Sister to Sister: Barbie’s in Smaller Hands

In preparation for one of my lectures at Polishing the Pulpit (you know, the one that will be delivered in a pretty empty room, because it occurs while the solar eclipse is also occurring…you know the eclipse that only happens every 100 years), I came across a statistic that’s cast a cloud over this grandmother’s afternoon. Here it is:

In the year 1990, the average age of a child who played with Barbie dolls was age ten. In 2000, the average was age three. This was resultant, the article postulated (and, I think, correctly) from the fact that electronic devices have been marketed to ever younger crowds. By the time a child is five or six, he or she has typically lost interest in toys and moved on to become absorbed in the flashier, but far less imaginative, world of video games. 

I realize this is just one more symptom of the real problem. It’s not really the preferences of the children. It’s the lack of direction from the big people. It’s not the absorption of the little people in the games. It’s the absorption of the big people in pursuits that leave little time for looking in the eyes of their children—even less time for exploring their interests, their hearts and their aspirations. It’s just easier to let someone else provide the basic care for our kids and, all too often, even that care is, whenever possible and convenient, relegated to devices that mindlessly entertain, but largely do not challenge and certainly do not nurture. The real nurturing, the conversations about ethics, the sharing about creation, the time in the Word, the stories about real life heroes—well, that stuff just doesn’t find a place in our busy lives.

We have to take a leap of faith in this culture to place the nurturing of our children above the lifestyle of affluence that’s come to be expected of us. Millennials grew up in pressure cookers of affluence—driven to be achievers, I mean driven—literally— to ACT tutors, professional athletic trainers, and personal specialists in whatever fields they were competing. Scores and win/loss records and courting by ball scouts and resume prowess—all of these were emphasized and, too often, character and ethics were not focal points in their families. Some of them suffered, as a result of these pressures to achieve, from eating disorders, prescription medication addictions, and self-harming behaviors. 

And now, they are the parents. I know many of them who are rejecting the parenting styles of the past generation of parents. They’re choosing time with children over 2nd careers, parent-care over day-care, and often, home-schooling over the public system. But the vast majority of the parents of today are still in the passing lane. They are, perhaps for the most part, unaware of any alternative to the fast-paced lifestyle of affluence. They certainly do not intend to raise their children on electronics. But their children are away from them during most of their waking hours. They have movies on in the car as they drive. The television comes on when they walk in the door and it  usually stays on until the last person goes to bed. When a child becomes loud or annoying in a restaurant or social setting, it’s very easy to hand her a cell phone and connect her up to you-tube or you-tube for kids. It’s a whole lot easier at home to hand a child a phone than it is to get down in the floor and play with a bucket of cars or construct a fort with blocks or any of a bajillion things you can do when you pretend. Besides, there’s just not time to spend much of it on the floor with a toddler when you’ve spent your next ten years’ paychecks on the training for the demanding position you’ve finally achieved. Your investment is shouting from behind you all the time. It’s easy to think that, when you jump over one more hurdle, there will be more time for family. But one business success breeds another challenge and, truth be told, you’re moving farther from nurturing and the gap between you and your children is widening. 

I know the Mattel toy company is dismayed at the statistic. (After all, there are several years of Barbie-consumers who’ve moved on to electronics.) But, at the risk of the wrath of office moms everywhere, may I just say that the Mattel company is not the only casualty here.  Worldliness takes many forms and one of them is when we allow a first-world-affluence-chasing culture to pressure us into a conformity that often steals some pretty valuable commodities from our children. There is value in waking up, as a child, whenever the sun, the household noise and the smell of the coffee-pot or the waffles or the bacon wakes you. There is value in being lifted from the bed or the crib by a mom who has a few minutes to say “Good morning, Sunshine. I’m so glad to see you!”—who has a minute to rock you before your diaper change and who has time to sit across the breakfast table with you and talk about what day of the week it is or why the birds are so loud outside the window this morning. There’s value in play—with real toys and there’s even value in watching Mary Poppins or Dumbo, while you talk with your mom about the happy things and the sad things in the story and why they are such. There’s value in going to the mailbox and in caring for younger siblings and in chore lists and in story time before nap. There’s value in learning to wipe up messes and in learning to write thank you notes (even when you’re really just drawing them). There’s value in playing in your own backyard or on your own little porch. There’s value in pretending the puddle is a lake or the chairs you have lined up is a train. There’s value in learning to make a sandwich or bake cookies with mom or ride the horse that Dad can be when he comes home from work. There’s value in long prayers in which every relative and every food item is mentioned. There’s value in taking a nap whenever you are tired and not necessarily when the bell rings and there’s some value in taking it in your own domain when you’re a preschooler. There’s great value in the filter that is your faithful mama. When your faithful mother knows every song you’ve learned and every book that’s been read to you and every concept you’ve encountered in a day—well there’s inestimable value in that. There is just great value, for children, in savoring, even unknowingly the leisure of childhood. But it cannot easily be done on the tight schedules of adults in the workplace or in crowded daycare centers. It just can’t

