Posted in Beatitudes, Children, Hope, Light, Peace, Uncategorized

A Different World

I want to thank all of the volunteers that worked at Point Hope’s Vacation Bible School this past week.  I want to thank each of the parents and children.  It was a blessing to Mike and me because it was the first full VBS our kids have experienced and they LOVED it!  Evy was hesitant to to go to school in the summer until she and Enoch experienced all the fun of Cave Quest and the characters that taught them about Jesus. We celebrated our Cave Quest VBS singing Light of the World and This Little Light of Mine this past Sunday. In the middle we had our children’s sermon, in the mystery box, the little girl who was visiting her grandmother who had been one of the helpers at VBS, put in a rock crystal and a flashlight.  I talked about how we all look like ordinary rocks until you look on the inside and one of the children piped up and said we “sparkle.” The love of Jesus makes us sparkle and we need to share it with others. The flashlight can be used to see our sparkle when we forget Whose we are and we can let others know that they have sparkle inside them too.  I encouraged them if we all shine our lights together then the whole world will sparkle.

During the choir’s beautiful anthem, I started thinking about the kids and how they’re going to grow up in a different world than any of us.  Are they prepared?  Are they prepared with the full armor of God as they go out every day?  Even in our homes are we protecting them from seeing the horrors of the news and if we let them see bits and pieces are we answering their questions resting in God to give us the answers?  Answers that bring more peace and love into the world.  It’s not only scary “out there,” but it’s scary “in here” as we try to answer questions that have hard answers or don’t have any.  And yet, they give me hope each week.  The child-like faith.  We need to have it.  I believe in the South Carolina motto “Dum Spiro Spero” or in English “While I breathe, I hope.”  I’m hopeful that if we DO shine our lights for ALL the world to see and resist hiding it under a bushel and we DO the hard work of putting into PRACTICE the big and small ways of what makes for peace.  As Jesus thought to himself on the way to the cross in Luke 19:42, “42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”  It comes out not only when we talk about politics, but it comes in the entire fullness of life.  In our conversations with THAT co-worker or THAT family member, in our interactions with gas station clerks or the cashiers at the grocery store, in our day-to-day lives 24*7*365.  I know it’s a struggle with all of the chaos swirling around us.  That’s why I’m careful of what influences and shapes my world view.

My mom and I were going to Isle of Palms and there is a big American flag on the top of the bridge.  I commented the flag has been at half mast a lot lately.  Our world is hurting and grieving and mourning; or their apathetic and over it because they can’t handle anymore heartache.  Jesus promises to be there with us in the mountaintops and the valleys and I think he calls us to do the same.  I’ll leave you what I was led to read this morning.

Matthew 5:1-12

5When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

May we live the light of Christ.  May we shine the light of Christ showing the world they have God’s sparkle inside of them.  May we do the things that make for peace whether it be prayer, responding in love, or being careful in what influences us.  May we get through this TOGETHER because we’re stronger, wiser, and more attuned to the Shepherd’s voice when we are living in Christ-centered community.

Holy and Gracious God,
As we gather here in the harbour of your safety
We thank you for fellowship and family.
We ask that you will strengthen us, restore us and inspire us with your love.
Lord, would you fill us with your peace
So that as we journey onwards
We would pour out your love and grace to others.
We ask that our souls would catch the wind of your spirit
so that we would take your promises to all the earth.
Amen.

Posted in Advent, Children, Faith, giving, Mommy, poor, responsibility, Santa, service

Baby Chicks

You know the blogs and forwards and Advent Conspiracy and It’s Not Your Birthday and even the OccupyAdvent on twitter have a clear message that Advent is not a time for commercialism or just giving ourselves a bunch of stuff that we really don’t need when we’re blessed with so much? I have enjoyed reading them and trying to stay present and mindful during Advent. I also appreciate the counter-cultural. Isn’t that what we as the Church are supposed to be?

The hilarity that has ensued has nothing to do with whether I believe in these practices or not and nothing to do with whether I think we could really solve basic problems in the world just by sharing and giving what we can to those in need. Because I do believe that. I honestly believe that if we saw past our own needs and our own selves, than we wouldn’t just want to give, but we would be compelled to give – it would be a moral, spiritual and imperative obligation.

