Friday, July 14, 2006

Princess Holds the Key!

Yesterday in VBS the kids decorated sun visors. They all filed out of the church wearing little half-caps decorated with marker, sequins and glitter glue.

Princess decorated hers with a drawing (in her own hand) of Shamu, a couple of jewels and a foam heart sticker that says, "God". This was our sweet exchange when we got in the car:

P: This is a very important visor.
M: Why?
P: Because it says, "God" on it. That means that when people who don't believe in God see it, they'll know that God is real!

She plans on wearing it to Sea World next week. I'll let you know how many converts we get!

Another Book Report

I should have realized that I would be called upon to give a spiritual book report more than once this week. It just seems that when God starts working on you, He doesn't stop until He's made His point and YOU'VE GOTTEN IT! And then He works some more.

This week at VBS we've asked the kids to bring in spare change for a mission project. We are raising money for a specific Habitat for Humanity family. All of the money we donate will go directly to this family's house. The kids have really been excited about it and they come every morning with pockets, hands and sandwich bags full of coins and, sometimes, even bills. Last night we had a "situation" with Princess concerning the offering.

Earlier in the week I gave her our large bowl full of change to bring. She was very excited to be able to bring so much change. She took it to her room and started filling her "Give" jar. (She has three jars: Spend, Save and Give. Every time she gets her allowance we instruct her how much to put in each jar.) Last night I noticed that her "Spend" jar seemed a little more full than it had at the beginning of the week. I asked her if she had taken some of the money and put it in there. At first she said (a very weak) no, but then I had her look me in the eye and I told her that I could see that it was now overflowing whereas it wasn't a few days ago. She confessed. To much protesting, I took out the excess (I knew how much she had in there on Monday) and then I told her that we needed to get her dad in on the discussion.

Hubby was disappointed in Princess' actions, obviously. He had her apologize to me and to God. We all prayed. Then brought out her Bible to show her God's words about stealing. Deuteronomy 5:19 "You shall not steal." Then Hubby turned to Acts 5.

Here is the text to Acts 5:

Acts 5

Ananias and Sapphira

1There was also a man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife had agreed to this deception.
3Then Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren't lying to us but to God."
5As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6Then some young men wrapped him in a sheet and took him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, "Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?" "Yes," she replied, "that was the price."
9And Peter said, "How could the two of you even think of doing a thing like this--conspiring together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Just outside that door are the young men who buried your husband, and they will carry you out, too."
10Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what had happened.

(Before I go further, I must set the environment. At this point it was about 9:15 p.m. Princess was SO tired from a full day of running and playing and crafting, etc. Hubby was equally fried. Every waking moment that he's not at work, Hubby has been studying for a training that he's going to next week. Because of all of the pressure, he hasn't been sleeping well. This environment was not optimal for having a teachable moment! But the Holy Spirit was SO in charge. Read on.)

When Hubby turned to that story in Acts, I was with him. I knew where he was going with it. God wants us to be truthful in our giving and in our hearts. That is the point of the story and that's the point we wanted to make to Princess. Hubby started reading and I guess he just got into it. He didn't stop. He and I both realized that he wasn't stopping just about the time "he fell to the floor and died" came out of his mouth.

Have you ever seen someone say something just as they realize that they weren't supposed to say it? It's almost like there is a voice balloon coming out of their mouth and they are trying to suck it back in.

Princess looked up and said, "HE DIED?" just as Hubby said, "But you're not going to die!" Hubby did some great backtracking there! He explained that this was in the early church and God had to make an example out of these two people so that others would know that He was serious about commitments that you make to the church and to Him. He also pointed out that these were two grown-ups who should know better and Princess is just a kid and she's still learning God's word. I pointed out later that the couple lied to God and did not confess or show remorse. Princess did both. Hopefully we have not scarred our daughter for life! But hopefully she will think twice about stealing again.

But wait! The drama was not over!

Then Hubby told her that her consequence was that she had to give $3 of her own money into the "Give" jar. You would have thought we told her that we were going to pull her toenails out. She screamed, cried and kicked like a banshee! When she wouldn't stop pleading for us not to take her money, Hubby gave her 10 seconds to stop or he'd take another dollar. It has been a LONG time since I saw Princess scream and writhe like that. Hubby wound up taking about $5 more from her "Spend" jar and was about to take more. The Holy Spirit worked overtime on this one! I calmly asked Hubby to come out into the hall with me. I talked with him about his rule that once a child earns something, that thing cannot be taken away as a punishment. Princess had earned all of her dollars through chores (we have a chore system - each chore she completes equals a token and 20 token equal a dollar) and he was taking them away. He was very sweet and humble and went back into Princess' room and gave her back all of her earned money - even the original $3 fine.

