Goodness undeserved and astonishing

I write this on Good Friday. It is the Friday afternoon at the close of a difficult week. Not difficult because of difficult circumstances but difficult because of a funk and things said and a migraine and failure and sin and, well, you get the picture.

Weeks like this remind me why I need Good Friday. Today Christians remember and commemorate the death of Jesus, which is weird, if you think about it, that we celebrate death but that’s exactly what we do. We celebrate the death of Jesus because without it we come to the end of a difficult week or a difficult day or a difficult phone call or a difficult season or a difficult conversation or a difficult diagnosis and we have no hope.

It is easy and, I think, common to glance over Good Friday to get to the joy of Resurrection Sunday. Good Friday becomes incidental to the real show. Of course the Resurrection is the hope and foundation of our faith, yes and amen, glory to God. Paul says that without it, we are pitied because our faith then is in vain.

But today I feel the despair of my sin. I see my weakness and my utter depravity. I know–I know–that my sin is real and my utter insufficiency overwhelms me. I need the truth that Jesus resolutely set His face to His death, that by one sacrifice He paid it all, that here is the love of God demonstrated in that Christ died for sinners. This is the goodness of Good Friday–that Jesus, my Savior, has borne my griefs and carried my sorrows and healed me by His wounds. Yes, please, Lord.

I pulled my copy off The Valley of Vision off the shelf to put word to my need…

EVERLASTING CREATOR-FATHER,
I have destroyed myself,
my nature is defiled,
the powers of my soul are degraded;
I am vile, miserable, strengthless,
but my hope is in thee.

If ever I am saved it will be by goodness undeserved and astonishing,
not by mercy alone but by abundant mercy,
not by grace but by exceeding riches of grace;
And such thou has revealed, promised, exemplified
in thoughts of peace, not of evil.

Thou has devised means
to rescue me from sin’s perdition,
to restore me to happiness, honour, safety.
I bless thee for the everlasting covenant,
for the appointment of a Mediator.

I rejoice that he failed me not, nor was discouraged,
but accomplished the work thou gavest him to do;
and said on the cross, ‘It is finished.’

I exult in the thought that
thy justice is satisfied,
thy truth established,
thy law magnified,
and a foundation is laid for my hope.

I look to a present and personal interest in Christ and say,
Surely he has borne my griefs,
carried my sorrows,
won my peace,
healed my soul.

Justified by his blood I am saved by his life,
Glorying in his cross I bow to his sceptre,
Having his Spirit I possess his mind.

Lord, grant that my religion may not be occasional and partial,
but universal, influential, effective,
and may I always continue in thy words as well as thy works,
so that I may reach my end in peace.

-“The Mediator,” The Valley of Vision

Talking on the phone and learning to be needy

My friend called me this week and when I first saw her name on the caller ID, I admit my first thought was that she was calling with bad news. She lives out of town and we rarely talk, like with our voices, so for her to call, while welcome, was also disconcerting.

It wasn’t bad news but rather the best sort of happy news and we chatted and laughed and talked, like with our voices, for quite some time. It was great.

I once talked on the phone all the time. Way back when my babies were just that, I had friends with whom I would talk on the phone about everything and anything. For instance, I had one particular friend that either she or I would call the other right at 9 am nearly and we would proceed to talk for an hour, sometimes more. Every day.

This is crazy, particularly in comparison to my current phone talking habits which are nearly nonexistent. I’m not (exactly) a hermit; I do converse with people but with the more narrow medium of text messaging.

And I love it. Text messaging, as I’ve asserted often, is an introvert’s dream. Short, direct conversations which can be easily avoided or abandoned, what’s not to love?

Years ago I was on the phone with a friend, conversing like with our voices, me bemoaning the general state of my life. I can’t remember my specific circumstances but I do know that the laundry wasn’t done and the dishes were piled in the sink and I sighed and whined and complained about both and probably a wealth of other things besides.

About fifteen minutes after I hung up with my friend, my doorbell rang. It was my friend and she walked straight through my front door to my kitchen sink and began to wash the dishes. THE NERVE. Not only that but she refused to leave without taking a few loads of laundry with her to wash. I allowed her the boys’ laundry and some towels but not my or my husband’s dirties. My dignity, what was left of it, compelled me to draw the line somewhere.

I was mortified. And embarrassed. And utterly humiliated.

Evidently I reserved the right to complain but not the right to accept help. And there was no quid pro quo here. Her kids were grown and out of the house and she had all the time in the world for a friend’s need as well as her dishes and laundry. In the end I could only receive her help and I hated it.

In Sunday School I am teaching through the book Side By Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love. Author Ed Welch asserts that in any healthy community, the members both give and receive help. This process of walking with another begins with each of us realizing we are needy.

I am needy and that truth rankles, as was so obvious when my friend administered very real, very practical help to me all those years ago. I don’t think I’m alone in my dislike of my helplessness. We all would rather appear strong and like we have “it” all together, whatever “it” may be.

Admitting our need feels risky. We conceal our neediness, or we revel in it, like some kind of weird misery contest, but in reality, we are embarrassed by our weakness, we are afraid of what others may think, and we fight to appear competent.

Welch states the obvious: in order to receive help I must admit my neediness. But there’s a less obvious dynamic at work: in order to effectively give help, I must also admit my neediness. In fact, my honest admission of my weakness, according to Welch, is one of the greatest gifts I can give the church. Wait. What?