There are some moms who find themselves regretting the fact that they’re in a spot in life in which they cannot maximize the amount of time spent with their children. They just cannot do it differently. Not right now. Not yet. They are doing the best they can and they need support and encouragement as they work to make childhood more child-friendly for their kids. There are some who, though not in the work place, are still not involved in the hearts and aspirations  and play of their children. These moms are legion in our welfare culture and their children are often in more than one kind of poverty. And then there are some moms who are very involved in the lives of their children and still find ways to earn a bit from home, build little family businesses with kids in tow, or earn a little money in small part-time ventures while children are with dad, for instance. In short, I know, the thoughts of this article are not one-size-fits-all parents. The thoughts are one-size-fits-all children, though. In a perfect (for children) world, kids would be raised, nurtured and disciplined by mothers who spend their days in that pursuit. They would be further supported, nurtured and disciplined by their fathers, who are committed to their spiritual success. And they would be brought to know and honor God by two faithful parents. 

For the Diggers: Two Important Men

A study that’s made me richer is about to come to a close. One more month and we will kick off Digging Deep 2017-18. If you didn’t hear the podcast yet, please know that, if you are ever going to invite a non Christian to do a study with you, this new one is the one! You just might have a big reason to rejoice for eternity if you do invite someone. Topic  will be announced at PTP on the live podcast from The Wilderness in Sevierville. Study books will once again be available, because you liked this, but study basics will always be free online, as well. We’ll recognize those in the room there, who have completed (all phases and parts of) this year’s study. If you are one of those women, you are glad you did because the Word is so good for all of us. God has simply showered His best on our fellowship and study. I know we can better serve Him after the deep study we’ve done this year. 

The podcast bulged this month and time ran out. Some have requested the list about Paul and Naaman. As I was writing this study, it just occurred to me that there are lots of similarities between Naaman in II Kings five and Paul. While I’m not stretching to say that Naaman typifies Paul, I am saying that, when two important men, even in different dispensations, submit to the command of God to escape certain peril, there are some important lessons that should not be lost on us. 

Here’s the list:

Both were great (important) men. (II Kings 5:1; Acts 9:14,15; Acts 22:3; Acts 22:25-28)

Both were honored by men even prior to obedience. (II Kings 5:1; Acts 9:29)

Both were brave fighters. (II Kings 5:1; Acts 9:29)

Both were unclean. (II Kings 5:1; Acts 22:16)

Both needed the healing. (II Kings 5:3; Acts 9:8,9)

Both carried letters. (II Kings 5:1; Acts 9:2; Acts 22:5)

Both encountered a great prophet. (II Kings 5:9; Acts 9:4; Acts 22: 7,8)

Both were commanded to wash. (II Kings 5:10; Acts 22:16)

Both were cleansed by dipping, plunging or immersion. (II Kings 5:10; Acts 22:16)

Both had to follow the details of the instructions. (II Kings 5:14; Acts 22:10 [all])

Both were converted. (II Kings 5:15; Acts 9: 18-20)

Both realized they were debtors. (II Kings 5:15; Romans 1:14-16)

Both had to get way out of comfort zone. (II Kings 5:12; Acts 22:14)

Sister to Sister: Who Hit Whom?

Maybe I shouldn’t have taken that random man on the side of the road to the hospital to see his son who, he languished, “was lying there on his death bed.” Yes, that same man who had just crashed into the back of my husband’s car—the car I was driving—from behind—while I was sitting dead still at a red light. 

That paragraph is pretty mixed up. Mixed up and disoriented is something of how I felt, too,  yesterday, after that red car just plowed into the car I was driving.  I was just sitting there at a red light in Attalla, Alabama, when the screeching of tires directed my glance over to the side rearview mirror just as my body lunged forward and then quickly back again…with force! I got out of that car and realized I had a huge metal hair clip in the back of my head that had been abruptly sandwiched behind my cranium. It was a headache of mammoth proportions. 

I couldn’t see the man in the other car. His airbag was inflated and covering his face. But I soon heard him yell “Someone please take me to the hospital. My son is dying. I have to get to the hospital, now. He’s lying on his deathbed.” He nervously pulled out his cigarettes and paced back and forth up and down the sidewalk, making one call after the other and intermittently begging for a ride to the hospital. But the police had arrived and they informed him that, as the driver of the vehicle, he could, under no circumstances, leave the scene. “Please let me go. My son is dying. Won’t someone please give me a ride?” 

