Sister to Sister: Mama’s K.I.S.S. #39–The Gift Closet

target 75As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been presenting installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” This is number 39 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to have servant hearts. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

The Gift Closet

It’s been fun to watch my daughter transition into her own home with her own family and continue the “gift closet” tradition. Throughout the growing up years of our kids, they always knew there was one closet that was always stocked with little gifts for those times when someone needed encouragement: a thank-you, a prize for winning the family devotional Bible game, a welcome gift, a good-bye gift, or when your whole Bible class had earned a reward. Everyone needs a gift closet, pantry, or cabinet.

Right now, mine contains some Valentine vases, an Easter bunny book, some Bath and Body 75 percent off items, some monogrammed Christmas ornaments, some candles, some clearance toys, some bed linens and some made-to-order graduation gifts personalized with a popular university logo (bought in bulk)…just to name a few things. The plusses of a gift closet are obvious: 1)You save money because you buy at deep discount prices and save gifts for when you need them. This is good stewardship. 2) You can give more because giving is easier. 3) You can have fun Bible Time rewards for spontaneous games. 4) Your kids start to think in terms of the joy of giving because they see it happening so much. (They start asking if they can have something from the stash to give to people who can use encouragement.) 5) Your kids grow up and continue the tradition.

My favorite gift closet memory includes a Saturday when two well-known preachers were unexpectedly visiting in our home, along with our collegiate children. Our kids had been expecting to have a little holiday celebration for some minor holiday. (We celebrate everything!) Well, we just went on and played our holiday game (“Let’s Make a Deal” as I recall) with the whole gang. It was the best time ever, to watch those guys trying to win those little prizes from one another. One of the folks there had just attended the funeral of a dear family member who had passed away in a tragic accident and I remember him saying “This has been fun. It has helped me to think about something other than the horrible events of the last few days.”

If I’d only had the closet for just that one day, it would have been worth it!

 

Sister to Sister: Mama’s K.I.S.S. #38–Communion Cups

DSC_2270As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been presenting installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” This is number 38 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to have servant hearts. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

Communion Cups

All kinds of lessons come to those blessed children who are assigned the task of collecting the used communion cups after the worship service is completed. The first is that they see their name in the bulletin under “PICK UP COMMUNION CUPS”. There’s something that says “You’re an important part of this family,” when our kids see their artwork and chore list on the refrigerator at home. There’s something that says the same thing when they hear their question discussed from the pulpit on Question-and-Answer night or when they see their name beside a “chore” in the church bulletin or on the church website. It’s an important feeling of belonging.

The next big lesson, of course, is service. It’s not necessarily the cleanest job. When it’s your child’s turn, you will want to be sure she is not wearing the heirloom dress that Aunt Betsy smocked. (Grape juice is very hard to remove.) You will want to get out the hand sanitizer when she is done. But even those precautions say to your child “We want to get to do the jobs that are not as glorious and beautiful as some other jobs might be. You know Jesus probably didn’t feel so glorious when they stripped off his clothes and nailed Him to that Roman cross. That’s what we (the adults) were thinking about when we drank from these cups, you know.”

Then there’s the benefit of learning to smile and greet all the people all over the building who are “in their way” when they are making the pick-up rounds (rather than running over them). There’s a lot of good training in that little lesson. Kids learn to wait patiently for elderly people who are leaving their pews and to be kind to them as they exit. And, hopefully, elderly people show kindness and gratitude to the children for the job they are doing. It’s a kindness builder.

When you put two children on the job each week, they learn cooperation skills and division of tasks and they build camaraderie. When it’s time to empty, wash, dry and store the pails, they learn to follow through to the very end of a job. (Help them, but don’t do this part for them.) They are making memories in the Lord’s service. I’m glad we went to congregations in which my kids got to fill up the pail after the worship services were concluded. They looked forward to seeing if their names were in the bulletin!

So, go ahead, save a couple of ice cream buckets and get going on this one.

Happy end-of-summer and back-to-school! Look for the back-to school special from The Colley House next week!

