonderful garden, milks dairy goats, makes cheese and all kinds of wonderful dishes from her small homesteadish place.
We, like most of our neighbors, have chickens, and very rarely have to buy eggs from the grocery store. We also have goats and make soap from the goat milk we’ve stored over the years.
In Berry’s essay, “Total Economy,” he writes how I, and those in my neighborhood have given proxy to corporations to provide ALL of our food, clothing and shelter, even our entertainment, education and care for our children, sick and elderly. And he’s right.
But I am seeking to live in a repentant posture from this proxy.
Why? Because I believe I was made by God to, “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28) and be my brothers keeper (Genesis 4:9), and love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:39), in a way that reflects God’s goodness.
I don’t believe I was made to let corporations do all of the subduing for me, do all the caring for my children, the sick in my community and the elderly in my life, so that I can do all the consuming.
I believe God made me to do the good, small and local work of all those efforts.
I can’t, of course, produce everything I need to live in this time and place on my little one acre lot. I can’t do all the caring for my children, or tend to the needs of al the elderly and infirm in my life. But I can do what I can do.
My next effort to push up through the concrete proxy I’ve given to corporations is to learn to plant something my family and I can eat, visit my neighbors, and humbly give thanks for those who make my clothes, package my chicken and care for my children and elderly neighbors.
I took a long walk with my German Shephard, Lukas, this evening. The sun is setting earlier. The sky glows with shades of orange and pink and the world seems to cover itself with a honey-kissed filter. I’m drawn out of the house easily on these fall evenings in the Sonoran desert.
Usually I take Lukas down our suburban neighborhood streets, earbuds in, podcast or audio bible or audio book, but tonight, I walked in silence. I listened. I noticed how much I wanted to hear something. Something meaningful. Something insightful. Something I could write or share that might give another struggling soul, courage. But I heard nothing. Nothing but the sound of my steps pressing gravel into the earth. I heard kids playing in the alleyway, hollering to each other working out the rules to the game they were playing. I heard the swoosh and vroom of cars and trucks and motorcycles driving down the main road around the corner. I caught myself reaching for my phone. Wanting to scroll to find some Yoda-like tweet or inspiring instagram story.
As I walked home, noticing the changing colors in the darkening sky, accepting the noises of dusk in Phoenix, Arizona suburbs, I thought about how the daily activities of life fill my days and I very rarely accept silence.
I have no special insight to publish tonight. No word from God. No inspirational quotes.
I don’t like a lot of my circumstances. I long for God to do something new in the lives of those I love, in my own life. But tonight I’ll just quietly wait. And walk. And listen. And pray.
I listened to Ashley Hales podcast, Finding Holy, the other day. Tish Warren Harrison, the guest, shared her desire to help the Church find a way, “…between capitulation and combativeness,” in relating to those who see the world differently than they do.
I’m always drawn to discussions about how Christians should relate to those whose worldview is different. Not because I’m trying finally find the right answer, but because that is my life. My husband is not a Christian. As he puts, we have different loves, “You worship Jesus and I don’t.” Those are his words.
My worship of Jesus and my husband’s resistance to worship has been a source of pain between us for 28 years. And like Tish discussed on the podcast, I’ve swung between capitulation and combativeness, or in my case, capitulation and comatoseness, in our 28 years together. I’m an enneagram 9. So I don’t tend toward combativeness. In fact I’d rather go numb than combat anyone, over just about anything except my kids. Come for my kids, and I’ll turn Rambo on you. But I digress. What Tish said caught my attention because I have experienced the hand of God continually guiding me to walk the path of vulnerable and fearless love on the solid ground between joining my husband’s unbelief and fighting against it, or in my case, going numb to it.
There is a way to love between capitulation and combativeness…or comatoseness.
The temptation to surrender to unbelief, to give up on being involved in church, reading my Bible, praying, singing songs of worship, giving generously, serving others and teaching my children about Jesus is always there. I don’t even need my husband’s unbelief to be tempted to give up on those things. My own self-centered desires beckon me to take up the life Christ has called me to lay down. As though I would be a better god than He.
