Daniel Jester

Isaiah 43:1-7(NRSV)

43 But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
6 I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

When we pick Enoch up from Pinckney Elementary we are to hold this orange sign.  We got this sign, Daniel Jester, at meet the teacher before school started.  Thankfully, Enoch took it in good fun and they sent this new one home on Thursday.  He even started calling himself Dan during specials i.e. music, art, and drama.  He’s clearly embracing his new school and having a little fun too.  Is he a Dan or is he an Enoch?  Those identity questions are important for all of us.  Who am I?  How do I relate in the world?  What am I good at?  Will the teacher call on me?  Will I be picked last for kickball?

 

Isaiah is reassuring the Israelites.  You are children of the Most High.  You were created, formed, and redeemed and I, the Great God of the Universe have called you by name.  Who are we, that the Lord of hosts takes notice of us?  We are God’s beloved children and we can do nothing on earth to separate us from God’s love!
Enoch loves to take pictures and video on my phone.  When I was deleting off the pictures, I found this gem.  Facebook reminded me this morning that I shared this two years ago. It was before he went to bed, he’s talking about living with his mom, dad and sister and he’s praying for his teacher at the time, Ms. Wilkerson. Then he says, “My name is Enoch.  My name is Daniel Enoch Jeter.  It’s in the Bible.  I stand for God.”  I’m going to show it to him tonight to remind of who he is and Whose he is.
 
A friend shared this truth by Richard Rohr, “Life is not a matter of creating a special name for ourselves, but of uncovering the name we have always had.”  May we all do the hard work of uncovering, shedding, excavating because the highest praise we can give ourselves is to claim and know that we are children of God.  Nothing more, certainly not, nothing less.  As I daily walk the road of mommy, pastor, wife, daughter, sister, and all my other roles, I need a constant reminder of the grace that covers everything.  When I fail, when I don’t get that last i dotted, when I think I’m not enough, I need to rest in God’s love for me.  That’s where my help comes from.  That’s where our kids’ help comes from.  That’s where we place our trust and we live, move and be in that merciful love.  I love this verse from Micah 6:8.  “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  We should all seek to do just that and wait and watch the world transform!

Phonic Books & Flash Cards

I don’t hesitate where my kids’ education is concerned.  I will buy any amount of Fancy Nancy or Dick and Jane or Pinkalicious or Star Wars phonic books  on Amazon Prime.  I will buy any sight word flash cards.  ANYTHING to make Evy a strong reader.  I have heard since we were married that when Mike moved to South Carolina from Alabama, the South Carolina schools were a year behind. It’s clear that the schools here in Mt. Pleasant are a little further ahead than the schools our kids were at in Florida.  When you move to a different school, sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes you’re behind.

Mike and I help them both with their homework and it takes patience to work with either of them.  They go too fast and make careless mistakes, or get tired and don’t try, or get frustrated and don’t try, or give up and don’t try, or make excuses and don’t try, or get tired and feel like they can’t try anymore.  We give them all the tools and resources and they KNOW they need to learn it.  They know they need to practice.  They know they need to keep trying.  They know there’s no playing indefinite hooky.  We’ve explained that very extensively.  But it’s hard to learn to read.  Its hard to learn multiplication. They both have to practice, practice, practice to catch up and it’s a hard thing not to give the answers to them, not to sound it out for Evy.   It’s hard not to give the answers to her, not to sound it out for her.  For our children, we would move heaven and earth to do anything for them.  There’s nothing more frustrating/heart wrenching/miserable to a parent than not being able to help their children.

As I teach her about walking with Jesus, I told her on Sunday night that you can talk to him any time you want, when you’re frustrated or embarrassed at school, when you’re feeling alone or misunderstood, he can help you.  I then told her what so many of us need to here.  You’re enough.  You’re kind enough.  You’re smart enough.  You’re enough.  She buried her head in my shoulder and began to cry.  She needed to hear that.  She needed to know we’re always in her corner no matter what and she matters to the great God of the universe.  Mostly she needed to know she was loved.

It’s a both/and.  God must be so frustrated with us, God’s children, when we don’t learn, when we give up and don’t try.  Because obviously we want our children to not only to succeed, but to flourish.  The definition of “flourish” is to “grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.”  God wants all of us to flourish.  God wants the best for us.  God wants us to know from the tops of our head to the tips of our toes that we are enough.

