Mind-melting Miscellany

If I had a super power… it would be the ability to over-think a thing.  My enemies would panic in light of my ability to process and question their diabolic monologues till they themselves would wonder, how did this all get started and why am I wearing this cape?

It would be a contagious power because I don’t like to think alone.  Join me in this League of Queriers, won’t you?  The only criteria is that you’ve got nothing better to do.

Here’s a sampling of the things that I’ve been thinking about this week (links to articles in bullet point titles):

  • What women’s ministry can be – The author of this article says, “When you experience true, God-honoring women’s ministry, you want more of it.”  Of course, this pricked my virtual ears as this is what we want for our women in our ministry.  I just don’t love the part in the article where women’s ministry sins are aired.  I don’t love the fact that we all probably have similar stories to tell. I don’t love that there are women’s ministry drop-outs because of bad experiences.  I don’t love that if we convince women to come out to our women’s ministry that they will be looking to us to provide them with a good experience…  What’s the disparity?  And where does grace enter into the conversation?  Seriously, I’m asking.
  • Looking good in photographs – When I lurk your Facebook photos, I’m actually rooting for your good pictures.  I move a little quicker over your unflattering pictures and linger a little longer on the ones where you look dyn-o-mite.  Am I wrong? I’m willing to go out on the limb so that you can admit you feel the same.  This will bring me great  relief to know that I don’t have to tell my friend to take down the awful pics y’all are going to skip right over anyway.  #vanity #ihavemanylevels
  • The man who carried his son over burning coals – I’m following the blog of this author who is currently writing for World Vision and blogging his experience visiting his sponsored child in Sri Lanka.  I read this account and am astounded at a father’s devotion.  Where does it come from?  Fear of the gods he worships?  Love for his son?  Cultural pressure? Something entirely different?  I may never find out… but it does make me stop and ask what my devotion to a real and living God looks like.
  • Be secretly incredible –  “So many people want to cut a deal and convert people [to their way of thinking]. But I learned that we’re the ones who need to be converted into being better friends, who have no angle on anything we do, other than to just love people more and ‘leak’ Jesus. Because you leak what you love.” I’ll admit that my first reaction after reading this account was to wonder if this was an effective model for evangelism. And then I realized to wonder that is to miss the point (or prove it).

4 Reasons Why We Don’t Share Our Stories… 4 Reasons Why We Should

A few years ago I was chatting with my friend about the idea that every believer has a story to tell. We all have a “before,” our life without Jesus; a “middle,” or crossroads, where we receive him; and an “after,” our life with Jesus.  Even if our “after” isn’t yet “complete,” we can still attest to the power of Jesus in our lives.

My friend nodded emphatically, “Yes, everyone has a story!”

“So what’s yours?” I asked her.

“Oh, I don’t have one!” she answered.

I laughed at the time, but in my recently acquired position writing stories for the Free Methodist Church in Canada website, I realize that many believers have the same response.  When asked to tell their story of Jesus working in their lives, they are reluctant.  Few people tell their story easily, many people don’t tell it at all.

There are different reasons for this.  Here are some:

  • We do not want to put ourselves on a pedestal.  That seems valid – a good Christian would not want to steal the glory from God.  Far be it from us to flaunt the good things we have done, especially if Jesus is the one doing the work in us.  At the least, it could be seen as bragging and that’s just bad manners.
  • We want to keep our stories private.  Granted, some stories have sensitive information that should be revealed in an appropriate setting.  But oftentimes we over-protect our stories.  We tend to hold on tightly to the changes God has made in our lives.  We may not want to be judged by our past or be accountable for our future.   Letting others know lets them in.
  • We don’t have all the answers.  Telling our stories invites questions from others.  If we have had an encounter with God, then people will want to know more about it.  Perhaps we don’t feel confident in our Biblical knowledge or are afraid there will be questions we just can’t answer, so we don’t open ourselves up to embarrassment.
  • We don’t think our stories are interesting enough.  Like my friend above, some of us may feel that because we weren’t rescued from a down-and-out lifestyle or there wasn’t a major transformation, then we have nothing to say.  This is often true of people raised in Christian homes, who accepted Jesus at a young age, and have lived a fairly wholesome life, as compared to someone who was saved off the streets, or from drug abuse, or has “juicy details.”  The latter attracts an attentive audience.

