More isn’t Better & Good isn’t Necessary

Do you have opportunities to do good things all week? I know I do! Do you have opportunities to do more all week? I do!

Good is good, right? So…. I should do it…because it’s good.

And more of good is even better so I should do more, right!

Wrong.

More isn’t always good and good isn’t the same as necessary. Good must always be examined in light of best. Your good may be someone else’s best. Your saying yes to good may also hurt your best.

Let me explain.

Say I could volunteer at a women’s shelter and I could work with college age students and I could help in my church nursery. All great things right? But which one am I going to be best at? For me it is the work with the college age students. Can I invest time there and also volunteer at a women’s shelter or work in my church nursery? Maybe if I didn’t also have a full time job and two young children….but I do. But guess what? Someone out there doesn’t have a full time job and two young children OR they do but their best is helping at a women’s shelter so they are passing on the college students I am heading for.

Busy is the enemy or growth, especially for a Christian. There is a reason for the cliche saying that if the enemy can’t make you bad he will make you busy. The reason is it’s true.

People all need love, young people, older people, babies, rich, poor, religious and not, nearby and far away. They ALL need the church to show them Christ’s love. But I can’t be the church alone and I need to stop trying! I had gotten to a place where I wasn’t doing my best. I was a stay at home mom so I felt I HAD to help everywhere help was needed so I was volunteering in a children’s class and the nursery and awana and on special projects and I wasn’t really investing anywhere. I wasn’t spending time praying for, thinking about and fellowshipping with those I was ministering too. That’s where the real growth happens, relationships that encourage discipleship.

I had to learn, all over again to say no to some things. To walk away from many good things. To turn down more things. But i’m not saying no to protect an idol of time or self interest, I’m saying no to prevent an idol of ME. When we believe WE have to fill every need we are thinking too highly of ourselves. Saying no is an exercise in humility. I pride myself on being capable of a great many things (i’m a jack of all trades, master of none) but just because i’m capable does not mean I should. Instead of agreeing to mediocrity in many areas I am striving for excellence in one.

To be the wife, mother and teacher I have been called to be I must be very selective, protective even, of how I use my time. I must choose wisely the things I can do well and still continue my callings.

I know this problem is not unique to me, or women, or even Christians.

Tonight I pray, Lord help me to be a Mary in a world that encourages me to be a Martha. Help me to see the important tasks set before me and focus on them, leaving the things which can wait to wait. May I be consumed not by busyness but by glorifying you through all I say and do. 

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A Halloween Conviction

I used to love Halloween. I would dress up, sometimes making elaborate costumes for myself other times putting together multiple costumes per year (like 3 or 4). I also never missed a haunted hayride..or a few… and would drive an hour or two to go to my favorite haunted houses. I really enjoyed it.

Notice all the past tense?

I’m not sure when it happened but slowly I became increasingly uncomfortable with Halloween. It’s not just my faith, although that plays a part, that changed how I see the holiday. It’s a combination of my faith against the backdrop of an increasingly dark world and a society that seems to embrace evil, hatred, and all manner of unseemly things.

Looking back, I think it started years ago when the “Saw” movie franchise was popular. It did not seem at all like something I would enjoy so I didn’t not watch them..until 2006 when they had released a third so I decided to try the first one and just see what everyone was obsessed with. I was left in shock. Did people actually enjoy this? Revel in seeing humans tortured? Pay to see people murdered, maimed and tormented in disturbing ways? Why? What does this say about them? I’m sorry I couldn’t get past the idea people saw this as “entertainment” and I will openly admit I judge people who enjoy those movies. I honestly don’t trust people who do, I wonder what dark part of them embraces that.

It was that peak into an ugly part of humanity that began my journey to breaking up with Halloween. Slowly I noticed more and more themes of disturbing adult content being pushed down for children, murder and gruesome acts being trivialized and even celebrated and an intolerable focus on evil.

In a world full of evil and pain and murder and hate I, for one, do not want to give any more energy and time to darkness. I don’t want to surround myself with negative, sinister, wicked imagery and I don’t want my children exposed to it. 

I will let my children trick or treat this year but even that formerly innocent activity is wearing on me, last year I had to block their view from inappropriate costumes and decorations.  As I walk my Sleeping Beauty and undecided historical figure (he’s still torn) around for candy this year I am going to do some soul searching as I decide if it needs to be our last.  Maybe we will save our costumes for comic-con and the ren faire…

The halloween of my childhood was still largely one of vampires, frankenstein and witches. It existed in a world where terrorists were not beheading captives and posting the videos to youtube. A time when scary movies that bothered to show blood resembled something akin to a ketchup bottle spurting everywhere not the hyper-realistic, disturbingly intense fare of today.  Halloween no longer seems like campy fun and the scary, disturbing places it has gone are not roads I desire to walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broken is Beautiful

“You’re a 30 year old mom of two who teaches elementary school; college students don’t want to hang out with you.” That’s what the mean girl in my head told me as I looked at the info for my church’s international student ministry. Not old enough to be motherly, not young enough to be hip. I am at a stage in life that can feel awkward, but I knew the mean girl was wrong, in fact God had called me to this church for this exact purpose. Knowing the mean girl is wrong and silencing her can be different things though.

