Wide-eyed

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When I painted this portrait of our son at about seven years old I never imagined sitting with him beside a pool watching his own son who is now about the same age. Children are wonderful gifts and grandchildren doubly so. They teach us so much about the eagerness to learn and discover.

Jesus called a little one to his side and said to them, “Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in.”

(Matthew 18:2,3 TPT)

May we never lose our wonder.

When Kindness Isn’t Kind

 

“PRAISE GOD! I’M FREE!” he shouted as he leapt onto the grassy bank from the back seat of my car.

poke kids fighting IMG_0047My grandson threw his arms in the air and did an enthusiastic Pentecostal two-step right there. I laughed, but I understood the feeling.

I took my young grandchildren to the splash park this week. We had a marvelous time and I was impressed with how well the children got along and looked after each other.

Then we drove home.

Securing three car seats in a space usually taken by jackets and stuff that won’t fit in the trunk of my car was a challenge, but we did it. It meant my grandson was squished in the middle seat between his sisters though. Opportunity for boundary violations abounded. All three took advantage of those opportunities.

Finally, after a useless lecture on the dangers of escalating a conflict with over-reaction, I put on my stern voice.

“No! You may not poke each other! If you continue this I am stopping the car right now!”

That was a useless threat thirty years ago and its effectiveness has not improved, but you know, tradition.

Finally I commanded, “I want you to do one kind thing for each other, right now!”

That’s when the kissing started. Big sister planted a sloppy wet one on brother’s shoulder. His eww inspired another then another. He leaned away but that put him in range of little sister who covered him with similar passive aggressive affection. The girls giggled. He protested. Loudly.

Ten blocks to go. Nine… eight…

Later, as I was telling his Dad about my amusement at his son’s actions (the joyful exclamation part, not the misbehaving part – that’s between us) I remembered times when I was equally as happy to be freed from the “kind” ministrations of people with a self-serving agenda. False kindness can be like sending truckloads of used junk to disaster areas that have no place to put it as an excuse to clean closets and feel good about ourselves at the same time. Perhaps well-meaning, but not well thought out.

Boundary violating kisses I have known often started with:
~I’m telling you this in love.. (because even I realize the action is not exactly communicating “love”).
~I have a ministry opportunity for you…
~This worked for me so it will obviously work for you…
~I know you have a weight problem, but I made these cupcakes just for you…
~I read this on paranoid tendencies.com and you need to implement the findings immediately…
~Thus saith the Lord, if you do not heed the advice of this, his servant, it will not go well for you…
~This is what you need to do because, in my opinion, this is how a good Christian dresses, or worships, or prays, or votes, or diets, or donates, or handles Hallowe’en…
~I’m just protecting you. These are the teachers/preachers who disagree with me or give me an icky feeling. Shun them.

One day I finally realized I was free to jump out of the confines of that harassment. “Praise God! I’m free!”

Kisses can be loving and kind. Sometimes these were about good things the speaker learned and wanted to pass on. He or she meant well, but, it was still a bit self-serving. It’s difficult to untangle a desire to help from a desire to be in control. I’ve done it too – and suffered the consequences. When you remove people’s power to self-govern they tend to express exasperation in unexpected ways. We with a yearning to teach also need to learn to share knowledge and still honour people’s ability to think and decide for themselves. One size does not fit all.

I have noticed in the scripture that Jesus responded to individuals differently. He didn’t heal the same way every time. He didn’t use the same tone of voice with everyone. Even now he speaks to his beloved according to their needs and temperament and meets them where they are.

Maybe a brother or sister needs a kiss. Maybe they need to be noticed and a friendly poke or a holy kiss, or a culturally appropriate side hug is the perfect response. But maybe they need respect and space to work it out with the Lord on their own. Maybe they need freedom.

You are perfectly free to ignore this if it doesn’t minister to you. Just sayin’.

Every Detail

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Have you ever searched online for a recipe using the ingredients you actually have in the house? Have you clicked on the suggested site and then had to plow through the details of the cook’s day before finding the instructions way down at the bottom under photos of her aunt’s birthday party? Have you ever said to yourself in exasperation, “All I want to know is how many eggs?

Have you ever been trapped by the expectation of polite silence placed on the captured pew audience and listened to a rambling sermon that seemed to include a dozen unrelated illustrations plucked at random from the Good Book. Have you wondered where this was going, if anywhere?

