Feb 20, 2014

Of Gumballs and Spirituality

I was working at the church on Tuesday morning when this big ol' box of fun arrived for me.  Oh yeah,   there are over 8,000 gumballs in there.  Truly.  Also true, other staff members couldn't help shaking the box and wondering what could possibly be in a box labled "Box of Fun".  Ideas abounded, none as random as the truth.  Gumballs.  Why in the world did I order a box of over 8,000 gum balls?  I'll give you two hints:  Nobody is eating them (so my jaw is going to continue to work properly after this week and my teeth will continue to stay whole), and the number we were going for was 8,760.  In case you didn't know, that's the nunber of hours in a year.
I filled jars from Dollar Tree with them.  I am using them in an orientation for parents to help them understand why our Kids Co (the name of our program) does not want to take the sole responsibility for their children's spirituality and why we are not doing traditional "Sunday School".  Rather, we are developing interactive small groups on Sunday morning which are reinforcing lessons that we expect parents are already teaching at home.  We are helping parents learn to take initiative and leadership in teaching their children about God and His Word.  Our leaders are making church a safe place to ask questions, interact with their leader and grow personally through interaction with God's Word.  On the things that matter most in the life of their children, parents should be on the front lines.
It was 14 jars full you guys.  That's a lot of gumballs.  I had to drop some math skills on this whole project.  And time.  Lots of time. 1 gum ball, 2 gum balls, 3, 4.....luckily the box said that one bag was 8,500.  I took their word for it.
Do you know how much of that time in a year is spent at church?  The average family goes to church about 40 times in a year.  Because, common on - we know, most people do not hit 100% attendence.  So I took out 40 yellow ones for it's own jar.
But of course, it's not like all those gumballs in those 14 full jars are spent doing whatever you want with your kids.
I am making an assumption that kids get an average of 10 hours of sleep a night. Maybe. (Insert sleep-deprived Mom jokes here). Give or take their age.  We are averaging, so that takes out about 6 jars for sleeping.
And they go to school and have homework.  At 180 days that would be 2.3 jars, but 3 if you count average homework loads.  I assume your kids are going for the typical 8am-3pm school day.
So that leaves 5 for everything else.  What else do you fit in here?
Sports, extracurricular, family time, friends, errands, naps, driving, chores, hobbies, free time, eating, cleaning....and church.
Just for comparison.....all the yellow can fit in my hand (and I have small hands).  Here it is against the 14 jars full.
I think you see my point.  If we leave all the spiritual teaching to the church, how much do you think it will affect your child's life?  How does it stack up against all the other priorities of life?  This is why when you are going about doing all the things that fill those other 5 jars you need to be diligent about speaking to them about how God is integrated into every area of life.  God and spiritual matters affect everything.  It should never be compartmentalized into an hour on Sunday, segregated from everything else we do in life, nor should it be when teaching our children.

Deuteronomy 6:7-8
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

And just in case you need to see it one more time:
It can seem intimidating, but start with simple lessons, Bible stories, and feel challenged to dig deeper and read the Book yourself.  Because my guess is that you need more that 40 hours in a year as well.

Feb 14, 2014

Don't be a hater.

On a day known for sappy Halmark cards and gushing Facebook posts, you did know about this guy St. Valentine right?  Yep, this is what the day actually commemorates (insert ecard joke).  Makes your heart just feel like mushy gushy puddles, right?  Wait, don't stop reading, because I'm actually not a hater of Valentine's Day.  Call me a realist.  
Can I introduce you to this guy named Valentine?  There are several legends, but most certainly the above is true.  He was a martyr during Roman times and he had serious cahonies.  The two most persistent legends about him were as follows.  
The Roman Emperor Claudias was staging a particularly bloody campaign and (understandably) had trouble recruiting soldiers (gee, I can't imagine why).  He thought that perhaps it was because they didn't want to leave loved ones (or maybe they just didn't want to die a bloody death, I'm thinking), and therefore, abolished weddings and marriage.  Valentine was a Christian who honored marriage and so he married men and women in secret.
The second persistent legend is that after he was caught, he was thrown in jail where he cared for sick and wounded because he was also something of a doctor.  The jailer just happened to be a cousin of Claudius. (Dun, dun, dun - I tell you, real life doesn't work out like this.  I'm thinking this legend is a little skewed/fake, but whatev, it's still pretty great) Also, the jailer had a daughter who was blind from birth and Valentine and the daughter struck up a friendship.  The daughter shared how her worship and sacrifice to the Roman gods did not heal her eyesight.  Valentine shared with her the gospel and she believed along with the jailer and his family.  Sometimes legend says that her eyesight was restored but I'm not so sure that wasn't made up right after he was "sainted".  People like to attribute miracles to saints and miss the main miracle of salvation.  At any rate, when he was taken away to be beheaded (on February 14th) he asked to write the daughter a note.  The note said, "Always stay close to the Lord my dear child.  Love, Your Valentine."  So there you have it.  The first valentine.  It wasn't a mushy gushy one to be sure, but I think it is the best kind.