Sister to Sister: Mama’s K.I.S.S. #36–Serving the Intellectually Disabled

imagesAs you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been presenting installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” This is number 36 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to have servant hearts. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

Today’s suggestion is simple. Find ways for your children to be around and serve people with intellectual disabilities. Whether it’s elderly people with dementia or Alzheimer’s or younger people with any number of challenging disabilities, your children will grow leaps and bounds in servant-heart development if you will be sure they attend to the needs of those with challenges of the mind.

Some of the most memorable rides home from worship that my children experienced in their young years were on the days when we stopped to pick up “Crippled Danny” and take him to the store or to his little apartment in Jasper, Alabama. Now I know that it is not politically correct or perhaps even kind in today’s climate to refer to a man as “Crippled Danny.”  I’m keeping it real as I confess that this is what we called this friend. It was his nickname in town and it did not occur to us, at the time, that this nomenclature was not the best.  I can recall Glenn and I talking often about the fact that it was a good thing for our kids to get to know Crippled Danny.  It was good for them to sit beside him in the back seat of our car and laugh with him about the things he had been doing as he hobbled around the town that day. It was good for them to help him get the things he needed at the store and to get back safely to his apartment. It was good to talk to them about how that Danny’s little legs were underdeveloped, but that his greatest disability was in his mind; that people who could never think like grown-ups would always be around us and they would always need our help. It was important to talk to them about Matthew 25 and how serving people who cannot think “right” (you have to put it in the vernacular of kids)  is every bit as important as serving people who cannot walk, talk, see or hear.

As your kids grow there will be lots of opportunities to minister to people with challenges of the mind or emotions. They will be on the pew in front of you, in the grocery line behind you and on the bus beside you.  (If you don’t find them there, check out a local Alzheimer’s care facility or nursing home.)

One more of our most precious opportunities was to have a sweet association with one of our brotherhood’s great elderly preachers during his recent years of  mental decline. Sometimes his wonderful caretakers, his daughter and her husband, would need a day or a night out of the house or even out of town. A time or two it worked out so that we were in town and privileged to have this wonderful servant of God stay with us. What a privilege for all of us and especially for our teenagers to be able to hear the same stories again and again and watch the same magic tricks over and over. I can remember one of those weekends having a large group of Freed Hardeman University students spending the weekend at the same time that this friend was spending the night. It was the most precious thing to watch them listen and laugh with him patiently and then to watch him sing along with them till about two in the morning. It was a joy to think about the transference of this beautiful singing to that place around the throne where there will be no debilitating differences in age, stamina or ability. (I remember the elderly gentleman enjoying this singing so much that he just did not want to go to bed. I told him that he needed to go ahead and take his night-time meds because his usual bedtime had long since passed. His reply was “No, I take my medicines when I go to bed and I am not going to bed yet.”)

So go ahead and make sure your kids are serving and enjoying some people who have memory or intellectual challenges. Do it early in their lives so they will never develop or recognize any stigma attached by peers to associating with these wonderful people. Loving the Lord our God with all of our minds means sharing those minds–gifts that we deserve no more than those who are handicapped–with those who may need extra help. When we love Him in this way with our minds, we are guaranteed to love Him more every day with our hearts, souls and strength, too, because this kind of sharing is both selfless and demanding. Your kids will be better for it.

Sister to Sister: Figuring Out Godliness–Part 3

Do You Trust Him?

aster_cafev1_600x300I went to lunch recently with a couple of friends from a denomination who wanted to talk about women and ministry. It seems they had a close girlfriend who was an extremely talented speaker. “She’s got this amazing ability to convince and convict non-believers. She’s a better preacher than any man we know” they said. “Don’t you think God expects her to use her talents to speak to people about him? “

The answer is “yes.” Of course there are settings in which all of the talents God has given me can and should be used to His glory. But just because I’ve been blessed with a talent, doesn’t mean there are no divinely imposed restrictions regarding the use of that talent. My husband is a great guitarist, but he does not play the guitar in worship. My daughter is a great cook, but she doesn’t prepare her famous macaroni and cheese for the communion table. I like public speaking. Is that a talent I can use in worship to God?

Let’s look at the passage from I Timothy 2 again:

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression (I Tim. 2:11-14).