Have you ever said to someone, “How are you?” and they took your question as a literal invitation to recite their medical records? Have you wondered if you should send flowers now or wait for the funeral should they actually succumb to toenail fungus?

Have you ever wanted to say, “I don’t have time for this. Please just get to the point?”

I’m sure people have with me. One of the advantages of writing is the ability to edit out superfluous detail. People don’t have time to travel rabbit trails with me, and frankly, even the most caring among us does not have the capacity to listen to every detail, let alone delight in it.

Have you ever asked your child or grandchild about the classic movie a friend took them to and been delighted to hear every detail, from the story of the kid who spilled his popcorn in the lobby to a description of the hero’s father’s home planet? Our delight is not in the movie. We’ve seen it. Our delight is in the relationship. We rejoice in the child’s joy.

People who have lost spouses or friends, or have been separated from them for long periods of time, tell me the hardest part is not having anyone to share good news with. Someone who cares about the details of your day, someone who doesn’t communicate with watch checking or key jangling that they just want you to get to the point, someone who actually enjoys being in your presence is one of the greatest gifts to our souls’ well-being.

Here’s the most beautiful thing about our relationship with God. He has all the time in the world. He has an infinite capacity to care. He delights in you and every detail of your life.

When I first started on a journey to get to know God better I decided to go on a long walk with Jesus. I didn’t know what to say, so I told him about a movie I had seen. I pretended I was holding his hand like I was a child. I didn’t listen much. I didn’t know I could. After a few days of telling him about the details of my life no one else seemed interested in, he began to tell me about the things he cared about. It began with a flower in the woods, and a bird in the tree.

I began to listen. I wept with him. I rejoiced with him. Because he listens.

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The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.

Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.

(Psalm 37:23, 24 NLT)

Save

Love-a-ly

IMG_3128 One isalnd lake kids

“What a love-a-ly day! We are going to have a beautiful day today, Nana!” my little granddaughter said as she ran down the trail down to the lake. “Look! Look! Look!”

Soon other children joined her to watch a flock of birds swooping over the turquoise water.

“That’s so amazing! Wahoo!!”

I love the way children greet the morning with enthusiasm. They teach me the joy of wonder.

Yes! It’s here! A new day! And it’s beautiful. Wahoo!

Thank you, Lord.

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.

Ransomed,
healed,
restored,
forgiven,

Evermore His praises sing:
Praise Him, praise Him, alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King.

Trust Me

 

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I have encountered enough narcissistic and sociopathic personalities in my lifetime that if a charming new acquaintance says, “Trust me,” I’m pretty sure I should do just the opposite.

In this time in history the Lord seems to be exposing hidden corruption in formerly trusted institutions. Whether revelations involve government, media, medicine, education, religion, or even dark family secrets mouldering away in too many basements, it is easy to become jaded.

When the foundations are crumbling, what can we do?

We are facing a national and international crisis of trust. Who do we believe? Who is not secretly self-serving? This is not limited to individuals who lack empathy. Special interest groups and even entire countries seem to be following a me-first narcissistic agenda.

Many people are shouting, “You’ve got to do something!” Few people have helpful suggestions.

As I face situations all around me which I cannot possibly fix and am tempted to go into over-responsible eldest child overdrive I hear my heavenly Father’s voice.

Trust Me.

I do, Lord. Mostly. I wish I could trust you more. I just don’t know how.

Grace.

Grace?

Grace not only allows you to see who I am, it reveals who I am not. My Grace trumps the world’s expectations.

I pondered this. My past experience taught me to expect punishment, criticism, disapproval, disappointment, nasty surprises, betrayal.

Then I watch the little grandchildren I have been caring for. They are so sweet. I don’t have to be fashionably attractive, or legally vetted, or financially well-endowed, or Good Housekeeping-approved to earn a genuine spontaneous hug. They trust me.

I make mistakes, and accidentally step on toes or forget which coloured bowl they prefer, but I adore them and would never intentionally do anything to harm them. They know that. They trust me to protect them, nurture them and have their best interests at heart. They take me at my word and don’t question my motives.

Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

Our Father in heaven is not like the authority figures who have let us down. Not even close. A lot of the process of learning to regain child-like trust involves letting go of lies we have been believed about God.

