Sister to Sister: Orphans Among Us

soccer-mom-1The following is an excerpt from a letter I received from a young Christian sister this week. Small editions have been made for clarity and anonymity. I want to thank this sister for giving me a bit of a picture of the struggles and needs of young mothers raised outside the body. Can you help? I know, if you are an older woman in Christ, you can. But WILL you? Here’s the excerpt:
In Bible Class this morning I was shaken up.
One of our congregations ministers  filled in for our class today and talked about Titus 2. The class was mostly older retired men and women.
He was brave enough to ask questions that made it clear God EXPECTS the older to teach the younger which is not only teens but for those in their 50s to mentor those in their 20s and 30s. He called many in that audience to step up to the plate. 
His wife commented and talked about how an older Christian man impacted her and she cried thinking of how he was more to her life than her physical grandfather.
I was especially moved by the wisdom of God because I, personally, have sought older Christian women and, although it’s only two or three women, I have made them the mothers in Christ that I need in order to raise my children in God’s ways and love my husband as God expects; to keep going when I feel defeated and to be my  hope when I do not know if I can persevere. 
I don’t know if you realize that it is hard for those of us who are NOT from Christian families to fit into God’s family because we feel lost many times. We even feel like we are intruding because the ones we look up to have kids (physical families) of their own. We need what older women are to us and are thankful when we get to be in their lives. We are orphans of a sort with emotional baggage but we “cry out” to the people of God and are blessed when people respond.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2:3-5

Sister to Sister: “He’s Family.”

13445308_10153545698711384_8626082806051738344_nIt caught me a little off-guard when the manager at Waffle House In Jacksonville, Alabama called me over to the counter to have a word with him. He asked for my phone number. 

Well, that didn’t sound right. What I mean is, he wanted an emergency number just in case any medical emergency ever comes up with my father who’s 93 and goes to Waffle House almost every single day….Sometimes, he goes two or three times a day. I was touched. He said “Well, he’s like family to us. That’s just how much we think of him.” 

They know what he orders and they give him a little extra of this or that. They open his creamers and his jellies because they know those arthritic hands have a hard time getting them open. They refill and pamper and “darlin” him till he’s full and then they open all the doors wide for his walker as he leaves. 

That’s how they define treating someone like family. And, mind you, I’m very grateful that they’re so very attentive and kind. They are extremely accommodating and most respectful.  And the fact that they cared enough to get the contact info struck a chord inside me. 

But, still, I’m glad that Dad has a real family. Real family, you see, does a whole lot more than taking breakfast orders, delivering the purchased items, and doing it with kindness and extra measures of respect and friendliness. All of that is so much more than you expect, as a customer, but still not nearly what it means to be “family”.  

Being family is doing everything in your power to identify and make sure all needs are met. Family is shared memories and hopes. It’s defending each other while holding each other accountable. It’s rescuing. It’s reminiscing. It’s communicating about the mundane and struggling together through the challenging. It’s being secure, even in your mutual vulnerability. In the Bible, it’s the Greek word “storge” and the absence of this kind of love is included in some pretty heinous sin-lists in the New Testament (Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3).

It’s interesting, in this context, that God calls us— the church—the “family” (Ephesians 3:15). Sometimes I fall so short of the calling of “family” in reference to my treatment of the brothers and sisters with whom I have the truest kinship…the blood kinship that comes from Calvary. 

I’m pretty devoted to my physical family. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for either of my sisters or my brother. I have a pretty constant anxiety about my father’s well-being. The way I miss my mother is deep and, at times, still excruciating. My husband is everything to me, My children and grandchildren are dear to me beyond words. They put the light in my eyes and the spring in my step. I am all about family.

Perhaps the manager at Waffle House really does think my father is like family. But, for me, family is a little bit more. May I work harder to be truly “family” to those who are my siblings in the family of God. May I strive to exhibit the same (or even a greater) care for the eternal family as I do for the physical family. And may I not allow the fact that I can’t keep up with the needs and cares and sorrows of that many people to stop me from doing my best to treat my Christian kin as family; one person…one opportunity at the time.

Moms, Shoot for This!

13245489_132797127136197_2138064978297995935_nCentral California this last week has been very warm in a couple of ways. The degree of hospitality was the best kind of warm as several families in the Lord’s church went out of their way to see that our every need, and so much more, was met. One of the conversations we had with Jason and Jill Jackson was about family life and parenting and how they, several years ago, sought advice from our brother, Wendell Winkler, about how to make a home from which children might emerge and faithfully walk in the ways of the Lord. He had five pieces of advice that are worth sharing. He was a man of great wisdom and moms will do well to put these in their hearts and around their dinner tables.

