Friday, September 28, 2012

Brian McLaren

Toward The Other from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

I have been moved by Brian's words time and again.  His writings starting popping up in my life towards the end of my time as a youth worker and I have a pile of his work still sitting for me to read.  I ran across this clip last week and my soul has been chewing on it ever since.

So of course, the issue of world religions came up in the mothership conversation this week.  My experience as a mother has taught me many things, but here is one of the most profound things I have discovered.  All of the really good theological conversations with my children happen in our minivan (a.k.a. "The Mothership") during kid commute time.  I guess it is because we are all a captive audience, and we don't have to be face to face.  Maybe it is less intimidating to ask the big questions when you don't have to make eye contact... at least that's my current working theory.

So my 7 year old daughter wants to sign for the school talent show in the spring.  She wants to sing a worship song and I mentioned to her that she might be asked to pick a different song.  I am not sure what they will allow for a talent show and I wanted to take an opportunity to talk with my older two about the public school setting.  Interestingly enough we had this conversation as we were commuting from the private christian school my 5 year son is attending this year, to the public school the older two attend.  (The reason we have enrolled our kids in two separate elementary schools is a blog post of it's own, that may or may not ever find it's way to this ole' blog space)

It was a great conversation.  I was able to explain to them that at the christian school, the belief system is inherent.  Not every student always has that belief system, but the school is founded on christian principles.  In a public school setting, there is very different distinction in regards to faith.  In the public system the goal is the separation of church and state, or more honestly the separation of religion and academics.  That conversations led to several more heavy questions and I am so grateful to have years of practice doing faith talk with children.  But as I dropped my older children off at their school I was struck by two things:

1.  I am grateful that my children have friends of many different faith backgrounds and several with no faith background.  For my family that is a huge blessing and not because I desire to "friendship evangelize" our other-believing or non-believing friends.  I see it as a blessing because it provides us with a well balanced and non polarizing experience in the life we are leading.  I was raised in the church, went to a christian university, and then I worked in a church for a decade.  When I left that little bubble, I realized just how disconnected I had become from anyone who didn't have the exact same experience.  I was completely entrenched in my religious camp and that caused problems for me.  It created problems because I only embraced the part of my christian identity and history that was pleasant.  I flat out ignored the dark history and the under belly of the faith system I claimed as my own.  These are the sort of problems I don't want my children to have to carry.  I want them to have open hearts, open minds, open eyes, and open arms.  I also want them to have a humility and understanding that we are not God and we do not have a corner on the truth market.  We are a Christian family and are guided by those principles.  That is a good thing.  We are not however, called to decide who is in God's graces and who is not.

2:  I need to learn more about the Islamic faith, as well as, Buddhism and Hinduism.  I have a pretty good working understanding of Judaism, Atheism, and Agnosticism.  My faith shares a lot of the tenants with the Jewish faith, so that's an easy one for me to get.  I have many family members that believe there is no God and avoid religious affiliation, or believe that there may or may not be a God but it does not make a huge difference for them.  I have a limited understanding of Buddhism and Hinduism, but have several friends throughout the years that practice both faith systems, so I feel like I have a fair amount of understanding about each lifestyle. I realized though, that I have a very limited academic understanding of the Islamic faith and almost no personal life experience with Muslim people.  So I need to learn more and maybe I need to move out of my comfort zone in this area.

I am grateful for Brian McLaren for his perspective and his writing.  I am also grateful for the precious teaching moments I get to have as a stay at home mom for my children.  Being present most of the time while I am raising my kids is shaping me more into the image of Christ.  And the more I evolve, the more I feel at home in my own skin because hatred, divisive thinking, and immaturity are slowly falling away.  In the space of that negative stuff has risen up a deeper desire to lean into grace, because I understand all the more, just how much I need grace to cover over me and my humanity.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

As a child...

