Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Story of the Toy Soldier


As the kids played at our church Christmas party on Saturday they received prizes including these toy soldiers. At the end of the night Jacob (10) realized he had lost his. We looked for it but could not find it.  My sister found one, but noticing it was not the same - this new one had a grenade instead of a rifle - he did not want it.  He wanted the one that he had been given.  He was heartbroken.

The next day, Sunday, when we arrived at church one little girl, Emily (6), ran up to Jacob and pulled a toy soldier out of her purse.

"Wow, Jacob, tell Emily thank you for finding your toy soldier," I prompted him.  Emily said nothing and happily ran off.

Later, Emily's grandma set the record straight: that was not actually Jacob's toy soldier. It was her toy, but seeing how much more her friend wanted it, she freely gave it to him. Thank you God for this model of generosity!

But wait, the story gets better!  Sunday evening when my two sons were playing with their toy soldiers I saw they had three.  So, I asked my son where the extra had come from.  He told me that Emily's brother (also named Jacob) had given his to my son Jacob as well.

Generosity is contagious: Catch it, Share it.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:18-19, NIV)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Almost Amish: Opting Out

(As originally written, 10/24/2012)

I began reading a book tonight that has been on my book shelf about three months. On a rare trip to a Christian bookstore this book screamed at me to buy it as soon as I saw it's title: Almost Amish.

I'm not really sure why the book was so appealing except for a few reasons. I always secretly loved the idea of being Amish. Maybe it was because I saw Harrison Ford glamorize it in his movie WITNESS when I was younger. Maybe it was because of my first apartment - a one room haven that was simple, yet delightful. Maybe it was just because my life is so busy that I would do anything to slow it down.

After reading the first two chapters I am encouraged to make small changes, some of which I have already been contemplating (read: wanting to do but not yet succeeding at) like opening my home more and eating more at home. The thought that surprised me most was the idea of opting out of anything and everything you can. And while the author has a near 1984esque fear of Big Brother, she makes a valid point. For most of us, more coupons equate to more spending, not more saving. And so I have decided that tomorrow I am opting out. I know it seems random, but it is a baby step that may remove a few minutes from my daily routine, whether going through junk mail or e-mail.

She discusses the beauty of a less-technology life. Why do we need to plug in when we can experience God in the real world and connect face to face? Aside from the financial cost, there are emotional and social costs.

She also reference several compelling statistics and scripture for reducing our social media footprint (I should trademark that expression).

And as I set down my book and logged into Facebook (yes, I clearly see the irony in what I just said) I was greeted with this photo:

And I was reminded of the night my kids and I built a fort in our living room and watched CARS during our Not-Bummer-Summer of 2011. The joy was in the simplicity of our creation and being together, not in watching the movie.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Spirit

A few nights ago as my husband and I talked I reminded him that the Olympics are starting this week, to which he replied, "I know.  Aren't you excited!"  And yes, I was.  I am.  We both are.  I then realized there could be couples in dozens - if not hundreds - of countries around the world having the same conversation.

The Olympics are such a great occasion.  The common bond of friendly competition, the excitement of tradition, and the beauty of athletic ability are just a few reasons I always enjoy them.  As it should, I am saddened to hear stories of when this Olympic spirit is broken.  In the 1972 Olympics, terrorists took 9 people hostage - an action that ultimately ended with 16 deaths, becoming known as the Munich Massacre.  Most of us still remember the 1996 Olympic bombing in which two were killed and dozens more injured.  Surely there are many more, and ones very few no about.  They are so contradictory to the unity of the events.

In Ephesians we read about another unity, not to celebrate our similarities as humans, but our unity in our faith:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6, NASB)
Imagine if we could celebrate our salvation in the same way we celebrate the Olympics.  Did you see what he overcame to get here?  Imagine if we could encourage each other's performance in daily life.  You tried so hard, I'm sorry it didn't work out for you the way you wanted.  Imagine if we could truly live in unity, in one Spirit, in the way we were called to live.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What I Need

"For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world." (1 John 2:16, ESV)

The painful process of trying to buy a home through a short sale has finally taught me something! I retract that - I have actually learned a lot over the past four months. I've learned to sympathize with my clients. I've learned to accept help (still working on learning to ask for it). I've learned to worry less, I think.

But today, after a few long days of intense decluttering and preparation for downsizing, as I ate what little food was left in my fridge, I realized something I never have felt so vividly before: What I really need is pretty minimal.

I had mentally prepared for downsizing from 1700 sqft with a two car garage to 1200 sqft with a 1+ car garage. When that move was continually delayed I had to downsize even more, to less than 1000 sqft with no garage. I realized I'd have to only take what I really need and the rest would go to storage.