A song from my childhood has been playing in my head this week.

“‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!” 

-Louisa M. R. Stead

Here’s the thing. Babies don’t trust parents because they have read a resume or done a performance evaluation or run a background check. Babies trust because they have no options. Becoming like a child is simply resting and letting God be who he is – someone who knows and loves every hair, every cell, every heartbeat.

Unlike our own parents he will never drop us on our heads or use us to serve his unmet needs. He will not place responsibilities upon us that are too heavy for our level of maturity, nor will he enable learned helplessness by restricting our freedom to grow.

I hear him say, “So you’re out of options. I’m not. Trust me.”

IMG_0224But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18: 16,17 NIV)

On his lap. It’s the best place to be.

 

Freedom Training

Hiding

As the reflections of our pride upon our defects are bitter, disheartening, and vexatious, so the return of the soul towards God is peaceful and sustained by confidence. You will find by experience how much more your progress will be aided by this simple, peaceful turning towards God, than by all your chagrin and spite at the faults that exist in you.
– Francois Fenelon

A few years ago, when he was a wee lad, a child I know and love was becoming accustomed to the concept of both freedom and taking increasing responsibility for his choices. I watched him as he encountered one of the first steps to maturity: potty training.

Spiderman underwear was fun to wear and all, but sometimes the burden of getting up and walking away from the sandbox or the Lego blocks when he was in the creative zone was too heavy. Sometimes you don’t know what your limits are until you’ve passed them. And he passed them.

We noticed (eventually) that in moments like these the little guy disappeared. We went looking for him. His daddy called and called but he made no response. Finally, following his nose, his father found him hiding, sometimes in the closet, sometimes behind the furniture, sometimes behind the drapes.

You see, part of the problem was that he had an older sibling, a sibling who taunted him with, “You’re in trouble now! Wait until Daddy gets home! You’re in for it.”

Daddy was perhaps disappointed, but not angry. He understood the weakness of little boys. He did not expect perfection in the learning stages. He wanted his son to succeed and he loved this little boy with a love so big he would have laid down his life for him. Poopy pants was not a deal breaker.

I realized one day that this is often our reaction when we fail to live consistently with changes we want to make in our lives. Like the wee lad we run and hide in shame from the only One who is able to clean us up and set us back on our feet in a refreshed state. Sometimes we sit alone in the closet in poopy pants for days, or even years,  avoiding the very One who offers us mercy and forgiveness. Our heavenly Father loves us so much. He is not surprised by our weaknesses but wants to help us gain freedom from stinky habits by showing us a better way.

Lately I’ve been aware of older sibling-type people who get out their social media megaphones and preach the bad news of “Wait until Daddy gets home! You’re in for it now!” For some reason they are surprised when people don’t run in the direction they suggest. Instead of encouragement older brother-types tend to heap on larger and larger piles of shame that keep those who cannot keep up to standards hiding in dark places.

Jesus Christ says, “Come to me if you are weak. Come to me if you find the burdens placed upon you too heavy. Come to me and I will give you rest and peace in your lonely souls because I am meek and lowly of heart.  I am willing to get down to your level and put my arms around you and love you just as you are, poopy pants and all. Let me clean you up. There is so much more I want to show you! Let’s do this together.”

It’s called grace. Amazing grace.

 

Because You Are Good

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The older kids had already run out the door to catch the school bus. She was in her jammies, her hair matted in a wad of fine blonde fuzz at the back of her head and a greying blankie hanging like a loose toga over her shoulder. Her voice, crackling with the residue of sleep was hard to hear.

“What would you like, honey?” her Mommy asked, as she added raisins to my little granddaughter’s oatmeal.

“Can you put on worship?” she asked again, a little louder this time.

“Sure. I can do that. Which one?”

“Kids worship, please.”

Mommy started a video on the computer on the kitchen desk.

“She asks for music every morning,” she told me. “This is the way she likes to start her day.”

The song played and my little three-year old granddaughter grinned at me.

Your goodness never stops
Your mercy follows me
Your kindness fills my life
Your love amazes me

I sing because You are good
And I dance because You are good
And I shout because You are good
You are good to me!*

Yes, my beautiful young one. You continue to teach me. This is how to start the day.

 

*From Bethel Music Kids/ Come Alive