Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Kid-Friendly Christianity?

Sometimes we water down what we believe to make it more palatable for our kids.  We don't tell them all the gruesome bits in the Bible stories.  We keep to ourselves the fact that thousands of our brothers and sisters around the world live in danger because of their beliefs.  We don't tell them that David was an adulterer and murderer.  We keep them from worry.  We tell them the nice bits.  We tell them how much God loves them (true) and about His grace and mercy (all good).  We try to make following Jesus as easy as possible.  We're worried we might put them off.  We try to make it kid-friendly to protect them from any danger.

The problem is that following Jesus isn't always easy.  And in watering down our faith, we water down our God.  In keeping them protected from worry and fear, we don't allow them to grow in faith.  When we don't show them how other Christians live around the world, we give them a narrow view of what it really means to live for God.  When they don't see the bigger picture, they can't see the bigger God.

Take this weekend, for example.  We are seriously depending on God for our needs at the moment. 'Daily bread' has taken on a new and literal meaning for us.  Instead of keeping this a secret from the boys, we have shared and prayed together as a family.  On Sunday,  one of my boys told me that he felt like he'd stepped out of the boat but then been abandoned by God because we were in so much financial need.

Was it wrong for us to share this with the boys?  Should we have protected them from the realities of our life at the moment so that they don't feel anxious?  In sharing everything with them, their faith in God is at risk.  It's a scary business.

I believe that in showing them the realities of life as a Jesus-follower, their faith will grow.  When an envelope was pushed through our door last night with £500 cash in it, Toby and Max were the first to thank God, their provider.  The previously anxious one breathed a sigh of relief as he realised that His God hadn't abandoned him.  Far from it.

I want my boys to know how awesome God is.  I want them to know that following Jesus means counting the cost but is the most thrilling, adrenaline-filled ride they will ever go on.  I refuse to water down God.  I want their faith to be challenged and to grow.  I will not live in fear of them being 'put off' because I know that if we show our children who God really is, they can never choose any other way of living but to follow Him with everything they've got.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Real Words

Sometimes there are simply no words left.  I know, it's hard to believe when I like to produce my allocated 10,000 per day.  But sometimes, we can say lots of things without saying the most important ones.  We can talk about the children or the weather (great to fall back on in awkward silences) without digging down to the real stuff.

And so, the real stuff is this.

Sometimes I wish I hadn't prayed such big prayers and told God I'd do anything and go anywhere for him.  Sometimes I wonder if He really will do what He's said He will do.  Sometimes I wish we could just have normal jobs and a lifestyle like everyone else's and then I could happily fit into the world we live in without feeling like I'm sacrificing some part of myself in order to do so.  Sometimes I wish I could be the one sitting inside the boat instead of stepping out of it.  Sometimes I'm really scared.

But the deeper the water I tread on, the more I understand how much I need to rely on the One who really does promise to be with me.  When I can't see any answers, and 'stuff' doesn't seem to be miraculously coming together, I can't just scurry back to the boat.  I'm already half-way out.  I can't turn back, but fear of sinking is far worse here than it was when I was a few steps away from the boat.

And so I remind myself of the promises of the One who called me out of the boat.  I remember that even though I hold my breath because all I can see is a confused jumble of non-answers, I can still look into the eyes of the One and see His goodness and mercy chasing me and overtaking the fear. I can breathe out again because when anxiety pokes it's ugly hands out of the water and threatens to plunge me underneath, those hands are swatted away like an irritating fly by the Promise-Keeper.

The deeper I go, the more I need Him.  The more I need Him, the more I thank Him.

"Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in The Lord,
I will be joyful in God, my Saviour.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; 
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go on the heights."

And that's the real stuff.  That's what I really want to say. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Screen Language

Anyone else hear these odd phrases regularly?

"Pleeease can I just go on the iPad Mum?  I need to check if my dragons have finished breeding."

Me: "Screen time is over, time to finish now."
Boy: "Ok, let me just kill myself first."

"I'm putting the TNT right next to the fire."

"MUUM! Will you tell him to get off my world!"

"I got the king pig!"

