Life in Context

IMG_3026“Stop trusting in man, who has but breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?” Isaiah 2:22.

God spoke very strongly through His prophets and it still resonates, but you have to read these kind of verses in context. Context is everything.

I believe in context, after all I taught literature for 20 years. Whether it was Kate Chopin or Dostoevsky, context was vital to the interpretation of literature. The “who, what, where, when, why, and how” was key to understanding authorial purpose. If I didn’t understand 19th century Russian culture, how would I make sense of Crime and Punishment? And what about Kate Chopin’s The Awakening? How would I grapple with Edna Pontellier’s decision to walk into the ocean, leaving behind a domineering husband and sons destined to become like their father if I didn’t understand Chopin’s social commentary on women’s roles in late 19th century America? Context.

Context adds depth of understanding to any piece of literature. The same is true for God’s Word. The Bible even as literature must be read “in context.” It’s one book with one purpose: Jesus Christ. The Son of God who was and is and continues to be– eternal. It is the story of redemption. God created (the Trinity was in on this whole thing from beginning to end) us and had a plan to redeem us because we are a rebellious people prone to creating our own gods and trying to save ourselves. We are messy creations. We need redeeming. And we are part of the story…we are part of God’s context. He includes us in His story.

Back to the verse in Isaiah 2.Here’s some context:

The Bible is largely a Jewish book. Sure, we “Gentiles” are grafted into God’s people by way of Jesus, but the Jews were called out to be God’s chosen people via Abraham. (see Genesis 12).

By 740 BC, the Jews were a pretty secular people. Throughout the reign of various ungodly kings and the division of Israel into two nations, they began to adopt the habits and culture of the surrounding nations. They started to act like them. Walk like them, talk like them, dress like them, intermarry with them, and worship like them. Oy to the Vey!

Isaiah begins this chapter warning the Jewish folks about what is coming. (Check out the book of Revelation to fully grasp God’s plan for His chosen people—the correlation with Isaiah is amazing.) Isaiah talks about the New Jerusalem and how amazing it will be and how God will dwell once again with His people. By verse 5, Isaiah is begging the Jews to “…walk in the light of the LORD.”

But then, wham! Verse 6 starts the condemnation and warning. We don’t like the judgmental aspects of God (even though He is perfect Justice), and the Jews weren’t too thrilled about it either. They didn’t like the warnings. They didn’t like being told what to do or being condemned by God for living like the nations who didn’t worship the one, true God. We don’t like it in 2016 either.

Isaiah ripped into them pretty harshly: “The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.” Isaiah 2:11. 

Arrogance. In the Hebrew, Isaiah is using two words: gabhuth and ruwm. Both mean “loftiness; haughtiness; pride; elevation; elation of the mind.” It’s the kind of arrogance that suggests that we know better than God. We lift up ourselves—and even others—as our source of salvation. WE become the context that God should fit into rather than vice versa. 

Example: I hate not being in control. I want to obliterate the suffering of anyone I love. I want to help the people in Syria who are starving or watching the children starve. I must find a part-time job that is fulfilling and purposeful. I can change my life story.It’s MY context and I’ll write it. I want…I must…I can. All lies.

Very little is within my control, but when I lift myself up to the place of self-sufficiency, I’ve put myself up equal to God.

A bit of hyperbolic fun: Let’s say I made myself a wee “Cindy Idol.” Curly blonde and white hair. Little round tummy. Old grey Converse tennis. I sit her on top of my bookshelf, so that I can worship her a little whenever I walk by. The problem? She has yet to ever fix anything. She hasn’t yet spoken a word to intervene in my life as a positive life force. She doesn’t bring me peace when I chant to her or practice my own version of yoga in honor of her. She doesn’t provide me with enough strength to move my body when my joints ache and crack. She hasn’t provided me with a job yet. And I’m diligent in my worship. Really. I dust her and move her around with me—sometimes in the car when I’m heading to town.

My “Cindy Idol” hasn’t spoken a world into being or created an ocean or delicate flowers or intricate life. She is powerless in the face of my struggles. Worthless. She cannot save me.

