Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I'm a Teacher

Thirteen years ago, before Darby was born, the plan was that I would be a stay-at-home mom until the kids were older, and then I'd actually use my education degree to earn a living. Well, the time is here. In a little over a month, I will be teaching English Language Arts to 10th and 11th graders.
I'm excited and nervous and scared to death. But I'm sure I'll do fine. I just have to keep telling myself that: "I'll be fine; I'll be fine; I'll be fine..."

I'm worried about being a working mom. Spending time with each of the kids, taking them to their activities, volunteering at church, keeping up with the housekeeping. All this while working full-time. How do you working moms do it? I've never been a good housekeeper. In fact I'm a horrible housekeeper: even as a stay-at-home mom. I've always believed that the mess will be there tomorrow, but the kids will leave someday. So I spend more time playing Pictionary and Scrabble Junior, and not so much time dusting and mopping. Now, I'm wondering how I'm going to get it all done. Any help out there? I never took to, although I think she's brilliant. Sidetracked Home Executives was pretty good with their 3x5 cards. But I have a hard time sticking to a system. Maybe the structure of working will help with that. I'm open to suggestions.

There are so many changes in my life right now, I'm more than a little stressed. I keep reminding myself that this will be good for the family, good for me, good for our finances, good for our marriage. But change is hard, and I'm having a hard time keeping up with it all.

I keep wishing that I could go back in time 13 years and do it all again. It feels like I'm leaving a part of me behind. Ever since Darby started walking at 10 months, I have known that every step is a step away from me. Now I feel like I'm stepping away from them and it's a little scary. I'm sure that in a year I'll be saying that it was easier than I'd feared, but right now, I'm not sure I'm ready.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Well, It's a Start...

I've been told repeatedly that I should start blogging again, so this is my return to the blogosphere. Sorry for any disappointment it may cause.

I like an escalator because an escalator can never break, it can only become stairs. There would never be an escalator temporarily out of order sign, only an Escalator temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience.
- Mitch Hedberg

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Preteen Ministry Blog

I just started a new blog today, called Preteen Ministry. Really original title, I know. Anyway, it's mainly for our Underground Programming Team, so that we can share ideas, and store curriculum for our kids in the future. However, I hope it might grow to be a resource for other people in preteen ministry. There are some great youth ministry sites out there, but I've had a hard time finding things that aren't too mature or too "childish" for our extremely cool, but hopefully still quite innocent, preteens.
When I look for video clips, I don't want to have to weed through the rated R movies, or even the PG-13 movies that I'm leery of endorsing. But I don't want to always be showing Disney or Pixar movies. I've found some great ones, but the kids will soon be tired of Lord of the Rings and Narnia. I wish I didn't feel so awkward showing Harry Potter: there are some great things there, but some parents might flinch.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Great post on Think Christian from Monday. "Former LA Times religion writer William Lobdell tells a sad and moving story about how his job as a religion reporter wore down his faith." It seems that the reality of sin in God's churches led this writer to question, and ultimately lose, his faith.
It's sad, but true, that sin exists in God's followers as much as it does in the world. It's the problem with free will and sin and living in a fallen world. And it makes me angry.
One of the responses on TC suggested that Lobdell's faith must not have been real. Real faith can't be lost. But what's the point of questioning whether or not the author's faith was genuine to begin with? I can tell you with complete confidence and conviction that my faith was very strong and very real before I lost it. There is no doubt that I truly believed...and then I truly didn't. My reason was the same as that stated by Lobdell: the lack of evidence in God's followers.
I see now, as a more mature follower, that sometimes faith IS a choice. Lobdell wrote, "Either you have the gift of faith or you don't. It's not a choice. It can't be willed into existence." No, it can't be willed into existence, God has to plant the seed, but I find that I do have to choose to nurture that seed. Satan can put lots of evidence in front of me that God doesn't exist, but I have to choose to look for God around me and seek him out. God's followers aren't perfect, and sometimes we can be just as filthy as the world around us. And that is one of the saddest realities of sin. But I have to choose to focus on the things that support and build up my faith. That doesn't mean hiding my head in the sand and pretending that God's followers are perfect. It means facing the filth head-on, while looking for (and being) the evidence of God's love to the world. While I might be disgusted by the way some of God's people act, I can choose to be part of the light that Jesus commanded us to be, and in doing so, I am contradicting Satan's lies to myself and to people like Lobdell .
I'm posting about this because want to be reminded of this article. I want to read it when I need reminding of what happens when we choose to focus on the sin around us instead of the Redeemer and the possibilities that he offers us. God doesn't hit us over the head; he doesn't force us to believe. But he gives us plenty of opportunities to see him if we'll just open our eyes to him.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Applause (Lesson #1)

Last year, we tried something new at our church, but because of time restraints, we had to set it aside. Now, it looks like God has opened up a new door for it, so we're looking at starting it up again. It is a creative arts class for our Undergrounders (preteens), called Applause. The basic idea is that each month, or six-week period, or whatever is needed, a church member who has a strength or talent will come teach the kids for a short 20-to-30-minute class. (I know that's not long enough, but it's what we've got.)