  1. About normalcy: Even if your family is a preaching family or an elder family in the church, don’t make your children feel as though they are “on display” or “different” from other Christians. After all, the reason we do what we do is not because of the preaching role or the leadership role. The reason we do what we do is because we are Christians. We can make our kids resent the work pretty quickly if we cause them to think there’s negative abnormality about serving the Lord. Don’t make your sons wear a coat and tie to events when the rest of the kids have on khakis and polos. 
  2. About the value of a dollar. Don’t try to provide all the “wants” for your kids. The work ethic is missing today in many homes, even in the church, and it is to our detriment.  Children will be better stewards of their material possessions if they understand that earning and saving are prerequisites to enjoying and sharing material possessions. The entitlement spirit is strong in our culture and we have to work to help our children reject it. Perhaps another way to say this is “Don’t let your children complain about the food on the table.”
  3. About saying “yes”: You should say yes to the “asks” of your kids as often as you can (“May I go here?” …”May I try out for this?” …”May I have a sleepover with my friends?” etc…) because you will have to say “no” often because of the difference in our profession of Christianity and the culture in which we live. 
  4. About criticism: Criticism will come from those in the world and from those in the church. Your family, if you are faithful, and especially if you are in a leadership position, will often be scrutinized and there will be those who think it’s their job to “correct” or instruct you, even if you are doing your very best. Just expect that. Prepare your minds for it and go on and do your very best. 
  5. About balance. You will pay dearly if you neglect family to do “church work”. You will pay dearly if you neglect your work in the church for family priorities. Be sure you have a good balance and blend. The work of the church should be the family’s work. Get in there and do it together! Family vacations, ballgames, family game nights and hobbies pursued together will grow and solidify the influence you are able to wield on your children. Never take a vacation from God, though. Whatever you are doing, be sure your family knows He’s always the priority and you will not forsake the worship of His church for any reason. Remember, as a mom, your most important evangelism is in your home. Those souls are the priority during their growing-up years. 

There you have it. I know lots of parents who are great examples of this kind of parenting and family balance. This spring, one of those families in Texas watched, as their daughter gave them this word of thanks for that kind of “raising”.  Kastin Carroll would have included lots of Biblical references had she been speaking just to women. But in this graduation ceremony, you can hear the Word behind her remarks to her parents. Her father is an elder in the Brown Trail church in Fort Worth. She and her dad are in the photo above.  You will enjoy and take courage from watching. 

Sister to Sister: Just a Minute for Apologetics Press

Banner-APEarlier this week the good folks at Apologetics Press (www.apologeticspress.org) were targeted by Facebook trolls who made it their goal to post many negative reviews and to, in the most vulgar terms imaginable, openly criticize the site and revile the good work it does. My husband took the opportunity to say some good things about the work at AP and, almost immediately,  a response appeared on his Facebook timeline that also spewed hate and vulgarity toward AP.

I cannot think of a tool that did more, as my children were growing up, to put faith in them, than the materials from Apologetics Press. I visit the site regularly, cite it often in writing and speaking and recommend it almost everywhere I go to talk to groups of women. My husband and I are indebted to the men at AP for the research and writing (and fundraising) that have produced volumes like “How Do We Know the Bible is from God?” and episodes of “Digger Doug”  and the various series of AP readers and many more volumes that developed faith in the hearts of Caleb Colley and Hannah Giselbach. Their materials were core to out homeschooling endeavors, our classroom teaching in the church and our Family Bible Times in our home. Currently our daughter is using one of the books to answer questions from little people in her class of nine-year-olds in Montgomery, AL. and as they find the real evidence to answer the question “How do we know the Bible is true?” They are making their own newspaper chronicling their discoveries to share with the congregation. When nine-year-olds are inquisitive about such an eternally important matter, the time to stop and answer is now. Apologetics Press has, through the years, made for parents and teachers, preachers and elders and, yes, our children seeking truth an indispensable resource.

It’s no wonder that forces of the devil regularly attack the work at AP and it is bound, as our country becomes more thoroughly secularized, to happen all the more often and with a greater vengeance. I hope every Christian mother and grandmother reading will go to the AP website (linked above) and give a brief positive review of the site. Further, I hope you will share this article in support of Apologetics Press on your Facebook wall. Two clicks and you’ve publicly stood for something great while standing against wickedness. Further, you’ve done it in a very public forum.