In the meantime, someone WAS trying to give me a ride. It was an ambulance the size of a large fire truck. I’m not sure it wasn’t a fire truck! It was definitely paramedic overkill and I thanked them and signed all the papers refusing the ride to the hospital. All insurance info was put on the reports the officers collected. The wrecker came for the red car.  My sturdier car, though it was a pitiful mess, was still drivable. The incident was over. 

But the man who hit me was still begging for a ride. No one was coming to his aid. All the witnesses had left.  I looked at the police officer and said “You think I should give him a ride?” 

“Well,” she said, “I cannot really tell you what to do about that. Of course you’re free to do that if you want, but you do not have to.” 

“Well, but…” I began. “…you are an officer and you know this area. Do you think this is too risky to do? …I mean…well, If my son was in the hospital dying, I’d want to be there.”

“Well, I would not do it,” the officer replied. “I don’t know this man and your only contact with him is that he hit your car. But again, if your heart is telling you to…”

My heart was telling me to, I guess. But mostly “…whatsoever ye would that men should do to you…” was telling me to. So I said to the man…the big man… “Let me give you a ride to the hospital.”

It wasn’t long before I began to think a little more clearly and realized I might have made a mistake. As we got in the car, he began to speak with family members on speakerphone—loud speakerphone— about the wreck. Family members were using crude language and shouting about his wrecking the car belonging to “Justin, who was dying.” The conversations were unpleasant and I wanted to ask him to hang up, so I could call my husband and tell him about my morning and about my back muscles that were getting tauter and about my neck that was hurting when I turned it.

But then he said it…the sentence I thought I must surely be mishearing. But it was plain as day. He said it to his wife: “This woman who hit me is taking me to the hospital.” 

Seriously??!! I was the woman who “hit HIM”? I know I must have looked at him as if he had three heads, but …SERIOUSLY? 

Since I’d heard this man tell some pretty funny versions, at the site, about how the accident happened, I’d taken precautions to be sure the police knew I was stopped at the light, seatbelt on, and car sitting dead still, when the collision occurred. The police said they had witnesses and they were clear on that. “Whatever he is saying will not fly. We can see what happened here.” 

But still…seriously? He is going to sit right here in my car as I carry him to the hospital and tell his wife that I hit HIM?

To say the least,  it was a long ten miles to the hospital. I was informed about how that his son was in the hospital because he’d been poisoned…daily, for two years. When I asked how that happened, I learned that it was one teaspoon at the time. See, the government of Alabama had refused to allow its children to use the natural medicine, marijuana. They (the government) had supplied the children with bug spray mixed with oregano, instead. The Haitians were bringing it in as part of an ISIS mission and the local government was inviting them (the Haitians) in to work at the Goodyear plant, so they could annihilate the teen population. Emma Sansom and George Washington Carver were the good guys and they were under the ground because the respectable people get no honor in Alabama.  All of this man’s ancestors were decorated military intelligence officers and so was he…only he was now retired. He made me understand that I needed to do some research about the Jade Helm maneuvers and I’d be able to share the information with some other people. In fact, that’s why God had let him hit me today…so that I could learn this important information from him and share it and more people could escape from Alabama, understanding that even the police were welcoming ISIS. Four people on Sand Mountain had already died in the last two months from the poison and his son was probably next. It’s simply an ISIS induced community addiction. But his son would be okay, in the end, because his name had already been written in the family Bible. “I already wrote his name in the book and that’s all that matters.”

Of course, along about this time, I was agreeing with just about everything he said and praying I could put him safely out at the hospital. I’ve rarely been so excited to get to the door of an emergency room. Somehow I felt like this could be more of an emergency, by the time I got there, than my kidney stones had been last time I went the ER! (…And why couldn’t  just a regular, normal person plow into the back of my car?) Sometimes I’d like to be part of events that you could make up, if you were creative. But not this stuff.

I finally did get to call my husband who was in another state preaching yesterday. I got his voicemail and just asked him to call when he had a moment. A moment. That must have been exactly what he had when my phone rang. I could hear congregational singing in the background.

“Hello dear, you ok? I just have a second before I have to get back up to preach.” (Not even a moment…just a second is all I get?)

“Yes. I’m fine. But it’s your car. I got rear-ended.”

“Oh no! But you’re ok? You’re sure?”

“Yes. I’m sore, but ok.”

“And the other driver?”

“He’s okay, too.” 