“Stop trusting in man, who has but breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?”

 Sometimes we lift up others as gods. We don’t do it knowingly—that would be silly. But we do. We make them fit into our own context.

Example: I hate politics. I listen and read and consume media in a variety of forms and try to form intelligent positions based on the evidence. The world is a rather terrifying place, and politicians want to assure us that they can save us.

They can conquer ISIS, build giant walls to seal out undesirables who might destroy our economy, create new jobs, generate even more affordable healthcare, provide tuition-free state universities, save unborn babies or allow women to kill unwanted babies without guilt, protect us by letting everyone have an assault weapon if they want one…

Wow. In the context of American politics, one man or one woman is in the position to save us from everything that might prevent us from attaining the American Dream.

I have to admit that at times I am disgusted and frightened for this country. Has it come to this? Have we moved so far away from God that we lack any kind of moral compass that directs our leaders to do what is right and good?

When I get concerned and frightened, lashing out at the television screen, I have let a politician slip into a god position. I’ve made a “Hilary Idol” or a “Marco Idol” or a “Cruz Idol” or a “Bernie Idol” or God help us, a “Donald Idol.”

“Stop trusting in man, who has but breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?”

I’m definitely not saying to quit voting or pushing politicians to serve they way they are supposed to serve. But I am saying stop being ridiculous idolaters. Man cannot save us. As Christians, we have a duty to elect leaders who will best serve the good of the people. All of the people. And if we want to throw our Christianity around as a cheap voting block, then at least choose someone that represents Christ-like qualities. Only God knows the state of their soul, but actions do represent internal qualities and values. Actions represent our context.

Into what context do we fall? Are we writing God into the context of our lives–claiming his healing and wealth and power as if we can manipulate him into performing as we want him to? OR are we letting God write us into the context of His story?

Ultimately we must put our faith where our mouths are. Speak truth. Speak love. Speak from a humble spirit and a merciful heart. But speak firmly and with boldness declaring that our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Hope isn’t built on my abilities or a politician’s abilities; it is built on the truth of God’s character and Christ’s actions.

We have to put our lives in the context of God’s story. We have to see the world through a God filter. We have to trust and relax in the Truth.

Consider this poem by Wendell Berry”

“We Who Prayed and Wept”

We who prayed and wept

for liberty from kings

and the yoke of liberty

accept the tyranny of things

we do not need.

In plenitude too free,

we have become adept

beneath the yoke of greed.

 

Those who will not learn

in plenty to keep their place

must learn it by their need

when they have had their way

and the fields spurn their seed.

We have failed Thy grace.

Lord, I flinch and pray,

Send Thy necessity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OUT OF COMPLACENCY, INTO DEPENDENCY

Near my walking trail. It's rural.
Near my walking trail. It’s rural.

*It has been extremely difficult for me to write after finishing my thesis; I’m always wanting to use APA citations, and my creativity seems to have flown the coop. This is a long, tedious effort to get back in the swing of things.

And the LORD God said to Steven: “Take thy wife, thy puppy, and all thy belongings and head west to the land I will show thee.” (Severance, Colorado)

Did Sarah kick and scream when Abraham said, “let’s go”? Well. . . I did. I was as mad as a wet hen. Tulsa was my home. Family, friends, colleagues=history. Comfort. And a touch of complacency. Just a touch. Really.

Everyone kept telling me how great it was—you know—Colorado—mountains—skiing—hiking—fresh air.

As for skiing—Tried it when I was in my 20’s; gave it up for Lent.

However, I do love mountains, so after I quit kicking (silent screaming continued for a while) and accepted the inevitable, I laid down some ground rules for Steve and God:
1. I must have a house west of I-25
2. I must have a mountain view
3. NO TRACT HOMES!
4. No linoleum must ever touch my feet.
5. No builder’s grade carpet (I would not give up my 50-year-old hardwood floors for tacky carpet).
6. No split-level or two-story homes need apply.