Socializing is not something that comes naturally to me. I am a very confident person…until i’m not. Put me in a professional setting and I am self-assured and collected, certain of my God gifted abilities. Ask me to dig into a deep philosophical question or summarize a complex idea and I’ll jump at the opportunity, thankful to utilize my God given intelligence. Give me a practical need and I will strive to meet it assured of God’s calling for me as a servant. But ask me to interact with people I don’t know well in a social setting? Suddenly i’m in fifth grade again and the mean girls are watching for me to do the wrong thing so they can laugh. I have to fight the urge to withdraw and force myself to engage.

I am comfortable with who I am but I am not always confident in my value to a world I increasingly don’t understand…. It is only by recognizing I was not made for this world that I am able to embrace my deeply flawed person as a vessel of a holy and perfect God’s will. My brokenness is the very attribute which allowed me to be shaped into a new creation and so it is only in my brokenness that I can find beauty. When I reach out in spite of my inabilities and insecurities it is in that act of self-denial that I see Christ (because it is certainly not me). Each time I push against what the world has told me I am I find strength in the action and rest in the obedience.

I am very thankful I silenced the mean girl. I spent this afternoon hanging out with one of our lovely international friends and watching my children begin to understand another culture in a meaningful way. We would have missed a blessing God had for us.

Assessing Walt’s Worldview

Everyone has a worldview, a way of thinking about or perceiving the world through the lens of their own experiences, ideologies and misconceptions. I am a follower of Christ, as such I attempt to perceive life through a biblical worldview. I do not always succeed. I am, however, able with mindful examination to discern the way I *should* view things when I stop and try to run things through the filter of Scripture. Spoiler alert, I often get it pretty wrong before doing this and still likely get it wrong after but with each pass through I am hopefully getting closer to the truth.

Accepting that everyone has a worldview that changes the way they see reality & therefore the way they present reality makes it strange that I rarely stop to consider the worldview presented in my entertainment. Maybe it’s because in our culture entertainment is often prided as being “mindless” so of course thinking to heavily about it would be silly right?

I also happen to be a huge Disney fan, a Disney Nerd if you will, who loves that shining beacon of capitalism and wholesome family fun; from the parks to the movies and everything in between. But what if the worldview of my favorite mouse creator is at odds with my own? What if, by sharing my favorite films and stories without deeper discussion, I am slowly indoctrinating my children to see the world in a way I believe is false?

I was reading an article in the current issue of “The Classical Difference” called “The Jungle Book Unearths Cultural Treasure” that used Kipling’s Jungle Book & the 1967 and 2016 Disney movie versions to highlight the underlying worldview shifts that subtly change the message of each retelling when it hit me that good ole Walt Disney and I don’t see eye to eye!

****I am using Walt Disney as a figurehead for the Disney corporation, obviously he did not write each movie and he himself was purported to be a Christian but the Disney corporation is made of members of society and therefore reflect the worldview of the time and place around them in their work.****

As I started thinking through many of my favorite Disney films I found big ideas I just can’t get behind when taken out of a cartoon context…so why I am I cool with them as long as they are voiced by a colorful, non-existent character?

Some of these ideas include:

Aladdin: The End Justifies the Means, I mean we are cool with Aladdin stealing to eat because he’s poor but then we are cool with him lying and creating a fake identity because… well i’m not sure why?

The Jungle Book: Life is about having fun and a friend you can trust, we can all get along if we just ignore the parts of each other’s lives we don’t like.  Not “bad” stuff but from a Christian perspective pretty false.

The Little Mermaid: You can make deals with the devil, run away from home, turn your back on your family, marry strange men and it will all work out! It’s about love right? You know love between a teenage runaway and the 1st random sailor she sees usually is a great idea! True love conquers all, also true love can be found simply by looking at someone!

I could definitely keep going but you get the idea. See the fact that I am looking at the world as a place with very clearly defined good & evil means I am going to have different ideas about what is right and wrong than someone who thinks it’s open for interpretation.  We can’t see eye to eye because we are starting from totally different places.

This doesn’t mean I can not enjoy a Disney movie or even find good messages in them! (There are many messages that can be reconciled with a Christian worldview) What it does mean is that I absolutely MUST examine the worldview and the messages and even more importantly I have to discuss them with my children. I have to model critically thinking about even “harmless” entertainment. I have a responsibility to show them that even if something is enjoyable it can be false and truth must weigh more than pleasure in our valuations.