The thought behind it is this: God created us in his own image and since God is creative and uses his creativity regularly, we should do the same. The name, Applause, comes from the idea that we should be giving our talents as applause (or worship) to God instead of seeking applause for ourselves. One reason that Becky, a Crossgate church member, had the idea originally is that these kids are going to be worship leaders, pastors, teachers, etc., in 10-15 years, so let's teach them now that worship doesn't have to look a certain way. God doesn't expect worship to come packaged neatly in a 10-minute singing session before preaching once a week. He is more creative than that. I can worship through a poem, a novel, a blog post; some people worship through drama, song, dance, even something as technical as manning the sound board during service can be an act of worship. We need to show that to these kids now before they get locked into some box that is their idea of what God is and what worshiping God is.

This is my brainstorming session on our first month's topic: God's creativity.

God made man in his own image. And he saw that it was good. What does it mean that we were made in God's image? (Kids answer, probably not in their own words: we have three parts, we have free will, we have the potential for some of the same traits as God: mercy, love, jealousy, etc.—yes, we have some really insightful kids.)

After God created man, what happened? (Garden of Eden, fruit, sin...)

After sin entered the world and man, do we still have the image of God in us? (yes)

I don't feel very Godly most of the time, with all that sin covering up God's image. But God's image is still there, underneath all that sin, isn't it? That's pretty amazing. I was made in God's image and so God's image is still inside me somewhere, even when I'm sinning. But I'm covering up the beauty of God with sin.

Someone tell me what you know about heaven. (Pearly gates, streets of gold, no sin, perfection...)
Sounds nice. But if God made such a perfect, beautiful place and then let people covered in sin come there, would it be beautiful anymore? No. That beautiful place would turn into earth, basically, wouldn't it? So heaven wouldn't be very heavenly anymore, would it? So what would be the point of heaven? But God provided a way to wash that sin off so we could go to heaven. What was that? (Christ's death on the cross, salvation)

Right. So when I was saved at the age of seven, all that sin went away, right? And now I'm perfect, so all is well. But wait, that's not right. Just today, I got really angry and yelled at someone for cutting me off in traffic, and I was envious that my friend was shopping for new clothes and I can't afford any right now, and I wasn't very respectful to the lady at the store who couldn't seem to figure out how to make change, and...sin, lots and lots of sin. But when I was saved, what did happen? (God forgave my sin, and Christ came into my heart.) What does that mean, Christ came into my heart? (Lead them to understand that the Holy Spirit came into my spirit to lead me. Gal. 4:4-6, Romans 8:14-16)

So God is part of me in two ways: God made me in his image, and then when I was saved, the Holy Spirit entered my spirit, awakening that essence of God that was already there. So how do I improve and build upon that spirit of God that is inside me? (prayer, reading the Bible, going to church, etc.) Exactly. If I learn who God is through Bible study and prayer—learn his qualities, his essence, his personality—then I can spend my time trying to make those parts of me stronger and better, right?

In Applause, we are going to study one aspect of God in particular, his creativity. This is not necessarily the most important aspect of God, but it is one that is often overlooked. And I think every aspect of God must be important, don't you? Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments and the countless Old Testament rules with these two: “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind...and your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). I spend a lot of time on Sunday mornings talking about loving others, and showing the world God's love. And that is very important. But we need to also put every bit of us—our hearts, souls, and minds—into loving and worshiping God, every day. That comes first. And I think that takes creativity.

Now we're going to see some evidence of God's creativity in the world around us. (Show them a video clip from the Planet Earth series that highlights that—something similar to the National Geographic article "Hawaii's Unearthly Worms"; or just show them the pictures from the NG article.)

God's creativity is everywhere around us. When I'm really struggling with a problem, and I need to remember that God's got it all under control, I like to go outside for a walk and surround myself with his creation. It helps me remember his awesome power, but it also reminds me that God doesn't always do things the way I would do them if I were him. If I could have created the world, I probably would have created one kind of worm, or maybe two, or maybe I wouldn't have had the foresight to create those slimy, dirty things in the first place. Or maybe I would have made them less slimy and a little prettier, but then they wouldn't have been as effective at what they do. God is so much more creative than I could ever be, so whatever is going on in my life, maybe God knows a better way to deal with it than my little brain can handle.

Before next week, I want you to to take a walk outside. While you are walking, I want you to pray silently that God will help you see him. Just something as simple as that, “God, please help me see you on this walk.” Then look around you and really see God's creation. It doesn't matter if you live in the country or in town, you can see creation everywhere. In fact, the image of a flower forcing it's way through a crack in cement says a lot about God to me. Next week be prepared to tell me about something you saw and how God could speak to you through it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Freedom #2

Underground Curriculum on Freedom.

Week 2: The track

If you take a train of any kind and place it on the open road, what happens? Nothing. A train needs a track in order to progress. The train's freedom to do what it is supposed to do comes from the track. Without it, the train is just a heap of metal.