So here I am trying to teach that to my children – who just turned 3 and 4 by the way – and lo and behold, it’s not as easy as it may seem. At least not in our house. I recently posted a blog to my facebook that I loved….. I love that it wasn’t something parents imposed but was the kid’s idea. I also love that it was a family affair and something everyone enjoyed and got into. I had been keeping the Heifer International catalogue on the counter in my “put everything in it because you don’t want to lose things even though it’s a jumbled up mess” basket and I thought this may be the time. Evy had gone to sleep early so it was just me and Enoch, the 4 year old.
So we started talking about Jesus and Santa which good golly it’s easy for me to distinguish between the two (duh!) but explaining to a child the differences is hilarious. And then we started talking about gifts. The first hiccup was that Enoch didn’t understand why everyone didn’t get gifts. If we say that Santa gives gifts to good little boys and girls than why didn’t some good little girls and boys get gifts? If we see that Jesus loves everyone and came here to be with all of us, why doesn’t everyone get gifts? Why are there poor people? Why do they not have money? What do their Mommy’s and Daddy’s do?

We then started talking about toys. I frequently tell Enoch that I think he has more toys than Toys R Us and that he needs to share them. We’ve talked about this in making Operation Christmas Child boxes and using his happy meal toys for this and other small toys. So I tell him that he’s still going to get toys from Santa but that we as a family can give animals to other families and communities.

Oh boy. Let’s just say that when we opened the catalogue and he had the option to pick out goats or bunnies or baby chicks or cows, he wanted them all. Not for the other families, but for him. Especially the baby chicks.
Mike got a good chuckle from this entire interchange, nut needless to say, I talked about people that don’t have enough foods and how animals can help give us food or we can sell things from the animals so that we can take care of each other, etc., etc., etc. The amazing folks that we stay with on our trips to Nicaragua have asked us to bring the kids with us on our trips, and I’ve never more than that night wanted to take them on one. Because I can explain and explain and explain and we can make our Operation Christmas Child boxes and we can pick out our baby chicks, but there’s nothing like seeing and interacting and playing with children that live in such very different conditions than your own.

So that was my first thought. I want Enoch and Evy not to give just because it’s right or just for the joy of giving – even though those are good, but I want them to understand and see and know and feel that passion about providing for the least of these – not just as a hand out or looking down on people or we as the great Western world, come to save them – but knowing that this is what we’re called to do.

Josh preached a sermon series on stewardship a couple weeks ago and I think about his Spiderman illustration of the saying that many of us know – “With great power comes great responsibility” or the words from Luke 12:48 – “To whom much is given, much is required.” We have been given so much. When I started preaching in a local church I had no idea what to say when handing out the offering plates and so I started to say, “May we give back to God what God has graciously given to each of us.” It’s God’s. And we have been blessed. But it’s hard to see and know and feel our blessings sometimes if we don’t see what would have happened without them. I don’t think that’s always the case, but Enoch doesn’t know how much to appreciate that Optimus Prime transformer when he has a toy box full of toys versus if that was his only toy.

The other thing that jumped out to me is the nature of us and commercials and books and songs and how we talk about Santa Claus. When we’re talking to children about Santa, we talk about Santa giving gifts to little boys and girls all over the world. We talk about the good children getting lots of present and the bad children getting coals and switches. So if you get a lot of toys, you’re a good kid? If you don’t, you’re not? I remember the Christmas that my dad gave us walnuts and oranges in our stockings because that’s what they had done when he was a kid. Not hating on the walnuts and oranges, but we wanted chocolate and candy canes and little toys – not just some walnuts and oranges. I’m not the parent that talks a great deal about Santa or the ins and outs of how he gets everywhere and how many gifts he gives, etc. but there’s no way I can honestly say that I haven’t used Santa during the holidays. He’s the best leverage in the world in December when kids are wild on Christmas party, candy, and just the excitement and fun of Christmas in the air! We haven’t bought an Elf on the Shelf, but even I can throw out there – Santa doesn’t like whiners or people that don’t share with their sisters and brothers or those that say potty words (Enoch and Evy’s potty words of choice right now are “diaper” and “baby” so watch out if you’re called a “diaper baby.”).

