About a week after K. came to live with us, we noticed something; he LOVED to go to church. He asks us almost daily, “Do we go to church damarrow?” When we say “yes” gets really excited, his countenance aflame with joy. We found him a small Bible to carry, and he carries it proudly every service. It is really sweet to see. Though he doesn’t yet understand many of the words, he still wants me to read from it each night after we read something on his level.
Update: I have decided to change the name of this series of posts from Different Lenses, to Upside Down. This term speaks more clearly about my intentions. I want to look at "normal" things through the Upside Down way that Jesus seemed to. He set the world on edge when he brought to the universe of faith a completely different way of seeing things. "Hey, Honey, there’s snot on your shirt." The way we see the world is tainted, or at least filtered, by the lenses we wear. In this series of blog posts I want to take some things that we may think of as “normal” and maybe look at them in a different light, through Different Lenses, if you will. Children In the Church Service I recently read an article about children in church. The article had some really helpful things to say in regards to encouraging those who struggle with small children in church. It attempted, and maybe succeeded, it communicating that they and their children are not just tolerated, but are actually welcomed and appreciated. However, I wonder if we could look at this through a Different Lens. There was something in the article that made my senses uneasy, made me tilt my head sideways a bit, narrow my eyes, purse my lips and wonder, “Hmmm … is all we can do here is ‘notice them’?“ You see, the article repeatedly said, “I see you …“, then filled in a particular struggle the mother/parent was having with the small child. I am a visual person and in my mind’s eye, I saw a lady in church, smiling gently as she looked across the room at the struggling mother, and in her heart she really was grateful to have the lady and her child there. She really was glad to see them … but … she just sat there. What would happen if it wasn’t enough to just “see them” in the service? What would happen if instead of validating their struggle by watching and not complaining and even accepting it, what if the writer got up and offered to help? What if she showed the lady where the nursery or the location of another room where she could hear the service and let the child play (we call it a Cry Room)? What if she simply sat next to her and kept the child occupied while the mother listened to the service? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be scornful here, but I do want us to look at this differently. Accepting and tolerating this often difficult situation is great, but what we as the church are really after is relationship, first with Jesus, then with each other. To bear one another’s burdens means more than even loving acknowledgement of each other’s struggles. It means jumping head-long, or feet first or cannonball if you please, into each other’s personal struggles and grabbing some of the burden for ourselves to bear. What if the young mother didn’t need a blog post to tell her that we saw her, but she felt that we loved her? What if she knew we loved her because we offered to give her a break from her fussy, or young, or ill-behaved child while she tried to soak up some teaching or singing or maybe just an unspoiled cup of coffee? What if we went even further and modeled for her hopefully present husband (though she may be alone) that it is ok for him to also engage with the children if he isn’t already? I know that in our culture this seems intrusive and we are all afraid of being “butt-in-skees” (have no idea how to spell that), but deep relationship requires us to first, actually care about the plight of those around us and, then to act on it. To look at this through a different lens might mean that we go home that day with snot on our shirt that belongs to someone else’s kid. (I know, that’s a tough call to make). It may also mean that we miss the lesson that morning. We could listen to the recording later, you know. What it also means is that this mother / parent goes home with your love, the Love of Christ, on his or her heart. That’s a pretty fair trade for some snot.
Things I know:
- It’s November
- Father’s Day isn’t until June
- I know this because it is always near my birthday
- Next year I will be 40 and I haven’t blogged in a long time
I haven't blogged in awhile mainly because I find it difficult not to jump into the socio-political fray without getting sucked into the rhetoric and losing what God has called us to. Maybe you can easily avoid the quagmire, but it is hard for me. However, I felt an intense desire to jump back into the blog-o-sphere when I reflected on these thoughts today.
At this stage in my life I see all around me people scurrying about trying to make sure we are preserving our freedoms, changing our circumstances and ensuring that our way of life continues as we have it / want it to be here in the US. These are, in themselves, good things. My particular silence regarding this issue has not been meant to be disparaging to those who are in this political fight and certainly not meant to discourage those in the physical fight, but has been an attempt to focus on what is the ultimate answer. I love what Tim Kellar said, and I paraphrase, “You notice that in his writings of prayers for his fellows, Paul doesn’t ask for their circumstances to change”. Neither does Jesus when praying for His disciples. In fact, He asks the Father to leave them here in this world; this world that will want to kill and persecute them for their belief in Him. He says, keep them, sanctify them. As if to say, “They’re gonna need it”. I hope this post doesn't get lost in all the rhetorical arguments but can give an example of what it means to do what God called us to do:
As a young boy I knew my Father was a man of faith. We went to church at each opportunity there could possibly be. He and my mother were then, and are now, very faithful. He was a deacon, a Sunday School teacher, a janitor, children’s worker, greeter, sound tech, you name it, he did it. I watched him as he stood with our pastor as the church tried to route him and throw him out over issues that had nothing to do with the Gospel. (I've seen this more than once) I was too young to remember who stood with him, but to me it seemed like he stood alone (though he certainly didn't).
As I grew, I watched him serve me, my brothers and my mother (as he still does) day in and day out. He would get up at 2AM, drive 15 miles to Dairy Palace and pick us up after work only to get back in bed to rise at 3:50 and drive an hour and a half to work, returning at 6:30PM. At that time he would greet my mother, place his things on the counter and grab a quick shower (his work made him stinky). He then helped get supper on the table. We all sat down and talked about our day. After dinner, he washed the dishes or at least helped. Then he sat in his chair and dozed until mom made him go to bed so he could do it all over again.
During basketball or track season this was all made more complicated by the need to travel and see each and every game, almost without fail. He cheered, he corrected, he encouraged, he drove home, went to bed, got up and did all over again. He went without so my brothers and I could have nice shoes, British Knights no less. If you don’t know what BK’s are, then don’t worry about it, you aren’t that cool either. He wore hand-me-down coats so we wouldn't have to and recycled our shoes when we outgrew them. Old shoes make great work shoes for jobs that make you stinky.
“What does this have to do with anything?”, you might ask. Selflessness. That’s what. We are so concerned over getting what is ours, over preserving our rights, over bettering our circumstances that we have forgotten a very important truth: It ain’t about us. The church’s mandate is simple: Make Disciples. The Christian’s charge is brief: Love God, Love Others, Make Disciples.
I am thankful to have been able to watch my dad make disciples for decades. He has made them at church, at home and at work. If we put as much effort into making disciples like Dad has – with his life – as we do making Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians or Tea Party-ers then homeless people wouldn’t be hungry and orphans would have a home. For a man who rises only a few inches above 5 feet (and I think he is shrinking) he stands mighty tall in my book, a giant of a man. A hero of the faith. I love you Dad.