But, we have to practice.  We have to practice loving people that are different from us.  We have to practice taking that extra couple of steps to help someone.  We have to practice reaching out as a church to a world that’s hurting and busy beyond their means.  We have to practice being salt and light, in the world, but not of it.  Just as Evy has to practice her reading and Enoch has to practice his multiplication, we have to practice living as followers of Jesus Christ.  Phonic books and flashcards may help, but we have to DO.  Knowing and trusting that when we fail, God’s grace is enough.  But we have to TRY.  Or we’re selling ourselves short and not reaching out and stretching ourselves to be who God created us to be.  God wants us to reach our full potential just as we want Enoch and Evy to reach their full potential.  How is God calling you to practice your faith?  What is God calling you to practice?  It sometimes will be hard.  You may fall and scrape your knees, but God’s going to be right there when that happens and we as your community will be right there with you to pick you up and dust you off.  God doesn’t want us to suffer or struggle.  God wants to give us good and abundant gifts, as we as parents, but we and God can’t do it for our children.  God gives us the free will to choose how we spend our time.  God gives us the tools and the resources but we have to make the choice to ACT for ourselves.

I’m going to close with this “Prayer for Empowerment” by Kathleen Fischer.

Creator and Healer, you dwell closer to us than the air we breathe, yet far surpass all we know.

We bless you for the stunning beauty of your cosmos, the gifts you unendingly give.

Forgive us our failure to be grateful and to trust you.

Fill our hearts with your courage, and our minds with your vision of what we might become.

Free us from fear of the dark unknown spaces where you give birth to new possibilities.

You are a God of adventure, and you took a great risk in creating us.

Empower us to become the community of which your heart dreams.

Amen.

Jesus to a 4 year old

Okay, so I’m terrible at telling my kids about Jesus.  Yes, this is confession time.

Yes we have books about Jesus.  We have bought tons of books from the Christian bookstore.  We’ve tried to get the kids to watch Veggie Tales and I’m thankful that 3-2-1 Penguins usually throws in some Bible verses and prayer.  We say our prayers before the kids go to sleep.  Slight caveat – when we’re not completely exhausted and just trying to survive and get them to actually go to sleep.  We do say prayers when we sit down to eat although not so good if we’re in the car eating a happy meal.  You get the drift.

It’s weird that something that is a big portion of my life and significant portion of Mike’s and the rest of the families – is not something that I know how to communicate to two little people.  I’m starting to think that the kids during children’s sermons are humoring me and actually have no idea what I’m talking about half the time, or like I think – they’re just super smart.

So I’ve been trying to do better.  I’ve been asking Enoch about Jesus or what he knows about Jesus.  He immediately said Father Voss talks about Jesus.  Thank you again Episcopal Day School for coming through for me!  Enoch is now wanting us to tell him stories when he goes to bed.  And of course, he wants super heroes and Iron Man.

So last night I’m telling him about super heroes like Iron Man and Spider Man and Batman and the greatest, most powerful super hero of all – Jesus.  Could be kind of lame, I know.  And then he interrupts my story because he wants to know about the bad guys.  He is always curious about the bad guys.  Where do the bad guys live?  What do they do?  He even asked about their mommies and daddies.  So then I start telling him about the bad guys and I’m going down this path like not all bad guys are really bad.  Some of them want to be good, but they’re misunderstood.  You know – misunderstood – is not something I think Enoch gets.  So hear I am, this preacher who was an English major and I am struggling and I do mean struggling to tell this Super Hero Jesus story and give some exposition about the bad guys and use words that he would understand in his tired, just turned four year old state, and wowzers.  That is hard.

I came downstairs after Enoch fell asleep listening to my story.  (Of course my awesome story was not related to him falling asleep, that was just a coincidence.)  And I’m talking to Mike about telling Enoch about Jesus and I’m like, if only there was a cool cartoon.  An awesome very kid-friendly cartoon with Super Jesus.  But then I thought, well that would be potentially very cool but also could be very weird and not well done.  Although the healings and the teachings and the letting the children come to him would work well, I don’t know how the crucifixion would play.  And what would Jesus look like?  Our blond haired blue eyed Jesus or the for real Middle Eastern Jesus?

My mom has been looking a lot at children’s Bibles and Bible story books about Jesus’ life and she says it’s hard to find them now showing a picture of the cross.  Most seem to go straight from healing and teaching to Easter without any in between.  She was saying that it’s hard to tell the story in a way that makes sense when you start with a baby and end at Easter with nothing in between.  A baby that’s born in a stable and then grows up and comes back to life.  There’s so much more to it.  The teaching – the love, the sharing, the care for those that are sick, or as I was saying last night the one who is kind to people that aren’t feeling well, who are sad, who are scared, who need a hug.