We decided that we should all pray one more time and then, at a later date when all are rested and cooled, we would address the issue of Princess being VERY attached to money at this particular time in her life.

Sigh. Tough night. We were trying to be good, Christian parents and use scripture to illustrate our point, and we wound up leading our kid to believe, if just for a moment, that God was going to kill her for her infraction.

At least she'll have this post to print out and bring to her therapist's office.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What I Learned in VBS Today

Oh what a morning. Lately starting the day in our house is just . . . not fun. Buddy's main method of communication when he gets up is whining. And Princess's main goal at that point seems to be to get a rise out of Buddy. Breakfasts have been torture. Crying, screaming, whining, fits. And that's just me! (Ha - had to say it.)

This morning I had just had enough so I made Princess go back upstairs and wait to have breakfast. Buddy was already crying because of something Princess said (I think she told him that she was going to eat the same kind of breakfast bar that he had - HORRORS!) and as she started up the stairs she started crying, too. She kept wailing that she was SOOO hungry and that she felt sick because of the hunger (never mind that I had to ask her three times to come down to breakfast because she was playing with her Barbies).

I have to admit, I yelled. I threatened. I spoke very harsh words to both of them. You see, I was just DONE with it. Every morning. Every morning it's like this and I was just done. By the time I got the kids in the car I was almost in tears.

I mentioned in another post that I'm leading the kiddos in two songs every morning. On the way to VBS we listen to the two songs so that I can warm up and refresh my memory. We backed out of the driveway and Buddy requested his favorite of the two songs. Of course, Princess immediately asked for the other on. I said that whichever song came on when I turned on the CD player, that's what we'd listen to first. When Buddy's song came on first, Princess started her sassy talk. "Well I guess I won't get to hear my song because HIS song came on first. I guess I don't get to hear my song at all this morning." I turned off the music, pulled over, put on my hazard lights and we all just sat. I needed a "time out". I finally told Princess (in a harsh tone) that I was having none of that and that she needed to stop complaining and whining and apologize for her attitude and behavior. After a minute or so, she finally broke and said that she was sorry. So I pulled out into traffic and turned the song back on.

Here are the lyrics to the first song:

Love like You, I want to love like You
With patience and kindness, forgiveness, too
Love like You, I want to love like You
Oh, Lord, won't you help me to love like You?

When I'm feeling glad (Help me to love like You)
When I'm feeling bad (Help me to love like You)
When I don't get my way (Help me to love like You)
At school or at play (Help me to love like You)

CHORUS AGAIN

When Mom needs some hugs (Help me to love like You)
When my brother bugs (Help me to love like You)
In all that I say (Help me to love like You)
Every day (Help me to love like You)

Ouch. Those words pierced my heart. I knew that God was really speaking to me through those lyrics. I was not, in any way, shape or form showing my children His love this morning. The Bible verse that this VBS is based on is 1 Corinthians 13:4 - 7 "Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Now with that definition of love, was I telling my kids that I love them? How could I lead 500 kids in a song like that when I couldn't show two kids how to live it?

When we got to the church, I stopped the car and turned to the kids. I told them that we were not showing each other God's love this morning. I made sure that I included me! I asked questions about some specifics - when I did this, was I showing love? - and then asked them to forgive me for not showing them God's love.

Princess and I dropped Buddy off at his classroom and then we walked over to the main building where all of the older kids meet their teachers. I just didn't have peace that I could leave her. Something wasn't right yet. So I sat her down in my lap and prayed. I thanked God for giving her to us. I confessed to Him (as she listened) that I had not acted as He would have me act. I prayed that He would give me His strength and that He would truly help me to love as He does. As I spoke to the Lord who loves both me and Princess with a love that is perfect, I felt her little arms tightening around my neck. She buried her face in my neck and just held on. I felt healing and I felt peace that can only come from the Father. It was a sweet, sweet moment.

I wish we could have had that moment without the pain that preceded it, but God needed to take me to my knees. I have not been seeking Him lately at all. Oh yes, I have been praying. I always pray and I also try to praise and thank Him as many times a day as I can. And let's not underestimate how powerful prayer is. But I have not been going to His word for nourishment. Living a life that reflects Christ without going back regularly to read His words is like trying to give a book report on a book that you haven't read in six months. You might be able to recall a lot of it, but you probably wouldn't remember some subtle nuances that enhance the story and reinforce the theme.

Had I been spending more time seeking His will through His word, I probably would have been better equipped to deal with what went on this morning. I am not saying that reading the Bible is a magic pill that will make me able to listen to whining with a smile on my face. And I'm not saying that, had I been reading the Bible more regularly, I would not have blown up this morning. I'm saying that this morning I was asked to give a book report to my kids and I acted as if I had never even read the book.