Yes, yes. . . I know. I’m blessed to have a home. I sound so materialistic. In the words of Idina Menzel–“Let it go!”

Then I met our realtor, Scott, and he showed me a total of five houses within our price range. That was it. I’d scheduled three days for looking at houses and only needed one. Seems the oil and gas boom in northern Colorado meant more folks moving in and fewer houses available. Prices went up and up and up and bidding wars ensued.

Lesson: Don’t lay down ground rules.

The Reality:
1. The only houses west of I-25 in Ft. Collins within our price range were split-level, dingy basement, one-and-a-half bathrooms, no-closet-space homes.
2. Mountain views were 50K extra.
3. Tract homes east of I-25 were more affordable.
4. Only two houses were available that wouldn’t require massive renovation and cleaning. One backed to a busy road in Greeley (where the wind wafts the scent of meat processing plants through the town). The other was clean. Good location. Nice quiet neighborhood. A two-story with finished basement. Great storage. Clean. Horrible builder’s-grade carpet. Linoleum in kitchen and bathrooms and 3’ x 4’ square entryway. No mountain view. BUT an incredible garden in the backyard and three full bathrooms. Great sized master.

We bought it the second one.

The Move
Steve moved out first. He started work at a church in September. I stayed behind to sell the house, pack, and finish my master’s thesis. The house sold in 12 days, so I moved in with my parents to finish writing my thesis and moved out in November.

I learned so much during the time with my folks. Certainly researching the effect of optional single-sex classrooms for boys

View from my "tower" at my parent's house. I worked on my thesis there.
View from my “tower” at my parent’s house. I worked on my thesis there.

struggling with literacy was an eye-opener and a very difficult research topic (one I’d chose for myself—no excuses!); however, the real growth came from just being around my parents and watching Christ in action through their lives. Blessed.

More Reality: Identity Crisis

I’m a teacher. It’s my identity. My teaching consumed me—about 60-70 hours a week (to the chagrin of my hubby). Teaching provided me with wonderful colleagues, terrific students, and an outlet for my creativity. Every week I’d look over lesson plans, re-work them, integrate some newer ideas, and grade papers. My reward? The appreciation of my students and their parents. It was never monetary. It was, however, a source of pride. I wanted to be an exceptional teacher. I loved having a great reputation. It sounds so conceited, but it’s brutally true—I valued my reputation and identity as an exceptional teacher.

Vanity, vanity. Poof. It’s gone.

Now I’m unknown. I apply and apply for adjunct teaching positions, but I don’t know anyone who knows someone. No connections.

And I miss my daughter and my parents and being only 3 ½ hours from my grandson.

But I’d become complacent. I see it now. It’s Windex clear to me now.

My complacency looked like this:

  • I figured that once I finished my master’s degree, someone would hire me based on my recommendations, reputation, and connections to wonderful teachers.
  • I figured I’d eventually find the right church and get involved.
  • I figured I’d start feeling stronger and be able to bike and lose weight and get healthy (I had to quit teaching for a year due to major arthritis issues and need for disk fusion surgery—worked on master’s while recovering).
  • I figured I’d start having weekly dinners with my parentals and with my daughter and her hubby.

I figured a lot of things, but didn’t take action on any.

Complacency.

And then God said, “Enough already.” Maybe. Who knows what God is saying in the heavenly realms concerning his millions of children?

Now I’m living east of I-25, have no mountain view, walk regularly on linoleum and builder’s grade carpet. AND I’m at peace.

Linoleum isn't the end of the world. Just miss my hardwoods.
Linoleum isn’t the end of the world. Just miss my hardwoods.

Dependency.

Severance, Colorado is on the eastern plains. When the wind sweeps down from the north, we get a nice whiff of a giant sheep ranch. The tiny town’s motto: “Where the geese fly, and the bulls cry.” The geese I get. The bulls weeping? Ah. Interesting story. Bruce’s Bar in Severance (an authentic “hole in the wall”) is famous for Rocky Mountain oysters—thus the bull’s cry. Ouch.