I hate it when I hear the familiar child groan in the middle of the night.  I’d love to tell you I hate it because I don’t like when my babies are sick, but I am not nearly evolved enough for that to be my first thought.  Usually my first thought includes dread because I know I have to get out of my warm and comfortable bed to deal with some form of bodily fluid I have no interest in dealing with.  And that is where my story of last week begins.

I took my kids for a Disney mini vacation last weekend as one last trip before school started back up.  We had a wonderful 3 days and I am grateful for the memories... at least for most of them.  Word for the wise though... don’t pump your kids full of sugar they don’t usually eat, add chlorine water and then top it with over-excitement, because that is a recipe for the middle of the night child groan.  I know I just stated the obvious, but maybe if I repeat it enough I won’t ever do it again.

So the groan came, then the unwanted fluids flowed, and then the giant mess began, all while my sweet boy was still mostly asleep.  Poor kid.  He only became conscious as he was sitting in the bathroom, in the middle of the mess, listening to my multiple step directions so the mess didn’t get any bigger than absolutely necessary.  He was such a trooper with it all though.  Once I was able to convince him my directions were actually helpful for him, he became more willing to trust me.  I could not allow him to make the choices in the situation... for that would have made everything worse, but I needed to give him some control, and the simple gift of choice is exactly what worked to calm him down.  

When he was all clean and dressed in new “vacation pj’s” (big brother’s shirt and the just in case sweat pants I packed) he crawled into his hotel bed to go back to sleep.  As I was tucking him in, he looked up at me with the most endearing look I have ever experienced, and he said, “Thank you mommy.”  What kid is able to be grateful right after such an ordeal and have it be unprompted?  My momma heart swelled and I told him I loved him and to sleep well.  As I crawled back into bed, I found myself being filled with gratitude for my third born.  He embodied wholeness for me that I often feel stays just out of reach as I try to grow.  My son intuitively understands what Jesus spent a lot of earthly time trying to teach rest, to follow, to be grateful.  Jesus implored us to come to him as little children and to take refuge in relationship with him.  I think one of many reasons he desires us to shed our grown up costume, is that a child has the ability to trust in the midst of life’s mess and once the mess is cleared a child’s heart can repair much faster than our hearts do as adults.

I think it is quite common for us adults to find ourselves waking up in the middle of a mess that we didn’t see coming.  Sometimes we have created the mess all on our own, and sometimes life hands us the mess.  I know for me, the biggest struggle is to trust that God’s directives are actually there to help me out of my mess.  I struggle to believe that if I just lean into the relationship and follow, I will be restored.  I fight the care I’m offered and in the process often find myself dejected and exhausted.  If only I could have the sort of humility and gratefulness my son showed on that night.  Watching him navigate that situation inspired me to be more like him when I find myself in yet another mess.  May I remember to trust that God’s suggestions are there as a guide for me to get through the mess, and that I have been given the gift of choice.  I choose to follow or not, and it's meant to calm me.  May I also understand that when I have gone my own way, there is always a steady voice inviting me to follow once more.  Might I have enough thankfulness in my heart to look up and give my gratitude... right there in the moment.

We adults make life too difficult.  We have lost faith, we have lost innocence.  Children get faith, they embody innocence, and they point us towards wholeness.  May you share some time with a child soon... childhood joy is contagious.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Day of School...

...First time in 9 1/2 years I have not had to do work/ home chores/ errands/ doctor's appointments etc. with at least one kid on my hip or hanging off of my leg.  To say I am full of glee, well that's just an understatement.  I know I am supposed to feel nostalgic about my baby going off to school full time, and I did have a moment of that yesterday...but it passed very quickly.  My mothering goal from the very beginning was that I found a way to savor every stage with each child, so I would not pine for days passed after they are gone.  I have not always done that perfectly but on a day like today, I know in the depth of my momma heart that I have done that good enough.  All of my kids are confident and know they are well loved.  That is grace in abundance and I am grateful to the Lord for such an amazing gift!