The other option would be to fight against my husband’s unbelief, berating him with Bible verses, well-thought out arguments, pointing out all his moral failings. Or in my case, saying nothing. Withdrawing. Going into doormat mode. I am guilty of both. The temptation to check-out whispers, “It doesn’t matter what you say. You might as well disappear. Nothing you say or do is going to change anything.”
Jesus has been pulling me out of the ditches on either side of loving my husband well for 28 years. And he’s kept my husband’s heart turned towards his family, despite all the siren songs that have tried to shipwreck our life. When I find myself veering towards one ditch or the other, I’m helped by being honest about my own brokenness, being vulnerable- willing to bear the pain that comes with speaking the truth, and by taking a posture of service.
Don’t get me wrong here. I fail at those three practices all the time. Like I said, Jesus has been pulling me out of the ditch on either side of this trail following him in learning to love well. But I am learning.
One of the things I’m learning is a key to fostering healthy relationships with others, whether they share your faith or not, is acknowledging that we both have brokenness. Part of learning to love another well is facing your own problems and lack of faith. I can’t easily turn towards combativeness or comatoseness with my husband if I acknowledge that I too struggle with lust for power, self-centeredness, and pride.
When the differences between what guides my decisions and desires and what guides my husband’s seem to pit us against each other, being willing to be vulnerable, to speak the truth in love, even if it’s not received, puts a cruciform posture in my part of the relationship. That posture speaks Christ. It’s says, “This is wrong. And I love you. I’m not going to abandon you even though dealing with this hurts.” To be willing to suffer the pain of addressing the problems we have with each other and not abandon the relationship simply because we don’t agree is a Christlike posture that deals in a currency of compassion rather than combativeness or comatoseness.
When I think about what I believe-that the Jesus of the Bible is God in the flesh, come to live a fully human life and take the form of a servant. Touching the untouchables. Reasoning with the proud and argumentative. Healing the sick. Delivering the demonized. Teaching the stubborn. Washing the feet of those who would abandon him. When I think about this Jesus, I can’t take a posture of proud distain of even the most corrupt combatant who disagrees with me. Much less my own husband or neighbors, coworkers or friends who don’t see eye to eye with me. Jesus compels me to take a posture of serving these. How can I help you get what you need? What can I do to bring joy or blessing to you? What can I say that would encourage you? These are the questions Jesus brings to these sometimes awkward and strained relationships
This man I love, I wish he would embrace the Jesus of the Bible as his savior and God and follow him with me. I wish that for my family, friends and neighbors and those who think I’m nuts.
But if they never do, it will not be a waste of my life to let Jesus spend my life teaching me to love them well.
I remember things that seem to have zero importance. Like the smell of the small stairway that led to the attic-level Children’s Ministry classroom in my childhood church.
I remember the smell. I remember the stairway being narrow. I remember the small window from which I could look down and see the church sanctuary. And I faintly remember dark cabinetry and a flannel board.
But when my son is obsessed with his appearance and I fear that I didn’t do enough to instill God’s word and the hope of the gospel in his life, I seem to have total amnesia to the eternal, historical and experiential truths of God and Christ. I forget what God has done. I forget what he’s promised. I forget how he redeemed and is still redeeming me.
When I am scheduled to teach kids at church on a Sunday, or speak to a group of people on a specific subject, I’ll do the work needed to prepare myself. So I decided to give myself an assignment: a blog series on remembering God. My goal: to write on one eternal, historical or experiential truth of God in an effort to deliberately remember.
Maybe like me, you’re a married mom of kids in the launch-out phase of development, working full time and involved in your local church, trying to balance work, rest and play. Or maybe you’re in a completely different demographic. Whatever your lot, if you’re a Christian, intentionally remembering what God has done and promised has got to be good for you, and me.
To prevent this intentional forgetting our brains do, we have to intentionally remember. According to the researchers, “The more often a memory is recalled, the stronger its neural network becomes. Over time, and through consistent recall, the memory becomes encoded in both the hippocampus and the cortex. Eventually, it exists independently in the cortex, where it is put away for long-term storage.”
God knows this about our brains. (Surprise!) And throughout scripture, he tells his people to intentionally remember what he’s done and said. This is one of the functions of the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25:26 ESV)
So, if you find yourself struggling with the day to day of life, or the crisis that has hit you, join me here every weekend to remember some of the eternal, historical and experiential truths of God.