But most Christians would agree that if God is doing a redeeming, transformative work in our lives, this is something wonderful, which ought to be shared.

One of my favourite verses is Philemon 1:6:

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. (NIV)

When we “share our faith” with each other, we become partners in the gospel.  It increases our awareness of the good things we have in Christ.  And so, to keep our stories to ourselves would be a disservice to the Christian community.

What actually happens when we tell our stories?

  • We give God the glory.  When we recount the wonderful ways God has worked in our lives, the changes he’s made in us, the ways we want to serve him, and the fruit we see because of it, it gives opportunity for others to praise Him.
  • It encourages and inspires others to action.  Paul commends Philemon for “refreshing the saints.”  I think of the stories I’ve been privileged to share on the FM blog – each interview I’ve carried out and each story I’ve written had the surprising effect of giving me joy in my own ministry.  To know that there are others out there, in the trenches, using their gifts, working for the kingdom, is rejuvenating.  We’re in this together.
  • It broadens our perspective and knowledge of God.  God did not intend for one of us to have all the answers, he intended that we glean the answers and understanding from each other, as a body, united in Christ.  When we hear how God responds uniquely to each person, we receive an education about the one who made us.  The specifics of those stories reveal the depths of his love.
  • In a world full of bad news, it brings redemption to the forefront.  We have access to the news 24/7.  Most of it is bad news, and often skewed to push a worldview that doesn’t align with the believer’s.  But there are redemptive stories happening all around us that, if told, could put these sensationalistic pieces into perspective.  The world pushes fear, but God presents love.

Recently I tuned in to Focus on the Family, where the host, Jim Daly, told the listening audience that day, after a particularly moving interview,

We don’t own our testimonies; they are bought at a price, the blood of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps if we believed that our stories, along with our lives, belong to Christ, we would be open to sharing them freely.  In doing so, we would enrich the body of believers and refresh the saints.

So what’s your story?

Playing by the rules

For the next three days, I’m babysitting my nephew and two nieces, who are almost-10, 7 and 4 respectively.  Add my two, and that makes five kids, plus me, the lone adult.  I’m expecting mine will be a help… although they’ve been going pretty hard the last few days. If you know anything about 11-13 year-olds, sleep or lack of can determine whether they belong to the adult or toddler species.

I’m a little concerned about being over-run, not having J-M here to tag-team me.  I’ve got to feed, clean, and keep all the animals occupied by myself.  Already I’ve encountered enough antics to rival a circus and used every crowd-control trick I know to keep everyone indoors and relatively injury-free.  I’m happy to say that of the three kids, one went to bed without brushing their teeth and another went to bed without clothes and I’m feeling some success, as you may have read the “went to bed” part.

As for the third one… well, it’s my littlest niece, Charlotte, and she hates, hates, hates going to bed.  I believe her name translates, “abhors repose.”  During the day, she’s an absolute angel, so adorable she’s cliché: saying the darnedest things, looking as cute as a button, lighting up the world with her smile…  Right up until the time you say, “Time for bed!” in your best kindergarten teacher voice .  That’s when her smile turns sly, her cute turns cunning, and in no time, you’re involved in a full-blown battle of wits.

The suggested bedtime on her Mommy’s list of instructions was 7:30/8.  It’s 9:24 at the time I’m writing this and yes, she is clothed, in bed, with the lights out, but she’s currently chanting “Mo-MMY! Mo-MMY! I want– I want– MoMMY!”  Normally this might make your heart-break, but there’s a marching around the walls of Jericho quality to it.  Give this girl what she wants, or else.

I’m or-else-ing at the moment.

I’d anticipated a small war.  These bedtime shenanigans are not news to me.  I’ve often been here, visiting my sister and brother-in-law at night, and witnessed them addressing Charlotte innumerable times in the night.  Out of sympathy, not judgment (believe me, I know Charlotte comes from a special breed of night owls), and for my own sanity, I’m trying out a COMBAT STRATEGY.

Within minutes of my arrival, I sat down my nephew and nieces to give them guidelines for our time of fun together. Somewhere along the line, I adopted the ethos that kids thrive when they know their boundaries.  That means, in theory, if my nephew and nieces are completely aware of my expectations, the lines that should not be crossed and the consequences that will occur if they do, well, then we’re going to have a marvelous time, right?