When isolated from friends and family and familiar places, you can keep kicking and screaming (I did), get really depressed (I did), or learn to trust your heavenly Father (I’m trying).

I began to live in God’s Word. I meditated on it day and night. I found a Bible study class in Ft. Collins. The ladies are precious and the study consumes much of my time. I found a church—Mountain View Community Church. Stevie and I love it. We are getting involved, and I am the volunteer print woman. I am now running bulletins, printing whatever needs to be printed. Using the folding machine. Stuff I learned to do as a graphic designer for South Tulsa Baptist Church in Tulsa eight years ago. I am trying to be useful while I look for a teaching position with a local community college or university.

I have no idea what is going to pan out for my future. None. I’m learning to walk by faith and not by sight—and it’s stinkin’ hard for a control freak like me.

What I know: God is the source of my strength. It doesn’t matter whether I “know someone” or have “connections”—He is my connection.

Kitchen tables are not for eating--they are for studying!
Kitchen tables are not for eating–they are for studying!

On the front of my Bible study notebook I have inserted a printed page that reads:
“If I do not stand firm in my faith, I will not stand at all.” It’s from Isaiah 7:96.

I recite it several times a day. It’s still lonely and isolated. I don’t have any friends yet—just some acquaintances. But God is my anchor and He holds me steady against this changing and sometimes overwhelming tide of change.

walking over the cliff. . .

Not THE WALL, but just like it.
Not THE WALL, but just like it.

I remember a ropes course a long, long time ago. I was in my 30s vs. my current 50s. It was a bonding thing. I worked at a private school that believed it was important to bond with the classes you were going to teach. I interpreted that (in my cynical way) as I needed to be willing to humiliate myself before my students in order to bond with them.

First of all, I had just met these kids and they were holy terrors. It was my first teaching job and a rude awakening to the profession I had idealized. I could see myself in my cute power suit standing in front—wait—no, sitting on the edge of my desk answering questions and asking them deep, meaningful questions about Fitzgerald’s stream-of-consciousness style or the metaphysical conceits of John Donne’s poetry. But they were freshmen. They were ornery and somewhat hateful freshmen. One of the first guys to walk into the class on the first day immediately looked at my seating chart and said, “That sucks.”

Then there was the “farter.” I had been warned, so I had my Lysol ready for him. The can was used. By me. (Excuse the passive voice!)

These freshmen also jumped on me immediately wanting to know what political party I belonged to. I wouldn’t tell them. I refused. It was none of their business. So they decided I was a Democrat and thus was going to Hell. Eesh. Freshmen.

It wasn’t what I’d imagined and now I was going to go to a ropes course and humiliate myself in some horrid way involving climbing walls and walking on ropes. I was going to have to trust these hormonally-dysfunctional, judgmental, self-indulgent rich kids! I was not happy. I was terrified. (*I grew to love these kids and taught them for four years! They are still precious to me in my memory.)

But I survived. Wait. You want to know what happened? Ok. It wasn’t that bad, or it didn’t seem that bad until THE WALL. You had to use the kids as footholds and others as a net to catch you on the other side of THE WALL. I weighed 150 lbs. These were freshmen. Their linebackers weighed 150 lbs. I did it though. Laughing and giggling like a freshman as they shoved my tush over the wall and the guys grabbed my hands and helped me over and then caught me. It was fun—sort of. I had built up such fear over THE WALL that I was sick about it. I had tried to figure a way out of doing the ropes course by working on developing a disease, but to no avail.

BUT I stepped out. I got in my car. I drove to the ropes course and quit thinking about. I just acted.

Trust. It is stinkin’ hard for me to trust people and God. I had a really rough 13 year marriage that shattered me. I had a four-year-old daughter that was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. Shattering pieces of my body fell to the floor. My trust in a faith that I’d believed in since I was seven years old shattered, as well.

God fixes shattered souls and shattered faith, BUT I have scars. And sometimes those scars ache with remembrance and doubt. Like now. 

If you read any of my other blogs, you know I had to quit teaching due to what I call the “triple threat” of arthritis. A type of rheumatoid, psoriatic, and osteoarthritis. My unholy trinity. Autoimmune diseases are tricky beasts. Mine ate my cervical discs. Drat those varmints!