I’ve been in a church since the week after I was born. Every church I’ve been part of has impacted my life in a unique way. Like an arm is different from the liver, these churches were all very different. Among them were bad teachings. But at each church I grew. I learned. I love Christ more because of them all.
It seems there’s a reckoning happening in the American church. There are good reasons why some have left titles or denominations behind. The Church is in need of washing and pruning, discipline and rebuke. But She is also the source of health and growth for the Christian. See 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.
Where I learned the hymns that saved me
From birth through fourth grade my parents brought me up in a non-instrument, no classes Church of Christ. I didn’t realize it until I was in my late teens, but the church of my childhood believed it was sinful and a show to use musical instruments in the church gathering. We were to “sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to one another” in the church gathering.
My childhood church also prohibited classes of any kind. Not for kids. Not Sunday school. No classes. But they loved to sing well. Since there were no instruments I guess they honed in on making sure we were all in tune.
I remember seeing the man leading us in hymns blow on his tuning pipe, then humming to tune his own voice, then putting his arm in the air to conduct the congregation in the right tempo of the song. We sang, “Some glad morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away,” and “There is power, power, wonder working power. In the blood. Of the Lamb.” The women harmonized with the men. The heart rumbling tone of the baritone men, singing their part, is forever in my memory.
My childhood church’s doctrine on water baptism, women being silent and submissive, singing strictly acapella, and classes being prohibited made a huge impression on me. And not for the good. But despite the bad teaching, the Holy Spirit reached me there.
At age sixteen, listening to an acapella singing of Amazing Grace at a Bill Gothard conference, I heard the Lord call me to follow Him. At my childhood church I learned to love the hymns. And I learned to love the simplicity and commonness of the gathering of God’s people. My childhood church taught me to receive the reading of scripture, engage in the singing of hymns to each other, and to partake of the Lord’s Supper in memory of Jesus.
Where I learned to love the Bible
In my early adult years I looked for a church alone. My husband and I were newlyweds and I was newly aware of his lack of interest in going to church. I was also a new believer. I was hungry for God’s word. And I found a church that fed me. Calvary Chapel.
I remained in a Calvary Chapel for more than ten years. During those years I learned about the Holy Spirit, prophecy, spiritual gifts and the power of the Bible. The pastors and teachers at Calvary Chapel showed me that anyone, in the context of the church, under the authority of elders, could open a BIble and teach God’s word.
In those years at Calvary Chapel I didn’t realize how the emphasis on a certain interpretation of the end times was impacting me. I would later come to see this over-emphasis on a pre-tribulation interpretation of scripture as distracting from the gospel and discipleship. But in my years at Calvary Chapel I learned to pray, listen to God, and study my Bible.
Where my childhood beliefs were challenged and I was loved
When my sons were just entering elementary school I began attending a Bible church. In this small Bible church I learned about church history and the words church people have for different theological stances.
I learned about Calvinism and Armenianism. I learned about cessationism and dispensationalism. And I learned that there are churches that don’t baptise people in water.
This was a source of wrestling for me. I grew up with a theologically heretical teaching that said you had to be baptised (emersed) in water at a Church of Christ to be accepted into those pearly gates we sang so well about in our accapella hmns. I knew that teaching was off, but no water baptism at all? The Bible church’s pastor challenged me to examine the meaning of baptism.
Even though I don’t agree with the reasoning for no water baptism, that Bible church showed me what it means to love the members of your church. That church supported me when my marriage was about to end. They bought me a car. Gave me a bed. And sent me to Oregon to visit my family. They also whet my taste for church history.
Where the gospel was held high and I learned to lead
This brings me to my current SBC affiliated church. This church, I love her. The pastor and leaders in my church have made the preaching of the gospel powerful and applicable. They’ve taught me the importance of discipling others, making friends about Jesus with open Bibles and open lives in small groups. They’ve taught me to lead, which has filled in a void from my childhood where I was taught women were never to lead anything. But mostly, they’ve taught me to respond to the gospel as a believer with faith and repentance on a day-in, day-out basis.