I can throw that out there with Jesus all year long – Jesus likes you to share, Jesus wants us to love even the bullies, Jesus….wants us to give a family some baby chicks instead of you getting even more toys.
I don’t have any answers with this blog, but I do think it’s an interesting commentary on how we talk about Christmas and how we see it. It’s been fascinating trying to talk to Enoch and Evy about this. They understand the manger and the Christmas story and they understand Santa and giving gifts but how those two relate…we’re still working on that one. To be honest, in thinking about it, I’m still working on explaining that one. These are the things that I love about this age. They’re honest and they don’t know all the “right” answers yet….they just know that they’d like some baby chicks.

How are we preparing during Advent? How are we not just posting the articles or getting the tweets, but we’re actually engaging in what it means to wrestle with these counter-cultural ideas? Explaining to a 4 year old, how are we showing the amazing Christmas story and the essentials without getting all bogged down in Santa?

A great and challenging article on this: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2011/12/when-christmas-gets-radical-whose-birthday-is-it-really/

***Note that I’m not saying not to do alternative gift giving – quite the contrary. I think we really should! I just think it’s important to communicate the whys and the whats and the Whos and not just do it for the kudos or the gold stars! There are a gazillion great orgs to give to!!!

Posted in Busy-ness, Children, Family, Jesus, Life, Mommy, Sabbath, Slumber, Tired

Time to Wake Up!

This morning Enoch slept late. On Mondays and Wednesdays he has speech at 8 am before going to preschool at 9 am so I let him sleep in until about 8:20 today before waking him up to get ready for preschool at 9. It always cracks me up to wake him up because for the most part, as soon as I open the door he’s bouncing out of bed ready to go. Now this is only when he’s slept late. If you’ve actually tried to get him up early, he’s like a walking zombie. But if you’ve let him sleep a little later and get that little bit of extra time to snuggle and stretch and enjoy life under the covers, he’s pretty ready to head out into the day.

There are few days these days that I have that extra time to sleep or snuggle into the covers mostly because Evy enjoys climbing onto the bed and jumping, snuggling, talking and pulling my eyelids up to have time to snuggle with me before it’s time to get going. 98% of the time I LOVE this and I wouldn’t trade a minute. There are 2% of times though where they’ve somehow gotten a flashlight and are shining that in my eyes to wake me up and I just am panicked and jolted out of sleep. On those days I don’t really start the day out fresh or ready to go, it feels like I’m just trying to survive to opening my eyes, getting some caffeine, getting kids dressed, and trying as much as I can to savor moments in between. Oh the life of working Mommy. Or any Mommy for that matter.

One of the verses from this morning’s Upper Room was one of my all time favorites, Matthew 11:28, “Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Maybe it says a great deal about my life and real priorities that this is a favorite. It definitely speaks to my tired self and mostly crazy hectic silly life. Although this verse speaks to me about the source of our Living Water, the one who nourishes us and provides us rest, I also think it sometimes give me a slight, tiny, little excuse to have a stressful schedule and not take very good care of myself because I have very strong faith in the God who is all sufficient. God is all sufficient and there for us in the ups and downs but that doesn’t mean we take advantage and get so caught up in the ho hum of doing life that we miss all of the joys and fun and amazingness along the way!

If I actually took time to be with God and dwell with God and got some sleep and didn’t schedule things like crazy and didn’t try to juggle all the balls in the air, I might find that my busyness is more about me and wanting to feel needed or wanting to measure up and other prideful and self-doubting things.

This morning on my lovely Pandora station, needtobreathe’s “Slumber” came on and boy I needed that. Maybe it doesn’t make any sense, but I think that sometimes the hectic routines of life seem much more like a “slumber” than actually grasping hold of life in real and transformative ways. I don’t want to be in the drone of routine and slumber, I want to experience and be open to change and to even be open to correction and accountability. I don’t want every Sunday or Monday or Thursday to look exactly the same or to be going through the motions of preaching, teaching, listening or being Mommy. I know that we do that. I know that it’s probably a magnificent coping mechanism and one that is super important when juggling, but are we going to be so zoned out that we realize we’re 6 weeks into the semester and we haven’t found our rhythm yet between work, church, family and anything in between?

It’s a challenge. Time to wake up? Or keep slumbering? Depending on God not just to provide but to also inspire, correct, and commit? Saying things out loud in sermons and studies or really putting them into practice for myself? Who does Christ call us to BE in this world, not just DO, not just pretend, not just negotiate, not just rationalize?

