Friday, March 26, 2010

Like a child

I was sitting on the couch trying to soothe Corban to sleep when Isabelle crawled up next to us, laid down on her stomach, looked me in the eye and said, "I'm my meeting. I'm praying." Then she put her head down and said something that sounded like, "Dear God, you love you." Recently, she's been dancing around the house singing her version of a song that has the word "Hallelujah" in it. And just about every time we leave the house, she thinks we're going to church or Sunday school.

This humbles me. Having not been raised in this way, I'm continually amazed by her absorption of our faith practices, and I'm thankful that in some way, I must be doing something right. On those days when I don't feel like a very good Christian (whatever that's supposed to mean), the whispered prayers of a 2-year-old encourage me.

I thought about how Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me," and how He didn't have to coerce, bribe or in any way entice the children to come to Him. They were on their way. It was the adults who hesitated. It's still us adults who take our time coming to Jesus, whether it's for the first time for salvation or with our everyday troubles or for whatever reason. I see how easily Isabelle accepts Jesus as part of her life and I wonder, "Why is it so hard for me?"

"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven," Jesus told a group of disciples when they wanted to know who was the greatest.

Some days, I ask the same question.

A friend recently shared that her 4-year-old daughter disappeared upstairs for a while, and when she came back down, told her mother that she'd been praying to Jesus.

The kingdom belongs to such as these. Amen and amen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Specks and logs

I'm mildly obsessive about my teeth, at least when it comes to food particles being stuck between them. Usually, I'll smile wide at Phil and ask him if there's anything between my teeth after a meal, especially if I know I'm going to be meeting new people or talking in a group or seeing anyone who isn't a family member. If he's not there to tell me, I make a beeline for a mirror. Sometimes he tells me when I don't ask, and while that's not always easy to take, I know he's telling me out of love.

Last week, while talking with a woman I didn't know well after a meal, I noticed some food remnants in her teeth. I quickly averted my eyes and pretended I hadn't seen them. When our conversation was over and she had left, I mentally kicked myself for not saying something. I imagined the embarrassment she might face if she was headed to class and talked to others with noticeable black spots between her teeth. Would it have been awkward to tell her? Yes, but I know I'd want someone to tell me.

We had a similar opportunity spiritually this week. Phil and I were confronted with someone who behaves according to the world's standards while proclaiming to be a Christian. Neither of us said anything in the moment, but we were both burdened by the situation afterwards. We have yet to come up with a loving way to broach the subject. For the benefit of this person, whom we love dearly, we know it's like the food-in-teeth issue -- it might be awkward, even perceived as offensive, at the time, but in the long run, it's for this person's benefit.

I think about Jesus' words -- "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3) -- and I wonder if I'm seeing a speck without noticing a log in my own life. I know Scripture supports lovingly confronting people about sin, but I don't know how to do it, and most of the time, I even wonder if I should.

Any insights out there to help me along? I'd love to hear any experiences you've had with this issue.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's inside

I'm a colossal failure at hard-boiled eggs. While I'm no gourmet chef, I'm certainly not worthy of being on "Worst Cooks in America," so admitting I'm so terrible at something seemingly so simple is not easy.

We had a potluck at church today. I hadn't been to the grocery store all week, so I was trying to pick something to make from ingredients I already had in the house. I came across a deviled egg recipe that sounded good, so I boiled my eggs. Knowing I have trouble with this task, I consulted a cookbook and followed the instructions for boiling eggs to a "T." After they cooled and I began the peeling process, I discovered the usual soft, runny white underneath the shell surrounding a cooked yoke. As I threw egg white after egg white into the trash, I became frustrated at the realization that deviled eggs was not going to be on the menu at church.

Later, I prepared another dish as my plan B, but the hard-boiled egg failures still irk me. I wish there was a way to tell before I start peeling them whether they're cooked well or not. It's an act of faith, in a way, not unlike our own spiritual development.

Do you ever wonder what you look like on the inside to God? Are we soft, runny and underdone, not worth much toward our intended purpose? Are we overdone, hard and tainted, still good for that which we're meant but not too appealing to look at? Or are we perfectly prepared for what God has in mind? God only knows.

Nobody likes to go through unpleasant circumstances, but like the eggs have to be boiled to be of use when I intend to serve them as deviled eggs, God uses the tough times, the "hot water" of life to prepare us for what's ahead. If we seek to get out of it too soon, we become useless. If we're in too long, sometimes we can become bitter.

James says this: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (verses 2-4)

Are you facing trials of many kinds? Know that God sees the growth happening inside and will bring you to maturity because of it.

And if anyone knows how to make a perfect hard-boiled egg, I'm all ears.