“I’m so sorry. I love you. Gotta go. Bye!”

Apparently that was the “song-before-the-lesson” that I was hearing. 

Sometimes reality is hard to believe. I do not know if this man’s son was actually inside that ER or not. I do not know, if he was there, whether or not the substance being abused was really bug spray and oregano. I have a pretty good idea that ISIS, although having a presence in our country today, does not have one through Haitians at Goodyear in Attalla, Alabama who are part of Jade Helm maneuvers. I’m pretty sure the part about being a retired military criminal investigator wasn’t spot-on either. And I’m positive the part about the security-of-salvation- because-the-name-is-in-the-Bible isn’t. 

But it got me thinking about the way we view the ones who are our helpers. There I was providing the much-needed transportation for that man who had given me the biggest hit I’d ever taken. I was taking him where he needed to go. I was being quiet so that he could talk to his family. I was praying for him. I was trying to make a way for him to go on with his day rather than standing there alone on that busy street corner. My back was bruised and hurting because of the hit while I was listening to him argue with his family.  And then he said, “This woman, who hit me….” That, at least for a few secconds, made my blood boil. It did not feel good. At all.

Later on in the day, I was talking to someone with whom I’ve been trying to work through some problems that she’s been facing; problems she’s encountered largely because she walked away from God. She was disappointed in how one of her requests was answered. She said this: “OK. God has let me down…again.” She, at least momentarily, forgot. She forgot God was the One Who had picked her up. She forgot He was the One who had been quiet on the cross, so she could walk and talk and live in Him. She forgot that He was the One who was transporting her to heaven for eternity. She forgot he was bruised for her iniquities. She just forgot that she had been found in a place with no hope and that He had given her a chance to go on with her life, rejoicing here and through eternity. She forgot that while she was yet a sinner, Christ died for her (Heb. 5:8). 

Now, in no real or substantial way would I ever compare that little incident in Attalla with the mercy of God and our plight without Him. When she said that, I simply answered. “God did not do this. People are the ones who mess up.” I did, though, think about how I felt when that man said that I had hit him and I wondered how God must feel when we blame Him when things go wrong. We say “He hit me.” The One who brought us from hopelessness, submitting himself to unbelievable suffering and bruising for our iniquities (Is. 53:5). Why, we must seem to God as spiritually crazy and distorted as that poor man in the car with me, when/if we ever begin to blame Him when things go wrong. He’s taking us where we need to go in a far bigger sense than we can even perceive, and all of that, after we bruised Him in a bigger way than we can fathom! And He, unlike me in the imperfect analogy, chose to take the eternal hit!

May we remember the very real and eternal wreck and ruin from which we are able to walk away—from which we are transported— when we may ever think of assigning the blame for pain and sorrow to God. How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation (Heb. 2:3)?!

“However,” No Israel Trip Next Year

 

For the past year, Glenn and I have been working toward and praying about and saving our money for a trip to Israel. The trip evolved rapidly into a Digging Deep trip for the Diggers and their families and it was our plan to have the June 2018 podcast live from Jerusalem.I announced this on last month’s podcast and many of you have asked about details.  I even planned that month’s (June 2018) study around the resurrection so we could be in the area of the tomb as we discussed the study live. John Moore, of World Video Bible School and Bear Valley Institute of Biblical Studies and Bible Land Passages has been so kind and helpful every step of the way and with every detail of the planning. Our plans have been at the expense of lots of time and effort on his part, for which we are very grateful. You can read about these trips and even plan your own at http://biblelandpassages.org/about/.

And now, there’s the “however”…

However, in the interim, my life has gotten a bit more chaotic as we have had the privilege of stepping up the care for my aging father and pre-set schedules of siblings have collided. I’m blessed to get to do what I am doing with a full 1/3 of my life at this point, but it’s not going to  be possible for us to salvage those plans for Israel. We tried moving the trip in both directions, but, for different but unrelenting reasons, neither direction worked for 2018. It’s our very real desire to walk where our Lord walked and so we are praying to be able to reschedule for another year. I hope we will still be digging and I hope many of you can go. Glenn will be speaking the gospel in key places of this land, the “cradle” of Christianity. I plan to have some devotionals for ladies as well as the podcast. All of these things are some of the most exciting prospects we can imagine right now. We will, thus, come up with another plan, when we can see the way clear, and, for now, keep thanking Him for the blessing of caring for parents. We truly are blessed by our families—a big reason we have Jesus and even the desire to see the Bible lands, in the first place! 