Part of me thinks – no worries – when he gets bigger we’ll take him on mission trips, we’ll show him the joy of giving his clothes and toys away to people who need them, we’ll teach him how to share and be kind and honest with people.  It will be a lot easier to explain this stuff to him then.  But there is a foundation being built now in the world view of a child that separates the world into super heroes and bad guys.  We haven’t even gotten into the bad guy turned super hero or super hero turned bad guy.  It’s just funny to think about and ponder.  With as much Christian marketing and advertising and everything under the sun Jesus-related from mints to bracelets to shoelaces to action figures, you would think that it would be easier to explain something so all over the place.

And it is.  But it’s not.  How would you describe Jesus to a 4 year old or a 2 year old?  What do these stories that are our stories, our sacred texts – what do they say about God and Jesus and the Spirit and the world and us?  What do they say about how we treat one another or who we can go to when we’re scared or hungry or hurt?  How do we teach this?  Or sometimes even more importantly – how do we model this?  (I for real need to not watch South Carolina baseball around the children because I’m not such a good model during any Gamecock game.)

So, I’ll be continuing to figure out how to tell a child about Jesus.  I know some of you have that down pat and if any of you are in the Rock Hill area and want to take Enoch and Evy to lunch or to the park to tell them, let me know.  I trust that we’ll figure it out.  I trust that they’ll one day get it.  And I trust that in my trying to ineptly explain this to them, I’ll learn a heck of a lot too.

In thinking about how I learned about Jesus – I think about VBS and Sunday School and singing in children’s choirs.  One of the songs that I clearly remember is this one.  It is so in my head now.  AAAHHH!!!!

Listening and Following Directions

Yesterday Enoch got in trouble at school.  When you have a child as boisterous as ours you’re not entirely surprised by this, but you may think to yourself, okay – we’re due for one of those.  However, it’s never fun as a parent to hear that your kid got in trouble.  Everywhere we go and Enoch sees someone from his class, he’s not always great about remembering and saying everyone’s names, but they all seem to know his name.  I’d like to think it’s because he’s wonderful, but wonder if it’s because they hear his name called a lot.  Hopefully a little of both.  Anyway, Enoch got in trouble because he wasn’t listening and following directions.

I am always eternally grateful for the Episcopal Day School here in Rock Hill and all of the many ways they have worked with our kids and support them.  I can’t say enough what a great job they all do there!  I also cannot say enough how much I appreciate that Mike works while the kids are in pre-school and than has the opportunity to be with them in the afternoons.  I know that everyone doesn’t have these choices and opportunities and they are a gift.

Mondays are Mommy Day when the kids get home from school because Mike teaches piano and guitar lessons and then has practice with the worship team at St. John’s.  As much as I don’t always like to drag myself away from work and trying to make a dent in the to do list, I really enjoy Mondays and look forward to being able to tell the kids, you’ll get to see and spend time with Mommy this afternoon and evening.

We usually have a great time.  And we did at times yesterday.  But there were also a lot of times I wanted to scream and say I’ve had it.  That whole listening and following directions thing – yep, it’s for real.  In putting in time out after time out whether at home, in the car, or at the park, we talked over and over about listening and following directions.  Over and over after he stayed in time out, he would agree to start listening and following directions, and over and over when he didn’t want to listen and follow directions, he wouldn’t.  Oh the cycle of parenting.

It got me thinking a lot though.  We keep talking about listening and following directions together.  It’s one thing to not listen and it’s another thing to not follow directions but it’s also a bit of both.  We all know about selective hearing.  I know that if I reach a certain decibal or tone than maybe he’ll turn around and stop, but before I get there he may not be paying a hill of beans of attention to me.  Oh to have the child that immediately stops and listens and follows directions.  My mom has frequently classified Enoch as the strong-willed child, and I promise his picture should be in the books describing it.  But again, as I’m thinking this yesterday and typing it today – I can’t say that it’s not something the rest of us don’t do at times.

We selectively listen for the things that we want to or don’t want to follow.  We don’t have the discipline to always listen to those that might know more than us or to the Creator who actually for real knows better than us.  Were you the child that immediately stopped and listened and followed directions or were you the child that questioned authority and wondered if it really was as threatening as they said it or if this was really serious or not?