A couple of things strike me here with this legend and all.  Somebody thought honoring marriage and family was worth death - and he was single.  This was not a hater here, people. AND: Somebody showed love for an enemy when the reality of losing his noggin was imminent. 
I'm actually kinda thankful that this Valentine wasn't about a fat toddler shooting arrows, nor was it about his own lover, but about supporting marriage and family in others.  That tells me this day isn't just for lovers, though couples would do well to honor marriage and family on this day as well.  Something greater is here than "a kiss begins with Kay" (which, um, no it doesn't in my world, so Tone, don't try it).

So let me say this:  Let me honor the love you are showing to those around you on this day.
Are you a parent:  I honor the work you are doing much of the time in secret, pouring your heart and soul into those little people who can act decidedly NOT like a sweet cherub.  
Are you married:  This ain't just another day, baby!  Honor that spouse.  Marriage is not for the faint of heart.  I'm sure you figured that out about 10 seconds into your honeymoon, and now you're working out the day in and day out nitty gritty.  I honor you for working it out, hanging in there and choosing love.
Are you single:  Don't be a hater.  Valentine was single. This is day is about love, but honoring all kinds, not just married love.  Valentine's last words were to a blind daughter of his enemy.  That wasn't a cheap mushy gushy Halmark card.  I honor you for the way you support your friends, love your family, and express love in the myriad of forms it can take.
Are you hurting:  I honor you for getting up everyday, leaning into Jesus, and taking in great gulps of His love as you move through life with only His love and hope for a motor.

Our day began with Tone in LA working and some homemade decorations (brought to you by Ainsley herself) and valentines and some candy for the kids on the table.  Tone and I have been sending each other sweet texts and videos all day, and the man sent me some gorgeous roses.  His texts with pictures from our last 12 years are pretty creative.  I tried to up the ante with videos from me, but my camera keeps freezing my face in awkward positions that I'm not sure are producing that "come hither" look I was going for.  You win this year babe.

I was going to make pink waffles for breakfast, but the kids beat me out of the bedroom by a good half hour.  By the time I made it out, the whole table was candy wrappers.  I was greeted by crazed, sugar-high children.  For some reason they weren't hungry.  They had candy hearts and chocolate for breakfast you guys.  It was their once a year chance and they snapped it up.  Soooo, it's late afternoon and I'm still waiting for them to come down from the hyper sugar high, and so we are moving on to pink waffles and bacon for dinner.  They are going nuts, and therefore, so am I.  I'm betting St. Valentine's jail had nothing on this house today.  

I'll bet you anything they still want syrup.

Feb 7, 2014

Drip Drip

Parched.  Our state is parched.  We have spent most of January with temps in the 70's and worry about a record drought.  But this week saw rain. Sweet rain.  I hear it trickling around the edges of the roof as I type this.  Usually, during this time of year the rain gets me down.  I think I suffer a little from that seasonal depression syndrome. However, this time, this year, I am enjoying drippy jackets and little people coming in with wet pants, prune feet, and soaked socks that have to be peeled off after stomping through puddles.  And also, one son who likes to ride his bike through them as fast as he can.
Perspective.  What a difference perspective makes. Rain usually means dark skies and frizzed hair.  Today I slapped a new hat on my frizz ball braid and was thankful.  
And you know, in between dark skies, we had another warm day and Ainsley begged to sell lemonade on our busy street.  California is handing us a lemon of a drought this year, but leave it to my sunshine girl to turn it into lemonade.  She made $10 for her cause.  It wasn't much, but she happily gave it and felt very happy about her little stand in the big wide world.  Little drips of rain count in this drought just like little drips of lemonade count in the drought of Africa.
Drip. Drip.