In a context that is addressing worship issues, women are commanded to be silent. They are commanded not to have authority over or dominate a man in worship. Before we address the reasons given in the passage, let’s look at a parallel scripture:

Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.
And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church (I Cor.14:34,35)

The devil has often used the tool of feminism in our society to make God’s people ashamed to adhere to clear teachings of the New Testament about the role of women in worship. After all, this is the 21st century. Women are astronauts, engineers, CEOs and presidential candidates. Can we really continue promoting this antiquated notion that women are to be silent in our worship assemblies?

Romans 12: 2 tells us “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”.  Sometimes when we think of worldliness, we think of immorality. We think of drinking, gambling, reckless affluence, and illicit sex. But being conformed to the world is simply allowing the culture around us to influence us to disobey God.  The teachings about a woman’s role in worship are some of the plainest teachings in the New Testament.  We need help to misunderstand them.  The fact that they are not politically correct in our culture does not change them.

Frequently, I will have someone ask “Couldn’t this teaching have been for Paul’s culture only? Does it necessarily apply to women today?”  In our text, it is almost as if the Holy Spirit anticipated this question. Notice he proceeds to give the reason for the command: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”

Notice that the reason, (what happened in the Garden of Eden), has to do with people far removed from Paul’s culture. In I Peter 3; 4, 5, Peter reiterates the submission principle, in this case speaking about submission of a woman to her husband. Notice the woman who modeled submission for the first century Christian women was Sarah. But Sarah lived a couple of millenniums before the first century.   She was definitely not part of Peter’s culture.  See, the teaching about submission in the church and in the home is not a culture-limited teaching. It began in the Garden and continues to apply in God’s new covenant.  It applies throughout all eras of time and across all cultures.

While I can see many reasons for God’s imposed limitations for women in worship, it’s important to remember that whether or not a command makes sense to me is irrelevant to its importance or the consequences of disobeying it. As a matter of fact, if I choose to obey only the commands that make sense to me, then I am not really trusting God. I’m not really doing what God says because he says it. I’m doing what I think is best. While our faith is a reasonable, logic based faith, it goes a step beyond logic. Faith says “I will obey when it makes sense to me and even when it doesn’t, because I trust that God knows what’s best for my life.”

But remember. The answer to the question about whether I should use my teaching talents in the kingdom was “yes.” So if I cannot teach in worship, then how can I use this talent?

I know a young lady who started a community Bible study for ladies in her hometown. She obtained permission to use a town hall and soon had about 50 women in attendance, half of whom were not members of the Lord’s church. I dare say she was reaching more non-Christians with the gospel than her husband who was the local preacher. But was she in any way having authority over men? No.

I know a teenager who started a weekly devotional for girls via email. Her weekly emails strengthened and blessed the lives of dozens of girls each week. Was she using her teaching talents for the kingdom? Oh, yes. But she was not violating the passage.

My daughter and I often have the chance to speak for ladies groups:  ladies’ days, teen girls’ days, ladies classes at lectureships, girls’ sessions at youth rallies, mother-daughter banquets, youth camps and retreats. All of these are wonderful times of fellowship and learning for all involved, especially us. But in none of these cases are we violating the passage.

It has been my experience and observation that those of us who are concerned about being Titus 2 women (as noted above), evangelizing the lost, and caring for the needy  have far more to do in the kingdom than we can possibly accomplish in this lifetime, without clamoring for positions of leadership that God reserved for men. It has also been my observation that when women step into positions of leadership in worship, important jobs best done by women (the care of their children, hospitality, the guiding of the house) are neglected. But let me say it again: It doesn’t really matter if I can see the wisdom in the prohibition. God said it. Faith is doing what God says to do. Period.

Sister to Sister: Figuring Out Godliness–Part 2

Do You Have Your Act Together?

1010949_10151997487112802_498003468_nThe second indicator of what’s on the inside is what I’m doing on the outside. The passage says Christian women are not to be distinguished by flashy or immodest clothing and/or jewelry. But Paul doesn’t just leave us hanging. He gives us the flip side of the coin; the positive side: do be distinguished by the good works you do.  He says if you’re making the assertion that you are a Christian, do what women who profess godliness do: get busy doing good things!

I am amazed at the potential of the young women I meet as I go about and speak for ladies days and teen girls’ days. Often I find you, teen girls, more responsive to the teachings of Scripture than your older sisters in Christ. You have tender hearts. Almost always you are more creative in the use of resources. You blow me away with your talents and willingness to use them. You are tech savvy and artistic. You have much to offer the church and you are unwilling to bury your talents. Most of these areas of service are great opportunities for both men and women. Take the time to examine each of them and see if there are ideas that can be used by both guys and girls.

