Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Preparing to Teach Truths

My husband and I are preparing to be foster parents.

We could parent boys or girls.

As we have been preparing for this monumental change, I've been examining our lives and the lessons we may impart. I was surprised by a couple silent messages (lies) I found in my life.

Message #1: Failure is Unacceptable.

Somewhere along the line, I bought into the lie that in all things, at all times, I must strive for perfection in everything I do. Failure was not an option for me in my book. I have slowly been working on this one for quite a while now. Somehow I forgot that failure is a normal part of human life and it is the path through which learning occurs. But, by trying to avoid the sting of failure, I isolated myself from the thrill of a hard-earned victory after multiple attempts.

Message #2: Self-Limits are Acceptable.

In order to avoid failure, I began to slowly limit myself and stop doing things that were not my strengths. I told myself that it was better for me to play to my strengths and outsource things that were my weaknesses. When I tell myself that I am not good with tools, computers, math, or any other difficult project, I was not allowing myself to thrive in new settings.

Message #3: I Can't.

Before I even tried new things or difficult projects, I would give a knee-jerk reaction of "I can't." I would not try because I was afraid that I could not.

So what does this have to do with fostering?

As we are preparing to foster, we are working to get our house up to the CPS-level standards necessary to be entrusted with a child. We are moving things, rearranging items, installing stuff, and other such fixings.

I found myself removing doorknobs and reinstalling safer ones. With my husband's guidance, I installed and moved/installed smoke detectors. I was sorting, organizing, and securing tools in multiple toolboxes. I hooked up my own computer and less than a week later, I swapped desks with my husband (he was on board with it too), prompting me to switch & hook up two computers.

This was when I realized that to change the messages I send to our kids, I would need to first change these messages in me as I replace lies with truth.

Truth #1: Failure is How We Learn:

I realized that I did not want to teach our kids that they should not go to bat because they were afraid that they might strike out. Instead I want them to know that failure is normal and a learning process.

Truth #2: Growing and Challenging Myself is Acceptable:

I did not want our kids shying away from Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math because it is hard or too boy-dominated. I want them to try, struggle, fail, struggle, and finally succeed because that journey has made them into a person who does not give up at the first sign of potential trouble.

Truth #3: I am capable:

I did not want our kids to not even try because their inner voice was telling them that they can't. But rather, I want them to have truth rooted so deeply in them, that whenever a voice of society feeds them lies, the truth will speak out. People do not have to play dumb or play stereotypes to fit the world's molds. Girls can reinstall doorknobs. Boys can do laundry. We can make a difference in the world.

We just have to try.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Accepting ALL of the Body of Christ

I was reading a book recently on communion that spoke of the body of Christ. It proposed that when we reject others in the body of Christ, we are rejecting Christ Himself.

I once heard someone say that when we insult the Church, we are insulting the Bride of Christ. I doubt many husbands would take a friend's remark kindly if they said, "Don't get me wrong, I like to spend time with you, but I don't like your wife & don't want to spend time with her." Yet that is the equivalent of what we say to Jesus when we spurn His Bride.

But what if the insult is deeper, is much more personal than not liking your best friend's spouse? Christ is not just the Bridegroom of the Church, He is also the Head of the Church. So when we tell Jesus that we don't want to spend time with the Church, we are essentially saying that we only want to spend time with His face, not His hands, feet, or body.

Can you imagine that conversation?

Jesus: Hey, man! Wanna hang out with Me later?
Human: Sure thing! You know how much I like to spend time with You.
Jesus: Sweet! I think we could feed some homeless people, donate things we no longer use to a thrift store, volunteer at that new soup kitchen...Wait, you don't look too thrilled anymore.
Human: Well, it's just...hmmm...I don't know how to put this...Your body stinks, Jesus. I mean, I don't mind hanging out with Your head, but the rest of You stinks. Part of You are dirty and I don't want to touch them. How can you expect me to give You a hug when Your arms haven't touched water in who knows how long? And look at Your leg! It is bloody and all gross-like!!
*Jesus looks at the human in disbelief.*
Jesus: Do you want to remove My head to take Me with you for coffee?
*Human looks relieved and pulls out an ax.*
Human: And here I was worried that You wouldn't understand. Is there a tree stump around somewhere to make this easier?
Jesus: My body goes where I go. It may be a different color than you. It may be messy, dirty, and stinky. Parts of My body have problems & injuries, and is hurting & troubled, but this is My body, that was broken for you. You don't get to choose which parts you like best or which parts make you the most comfortable.

How does Jesus feel if we just want to hang out with Him & not the rest of His body because it's...
...a different color (or from the wrong side of town)?
...struggling with problems?

When we don't want to spend time with a fellow follower of Christ, it is more than not liking our brother or sister. It is more than not caring for your friend's wife. It is shunning the body of your Savior. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It's Time to Put Down Our Stones

I saw the video going around of the news interviewee having a live interview in his home when his children burst in his office and he brushed them back without even looking at them. What surprises me most about this viral video is the reactions of Christians.

