Sunday, April 28, 2013

Confession Time

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. John 5:16b (NIV)
I have a confession to make. There is a sin that has bested me for years. I have tried to overcome it by sheer will power and grit, but it always overtakes me and I am left ashamed. 

I am a glutton.

I don't think I'm alone. While we always think of gluttony as eating too much food, I don't think that's all there is to it. Gluttony does manifest itself in food consumption with me sometimes, but it's just as easily some other vice taken to excess. 

This is not about a sudden need to lose weight or get in shape or fit into my favorite jeans. At 5' 6" and 150 lbs, I could certainly stand to lose some weight, but I am also pretty average by American standards. 

This is about my propensity to stuff my hurt, my boredom, or my disenchantment about life with food or facebook or computer games or television. 

There is a void in me that Jesus longs to fill.

But that takes too long, so instead I grab the nearest whatever that will release some endorphins and palliate the ache. Because that reprieve is only temporary, I want more, until I begin stuffing to the point of gorging and wind up with dulled senses or a stomach ache.

This is a problem on many levels, obviously. 

We tend to minimize the sin of gluttony. After all, most churches are filled with gluttons and it seems like a mild that only hurts oneself. At the end of most church potlucks, it is common to hear some groaning and comments like, "Man, I overdid it." What would fellowship look like if it didn't include some gluttony?

God takes it seriously, however.
and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Proverbs 23:2 (NIV)
Ouch! Do you remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah? God destroyed those cities because of their wickedness, sparing only Lot and his family. What was their awful sin? Maybe not what you might think.
Sodom's sins were pride, laziness, and gluttony, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. Ezekial 16:49 (NLT)
Gluttony interferes with my ability and my willingness to minister to the poor and needy around me. If I am spending money on snacks from the drive-thru because I've had a hard day, there is little left to sponsor an orphan. If I am wasting time on computer games or facebook because I'm trying to fill a void, there is little left of me to give to the family with whom God has entrusted me...the needy outside my (bedroom) door.

This is one of those "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" kind of sins. The kind we are deceived into thinking we should be able to handle on our own - more of a character flaw than actual sin.

But it is a sin. 

And needs to be dealt with as such. So, here I am, confessing to you. There is power in public confession and I want to be set free from this. I want to be free to meet the needs around me. I want to let Jesus fill the void instead of stuffing it with a cupcake. 

Will you pray for me?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ordinary, but Holy (Part 2)

(You can read part 1 of this post here.)

We drove around downtown for a bit before finally parking the 15-passenger kid mobile in front of a park. Shawn and I were nervous. It's one thing to charge out into the wild blue yonder on your own; it's a whole 'nother ballgame to lead eight children into it.

We headed for the nearest picnic table and passed out the Dixie cups and crackers. As I was filling them with juice, Shawn talked to the kids about communion and sacrifice. (Lest you think it was a solemn, sacred thing, Eon threw his cracker-he hates any cracker that isn't round-and Bo was gobbling his like Cookie Monster...crumbs flying. The middle kids missed the point and guzzled their juice and needed refills before we prayed, and I got on some tangent about the bread at the actual Last Supper resembling more chalupa shells from Taco Bell than Saltines from Aldi.) But, eventually, we blessed the bread and took it and blessed the cup and took it, too.

Just a family in a park, breaking bread together.

Ordinary, but holy.

There were some men nearby that looked to be homeless. Rather than overwhelm anyone with the sheer number of us, I opted to take our youngest with me while the others went off to play. I admit, I didn't do a very good job. Even though chatting people up is part of my job as a therapist, I was nervous. I sat on his bench without permission and instantly knew that was wrong...and rude. I asked for permission and he grunted. I took that as a yes and told him Happy Easter. I asked (see, I'm learning) if he'd like an Easter basket in a bag and showed it to him. He grunted again and reached for it. I stammered something stupid about candy and headed for the next guy, eager to escape my faux pas and crazy nerves.

More confident this time, I looked that man in the eye and told him Happy Easter and asked if I could sit. He agreed. I offered him a bag and he thanked me for it as he eyed the contents. I joked with him about everyone needing a Cadbury egg on Easter and he presented me with the hugest smile with the straightest yellow teeth I've ever seen. I relaxed. We chatted a bit about candy and about the beautiful weather. 

Two strangers sitting in the park making small talk.

Ordinary, but holy.

While we were chatting, my nine-year-old was pushing Bo in his stroller, around and around the fountain, very fast, delighting in his shrieks of joy. She laughed with this child who once was a stranger, abandoned, but now is her brother of only six weeks. She set him free from the confines of the stroller and stayed with him as he explored. 

A sister playing with her brother.

Ordinary, but holy.