But I'll bet that I have another shot at the book report tomorrow morning!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Big Ole Can O'Worms

So I've kind of avoided the subject of religion here for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is that I shrink from conflict like a glacier from a volcano and I know that religion can stir up a lot of conflict. Another reason is that I'm always afraid that I'm going to be asked the "tough" questions about my faith and I hate saying, "I just don't know" or "Well, you just have to have faith". I have friends who have fabulous answers for all sorts of questions. I just freeze. I'm afraid that I'm going to seriously offend someone or that someone just won't like me because I'm Christian, etc. So I avoid the subject.

But not right now. I have some stuff on my mind.

I know that a lot of people are offended and annoyed by Christians who try to share their faith. (I also know that there are a lot of completely obnoxious Christians out there who are very pushy! We're just going to leave them out of it for now.) If people really know and understand Christianity, I would think that they would be offended and annoyed if we DON'T try to share our faith. We believe that Christ is the only way to reconcile with the Father and, therefore, be with Him in eternity. That path is open to anyone. Anyone at all. (Yes, it's exclusive - there are no other roads to heaven - but it's inclusively exclusive. All you have to do is believe.) Now if I believe that only those who accept Christ will be with Him in eternity, and I choose not to share that information with you, wouldn't you be a little offended? Wouldn't you wonder why I didn't think that you were good enough to share that very important tidbit with? As I was thinking about it, I kind of equated it to knowing that there was a place where you could go and get a free car - any car that you'd like - complete with gas and maintenance for life and all you had to do was go to this place and say, "Please". If I went and got a brand new dream car and started driving it around and didn't tell anyone else that they could get a free car, too, what would that say about me? What would people think when they found out? I know that some people prefer to walk and some just like to ride their bike or the bus. That is their choice. But wouldn't they appreciate me telling them anyway?

A few weeks back we had a series in our Sunday School class about what it means to be a Christian in today's world. Why does the word "Christian" put off so many people? Why do some people think that they wouldn't be welcome in a church? Why do some people loathe the idea of coming into a church? Is it Christ? Or is it His followers? We talked about and debated those ideas for several weeks. It was sobering. It made me look at myself and wonder what non-Christians see. What kind of messages am I giving off? Am I someone who people want to know? Am I someone who people want to flee? Are they surprised when they find out that I'm a Christian? And if they are, is that good or bad?!?

(I feel that I'm not really getting to any specific point - that I'm just rambling. But that's okay! It's my blog! I'm trying to work something out here!)

A few years ago I had a conversation that I wish 1) I could remember all of and 2) I wish I could have again so I could defend myself and my faith better. I was working for a small business that provided after school classes. We rented space at several places around town - one place being a church. The church stated in the contract that people who came into their building and rented space to conduct classes could not display any anti-Christian or Pagan symbols while they were there. I forget the exact wording. I had to let the owner of the business know about that clause because one of her instructors was a Pagan and wore Pagan symbols on rings and necklaces. I must have said something about Pagans that she didn't like because later she confronted me about it. She said that she knew I was a Christian, but hadn't pegged me for being judgmental. I honestly don't know what I said! But her confrontation got me thinking. How many times had I sat in meetings in that business and listened to most of them make fun of Christians and/or Christian holidays and not said anything. I just sat there thinking that that was their own opinion and I didn't want to be the party pooper. I didn't laugh and I didn't take part, but I didn't defend myself. Now I say one thing (and I still don't remember what it was) and all of a sudden I was called on the carpet. She was also pretty ticked about the clause in the contract. She wanted to look for another location, but the brochures had already been printed.

Think about the clause, though. We were asking to use a church. Christians revere their churches as a place of worship. We even go so far as to call a church "God's house". It stands to reason that they would not want someone who appears to have authority (like an instructor) come into God's house displaying Pagan symbols. What kind of faith and devotion would the church leaders have if they allowed that? Just like a vegan restaurant would not allow you to rent their party room for a demonstration on how to cook with beef.

Please don't think that I'm trying to play a "Christian victim" here. I don't really feel victimized. I just notice things. Discrepancies in behavior, in others and in myself, when it comes to the topic of religion.

Now, recalling my previous claim that I can't stand conflict, I hope that I haven't offended or weirded out any readers here. I say that Cabin 77 is where I am myself. This is me. I am a Christian. I will post more on my faith at some point in the future. To tell the truth, most of my friends in everyday life are Christian. My blog is where I get opinions and points of view based on different world views and different faiths. I enjoy that! Please feel free to comment, but please be kind. Remember the picture of the volcano and the glacier. And don't worry, I'll go back to posting about the kids soon. Buddy putting Band-Aids on his nostrils is infinitely more entertaining than dry posts about religion!

And now I will close. I had a big day today. This morning I led about 500 kids in singing songs about God in Vacation Bible School. So, of course, I had to question my religion! LOL! Would you trust your child with me?!? ;-)