Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Job Never Ends

I raked leaves yesterday, like every week for the last month. How is it I can fill the garbage can and several trash bags every time, yet there are still leaves on the trees? Kind of like the vacuum cleaner mystery—with so much long blonde hair tightly wound around the roller every week, how can I still have any hair?

Sadly, after two hours of raking yesterday, our yard is already littered with freshly fallen leaves. (I couldn’t bear to look yesterday afternoon.) It never seems to end! In fact, as I was raking I thought of the catchy/annoying song my girls and I learned long ago on Lamb Chops. “This is the song that never ends…” This song, I have found, comes to mind at the oddest times, yet amused me on this occasion. Leaf raking is indeed a job that never seems to end.

Maybe you’re struggling with another kind of job that seems to go on forever:

  • parenting a strong-willed child
  • being kind to a crabby spouse or co-worker
  • showing up for a job you don’t like
  • praying for a child who has turned away
  • reaching out with the life-giving message of Christ with no response
It’s exhausting to do the same things over and over when there’s no noticeable improvement or hope for a change. The leaves keep falling, your child continues to throw tantrums, people gripe and complain despite your best efforts, your heart aches for your beloved one, and the people you share with show no desire to know Christ.

But seasons change. Fall turns to winter and our raking is done for a while. Circumstances change. You find a new job; your child grows up and learns self-control; God reaches the ones you love in ways you’d never expect.

Until these things happen, don’t give up. Keep loving, praying, speaking, reaching out, showing up, and doing what is right—even when it looks hopeless. You never know what’s just around the bend; what the next wave will bring ashore. 

God sees our faithfulness, even when we don’t feel like we’re making any progress. When we do the work we grow, and God-seeds flourish in places we might never suspect. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:9-10).

Also, don’t forget to enjoy the beauty of process. I knew my raking chore wasn’t over even as I labored yesterday, but there was still pleasure in the effort. It was nice to be outside breathing fresh air, getting exercise, caring for our home. And the leaves! Moisture from recent rains deepened their color. They were different shapes and sizes; speckled, pointed, and curled. Taking a closer look filled me with wonder for our Creator.

Your never-ending job is no different. There’s beauty in it, if you look closely. And the more you see God there, the easier it will be for you to show up and give your all. The people you touch are so much more amazing than leaves.

Thank you for being faithful in repeated efforts. There will be a reward in all you do for Christ, if you don’t give up.

#areyouweary #dotheyevergrowup #neverends #worththeeffort #Galatians6

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Come Out of the Dark

Big Lake, Tara Newman

In grade school I loved reading Edgar Allen Poe and lying in my dark bedroom. I grew up in a happy home full of love and laughter, but for some reason I was attracted to the macabre. One afternoon on my bunk, I felt a sinister presence in the darkness. I knew I was not alone and it shook me to my core.

I ran from the room, found my big sister, and asked her to pray for me. I didn’t tell her why I was afraid. She didn’t know I had opened myself up to the darkness.

Another day, I was doing the dishes and heartbroken because my latest crush didn’t like me. Suddenly I was holding a knife to my wrist. I pressed down and felt my pulse beating against the cold steel. That would stop the pain, I thought. And then a jolt awakened me. What was I thinking? Where did that thought come from?

I saw joy in others that I desperately wanted. But I was on the outside looking in, alone and wretched. The answer, I knew from all I had learned at home and in church was Jesus, but I was unwilling to give Him control. My misery and self-hatred grew. One night at youth group, I realized any control I thought I had was an illusion; either I served God, or I served Satan. 

So in the fall of eighth grade I asked my youth pastor to pray with me and surrendered to Jesus. My life immediately changed. The darkness fell away and God’s light flooded in. Instead of anger and hopelessness, I felt free and a new sense of purpose. Love filled my soul.

Since then I’ve seen an ever-increasing darkness in our society. The works of Edgar Allen Poe are tame compared to the commercials our kids see on prime time television. Their minds are constantly bombarded by the glorification of suicide, violence, and deviant sex. Vampires, witches, and werewolves are no longer bad guys, but the heroes in today’s entertainment. Our children are drawn to this darkness like deer to the headlights of an oncoming car.

An increasing number of kids are turning to self-mutilation and suicide. The Jason Foundation says suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for kids ages 10-24. “More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.

Why this dramatic upswing of hopelessness? I believe it’s from an absence of light. Where would I have turned when the darkness tried to swallow me up if I hadn’t known where to find the light?

Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46, emphasis mine). So how can we help our children resist the darkness and walk in the light? 

Here’s a few ideas:

  • Monitor and discuss what you and your kids watch on TV or the Internet
  • Read popular song lyrics together to see whether they promote hope or despair
  • Read scripture as a family and memorize words of hope for dark times
  • Talk about life from a heavenly perspective—everything on earth is temporary, but the choices we make here last for eternity

If you would like to learn more about walking in the light, especially in this occult-rich Halloween season, pick up a copy of my book Taking Back October: https://www.amazon.com/Taking-Back-October-Believers-Pursuit/dp/1502516292/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1540944049&sr=8-1
#walkinthelight #what’sinthedark #suicideprevention #parenting #raisingkidswithhope

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Are You Giving Your Kids a Choice?

photo by Justin Luebke, unsplash

We love stories with heroes and villains we can cheer and boo. We want truth to shine, justice for the downtrodden, and protection for the innocent. It’s even better when the bad guy looks like a good guy, but in a climactic moment his true identity is exposed and his schemes fail. Then we cheer even louder.