I know some of you may be thinking, “But I don’t want to share something that will draw the ire of wicked people and I surely don’t want vulgarity on my timeline.” That’s precisely the kind of thinking that’s silenced many people of God for way too long. Persecution like this is going to be more and more commonplace and, if we fail to stand together as the people of God, we let the devil have his way. On the other hand, when we are reviled and persecuted (and that’s exactly the intent of this attack on AP), we are blessed. I hope you will share (or write your own positive review about the work at AP).  You can do this on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ApologeticsPress/?fref=ts. Persecution is coming our way. Now is a good time to start reacting with meekness and boldness. (When you encounter those who post vile language on your wall, simply go to the right hand corner of their “comment”, click on the arrow and then click on “hide” and the comment will disappear. You can elect also to “block” this person from further commenting on your timeline.)

For an even more effective show of support, go to the site and do a little summer-reading-shopping for those children in your world who need to be prepared for the obstacles the devil has planned for them. (Here’s the store: http://www.apologeticspress.org/store/Store.aspx.

And most importantly, pray for the blessed men who continue the work at AP for the sake of our families and congregations. Know they are blessed because our Lord characterized them exactly that way.

“Blessed are ye when men shall revile and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.”

 

Sister to Sister: Convention Exhaustion

12719136_893926583309_1021361005546787560_oThis is how we all felt…a combination between delirium and utter exhaustion. I think Ezra was just the only one who was okay with expressing it in public. (It would probably be a better world if we were all without guile…completely honest… like Ezra is at eighteen months old.)

In fact, hundreds of children did incredible things over the weekend and in preparation for the Lads to Leaders convention. It’s pretty special to see teenagers getting extremely excited about studying the role of women in the New Testament church. It’s exhilarating to watch early elementary aged kids answering questions about the details of the book of Acts. To see a teen girl in her last year of Lads competition having difficulty finishing her speech about being the Proverbs 31 woman simply because it’s so emotional to sum up life goals as she steps away from childhood and into the “real world” where there will be such pressure from the devil to step away from those goals…well, that made me summarize my own goals and think about whether or not I’m being true to them.

The convention is over. I could not have physically survived another day of such intense  fellowship and overpacked scheduling. But the effects will linger. I think they will linger into eternity. We counted about 10,000 people in the Nashville convention, one of six conventions nationwide. We could count trophies, ribbons, events, rooms booked and fees paid. But we cannot count the seeds planted in hearts. We will just do our best to keep planting and watering them, though, and let our amazing God give the increase.

 

Sister to Sister: Lads to Leaders–Not the Convention, but the Conviction

 

12524410_10153354725341384_2141875503953047451_nWe’re on our way to the Lads to Leaders convention in Nashville today, where we will witness boys and girls from pre-K through twelfth grade participating in Bible bowl, displaying artwork and scrapbooks, reading scripture, leading songs and speaking (girls to girls’ audiences only), debating, being awarded for memorizing a hundred of verses from God’s Word—and so much more. Boys will be awarded for learning how to be protectors and providers for their future homes and girls will be awarded for several categories in which they are learning to be keepers at home. One young man I know who participates has been raised in a home where his mom lives with her lesbian partner, but he plans to be a gospel preacher, thanks to faithful people who have taken an interest in him. He is faithful and will attend a Christian university this fall to get the training needed. But he is already preaching on many Sundays. Two young siblings I know lost their father this year. He was a missionary and now that they have moved almost around the world, they are carrying on his tradition of being in the Word and working to promote the church for a whole new generation. I heard them Sunday as they practiced and prepared. At least six that I know have lost grandparents this year and another young man I know has been working to be a good example to his father who is not a Christian. I know one young man from a single-parent home who’s been working pretty hard this year to help his mom regroup after a big life transition. They are all just kids, but they are adapting and making the most of some pretty challenging times as they grow in the Lord.

I recall one incident in which a young person was practicing his Lads speech, in which he boldly explained what the Lord would have us do to be saved. At the end of that particular practice round, a “mentor” from his small audience said “I need to be baptized for the remission of sins. I  have become aware and convicted by what this child has taught me today.”

I praise God for these young people. We are taking 115 people to this amazing and encouraging event. But I remind myself constantly that it is not the convention that makes the difference for the Lord’s church. It is is the conviction. The preparation, practice and the whole process puts conviction in their young hearts.

There are three children, now adults, who grew up in the program who are very important to me. They all spoke convicting messages to groups of adults this last weekend. Two of them do this  every weekend, and lots of times in between.They are all mentors in the Lads program now and two  of them are raising my grandson to use his talents for the greatest cause on earth. Let me tell you: I would not trade our time spent using the valuable Lads to Leaders tool for anything in the world. I’m praying for every child who participates this weekend—for safety, for boldness as he/she participates. Most of all, I’m praying for their futures and the seeds planted this year for the harvest in eternity.