I will continue to enjoy Disney, and other types of entertainment, with my children but hopefully with a bit more intentional discussion and calling out of wrong thinking when I see it. I look forward to building bridges between the stories they enjoy and the Word!

 

 

 

 

 

Shoebox Packing

One of my favorite charity activities every year has long been packing shoeboxes! I LOVED the advice I got last year from this blog “Unsolicited Advice About Shoeboxes” and it changed WHAT I pack but not so much HOW I pack.

If you have tips share them in the comments!

Here is a diagram of my box for a 5-9 year old boy:

The bottom layer: pack of 8 colorful ink pens, box of colored pencils, unsharpened neon pencils, blue bandana, comb, bar of soap, fat 4X6ish notebook & turned against the side of the box a pouch with a toothbrush, toothbrush cover & toothpaste in it. 20161029_185810

Top Layer: Melamine bowl with cars on it (least weird design I could find) and a matching sturdy cup turned sideways to fit in bowl. Inside the cup is a blue led flashlight with batteries in it and a three pack of new extra batteries, a pencil sharpener and 3 large erasers. Next to the bowl is a green string backpack folded up, a 3 pack of green washcloths folded, a squishy ball that looks like Earth, a pair of sunglasses with a 3 pack of decorative striped and polka dot socks folded through the middle and finally hard candy and bubble gum sprinkled everywhere it can fit.

Tucked in between the backpack & washcloths (so hard to see): a small squishy soccer ball, plastic gold coins, 2 self inking stampers.

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Lid can close securely but will still be rubber banded for extra closure. To be added is a personal note from my son & our prepaid shipping form.

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Thank You

 

Every day you work hard to provide for our family but that’s not what makes you amazing.

You get down on the floor to wrestle, change the princess dresses, play hockey in the drive and run around the playground but that’s not what makes you a terrific father.

You help me demonstrate every single day what a loving, healthy marriage looks like, that fun and love, apologies and respect are all part of the daily give and take but that’s not the thing that makes you such a titan among dads.

What makes you the example I thank the Lord daily for is the bible verses in your email, it’s the passion for understanding God’s will, it’s the desire to do what he calls even when it’s not what you “want”.

Our children are so blessed to have you, science can show the impact of a father on almost every area of a person’s life from self esteem to education and earning potential but it can not quantify the impact a Christ following father has on eternity. The seeds you are sowing in our family will sow seeds in their families and so on through the generations. I am thankful for the quanitifable impact you have on our kids but more so for the things that can’t be seen, those are the true treasures.

 

Stop Wasting Valentine’s Day

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Memes and blogs have been choking my newsfeed from women who claim THEY aren’t buying into traditional Valentine’s day hype because they are ok with just a card and chocolates (or taco bell according to one meme) or just a regular date, nothing fancy.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but ….you are still buying into it. Just because you aren’t settings your expectations high does not change that you have them.

I actually don’t buy into Valentine’s Day. I never really have. I looked at it from a historical perspective and thought it seemed a really strange day to celebrate romance so as a teen I dutifully received the roses and chocolates and jewelry from boys each year but the joke was on them because I wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t.

By college I told gentlemen I dated that Valentine’s Day really wasn’t my thing and I don’t like fresh flowers or wear much jewelry and chocolate should really be an anytime/ all the time gift but it tastes better when I pay half price after a holiday. When I found my husband he thankfully shared my views on the day and it passed without recognition most years except once when we decided other people spend money on Vday so we could totally go buy a Costco membership and call it a gift to ourselves.

A few years ago though I realized I was wasting Valentine’s Day, thanks to our pastor who really emphasizes that our lives need to be about service, starting with random acts of kindness expecting nothing in return. Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to show love to strangers without making them worry you are crazy!

We still don’t go on a date, buy each other stuff or even do cards but my husband and I totally celebrate Valentine’s Day now! We use it as a day to be mindful and go out into the community sharing Christ’s love and expecting nothing in return. I buy chocolates and roses and ribbons and make a few dozen Valentine’s “gifts” complete with scriptures of love then we head to places like malls with lots of people and let ourselves (and our kids!) be led to those who need some extra love that day.

If you feel loved every other day of the year try using Valentine’s Day as a day to show love to OTHER people, people you don’t normally show love to, maybe even people you don’t know! I promise you will not feel like you wasted Valentine’s Day!

 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:9-10

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*Somehow women choosing not to celebrate is ok but men get painted as awful if they allow it so before my poor husband catches any heat, our decision not to celebrate Valentine’s day was mindful, deliberate and led by me, he even tried some small gestures in our early years of marriage but he knows me well enough to see I meant it and that stuff was wasted on me .*