The Church has sin that needs to be confessed and repented of. Wickedness that needs to be purged. Abuse that needs to be exposed and condemned. But She also has the truth that builds up the Christian, deepening her roots in the love of Christ and helping her to produce fruit for the glory of God and the good of the kingdom. I’m grateful for the Church. I love her.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21
Whether your church calls it family ministry, children’s ministry, kids ministry… whatever it’s called, here are three reasons people often give for why they shouldn’t serve in a ministry that involves children. I propose these three reasons are exactly why you should sign up this Sunday to serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation.
Because You Aren’t a Kid Person
I hear this a lot. As a kids ministry leader at my church, I often hear people say they aren’t kid people. That’s why they don’t serve in kids ministry. And to a point there’s good reasoning there.
Not everyone is suited for holding babies, singing Jesus Loves Me with toddlers, and teaching elementary students to discern Jesus from the Bible lesson. In fact, there are some really good reasons a person should have no contact with kids in church. But just because you don’t feel all warm and fuzzy when kids are around, and you don’t talk to babies like you’re in a cartoon, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation.
In fact, if you are quick to say, “I’m not a kid person,” you should sign up to serve in kids ministry. Let God take that aversion you have to kids and the chaos they may make you feel, and use it to lower yourself and listen to Jesus say, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
If you’re not a kid person, you don’t have to be the lead teacher or the one who guides the toddlers in a game of follow the leader. But get on the ground next to a kid playing with the Noah’s ark play set. Let God use those kids to show you how much he loves and accepts you as you are, and is leading you to grow up to be like Jesus.
Because You Work With Kids All Day Long
A reason many give for not serving in a ministry to children is that they work with kids every day during the week. They don’t want to work with kids at church too.
Teachers, daycare workers, preschool aides… you all are the pros! Your church’s kids ministry needs you to help them learn how to manage a classroom. We need your skills!
In Exodus 35, when Moses called the people of Israel to build the tabernacle as God instructed, he called for people with different skills to use their abilities not just for their own homes, but for the house God was having them build.
“Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded… All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair… ‘See the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Juday; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship…” Exodus 35:10, 26, 30-31
Jesus is building his church. And one way he does that is by calling people with different abilities in the church to serve one another using those skills. There’s an ability needed to guide a group of kids to listen and learn together. If you have that skill, sign up this Sunday to serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation. Build Jesus’ kingdom with your classroom management talents.
Towards the end of his message, Piper responds to Paul’s desire to go to Jerusalem in Acts 20:22, as a fictional American trying to talk some sense into the elderly apostle:
But Paul, you’re getting old. How ’bout a little cottage on the Aegean Sea? You’ve already done more in your ministry than most people could do in five lifetimes. It’s time to rest. Let the last twenty years of your life be travel and golf, shuffleboard and putzing around the garage and digging in the garden. Let Timothy have a chance. He’s young. Don’t go to Jerusalem. Agabus the prophet has told you, they are going to bind your hands and feet and hand you over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:11). And whatever you do, don’t go to Rome. And get out of your head the crazy plan of going to Spain at your age. You could get yourself killed. It isn’t American! It’s not the American Dream of ‘the sunset years.
The point of Piper’s message is old age in Jesus’ church isn’t a reason for sitting back and relaxing while younger folks do the work of the ministry. And it isn’t just John Piper preaching this message. In the Bible the psalmist pleads with God to give him a ministry even when he’s old, “So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71:18)
And in Joshua 14:6-15, when 85 year old Caleb finally enters the land God promised Israel, he tells Joshua, “And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”
Not every person of retirement age can get down on the ground with toddlers, but if you’re a retiree and you can enter a church building, this Sunday you should sign up to serve the next generation of parents and children in your church.
Ok, that’s four, and it’s not a reason people give for not wanting to serve in a ministry to children. But I think it’s a reason many of us serious folks might unconsciously use as a reason we avoid kids ministry.
I tend to be too serious. In fact, it’s a prayer of mine this year that I will laugh more. I know that’s pathetic, but its true. Serving in kids ministry has caused me to laugh and have fun even while the hard things of life happen around us.
Proverbs 31 speaks of the woman who is clothed with strength and dignity. She opens her mouth and teaches others with kindness and wisdom. And she laughs at the time to come.