I set the stage by telling them how much fun we were going to have together.  In fact, this would be a moment to go down in the history books as the Most Fun Had with an Aunt Ever in the World, even if the wording is awkward. I got them to somehow agree enthusiastically that fun has to have rules in order to be fun, right?  Yay! Rules are FUN!

I got them to think of the fun rules themselves.  They started off with, “Don’t eat your boogers.” I told them to dig deeper, no pun intended.

They swung on the pendulum to the Golden Rule.

“Lighten it up a little.”

“No whining?” Lucy offered.

“NOW we’re getting somewhere.”

My assistant Sophia took notes while the kids talked about what rules should be in place and why.

Why yes, it’s an excellent idea to Tell Aunty Lori where you’re going when you leave the house, small children!  Make a note, Sophia, “Lock the doors.”

Clean up after yourself is an excellent discipline.  Jack announced his plans to dump out his Rubbermaid full of Lego on the livingroom floor tomorrow morning, but if anyone were to play with it, he would definitely invoke this rule and have his playmates help with the chore.  Fair enough.

In an effort to control any hostilities, I’m allowing snitching.  Just to get a lay of the land, keep some tight reins on the place… at first anyway.  But let’s re-brand it and get rid of the shame. Got a problem?  Talk to Aunty Lori!  1-800-TATTLER.

Up till now it’s gone swimmingly.  Speaking of which, I have been bribing them with a day at the pool tomorrow if they can hold fast to the rules today.  Lucy found herself sniveling about who got more juice at supper and then a light went on, her eyes lit up and she said, “Hey, we said no whining!”  Bravo, little Lucy, bravo!   I give you the water wings trophy!

Somehow, all those times that her Daddy and Mommy got up to address her cries at night might, just might, be getting through to Miss Charlotte.  She contributed – by herself – the rule, “Stay! In! Bed!”  She added the exclamation marks for flare.  She’s like that – cute as a button, I tell you… at 3:30 p.m.

At 10:30, however, my eyelids are heavy, and Charlotte’s ramped it up.  She’s yelling through her closed door, “Aunty Lori!  Aunty Lori!  Aunty Lo-lo-lo-lo-lori!”  And you know what?  Sign this girl up for law school because she’s got the Fun Rules figured out to the letter.  Despite the fact that it’s been almost three hours since her scheduled bedtime, and she’s been a-hollering the whole time, she has YET to get out of bed.

We’ll be making a small amendment to the list tomorrow: Go! To! Sleep!

Phonetic spelling notwithstanding, Lucy’s a winner when she doesn’t whine!

We love Jack’s font.

OK, this Golden-type Rule made the cut after much insistence from Sophia.

Aren’t I the funnest?

Since Mal’s Curly-Q font didn’t express the level of risk for small children to leave the grounds without letting me know, Mal chose to communicate it with her face.  I’m posting her at every entrance.

Go ahead and smile my little one, for tomorrow is a new day…

15 years in

Today I am celebrating my 15th wedding anniversary to a guy I am totally in love with.  Like so much in love, that if someone asked me whether I had to choose between $10 billion or John-Mark, I wouldn’t even hesitate to say John-Mark, only John-Mark!  And then, if they upped the price to $11 billion? Same answer, but I’d hesitate slightly.

Even though he’s so priceless, I still did not get him a card or a gift because that’s what happens on your 15th anniversary.  You’re OK without that stuff (although if J-M snuck me a little something, I’d not turn it away).

Plus we did “JUST go to Costa Rica, HELLO.”

That’s me quoting my teenage daughter, when she heard we’re heading out to dinner at a swanky restaurant.  That’s because our friends gave us a gift certificate for marrying them at an impromptu ceremony.  Remember that?  It’s also because we’re indulgent.  First a tropical vacation and then dinner out?  So. Weird.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to post an old entry from four years ago. Not because I’m lazy and it’s easier to recycle old entries, not because I’m late for dinner and really should change into something besides shorts and a tank when patronizing a reputable establishment… but because in our 11th year, I discovered a life-changing truth about marriage that keeps me thrilled to be married to this guy 15 years later.

Check it out:  Elevenses.

Happy Anniversary John-Mark.  You’re worth more than $10 billion by a long shot.