I covet your prayers as plans are gearing up for Polishing the Pulpit, several ladies’ events and lots of time at my father’s house. Let’s keep digging. I’m very excited about the release of the new study and growing in the Word for the next year through it.  If we can’t go to Israel right now, we can still bring its amazing historical events into our hearts through the precious Word! And many thanks for the patience on the part of so many of you as we tried to reschedule. 

Romans 8:28!

Sister to Sister: Ezra and Goodness!

This is Family Bible Week at West Huntsville and my evenings are spent this week being a part of the throng around Jesus when he’s on His way to the home of Jairus. Our depiction of the miracle is focused on the power around the very name of Jesus. On His way to the home of Jairus, he heals a woman simply by her touching the hem of his garment. We’re trying hard in our little room to put reverence for the Lord and awe at His power in those little hearts.  The last line we sing to them is “Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…There is power around that name.”

I’ve had two of those sweet little hearts in my house this week (and seven more sweet ones coming tomorrow). I’m loving the expanding vocabulary of Ezra, the two-year-old, and I’m especially loving the expanding knowledge of Scripture, of right and wrong and of truth that will, if developed and nurtured make His life a glorification of our Father. 

Here are a few highlights of recent conversations:

Ezra: Dare’s good Bible cwasses and den dare’s bad Bible cwasses.

Me: Well, why is there a bad Bible class?

Ezra: Well, because day don’t teach de troof.

Me: Oh no, they don’t teach the truth?

Ezra: Well, dem fink dey do, but dem not.  

 

Ezra: Mammy, adultewy is not good.

Me: No, Ezra, it’s very bad. But what IS adultery?

Ezra: It’s when you have a boyfwiend AND a husband…both.

Ezra’s mom: Like who?

Ezra: wike Potipher’s wife. 

 

Ezra’s mom: Ezra, what is the kid’s sing rule?

Ezra: Do the right thing.

Ezra’s mom: But we just call that the “kid’s sing rule” because we say it at Kidsing. It’s really a rule for everywhere and all the time. It’s for when we wake up and when we are playing and when we go to Bible class. It’s doing right when we talk to Mom and Daddy and it’s telling the truth…and…

Ezra: I have an idea. Can we talk about this later?…like maybe tomorrow?

 

Ezra: Mammy, we do NOT say “Oh my Gosh.”

Me” That’s right, Ezra.

Ezra: But we can say “Oh my word.”…but not “Oh my goodness, because that’s sounds kind of like “Oh my Gosh.”

Me” That sounds right, Ezra.

Ezra: But some people dooz it just because nobody teached dem. They don’t know it’s a bad fing, so we dus have to teach dem….Aaaand…”Goodness” is good, but “Oh MYYY Goodness” is not good. 

 

Goodness IS good and I’m glad it’s growing in that little heart! I’m glad for all the young parents who are diligent about directing little consciences toward heaven. Family Bible week happens once a year, but every week should be a family Bible week at home!

Sister to Sister: Be Brave and Fear Him

You could name lots of enemies of a Christian’s boldness in our world today. One enemy is the overemphasis of tolerance. We’d rather be villains in almost any other category than to be labeled as intolerant or judgmental. (The most quoted and misapplied passage in this culture is Matthew 7:1.) So we stop speaking out about sin. We fear being ostracized. We fear confrontation. 

Another enemy of boldness to speak God’s truth is our busy-ness. Our schedules shout at us. Our commitments bulge in their time limitations. We simply over-commit and there is little time left to write letters to editors, show up at venues like gospel seminars or meetings that serve to inform and embolden, or take time to speak to individuals about the gospel.  We fill up our calendars and then allow them to control us. Their demands often make even the free moments of our lives full of anxiety or dread for the upcoming stress of deadlines and back-to-back responsibilities. They make us physically tired and weaken our spiritual stamina. We lose some of the will to do spiritual battle against wickedness in high places (Eph.6:12). It’s “wrestling”, as Paul put it, and we are too exhausted for that.

One more enemy is worldliness. This is a big one. We slowly become anesthetized, through entertainment choices, the news media, the public education system and governmental influences. We stop thinking very much about the societal departure from truth that is quickly becoming so complete. We start thinking like the world, instead of like the Lord. We are influenced, sometimes unknowingly, by pop culture’s psycho-babble and we become complacent—even ignorant—about the polar differences between the way God wants us to think and act and the accepted norms of society around us. 

Part of fearing him who is able to destroy body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28) is being wise to slow anesthetization by the culture. We simply cannot go to sleep in the devil’s gentle lull of  tolerance, busy-ness and the normalization of sin. See, ironically, those who fear are the brave. It’s those people who’ve developed a healthy fear of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell who are emboldened to stand against His lies in a culture of relativism.