From July to November 25, 2013 I was an invalid. Constant nerve pain in my left arm and left foot left me unable to walk well. Steroids. (Bloat). Steroid injection in my neck (3 of them). A nasty invention called a discography where the doctor shoots four needles one at a time in your neck through to your epidural cavity and viola—releases dye. Finally surgery on November 25, 2013. Double disk fusion in my C7 and C6, and C6 and C5. I have a metal plate and bone grafts from my hip. Just to be clear—I NEVER WANT TO HAVE SURGERY AGAIN EVER!.

A scarred neck and thinning hair, but I'm getting better!
A scarred neck and thinning hair, but I’m getting better!

Now, a month and a couple of weeks later, I’m doing better. I can walk every other day for 40 minutes. I’m losing some of the steroid bloat. I’m off my pain pills These are good things. I have my little foam collar to wear when I’m working at the computer or driving. I have this rather awkward black horse collar thing with a magic box on it that supposedly stimulates bone growth.  (A very expensive little machine, that one.)

I can read. Re-watch Sherlock on Masterpiece. Watch every episode of Call the Midwife. But I have no job. No real direction. I don’t know what is going to happen to my life. I can’t go back and teach in the classroom again because of all this stuff going on in my body.

I stepped out on faith. I threw up my hands and fell on the floor and said, “I GIVE UP! YOU WIN!” Well, maybe not quite that dramatic. My hubster—a patient man as ever was born—suggested getting my master’s degree on-line. Wise man. So I am. I’m on my third class and I enjoy it. A Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Adolescent Literacy. I have no idea what I’d going to do with that degree. None. Master’s degrees in education are a dime a dozen. But teaching is what I know and what I love. Oi vey. What’s one to do, I ask you?

Here’s the stepping out part—the part about trusting the kids to catch me when I climbed THE WALL: if I don’t take one step each day to complete a Bible study, or a blog, or an assignment, or a weigh-lifting session, or a phone call to a friend then Jesus can’t do anything. (Disclaimer: He can do anything He wants to do, but He prefers not to force the issue). 

He wants me to step off the cliff. Trust him. Just walk one step at a time. Go to the desk. Open my Bible and my journal. Read the plan I’ve set out for myself. Pray. PRAY! I’m a really good on-the-go prayer person. I’m wiping the countertops and shooting up prayers like Brother Lawrence. But God wants some concentrated effort. He inhabits our praises after all. Jesus said our faith could move mountains (I believe it was a metaphor, but I’m not sure).

So the journey really begins again now. No job. No identity to the world. Creativity dried up and crusty. Few friends (Not their fault! Colleagues are busy busy busy!). Loneliness. And fear. Tons of fear.

Here is what I read today that spoke to me: It’s from Matthew 21. Jesus has just cleared the temple and gone to Bethany to relax with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. He withers a fig tree the next day and talks with his disciples about their troubled minds concerning their future without him (I’m paraphrasing a lot—no panties in wads, please!). This is where he says that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father without Jesus. 

Then in verse 21: I tell you the truth (meaning I’m saying this with the authority of God—you can trust it), if you ________(plug in your name) have faith and don’t doubt. . . you can say to this mountain, “Go throw yourself in the sea,” and it will be done. If you______ (your name) believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in faithful prayer.

Faithful prayer. Walking or limping—doesn’t matter. Step off of the cliff and see what happens. I’m doing it. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Books I’m reading:

Exodus by Leon Uris. I’ve always wanted to tackle this 1958 classic. It’s huge and it’s chockfull of history. I looked stuff up as I read. He weaves a fictional tale that could have happened (and much of it did). If you can hang in there with some corny relationship stuff and the massive amount of Jewish history, you come away with a better understanding of what’s happening over there now. It’s enlightening and powerful.

Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg. I saw this in Relevant magazine (on-line) and bought it. Jesus was a Jew and the Jewish culture was his culture. Tverberg is interesting and authoritative in her writing. Learning a bunch.