Minecraft, Dragonvale, Clash of the clans, Angry birds.....  All of them use their own bizarre language, and some of it makes me chuckle.

What strange phrases do you hear?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Fog Walk

Stepping out of the front door this morning, I felt a little hand worm it's way into mine as we were faced head-on with a heavy blanket of fog.  

"We can't see where we're going!" He shouted, very excitedly. "School might not be there anymore!"

And along the journey we crossed rivers of crocodiles, hopping across their heads.  We surfed over lava on our diamond surfboards.  We used our swords to cut down snakes hanging from trees.  We flew over waterfalls on our magic carpets.  Oh, the enjoyment of the adventure of a foggy school run!  And I made the most of every second, for in a few years there will be no-one who will want to carry a magic carpet on their back and stash magic spray in our pockets for when we are burnt by lava.

And I realised that my life is a foggy one too.  The uncertainty of the journey ahead makes it hard to walk into.  I can't see the end.  I don't even know if it's there.  I can't even make out the next step.  It's dense with the fog of the unknown, and that is sometimes heart-pumpingly scary.

Yet for each river of crocodiles or lake of lava that I face (hopefully figuratively speaking, but you never know...), I will be given all I need.  I choose to walk this path because I know that for every step of the way, my God won't fail me but will always be enough for me (and more).  He is my hope-giver in the face of the unknown.  He is my deep well of joy in the midst of stomach-lurching anxiety.  He is my torch, showing me the next step and the next step.  He is my storehouse of equipment for the journey.  He goes ahead of me, and that means that when I step out I'm going to be safe.  It doesn't mean the road ahead is easy, just that when I cling on I can learn to put one foot in front of the other, knowing that He follows me with goodness and mercy.

As I left my little adventurer at school and turned to walk home, the fog lifted and the sun shone it's rays of hope and I remembered the words of this old hymn:

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with ten thousand besides.

Great is His faithfulness.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Pointing out the obvious.....

So it seems that a lot of people want to tell me this:

You know when you've just had a haircut and people point it out to you...

"You've had a hair cut!"

Really?!  I didn't realise I had actually sat still for half an hour while someone repeatedly snipped at my hair...

This is similar.

Thank you, to those of you who have joined in my fun and pointed out to me that I need lots of courage, brevity, a sense of humour and the ability to look away at exactly the right moment whilst bringing up our boys.

Please, don't anyone else tell me though!  I am beginning to get paranoid.....

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Climb Every Mountain....

Sometimes being alone is just blissful.  Especially when everywhere you go someone shouts your name and you have to lock yourself in the bathroom to escape into solitude (and even then they bang on the door, shouting tales at you or poking their little hands underneath the door).

But we weren't made to be alone.  In fact, our awesome creator (and yep, I do believe that) said "it's not good for man to be alone."  

Walking up a hill yesterday with our friends, I was reminded of this truth.

The boys scrambled, ran, jumped and skipped up the hill.  They didn't even seem to be tired.  I plodded, trying to pace myself and keep my eye on the boys who weren't even fazed by a sheer rock face.  Tantalisingly close to the summit, the climb became steeper.  I was tired by that point.  How could it be so difficult just when we were so close to reaching our goal? Surely there should be a 'sprint finish'...  Yet I wasn't sure I could make it.  I wasn't expecting it to be so difficult.  

Just as I was about to give up, I felt a hand on my back,  pushing me forwards.  Onwards.  Upwards.  My friend, who was rather puffed out herself, gave me (in Mario Kart terms) a boost.  

Had I attempted that hill climb alone, I would not have made it to the summit.  

Encouraged by my faithful friend, I reached my goal.  (Should I say at this point that the boys had been at the top for quite a while and were wondering where I was?)

And so, if you face mountains or hills this year, don't try to climb them alone.  You weren't made to.  Ask for a boost.  Admit you can't do it.  It's not a sign of weakness.  There is strength in community.  And when you feel that hand on your back, you will not regret it.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Being a Mum - the truth of the matter.