Listening and following directions for a child is a great deal about safety and what’s best for you and trusting that your parents are telling you what’s best for you.  But isn’t it the same way with us and God?  Do we listen and follow directions?  Do we read the scriptures or dig down in our faith and engage with texts on justice and mercy and kindness and love?  Do we follow the directions of love God and love neighbor or do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God?  Are we really hearing it or are we hearing it when we want to and it fits and it still allows us to do what we want to do?

Move over, Enoch.  There may be some more strong-willed children out there.  Heck, I think the Bible and our pews and our grocery stores and all around us – we may be chock full of them.

As we try to teach Enoch about listening and following directions, there’s a lot of time outs and boundaries and loss of privileges.  How does God get our attention about listening and following directions?  Does God use our full name at the top of God’s voice?  Does God shoot a message across the sky saying hello – take the call dude?  Are we plowing so full steam ahead in whatever we think we’re supposed to be pursuing that it’s going to take something radical to derail us and make us re-evaluate?  I don’t know.  When I think of a loving Parent, I don’t think of someone that just lets us get our way all the time or do what we want to if it’s harmful to us.  I think of One who is patient and fair and consistent.  I think of one who corrects and is present and who is there to make sure the consequences are real but who is ready for a hug and to wipe away a tear and offer words of encouragement and a new opportunity.

How do you do at listening and following directions?  How has God our parent shaped and molded us?

Sometimes the little things…

Evy loves playing with my toothbrush.  She does.  It happens.  I know I should think this is gross and I know we’re exchanging germs, but in the scheme of things, I don’t really care if she’s playing with my toothbrush.  She’s not using it to clean the toilet or scrub the floors so that’s a plus.  Both the kids had strep throat about a month ago and the 10 days of antibiotics and trying to get those things down them, was a challenge.  Enoch finally starting taking the medicine like a “big boy” hallelujah but we had to practically hang Evy upside down to get her to take it.  Oh the fun of parenting!

A week after that low and behold Mommy wasn’t feeling well and my throat was just plain gross.  Strep throat it was.  Immediately the doctor asks, has anyone you know been sick with strep throat?  Yep.  The two kids.  Did you change out their toothbrushes?  As soon as he asked the question, I know for sure and for certain how I got my lovely strep.  It’s crazy how a simple, small thing like letting your two year old play with your toothbrush can cause something that makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning and feel terrible.

It’s not like Evy did it to intentionally get me sick and it’s not like I thought about – hmmmm, let me give myself strep today.  Not at all.  But sometimes the small decisions we make that seem to have no impact on our lives at all, can creep up on us in major ways.  Eating those couple little hershey kisses every day can add up to a lot of chocolate and a lot of pounds over the year.  Putting off quiet time alone with God, intentional prayer, Sabbath and time to refresh, or times of reconnecting and quality time with friends, family and our spouse/significant other can seem like a lot of small decisions, but the impact over time can really knock you off course.

I’ve been doing a lot of premarital counseling sessions lately because there are 4 Winthrop Wesley related couples getting married this summer.  Very exciting!  I love officiating at weddings.  I did the premarital counseling for another couple in grad school here at Winthrop who are getting married in Florida and they really wanted to do the 5 Love Languages quiz.  Most of the quizzes or exercises or things we talk about center on communication and being intentional with time and priorities.  These and the 5 Love Languages show that the little things really do add up.  It’s the small decisions that we make every day that paint the big picture, not just the grand gestures.

So in essence, instead of just looking at the big decisions like jobs, houses, and marriage prayerfully and with wisdom and care, we should apply that same amount of discernment to how we choose to react to the everyday.  A lot of these little things have to do with our mouth – are we showering forth blessings or curses.  In Proverbs 12:15-23 there is all sorts of wisdom about our words and the power that our mouths can have.  Maybe sometimes it is best to not say anything at all.  Maybe sometimes to not speak up and say something is an injustice or cowardly.  It really does depend on the Spirits leading.

May we today be mindful of our actions, even the little things.  May we feel peace and wisdom as we go through our day so that our hearts and minds aren’t off to the races and reacting before we’re thinking.  May we acknowledge and confess that sometimes things that we don’t think are a big deal at all, can have profound affects on our lives and the lives of others, and may we reflect and purposefully go forward spreading the love of Christ, the joy of grace, and the meaty thanksgiving that comes when we are in pace with God’s Spirit.