These are perfect teaching opportunities. To ask our kids: Who else smiles and tries to befriend his victims, while appearing kind and knowledgeable? May I offer you a piece of fruit from this lovely tree? It will make you wise.

Satan masquerades as an angel of light. He entices us with imitations of God’s design; his offers of love and peace sound promising, but don’t deliver. His intent is to pit us against our true Hero, Jesus Christ.

Are we teaching our kids they must choose a side? Not wanting to frighten them, we focus on happy promises. In “Cookies, Coloring Books, and Combat” Kathleen Wilcox said:  “I told my grandkids, ‘Jesus loves you,’ so often I sounded like a recording. But I left out another truth: The devil hates you and wants to ruin your life. We memorized John 3:16, but we skipped John 10:10: ‘A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.’ Yes, we should magnify the Lord. But our grandchildren need to know there's a destroyer so they can fully understand their need for the Savior.”*

The opposite of up is down. If you’re not in, you’re out. If it’s not the truth, it’s a lie. And if there’s good, there’s evil. This is Dr. Seuss material. But one of the most effective tools of the enemy is to get us to be silent about sin and hell. If we only show our kids one side of the coin, we nullify the gospel.

While we don’t want to scare them, we need to let them know in age appropriate ways there’s a war on for their souls.  Our kids need to know God’s love and forgiveness is offered to all but not everyone goes to heaven—not even if they’re nice and generous and lovable. We have to believe Jesus is the one and only Son of God who died for our sins and accept Him as Savior. Our children must know God is sovereign and holy, and Satan is a created being with limited power and the father of lies.

photo by Malcom Lightbody, unsplash
When Moses led the Israelites out of the multi-god culture of Egypt, he taught them about the true God and gave them a choice. “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him” (Deut. 30:19-20).

A generation later Joshua said, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:14-15).

The New Testament spells it out even more. “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:13-14).

Want to raise a generation of spiritual warriors? Let’s give them all the information they need to make the most important choice of their life.

#choosethisday #bothsidesofthecoin #tellthewholetruth #teachyourkidsaboutsatan #goodandevil

* From Mature Living, May 2018.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Not Just for Kids Anymore

I stopped by the hospital the other day to visit a friend from church. He was still in the Emergency Room so I wasn’t sure if they’d let me see him. I told the desk clerk his name and asked if I could say hi, even though I wasn’t family.

“Who are you?”she asked.

“I’m his Sunday school teacher,” I said. 

She snorted. SNORTED! And said, “His Sunday school teacher?” as if it’s a strange thing for a grown man to have a Sunday school teacher. I wasn’t sure if he had behaved badly and she couldn’t believe he went to church, or she thought Sunday school is just for kids.
impromptu prayer for passing ambulance
Whether you call it Sunday school, Adult Electives, small group, community, or growth group—getting together consistently with people who know and love you, and want to know and love God better, is a very good thing. Small groups rejoice in answered prayers and victories large and small. And they offer comfort when other members suffer pain. 

Churches in Britain first began to offer Sunday school to poor children in the 1780’s so they could learn to read and write. They used the Bible as their textbook. These children worked in horrible conditions during the Industrial Revolution, six days a week. It wasn’t until 1802 that laws were passed to put a twelve hour limit on their days. And that stayed in place for another forty years. 

Their one day off became an opportunity to get an education and have a better life—plus prizes, games, outings, and a doorway to a lifelong relationship with God. The idea was so popular it spread to America, and adults got into the act, not just as teachers but as attenders.

An artist's beloved Bible, Dalia Lanita

Dalia Lanita's Bible

Kids aren’t the only ones who need to make friends, laugh, share a snack, and learn how to apply what the Bible says to everyday life. Bible studies, support groups, and small groups that meet all days of the week have nourished me in countless ways over the years. I’ve made lifelong friends and found comfort and support in the darkest times.

Lately, our Sunday school class has been studying Revelation, which can be a mystical and foreboding book of the Bible, but we’re having a blast. We have fun because it’s a safe place to be yourself, share what you’re learning, and ask questions. Plus we have snacks. We're growing together.

I’m currently involved in three kinds of small groups: Sunday morning in Revelation, IF Table—a women’s dinner and discussion night that meets once a month, and Spark—a group that meets once a week to read through the Bible aloud and discuss as we go. Each one has a different format and involves different people, but they all meet our deep need for connection—with others and with God.
join a group that is welcoming

informal backyard settings are great

What about you?

  • Did you attend some kind of small group as a child? What were your experiences?
  •  Are you part of a small group now? If so, what do you do when you get together?
  • What needs does small group meet for you?
  • What do you wish would happen in your small group that doesn’t?
  • What kind of small group would you join if you could?
  • Have you ever taught or led a small group? 

      I would love to hear from you! Your comments will help others who are either enjoying, frustrated with, or longing for a small group of their own. Your experiences and ideas could be the catalyst they need to take to connect with a community of terrific people.

#yeaforsmallgroups #adultsinchurch #adultSundayschool #howSundayschoolstarted #Sundayschoolisforeveryone