Sometimes there are no other words for it.  Being a mum is a thankless task.  Oh yes, we can wax lyrical (what a very strange phrase, I wonder where it originates...) about how rewarding it is and how much we love those moments with a snuggly child on a rainy day or a little hand clinging to ours. We can enjoy those glimpses of why we became mums in the first place.  But sometimes that's all they are.  Glimpses.  Snatched moments of joy in a long day of exhausted and sacrificial giving.

Take today, for example.  

I cuddled, baked, encouraged, played wii games, tried to be artistic (not my best skill) and played with my bored, lonely little boy on a TED day who was missing his big brothers.  All day he asked me when they were coming home.  I knew I wasn't an exciting enough playmate, but I tried my best.  I was most definitely his second, or even third, choice in the rankings but as I was the only one there, I'd have to do.  And there were moments of sweetness like when he asked me to snuggle with him under a blanket (even if he did temporarily break the remote control in the process of wanting to do everything himself).  But still, I knew I wasn't quite hitting the mark.

So I clock-watched, waiting desperately for the big brothers to return and hoping that they would be the answer to the issues of boredom.

When they eventually blasted through the door, dropping coats (unworn, despite the rain and wind), shoes and bags right in the doorway, I felt a wave of relief flood through me.  The entertaining baton could be passed to someone else!

Except they didn't see it quite that way.  Ignoring his cheerful and excited shouts, they trawled through the cupboards like locusts, looking for a 'snack', plonked themselves down in front of Mario kart and shouted at him to be quiet.

"Mum!  Tell him to shut up (we're not really allowed to say this in our house, but I'm giving you the honest truth here - as much as I wish it, they did not say 'be quiet')! I can't concentrate on this race!"

From that moment on, I knew I'd made a mistake.  My hope faded rapidly as the afternoon lurched from one argument to another, dropping to an all time low when they argued over whether 'yo' sounds like 'no'.  I am not even joking.  This was a serious matter.  

And so, I wearily put back on my referees uniform and spent the last few hours of the day negotiating, peace-making (or even just war-avoiding) and separating agitators until finally bedtime called.

Thankless?  Yep.  
Exhausting?  Yep.  
Worthless?  No. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Christmas Treasures

It's a funny thing.  As soon as the summer is over, the shops tentatively, and then confidently, begin to display Christmas cards, chocolates and wrapping paper.  The countdown is longer than it has ever been before.  The pressure to have 'the perfect Christmas' is immense and we all feel guilty when that person (you know who you are) posts on facebook that they have finished their Christmas shopping and wrapped it all up by October half term.  How can someone be so sickeningly organised?!

The children are bombarded with advert after advert, telling them what they need to be happy.  We begin to stockpile food, enough for a month but in reality it only needs to last a couple of days.  The shops fill up with treasures that we seem to need.

And we are swept along in this tide of consumerism, expectation and pressure to perform.  

And sometimes, in the waves of 'getting it right for everyone', we lose sight of the One who says there's no need to perform.  He sees our hearts.  He knows we can't create the perfect 'John Lewis' Christmas.  In fact, we don't even need to.  

When we lose sight of Him, panic and fear set in.  The waves seem much bigger and more threatening.  The impossible becomes impossible again.  Nights become tortured by the 'what ifs' and the frantic whirlwind of anxiety takes over.  The treasures become more important than the One who gives us so much more.  We put our faith in the reality of circumstances instead of the truth, which sets us free.

So if, like me, you lost sight of the Prince of Peace in this busy time, train your eyes to look towards Him again.  Christmas is over.  Whether your turkey was perfect or whether you burnt the potatoes, it doesn't matter.  If you were all vomiting on Christmas Day so you ate dry crackers, it doesn't matter.  Whether our children had the latest trendy tablet or a small, modest present, it doesn't matter.  Whether we are embracing the year ahead with excitement and anticipation or wondering how we are going to pay the mortgage let alone feed the children, we need to look to the Prince of Peace again.  Christmas isn't our treasure.  Those treasures are going to break, or sit, untouched and unplayed with.  It's just 'stuff'.  It will clutter our homes and our hearts.  He is the One who matters.  Let's keep our eyes on Him this year.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be." Matthew 6: 21