Instead of Christians walking alongside this man in the valley of his internet humiliation, we are sitting on our high horses judging him for his parenting fails. Or if we are reveling in his humiliation and mocking him. We should be extending our hands of compassion to him, maybe even giving the internet some perspective by sharing a story of our own parenting fails that just never went viral. We should be known as merciful and gracious people, because we know that we have been shown loads of mercy (not getting what we do deserve) and grace (getting what we do not deserve and could never earn).

So maybe you never face-palmed your kid while in an international live interview, but we have fallen short of the Father’s ideal of parenting. If we are not parents, we could be aunts, uncles, babysitters, or nursery workers. We have all interacted with children and we all have regrets for how we treated them at some point.

As Christians, the core question that we ask should be “How would Jesus have reacted in this situation?” or “How would Jesus have me to react in this situation?” It is not incredibly difficult to know how Jesus would react in a situation like this, because Scripture recorded a similar story. No, there were not internet and viral videos back then, but a crowd of righteous people indignantly dragged a sinful adulteress before Jesus, tossing stones in their hands, prepared to stone her for her sins. And Jesus even gave permission for her to be stoned, IF the one without sin threw the first stone. Stone after stone left the hands of the righteous, falling harmlessly to the ground, because they knew they had sinned. Jesus and the women were left alone; her accusers were gone. The Sinless One did not condemn the adulteress, but sent her away to leave her life of sin.

Christians, it is time to get off our judgmental high horses and learn to walk alongside people in the valleys of humiliation. It is time that we learn to extend mercy and grace instead of condemnation. It is time to put down our stones, and offer the hand of friendship.

Speaking of which, I will get off my high horse now. :-)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Freezing the Refugee Program, Breaking My Heart

So many emotions are whirling through my head as I search for facts on various news websites to piece together what Friday's executive order really means:

I feel anger at the withdrawal of support to refugees,

I feel frustration at my inability to do something about this situation,

I feel grumpiness at the slowness of WhiteHouse.Gov in posting the executive order on its site so I can read it in full to better understand it,

I feel pity for those stopped at the border in mid-travel by this order and those delayed for a minimum of 3-4 months,

I feel resignation because I really should have expected this based on our President's campaign trail,

I feel joyful satisfaction that Canada's Prime Minister Trudeau's reaction to this order is "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada",

I reject a bit of sarcastic snarkiness bubbling up inside me at the how ill-fitting the Statue of Liberty's motto now is for the US,

I feel sadness because America's acceptance of the tired, poor, huddled masses was one of my points of pride in my country, The ideals of my country are swerving away from the instructions of my faith. Will I support the killing of my enemies or will I fight to love them and pray for them? Will I choose to reject the foreigner, the alien, the widow, the orphan, the least of these that my God commands me to love, serve, and help? Will I choose America First or valuing others above myself?

I feel fear as read a book on Bonhoeffer that discusses Nazi Germany's restrictions on Jewish freedom and then read news stories on the freezing of the refugee program,

I feel hope as Christian refugee resettlement agencies are reaching out to those who are delayed by this order and are speaking out against this freeze,

I feel sadness because I work with refugees, I serve refugees, I live among refugees. I welcome refugees because of my Christian faith.

So many emotions battling inside me at this news, but sadness overshadows the rest. My heart is aching, it is breaking over this news and its ramifications.

I turn to this subject in the Bible for direction. I know that Jesus identifies with the stranger, the hungry, the imprisoned in Matthew 25. Peter in 1 Peter 1 wrote with the instruction that "Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear" and Paul told believers in Philippians 3 that "our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."

I am a foreigner. My citizenship is in heaven. I stand with refugees. I stand as a foreigner in my homeland.

Friday, January 20, 2017

What Should I Pray For Myself?

Have you ever examined why we do or say a particular thing in our Christian walk, and then wonder why we do a certain thing? Or do you read a passage in the Bible and wonder why we do not do a certain thing? I do wonder and question sometimes.

I was reading Acts 4, the passage where Peter and John are brought before the Jewish council and told to stop speaking and teaching in Jesus' name. They refused, because they must listen to God over man. After this encounter, Peter and John went back to the rest of the believers to fill them in. Then they started to pray. They realized that the Psalms predicted Jesus' betrayal by several groups. Next, they made their petition of God.

"Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”" (Acts 4:29-30)

This prayer blows me away. Why? Because they know that persecution is coming. They have been threatened. There are many things that they could pray for: laws to protect them, safety for believers, a speedy second coming so they can skip the persecution. But they prayed for boldness in speaking His word.

My top prayer for myself is not for my safety. It is for effectiveness and faithfulness in serving my Lord. I do not needlessly take risks, but I cannot pretend that my top goal is safety. When I look at Jesus' life and prayers, He prayed for God's will to be done, even at the cost of His comfort and very life. My example in living is Jesus. If the One who I follow cares more about God's will being done than His own safety, why should my life be any different?

I do pray for the safety of the persecuted church, but my top prayer is for God's glory to be seen and for the persecuted to remain faithful, even to the point of death. I know that if the choice has to be made, I earnestly want them to refuse to recant their faith, even if they are executed.

I humbly submit that we the church in the US needs to be less concerned with its rights, its comfort, its safety, its separateness, and more concerned with boldly speaking God's Word (in love-Ephesians 4:15), serving the least of these (because in serving them, we serve Jesus-Matthew 25:31-end), and remaining faithful to the end.