  1. Teen girls are putting together some of the most amazing Saturday programs for girls in their communities. These days typically include singing praises, a speaker on themes of purity, evangelism and/or service, games, a question and answer session and a meal.  I’ve seen themes like “It’s a Jungle Out There” (I Peter 5:8), and “Whatever!”(Phil.4:8). Talented decorators, cooks, and song-leaders, all under 21, put these programs together and bring their non-Christian friends. They are making a difference.
  2. Many of you are in group studies using a book called GIFTS, available from the Lads to Leaders office. I’ve known girls in several areas who’ve carried this book to school with them. Someone on the bus or in study hall is interested in the book. So a Christian girl invites a non-Christian girl over to study GIFTS on Thursday nights. Girls are learning the gospel through these private studies and some are becoming Christians.  The GUARD study for you guys can be used in the same way.
  3. Some of you are using your computers to spread the gospel. I heard of one Lads to Leaders debate group that used Instant Messenger to prepare as they studied their defense of the gospel. I know of one girl who had a lengthy study with a non-Christian friend on the subject of baptism via Instant Messenger. I know many of you use your Facebook pages to let each other know you are praying during the difficult times and to send each other encouraging passages of scripture. You use your word processors to make banners for hospital rooms and cards for sick people.  You correspond with missionaries and prospective converts you’ve met while on mission trips. You avoid the destructive chat rooms and readily available internet temptations and, instead, use your computer for good works.
  4. I have a friend who is a freshman on a state university campus. He started a weekly devotional in his dorm room on Wednesday nights after worship. To date, he has taught and baptized ten friends. This kind of devotional evangelism can happen with girls, too.
  5. Some of the most creative kids’ bible classes I’ve seen are taught by teens. Some of the most eye-catching bulletin boards are constructed by teens. This week I’m preparing an adventure center for our local Family Bible Week. Everyone on my team, except me, is college age and below. We are making a Treasure Island where children learn that real treasures are the ones we lay up in heaven and the treasure map is the Word of God. The lesson was written by a college student.
  6. Some of the most effective teachers on the mission fields are teens. I’m thinking right now of one teen girl who insisted on climbing a mountain in Jamaica to get to one lone house on the top of the steep incline. Other team members were older and lacked the energy to make the tough climb in the heat. Greeted by a sixteen year old native, this young teen girl set up a Bible study. At the end of the week, the girl was baptized.  She, in turn, brought a close friend to the Lord and that friend has now brought five people to the Lord. It wasn’t the seasoned preachers who made that little Jamaican church grow. It was the sixteen year old novice.
  7. I see local groups of young people tirelessly conducting worship services at nursing homes, raking leaves and painting houses for the elderly, doing laundry for new mothers, washing baptismal robes, cleaning up after fellowship meals, providing transportation to services and a myriad of other tasks that might seem menial to their peers. Some people may ask, “What’s so special about these teens? Why are they okay with doing the dirty work?”  Something tells me it’s that they understand what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40: “…inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” They understand good works.
  8. I see young people who are just naturally hospitable. I would be hard pressed to even estimate how many families have moved into our area and chosen to become a part of our congregation because our teens just enveloped their children, making them feel welcome and very much a part of the family that meets together here. Oh there may have been other factors, but parents very often tell me the deciding factor was the friendliness of our teens. Can you find someone who is new; someone who may be sitting alone and invite them to come and sit with you and the other teens.
  9. I receive lots of cards of encouragement from women of various ages. Sometimes I receive a card that is such a blessing to me that I want to keep it forever. Many of the cards that have encouraged me immeasurably are those I have received from teen girls who tell me that I have made some difference in their lives. These cards make me want to be better, try harder and seek the kingdom first. Is there someone who is making a difference in your life? Take a few minutes to pen a note of thanks. Some of you are masters of expression. Use those writing talents to build up the body. Some of you are good in the kitchen. Make those muffins to carry to Sister Smith who is convalescing or to Jenny, who broke her arm in yesterday’s soccer game. Some of you are talented sketchers. Make your own cards and gifts for widows or college students or deployed soldiers. Some of you are great readers. Share thirty minutes each week with an older woman whose sight is failing her, reading the Scriptures or something she wants to hear. Some of you are great actors. Plan a widows’ luncheon, serve your guests and then treat them to a skit produced and directed by teens. They will never forget this. It will be more fun than they’ve had all year! Our teens make up songs about our elderly people. They love to travel from house to house and carol; especially during the holidays, but any time of year. You don’t have to wait for programs and youth leaders to take the initiative. You can initiate good works.
  10. Most importantly, just get excited about spiritual things. The devil loves to make us believe that the real fun is in the temporal activities of this world. While it’s okay to enjoy fellowship in pure forms of entertainment, sports and fun activities, most teens are missing out on the lasting joy that comes from service. Be enthusiastic about Bible class. Get excited about building the kingdom. Try your hand at evangelism (maybe starting out by going with your youth minister or an older Christian to a study). Make it your habit to always say “yes” whenever asked to do anything for the Lord’s church. My children both testify that this “yes” rule was a big key to the development of their talents for the Master.