On the other side of the fountain, Shawn spotted a man who might want a bag and asked seven-year-old Ben to go with him. I watched from a distance as Shawn, with humble posture, spoke to the man and they handed him a bag. 

Just a dad teaching his oldest son about life and love.

Ordinary, but holy.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with delivering our bags, posing and smiling,

playing and climbing,

and just being together. We made mistakes. We learned a lot. We stepped out of our comfort zone. (It is my firm belief that if we step out of it often enough, our comfort zone will expand.) And we had fun. All agreed that it was a great of the best Easters remembered.

A family enjoying each other and the day.

Ordinary, but holy.

What made it holy? It certainly wasn't because the Lakes' family was there. We were the ordinary. Our efforts to love the unloved, to make a sacrifice, to teach our children a better way did not create holiness. 

Jesus was there. It was holy because we were there in His name, so He was there, too. 
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20
He showed up. It was holy only because Jesus was there.  I recognized him in the smiles of the homeless, in the laughter of my children, in the joy of a beautiful day. I don't know that anyone was impacted by our presence there that day, but we were impacted by His.

It is my prayer that we can recognize the holy in the ordinary not just on Easter, but today, tomorrow, and the next day. May we experience the holy so often that it becomes our normal, our ordinary, as well.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3
Life and godliness....the ordinary and the holy. Because of Jesus, we have everything we need for all of it. May we live it well.


Ordinary, but Holy (Part 1)

Inspired by Jen Hatmaker's post, A Broken Hallelujah, our family did something different this Easter. Her words about the last supper and communion challenged me just as they did in her book, Interrupted.

I have always attended churches that take corporate communion about once a month or at least quarterly. Every time, the passage about Jesus at the last supper is read. 
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:19-20)
Every time, it is emphasized that taking communion is what we're doing in remembrance of Him. When I was a child, we even had a wooden communion table with the words, "In remembrance of Me," engraved on the front of it.

But Jen makes the argument that Jesus wants us to be broken and poured out in remembrance of Him. It's sacrificing ourselves, our very lives, in service to Him.

My body, broken for this.

My blood, poured out for this.

(Read her post if you are unconvinced or, better yet, buy her book.)

It resonated with me.

It challenged my thinking and all that is in me welled up in response to the questions she posed:
"Perhaps rather than time and energy spent on ourselves, we ask: 'Who can our family serve? Where can we put our hands and hearts to use in Jesus' name?' Who in your city desperately needs hope but won't find their way to the sanctuary Sunday filled by people dressed to the nines?"
My husband and I prayed about it and went to bed. I woke up the next morning with an idea. It seemed kind of silly, but I thought it was from the Lord. 

What if we made Easter baskets and gave them to the homeless?

I mentioned it to Shawn and he agreed, but the more I thought about it, the sillier it seemed. I worried about what people would think. I realized that our idea could be seen as a misguided attempt to teach our children a lesson while feeling better about ourselves. And I recognized that there is some truth to that. 

I worried about what the homeless themselves would think. "Gee, thanks for the jellybeans, but what I really need is a steady income."

What we were wanting to do wasn't even a band-aid for their problems. For people who have so much stacked against them, who have so many needs, this wouldn't even meet one of them. 

I could feel my passion slipping.

We discussed my idea with the kids. We explained about the last supper and the sacrifice of Jesus. We apologized for letting them think that Easter revolved around getting. We told them that they would still get baskets, but scaled down. All were on board (with the exception of five-year-old Zak, but he came around...eventually.)

I became more confident. 

It occurred to me that people who spend all day, every day just trying to survive might appreciate something extra. If one person remembered a time when they felt loved, it would be worth it. Maybe this wasn't a terrible idea.

Easter dawned cloudy and chilly. 

We spent the morning assembling the Easter baskets in a bag. Each gallon-sized bag contained all the traditional Easter candies, a travel-sized package of wet wipes, and a travel toothbrush and toothpaste. Each kid had a part in the assembly line.

My resolve began to wane, however. How will we even find homeless people? 

It wasn't a legitimate fear. Our oldest daughter had the idea for sixteen random acts of kindness for her sixteenth birthday in November. We had no problems finding homeless to pass out sandwiches to for one of the acts. I was just looking for an excuse to stay home.

We heated and consumed the traditional meal my awesome husband had cooked the day before. Then it was naptime. 

It was starting to feel like a lazy Sunday afternoon and the thought of venturing out seemed less and less appealing. Getting out the door is a major feat in this family and it's difficult to work up energy for the unknown.

I turned to Jesus. 
"Jesus, please forgive me for making this about me. I so want it to be for You. Lead us. Bless our efforts. Help us to see," I sobbed.
We set off. I grabbed a bag of crackers, juice, and Dixie cups, as an afterthought.