Podcast: I’ve not been attending church for awhile due to several things—some valid and some not. God is working on me. I listen to Bill Hybels at Willow Creek. His last teaching inspired this blog. Here’s the link. It’s called “Stronger.”

http://media.willowcreek.org

And worship music. Matthew West “Hello My Name Is. . .”   Not a huge fan of the wha oh oh’s, but the message is great!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omMoLBKzgjU 

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ableman/144374493/”>Scott Ableman</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Childish or Childlike…which did Jesus prefer? (Please read with a bit of a southern accent–not hick–just Pioneer Womanish)

Israeli boy praying http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalgrace/35760489/
Israeli boy praying http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalgrace/35760489/

In Matthew 18, the disciples had been verbally tussling with each other over who would be the big “dawg” next to Jesus in Heaven. (I will qualify the following statements by saying not all men are egotistical. There, qualification in place.) Onward…in typical male patterns of behavior, the disciples engaged in basically a pissing contest. One up-man-ship at its finest. Jesus was not amused, so in order to teach them a lesson–and teach us all a lesson–he grabbed what was closest and wove a parable. This time, he used a child.

I like to picture the disciples for a moment. Kind of dirty and hairy. Long robes dusty and smelling a bit rank. Shoving and bragging about who Jesus liked the best and who would get to sit right smack dab next to him in heaven. To say they were being immature and childish would be correct. To say they acted like they never even knew what Jesus expected of them, would also be  correct (at least in that moment)  and a tad disappointing.

If you have children, you know this experience very well. You raise them with certain moral and spiritual guidelines and then, “whammy.” The “stupid” hits. You know the “stupid.” It’s when your kids reach that age where their brains seem to fluctuate from brilliance to stupidity in a matter of minutes. The “stupid.” 

I saw it a lot in the classroom. One minute the teenagers were blowing my mind with their insight into Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” and the next they were throwing paper wads across the room trying to reach the waste basket or breaking each other’s pencils for no apparent reason. The “Stupid.” And it infected 90% of the males. Sorry.

Let’s just say, I can see these grown men acting this way quite easily. But I also imagine Jesus was really disappointed. He only had ten more chapters to teach these guys about God and how they were to live for God having served with the son of God. They needed to understand that yes, they were Jews (and a Greek), but the law of the Old Testament no longer acted as their guide to living. They had the actual Messiah in their midst and he was teaching them how to live in a New Way. The law abolished in favor of love for God and love for neighbor. And soon, the Holy Spirit indwelling as a permanent Jesus-conscience. 

A child in Israel http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalgrace/35760534/
A child in Israel
http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalgrace/35760534/

So a child. Jesus chose a child to confound them once again (he was really good at this). As a parent and now as a grandparent, I know I would do anything for my kids. I love them more than…well…you know. Words don’t say it well. When my kids, David, Eric and Katie Jean, were little, I was always protecting. Not hovering, but aware. David liked to control the Lego’s–dictating the desirable architecture, so I needed to step in and make sure that sharing took place. He was also extremely shy. Painfully shy. The world hurt him daily. His first words to me after I picked him up from PreK were, “It’s chaos.” Now I know he was dealing with Asberger’s, but in the early 80s, not much was known about it, so I tried to act as his world-shield.

Eric liked to wander off. In the mall, he’d disappear under the clothing racks and I’d hear his tearful voice calling for me. The worst time was when his dad and I had all three of the kids at Fiddler’s Green in Denver for a 4th of July celebration. Thousands of people. One minute my darlin’ four-year-old was holding onto Katie Jean’s stroller and then he was gone. Just like that. I have never felt so afraid and helpless in my life. Again, no words. We found him an hour later. Some sweet teenaged girls took him to a safety hut and he sat there bawling his eyes out until I reached him (via the park security). I still get a lump in the pit of my stomach when I think about it.