When you lower yourself to sit criss-cross and sing Jesus Loves Me with toddlers; when you learn to teach Jesus to a child, you will grow in strength and dignity and you’ll find yourself having the best kind of fun. You’ll laugh with a pure heart and it will be good!
I pray this stirs your heart. I pray if you’re not a kid person, and if you’re a teacher person or a retired person, you will turn your reasons for not serving the children and parents in your church into the reasons you sign up to serve them on Sunday.
In the days after the November 3rd election, I scrolled through my Twitter and Facebook feeds, reading posts from people with crosses, fish symbols and scripture references in their taglines, that left me grieved.
They used words like, “go to hell,” held up their Bibles, guns, favored-candidate’s flag, and accused other Christians on social media of being “baby-killers” and “lost” because they pledged to pray for a pro-choice democrat if elected. In response I tweeted this question:
“Christian, if you’re cutting people off, calling them names, mocking and slandering them, how exactly are you loving your enemies?”
But simply sub-tweeting a pained reply to what I read on social media isn’t going to make the difference I long to see.
One of the writers I follow on Twitter, recently said:
“It’s easier to write a book about a subject than to live the subject in a low, slow, & consistent way. If we think we’ll make a bigger difference in the world thru publishing our message than by simply living our message, God will (hopefully tenderly, softly, kindly) correct us.” – @lorewilbert
Social media and the internet make it easy for anyone to write anything. But as Lore points out, living the words we publish in a, “…low, slow & consistent way,” is the real world-changer. The incarnation of our words is a demonstration of power. To persuade a group of people to like what you say or repeat what you say is a kind of power. But to take the words you say and live them out changes lives.
It was easy for me to post my subtweet response on Facebook. It will be much harder, and much more an evidence of the power of Christ in me when I love the people who post such things, the same way Christ has loved me.
It feels weird to say it, but my “enemies” are people who use mean words on social media to demonize people they don’t agree with. Living out what I wrote, “low and slow” means praying for those people. Taking actual time out of my day to move my lips and complain to God, not social media, seeking mercy on their behalf just as I have been shown great mercy from Jesus. And if possible, meeting with them personally to humbly listen and share the truth and grace of Jesus.
Jesus is clear. The way he has prescribed and empowered us to follow him is from a humble, gentle, yet bold posture. A posture that doesn’t use words to tear people down or prop yourself up. The way commanded to us is a way of wisdom, self-control and gracious speech. But, is there a time for Christians to mock or use name calling?
In the Bible, Jesus called the religious leaders who tied heavy burdens on their followers and used them for financial gain a, “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23).
In the Bible, Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27) in an ancient showdown.
These examples make us stand up and cheer! We latch on easily to the person with the wittiest comebacks and sharpest jabs. We hear meek Jesus put those Pharisees on blast, and Elijah drop the mic on the prophets of Baal, and we arm ourselves Biblical support for mocking and name calling.
I doubt that any of us can, with a pure heart, call another people group a degrading name, or make fun of another religion’s gods, in a way that fulfills Christ’s commission to make disciples. But even if there are times when such shocking words are spoken with humility and boldness, these biblical examples don’t prescribe a mode of operation for Christians.
If our mode of operation as Christians turns from the humble, bold way of Jesus, to the in-your-face, mocking, proud, name-calling way of the culture and wayward leaders, I fear we will offend our neighbors and enemies and wall ourselves in tight from all opposing views so well, we will lose the chance to win them to Christ.
A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle. – Proverbs 18:19
It was never intended for you to be mine
Only that my womb would be the secret place where you were knit
Only that my body would bear the pain that gave you breath.
It was never meant that I would get to keep you close
Only that my days would be crouched low telling you what you did not know
Listening and smiling at your every coo
Wondering at the fact I get to raise you
It was never the plan that I would keep you from falling
Only that when you did I’d come running
Holding you close while you were crying.
It was never my role to teach you everything
Only to rub that spot on your back all knotted up
While you told me you didn’t feel like you would make the cut.
It was never meant for me to hold you tight
To keep you from sin’s deadly plight
Only that I should proclaim to you
The good news that could make you new.
It was never scheduled that you would stay
Only that while you were away
I would pray, and pray and pray…
You were born that way.
One day you will leave
And it is not me to whom you will cleave
Only to another
Someone never meant to be your mother.