As I began to sort through my boxes I was amazed at how little I classified as a necessity: clothes, some linens, toiletries, food, some toys for the kids, and not a lot more. So why have I been wasting so much energy on the other items that I owned?

And why, even though I didn't need them, was I still holding on to them? I found myself answering that question a myriad of ways. Like, "I already have it; I might as well keep it." Or, "It's valuable even though I don't need it." The answer that I thought the most, "Sentimental value." It was like I thought throwing away an old doll would insult my parents or discredit my childhood.

Who am I fooling? This stuff is meaningless. It drains me of my energy and resources to retain it. And worst of all, it tells me that which I value is here on earth instead of where it should be. I have been so greatly distracted by this world.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Vision

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

When my oldest son was 4, we had a strange experience. Almost overnight one of his eyes began to drift in. Immediately we recognized it as a "lazy eye" and took him for an eye exam. The doctor confirmed what we already knew: Jacob didn't just need glasses, he really needed glasses. For five years he we faithfully took him to his annual check ups, even had him get vision therapy (think speech therapy for your eyes) to try to give him the ability to see properly. It was at this particular check up that the doctor surprised me.

The doctor commented that Jacob's prescription was stronger than last year's which concerned me. I had gotten the distinct impression the previous year that his eyes were getting better. When I asked the doctor he clarified, "No, we've just been working on getting his eyes to the same prescription - that is what we celebrated last year."

When I read the passage in Proverbs, I often think that lack of vision is not as serious of an issue as it really is. What I forget is that recovering from lacking vision can be a terribly long process. As in my son's case, it took four years for his eye to give up and it took that same amount of time to bring it back to the level it was supposed to be at.

In our spiritual lives this can be terribly frustrating. We get distracted from the vision God has given us, and then wonder why our life seems stagnate. We wonder why we've wandered away and not gained any ground. We think God has abandoned us or is making us suffer when really we are just living out the consequences of our own lack of vision.

God, give me eyes to see the vision you have for me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Lost Coin

"...Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:8-10, NIV).

The Parable of the Lost Coin, as it is known, has never been very powerful to me. Perhaps it is because I have been fortunate enough in my life to have never had so little money that losing one coin would be detrimental. Oh of course we've been low on money before, but never in a place where it meant life or death. I've never had to chose between feeding my kids and paying my rent. Of course, I also live in the credit card generation, but I digress. I've also lost important things, as we all have. But like I said, for some reason this scripture never resounded with me.

Until a week ago on a Sunday afternoon. After church, my husbands and two sons headed to Disneyland for some family bonding. They joy of being an annual passholder is that you can go for just a few hours and then go home. So this ritual is nothing new or unusual to my kids, nor is our effort to collect smashed pennies - you know, the ones you pay 51 cents for. On this particular trip both Jacob and Josiah had picked out a Pirates of the Caribbean penny.

As we walked out of the park, Josiah, happily enjoying his penny, tossed it up in the air. It was one of those slow motion moments - as it flew threw the air we knew exactly where it was headed - and we all saw it land just off the concrete walkway in the bushes next to us. The horror of knowing that error might have resulted in immediately struck him as Josiah looked for it, but he was not able to see it because the bush was quite thick. Then it was my husband's turn, again looking for penny right where we had seen it land, was not able to find it. He suggested we just leave it, after all, it really wasn't worth much. Or was it?

To us, it was just a penny. To Josiah it was his deepest joy. He had visions of playing with it for the drive home and falling asleep with it in his hand, maybe even taking it to Grandma's house to show her. He had selected the design. He had smashed it by himself in the machine. It was his, and it would be a source of pride and pleasure for years to come.

But not now, it was lost forever. We started to walk away, and I could see his heart breaking. And that's when it happened. I found myself on hands and knees digging under a very prickly bush, removing debris, determined to find where it was. And just a few moments later, alas, there it was.

We all rejoiced, but none so great as Josiah. For it was his penny. It was once loss, but was now found.

Thank you God, that you too loved me like that penny: You saw the worth in me when I was really nothing of great importance, You lowered yourself and came in search of me when I was loss, and You dug me out of the dirt and cleaned me off.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What if?

What if we carried our Bibles like we carried our cell phones?
What if we asked God's opinion more than we gave our own?
What if we sang at church like we sang at concerts?
What if we allowed God to heal all our hurts?
What if we memorized Scripture like we memorize songs?
What if we forgot and forgave all past wrongs?
What if we turned to God instead of alcohol?
What if we searched our soul instead of the mall?
What if we hoped and and worked to be more Godly?
What if we strengthened our souls like our body?
What if we did as we taught our children to do?
What if we said less "me" and more "you"?