“Wake on up from your slumber, Come on open up your eyes”

Days they force you
Back under those covers
Lazy mornings they multiply
But glory’s waiting
Outside your window
So wake on up from your slumber
And open up your eyes

Tongues are violent
Personal and focused
Tough to beat with
Your steady mind
But hearts are stronger after broken
So wake on up from your slumber
And open up your eyes

All these victims
Stand in line for
The crumbs that fall from the table
Just enough to get by
All the while
Your invitation
Wake on up from your slumber
Come on open up your eyes

Take from vandals
All you want now
But please don’t trade it in for life
Replace the feeble
With the fable
Wake on up from your slumber
And open up your eyes

All these victims
Stand in line for
The crumbs that fall from the table
Just enough to get by
All the while
Your invitation
Wake on up from your slumber
Come on open up your eyes

Sing like we used to
Dance when you want to
Taste of the breakthrough
And open wide

All these victims
Stand in line for
The crumbs that fall from the table
Just enough to get by
All the while
Your invitation
Wake on up from your slumber
Come on open up your eyes

Sing like we used to
And dance like you want to
Open up your eyes

Posted in Balance, Campus Ministry, Children, Jesus, Mommy, new normal, Pastor, Working Parents

Mommy or Pastor?

Our sweet precious rambunctious and wild children went back to preschool today and many prayers and blessings on the Episcopal Day School!  They have done wonders for our children and we appreciate them so much – especially this time of year when we are more than excited that the kids are back in school!

I got to spend a “Mommy Day” with the kids on Tuesday and we cleaned up and sorted their rooms and moved toys from downstairs and upstairs and got things ready for school.  Then we closed out the afternoon driving to Columbia to go to the zoo and see Grammy and MacMac.  It was an amazing day!  I wish we could do that every day although I realize going to the zoo and cleaning up everything can’t happen every day – but you get my drift.

It was a great day also because the day before a wonderful clergy colleague of mine posted to facebook the question about what other clergy couples do about childcare on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights?  It’s a good question and it seemed to strike a chord with a lot of folks.  It’s hard.  Many talked about awesome and wonderful people in congregations that help out, give snacks, and offer grace.  Many also talked about how hard it is to be both Mommy or Daddy or Parent and Pastor at the same time.

For me although I love for my kids to be at Wesley and I love for my Wesley students to be at my home, I love it because there’s no set “thing” that I have to do.  If I’m preaching or leading a small group or having a board meeting or there’s some reason for me to suddenly turn into Pastor with my cape and everything, it’s hard for me to balance those two sides of my brain.  When the kids were really young they did come with me to Wesley, and they do now sometimes during the day when Mike has meetings and the students are just in and out and there’s no set program.  And it is obvious when they have been here – finger paint on the coffee table, game pieces everywhere, the candy basket decimated.

I love being their mom and as Mike said to me the other day, they know that I love them.  I never understood my grandmother telling us that “she could eat us up with a spoon.”  (Oh Southern colloquialisms) But I love them that much!  Not really literally of course but adorably.  And I love being a campus minister.  I really do love it.  Not just kidding, but seriously choosing to do this and feeling called to do it.

The rub comes when those worlds collide and I feel guilty for ditching out on the Freshman Small Group because I want to put the kids to bed or my mind is elsewhere because I’ve been up all night with a sick child and I can’t really be present with that student over breakfast at all in my right mind.  Or the opposite – when I wonder what in the world my kids think about this whole Jesus thing or if they’re going to think of “church” or “work” as bad words because that’s what takes Mommy away.  It’s such a tension between the two.  And I’m not even going to mention when you need time to not be Mommy or Pastor – because that’s a whole different ball game.

So what do y’all do to keep balance?  What are some working mom tips?  Or ministry mom tips?  Or you know, sometimes it’s not even tips, but it’s just that we’re not alone out there trying to juggle.  I’m not talking about “Don’t Know How She Does It” with Sarah Jessica Parker because who knows how that will turn out, but how do we feel good about being both Parent and Working Person and okay with the sacrifices and compromises made both ways?

Enoch’s funniest thing about God lately is his very serious questions about Jesus in his heart and how can a person be in his heart and did he shrink and is he just hanging out in there and is he going to get hurt squished in there?  Priceless.