My sons, Eric (left) and David (right)
My sons, Eric (left) and David (right)

My baby woman, Katie Jean, liked to do whatever the guys were doing–but she wanted them to do it her way. I was always saying, “Boys, include her but don’t cave in to her!” I didn’t want a manipulative female child and I don’t have one. I have a stubborn, determined, brilliant young woman who developed Type 1 (Juvenile Diabetes) when she was four. I was in the midst of divorcing their father when this happened. Again. No words. Painful. Hard to give a shot to a little girl twice a day when she doesn’t understand what is happening to her.

I tell you these stories about my children to commiserate with each of you who are parents and who understand the need to protect and encourage and nurture these wee ones. I’ve seen the other side of this coin, to use a cliché, within the high school classroom.

Kids moved daily from one parent to another due to a wonky divorce settlement. Teenagers parenting their very young siblings while their single father or mother hits the bars for a negotiate a one-night stand or to drink or smoke some weed. Then go home–or not.

Teenagers without any consistency in their nurturing cycle. Some survive in tact. Most don’t. 

Back to Jesus and the child. Unless we become like this little child, he said, we won’t see or enter or experience the kingdom of heaven. I had to ponder this and read several different translations. I even researched the roles of children during biblical times, but I always came back (as did the translations) to the fact that Jesus said to be childlike.

My daughter, Katie Jean.
My daughter, Katie Jean.

Vulnerable. Trusting. Needing guidance from our father. I think Jesus was telling them, stay close. Listen. Learn. Trust. Don’t go off half-cocked thinking you are this independent big dog with all the answers and ever expect to understand and see God.

Break down the walls that are keeping you from being childlike. First, break down the intellectual walls. LISTEN: that doesn’t mean be ignorant. God gave us a brain and He expects us to use it. Grow and develop intellectually. NOTE: GOD IS NOT THREATENED BY YOUR INTELLECT. YOU CAN’T OUT-KNOW HIM.

Next, ignore the Pat Robertson’s and Jim Bakker’s and Ted Haggard’s and all those folks who claim to know Jesus, yet seem arrogantly focused on themselves. Not a childlike honesty and vulnerability visible to the naked eye. BUT quit using them as an excuse to hate Jesus. Discover Jesus for yourself. Stop it with the excuses already! It’s arrogant. It’s bigotry and narrow-mindedness. It’s like seeing one gay man with a pink boa and lipstick and then thinking that every gay man is like that. Ridiculous. I teach gay young men and women and there is nary a pink boa in the bunch (although I do have a tiara and quite possibly a boa in my prop closet). The same open-mindedness you graciously give towards your gay friends, show towards Jesus. I hate it when people hate on Jesus and yet never try to know him and instead blame other people because “they’re hypocrites.” Could we please NEVER use that phrase again? All people are hypocrites. Some are bigger hypocrites then others (think politicians and all those well-meaning, outspoken environmentalist celebrities who drive big cars, or let someone else drive them in big cars that use tons of gasoline and then preach to the rest of us paeans how to live environmentally friendly lives. Chaps my tush).  

It’s time for me to display vulnerability and trust. It’s time to lean on my heavenly Abba. Let him guide and nurture and love and direct.

My last yearbook photo...makes me weepy.
My last yearbook photo…makes me weepy.

I know this is hard. I’m struggling with it. I had to resign from teaching last week because my health is not improving and there is no way I can stay in the classroom. My heart breaks every time I breathe. I cry with disturbing regularity, and I’ve gotten quite mad and even cussed a bit which is not like me. I’ve even used the “fair” excuse (and I hate that excuse).

I have a new job, but it doesn’t have benefits. It’s hourly. It’s a significant loss of income, and my husband and I are trying to figure out how we’re going to make it. God is kind of “repurposing” my life. I hope He doesn’t use sandpaper. 

So like a child, I’m staying pretty nestled up to my father (except when I’m cussing) in order to let him guide my path.

We are replaceable in our jobs–but we are irreplaceable to God.

May the grace and peace of Jesus help you to learn childlike trust and abiding faith. Amen.

 

Here are the links to the professional photos above:

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalgrace/35760489/”>danny.hammontree</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalgrace/35760534/”>danny.hammontree</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>