Our track is God's plan. Daily, we have to choose to follow God's plan in our lives or to jump off the track and find our own way. Unlike the train, our lives will move either way. But there is freedom in being the person God created each of us to be.
A disobedient child may choose the freedom of jumping out of the tree house, but once his leg is broken, his freedom is lost. The obedient child will choose to climb down and will then be able to run to his next activity.

There is a definite disconnect between the world view and God's view here. And it is understandable. Religion seems stifling and binding, the world offers a freedom to choose whatever we want to do or be. But that is part of Satan's lies to us. Following God does not mean following some prescribed set of rules that are solely meant to make life miserable. Jesus gave us few commands: Love God and Love Others (Matt 22:36-40) and tell people about Him and teach them who He really is and what He really wants (Matt 28:18-20). The Old Testament is full of rules that God gave his people, and some of those rules are just good common sense. But they aren't rules that are meant to rule us: God is to rule us. The whole point of those rules was to point us to the fact that we can't do it without God (Gal 3:24). The Pharisees and Sadducees in the New Testament were constantly being blasted by Jesus because they made the rules their god instead of looking to the true God.

Gen. 3:1-24
Satan convinced Eve (and she convinced Adam) that disobeying God would lead to more freedom. He told her that if she ate the fruit she would become like God. She chose that false freedom over God's plan. And the consequences were severe. The most severe was simply that sin was introduced to humanity. Adam and Eve became aware of their sin and felt shame. They hid from God, something they had never felt compelled to do before, out of shame and fear. God took them out of the garden, the beautiful place God had made just for them, and they had to find their own way in the world. They had to provide their own food and protect themselves from the harsh reality of the world.

In the same way, when we choose the world's way instead of God's, we lose the beautiful life that God has planned for us, and we lose God's protection and provision in our lives.

Freedom #1

I help program for the preteen ministry at our church, The Underground. The name came, in part, because we were given a section of a storage room on the bottom floor. But our graphics focus on the Underground subway system. Our focus is on Freedom, and our verse is Gal. 5:13.
In August we are going to do a short study on freedom as a way to introduce our program to our new 5th graders, and this post is the formation of that study. If it rambles, that's why.

Week 1: The train (Free will).
The movement of a subway train represents each person's life. We are always going somewhere, never just wandering around. Even when it seems like we have no destination, everything we do, every choice we make, leads somewhere.
Gen. 2:4-25. God made Adam in God's own image and then placed Adam in the Garden of Eden. It was an ideal place, and life was wonderful. Even in paradise, there was work to do and there were choices to be made. Adam chose to be obedient because he loved God and because God had provided and had been all he had ever needed. God created Eve as a helpmate, and they were happy. They felt no shame because there was no sin or guilt.

Each of us is made in God's image. We have the ability and freedom to choose every day whom we will follow. When we stick to God's plan, God provides for us and protects us. That doesn't mean there won't be hardships (this is earth after all, not heaven), but God is with us every moment of every day. Our relationship with God is solely dependent on our own decisions: that doesn't mean that God punishes us for our mistakes by withholding himself, it means that he won't force himself on us if we don't seek him out. God forgives our mistakes, and he will do that daily, hourly, or more, if need be, but he will not take away our free will.

Free will. Everyone wants freedom, that's part of humanity. A child wants to escape from his mother's grasp and toddle off. (For a moment or two anyway.) Who would ever want to be forced to love or to obey someone else? There is joy in making a choice to love. Why didn't God just take away the choice and make it easy on us all? Because he wants to be loved, not simply obeyed. I can force my children to obey me by using a belt on their backsides, but nothing I do can force them to love me. I must build that by showing them love and by teaching them to trust me. That is free will. That is the basis of love. And God is the origin of love. It is impossible to truly love without freedom.

I'm looking for a movie clip to illustrate this point. Maybe something in "The Chronicles of Narnia". Week 2 will follow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On Summer and Life

Well, I haven't posted in almost 4 months. And it was 3 months before that one. I hope it's not a trend.

Obviously, I've been busy. And tired. I'm told that that happens when you have three kids, so I guess I'll survive.

I've been looking forward to summer...spending time with the kids, relaxing, sleeping in once in a while. Okay, maybe not. This month has been even busier than most months during school. Swim lessons, guitar lessons, soccer camp, getting ready for a vacation. Okay, vacation seems promising: lying on the beach, listening to the waves and my kids playing, and my youngest saying, "Mom, Mom, look...Mom, Mom, look what I did...Mom, Mom..." Okay, maybe not quite like the last time I was there: on our honeymoon, no kids, no distractions. But, maybe better in some ways. My kids getting to see the ocean for the first time ever, watching them play in the waves and build sandcastles, and bury themselves in the sand...

I hope I cherish it for what it is. Along with the rest of the summer.

My youngest will start Kindergarten in the fall, my middle starts Intermediate School and my oldest will start Middle School. I'm trying not to focus on the negative: more and more places to be and things to do, less time together, moving closer and closer to the inevitable empty nest. I need to focus on the positive: my kids will one day be responsible, happy adults with lives and families of their own. But right now they are mine, and I'm going to cherish them and their lives, even in the chaos that it creates.