Monday, February 18, 2013

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Remember when it used to be all about you?  You as a single woman, or you two as a married couple?  When you would have friends over for a meal and no little people would tug on your company's jeans and ask to show her doll collection or Sesame Street lunchbox?  Or read Green Eggs and Ham together?  Or watch the little one sing a new song?  Remember how you would linger over the meal discussing careers, relationships, football, God?  You didn't excuse yourself from the table to wipe mouths, remove bibs, and disappear to put babies down for the night?

I remember those days, and yet, I am different now.  I am a Mother.  I have two amazing daughters, 2.5 and 14 months.  And my girls are a part of our home, our family.  They are a part of me.  

Have you ever tried to minimize your children in front of others, especially friends without children who might not "understand"?  Have you tried to shoo them away like a fly, quiet down their requests so they might not bother your guests?  Been embarrassed of a toddler's excitement and eagerness to engage your friends?

I have.  I am sad to admit it.  And I failed my own children.

After the fact, Jesus' approach to little children came rushing to mind. 

"People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.  He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." Mark 10:13-16

The text calls them "little children", which perfectly identifies my children, ages 2 and below.  If the kids in this story were 5, 6 years old and above, wouldn't they simply be called, "children"?  They also would not require people to "bring them" to Jesus.  I imagine mothers and fathers, grandparents and neighbors bringing squirmy babies and active toddlers up to see Jesus.  Some were sitting on his lap, giggling and others were likely gathered around him, tugging on his robe, stroking his hair or beard, whispering secrets in his ear.  Another was showing him a treasured rock or flower petal, or twirling around for Jesus to see and praise.

I see Jesus looking straight into the little ones' eyes while listening to stammering sentences and silly songs.  It says he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. 

He wrapped his arms around the small people and told the big people that he was busy right now.

In that moment, He made it clear that talking with the little children was more important than talking with the adults.

Ahem.  What a shift.

If I could have his sense of value and priority, I would realize that my children are not nuisances. They are not sent here to keep their father and me from having long, serious dinner parties. They are not to be hidden or shuffled away or "hindered", as it says.  

They are God's heart, at the center of his kingdom.  And when I, or others, look deeply into their eyes and care about an Elmo doll or a game of peek-a-boo, we are being Christ to them.  Their greatest need is to be loved.  They want to feel secure and wanted.  This is why Jesus took them in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.  He knew how to communicate his love and their worth, security, and value -- through a hug, kind words, and undivided attention.

I feel I do offer much of this to my children throughout the day.  But when others are with my children, I think I haven't understood my role as my child's advocate, first and primary teacher, and helper.  If an adult seems uninterested in a simple request of my little child, I instinctively want to whisk her away from the adult, so she will not be a bother.  But if to Jesus she is not a bother!, how can I advocate for her little heart, teach her in that moment and perhaps also teach the adult about the worth of a little soul?  How can I bridge the gap?  

{Because I know that while my child may seem to want to the moon, all she really wants is about 30 seconds of genuine eye contact from one of Mommy's or Daddy's friends, and she will be over the moon.}  

I will look her in the eye.  I will not make extra threats of discipline to corral her behavior in the presence of guests.  I will not treat others as more important than she.  I will remember that "anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

And maybe as I remember my children's place in God's kingdom and around our dinner table, our friends may see and understand, and with arms outstretched, bless our children, too. 

"Don't you see that children are God's best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy? Like a warrior's fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children! Your enemies don't stand a chance against you; you'll sweep them right off your doorstep." 
Psalm 127:3-5 (The Message)

"Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him...

your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.

Yes, this will be the blessing
for the man who fears the Lord."

Psalm 128:1, 3-4

Friday, January 4, 2013

Will the dust praise you?

After a long break from writing, I want and need to write again...With two delightful daughters, 2.5 and just-turned-one, much has changed, yet the desire to process my thoughts with words has not.  If you are blessed by my journey, then please come along.

I awoke on New Year's Day to math in my head. The computations startled me.  

In 16 short years, I WILL BE FIFTY! 50 years old!


I have lived for so long believing my life was just beginning, that I have lots of time to apply God-given gifts, to accomplish Kingdom dreams. To make a mark on the world in His name.

I thought I had so much time.

Then I was jolted with the face-slap reality that NO, I DO NOT.

The time is flying by, the seasons of life, the joys and the milestones.  However, in the past year, I have come to understand that life is hard.  Very hard. There were 5 major medical situations and surgeries among our close family this year. I was among the family members with life-altering diagnoses.  

Melanoma was discovered and removed on my back, and several lymph nodes were removed under my arm to be tested.  The doctors wanted to rule out the possibility that cancer had progressed beyond the skin and invaded my body.  If it had, I would be fighting the most lethal and fast-growing cancer of all.

I remember the afternoon I left the doctor's office at the hospital following a post-op appointment in which I received good news. My lymph nodes were clear!  My margins were clean. My body was cancer-free!

I couldn't wait to call Dean to tell him the thrilling news--I wasn't fighting for my life.  I was going to live, hopefully, a long life as his wife and the mother of our children.

I stepped onto the elevator going down.  It was crammed with people.  A woman in a wheelchair was missing her legs.  A 60-something husband and his wife, carrying a thick folder of medical notes and a worried face. A homeless-seeming and smelling man. Here I was stuffed in between them, bursting with joy inside, yet surrounded with heartache and bad news all around. 

And I realized, I may have received good news today, but the truth is, we are all going to the same place.  

The elevator we are all on is going down.  

All of us have a ticking clock, some with more time on it than others, but we are all going down into the earth.
"By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:19
I will exalt you, Lord,
    for you lifted me out of the depths
    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.

To you, Lord, I called;
    to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?

    Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
    Lord, be my help.
You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.    Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

(portions of Psalm 30)

"Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins."  
James 4:13-16

I can't think of a better New Year's gift than the revelation of time. The reminder that our days are numbered, possibly shorter than we imagine.  

Celebrate a new year with me in the humble knowledge that each day is a gift, that tomorrow is not a promise!, that next year or decade may not come, but in Christ, we can take heart and hope in Him. They are oh, so short.  As you make resolutions and goals and dream about your future, let's remember the all important preface, "If it is the Lord's will, I will live and do this or that."

What will you do this year by His Spirit? If he gives me more breath, I will use it to praise His name. "My heart will sing your praises and not be silent." 

Teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom!
Psalm 90:12

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