One more thing about good works for girls: No discussion of this subject would be complete without at least a brief look at Titus 2:4, 5. This passage is compelling as it relates to the place of women in the body. It encapsulates the most important role you as God’s woman will ever have on this earth. It actually says that women who fail to comply with this passage will cause the Word of God to be blasphemed. Guys, whatever you hope to find in the woman you will one day marry, find someone who is working on the list below. Girls, whatever else you do in this life, may I encourage you to be sure you are developing your talents and skills to be:

  1. A lover of your husband. Decide now to find a faithful Christian with whom you can share the goal of eternal life with God and plan to be his helper toward heaven.
  2. A lover of your children. If and when God blesses you with children, realize that he has placed in your charge little souls that will exist forever. They will look to you for guidance. You will influence their destinies.
  3. Discreet. The word here means self-controlled. It means deciding that you will put your will under His Will in all of life.
  4. Chaste. This word means modest and innocent. Make early choices to guard your thoughts and life from the sins of the devil.  Live every day so that you can bow before God’s throne and pray, knowing your relationship with Him is secure.
  5. A homemaker. Whatever vocation you may choose, remember God’s plan for your life, at least while your children are at home (these verses are addressed to the younger women), is for you to be a homemaker.
  6. Good.
  7. Obedient to your husband. While politically incorrect in our world, be sure you never lose your resolve to do marriage God’s way.

Sister to Sister: “Meredith” Making Waves

images-2Last week I told you about “Meredith”, a sweet sister I met at a retreat on the previous weekend. You can read about her here. She happened to read the words I had written about her and I wanted to share with you her response. I want to share it because I know it will brighten your day and make you thankful. The thing I am most excited about sharing with you is that the young man who was resistant to the gospel has now obeyed our Savior in baptism! Each one of us touches lives through others for eternity. It’s cliche, but it IS like ripples in the water; only, in the case of these ripples, the water is the water of life.  It eternally sustains, washes and quenches. Sometimes we know we’re making ripples or even waves. Sometimes we don’t. God is so good! So this, from Meredith and let’s all soldier on!

Cindy – I read your latest blog and just cried! It was just what I needed. Honestly I don’t see myself in that light so it was incredibly encouraging to read that my life and service still matter and no matter how dark and hard it may get He can still shine through my life. The enemy has been whispering and even shouting at times that it’s just too hard and it won’t matter if I slow down and back off in the service to my King. The enemy loves for me to remember the brownies I baked and then dropped, the cards I have written and had to throw away because of the errors and sloppy hand writing and the cookies I baked, but cried when I was done, because it hurt. But, I will fight to remember the blessings and what I can do (and there are TONS of things I can still do for the kingdom) and not focus on the dark piece of this puzzle in my life right now. I will not listen to the father of lies, but cling to the One who already solved my biggest problem ever and made a way to make it possible for me to spend eternity with Him where there will be no pain or tears FOREVER. Thank you again. It meant more than you’ll ever know!

So let me just say again…I want to be more like Meredith. The part of her that matters most is perfectly whole. So, with the apostle John, I would say to her ” Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”(III John 1:2)