Honestly assessing who I am and living in that honesty make me a better helper. Self sufficiency, on the other hand, may really be arrogance. Our community will grow together in love and humility as we each of us understand our weakness and our need for each other. This is the grace of the gospel, is it not, that I am so weak and flawed I needed rescuing and the Lord did just that. It is humbling and humiliating to be so weak and so needy but it is also beautiful.

Help is given and I only receive. I cannot earn it and I cannot repay it. My friend taught me as much all those years ago and I am grateful for her example of friendship and of gospel grace.

The impossible

I started 2017 off with the best of intentions and by that I mean I attempted to implement a new Bible reading plan, a new Scripture memory plan, and a new plan to journal.

Please, please, don’t ask me how any of those plans are going currently. Let’s just say there’s grace, much grace, for those of us with the best of intentions and the worst of follow through.

Just keepin’ it real.

Anyway, so in order to effect my newfound determination to journal more regularly (yeah, I know), I began to write out my thoughts regarding these ten questions for the new year. Self evaluation is always good, and biblical too. We are to examine ourselves and to ask the Lord to search us and expose any grievous way in us. What better use of my journaling endeavor? And, hey, automatic fodder for writing so win-win.

Question 2 asks, “What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?”

I have to confess: my first thoughts skewed toward the more personal, wildest dreams kind of answers. The sorts of things that are, if I am honest, more improbable than impossible, and certainly more about me, my comfort, my ambition, my happiness.

But as I pondered a little more and scribbled a little longer, I had to ask myself: what sorts of things are humanly impossible? What is it that only God can do and what among those things will I dare to persist in prayer for?

Among the list of humanly impossible things I came up with: The saving of souls. The spread of gospel zeal across churches and communities and around the world. Partnership and community that spans socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial divides. Babies no longer aborted but wanted and welcomed and loved.

We cannot effect any of these apart from the power and providence of God.

I grew ashamed of how little I ask for these impossible things.

When I ask for what only He can do, I am asking to see His power, to see His kingdom accomplished on earth as it is in heaven, ultimately to see His glory. The smallness of my prayers–confined only to my world, my life, my concerns, my wants–reflect the smallness of my faith. When I am only asking for my own comfort and the granting of my deepest desires, it is no wonder I find prayer difficult to the point of nonexistence.

What humanly impossible thing will I ask God for? What will you? Let us pray big and bold prayers, prayers that stretch beyond the reach of the probable into the realm of the impossible, prayers that dare to believe that God can and will answer according to His providence and His wisdom. Let us believe that the humanly impossible can be made possible by the working of the will of our good and gracious God. May we see His kingdom advance in power to save, to inflame, and to transform, and may we rejoice with the humble wonder of knowing we asked Him for it.

On death, grief, and the bent of my life

We were staying with our Mam Maw, our maternal grandmother, my sister and I were, when we got the news. Mam Maw hung up the phone and turning toward us, she pulled us to herself as she told us that our other grandmother, our dad’s mom, had died.

My sister immediately burst into tears while I, no less sad or bereft, stood there shocked by the loss of death and, if truth be told, perhaps somewhat embarrassed by my stoicism.

Of course if you knew me or my sister as girls you would probably say our responses were spot on. I have always been the more reserved–dare I say the more boring–of the two of us. My sister would drift through the house singing at the top of her lungs and I would be in the quietest corner I could find hunched over a book.

One Halloween my sister and I got the inspiration to trick or treat our own house. Our home at the time had several doors that opened to the outside so we decided we could go “door to door,” in the assumption our mom would indulge us by skittering from one door to the next with the requisite candy.

Meanwhile my dad had his own inspiration to attempt to scare us. He grabbed a sheet and as we made our way across the yard he ran by on the other side of the house with the sheet waving behind him. I was frightened out of my wits, frozen by my fear, unable to move, my mind immediately racing with how and where we could retreat, hide, escape. My sister, on the other hand, propelled me forward, laughing, barely containing her excitement and was it joy?

That’s us in a nutshell, particularly in terms of strong emotion. Me, frozen, thinking, standing back. My sister, embracing, transparent, eager even.

My husband and I received a similarly heartbreaking phone call a couple of weeks ago. This time my husband got the call and he immediately wept upon receiving the terrible news. Our friend Ron had been killed. I didn’t cry right then but prayed over and over, aloud and silently both, “Oh, my God.”

Some of us cry and others of us brood. I’ve brooded much in the days since that phone call as the truths of life and death gain greater weight and urgency. I’ve been moved to action too; in the tradition we Southerners have of marking all of life’s events with food, I’ve cooked a pork tenderloin and a Dr. Pepper cake and a squash casserole, all meager offerings in the face of the family’s devastating grief. Necessary and needful but still inadequate. What is a casserole to assuage the loss of husband and father?

Ron’s death was sudden and shocking. As I brood and ponder, I sometimes cannot wrap my mind around it. How very bizarre it seems, and I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but to consider that one Sunday Ron was there at church with us, serving and conversing and singing and praising, and by the next he was dead and buried? It is sad, unspeakably so. It is heartbreaking. It is shocking. It is sobering.

One thing I can say unequivocally about Ron: he loved the Lord Jesus. That I can assert without a shadow of a doubt. He certainly did not know that the Lord would call him home on that particular Wednesday night but it didn’t matter, not ultimately, because this was the bent of Ron’s life. His love for the Lord marked him; it was how he lived.

All my brooding has led me to this question: should the Lord take me today, tomorrow, or four decades from now, is the love of the Lord the bent of my life? Could you stand over my casket and say without a doubt that this girl lived for the glory of her Savior? It was so of my friend and I want it to be so for me. I think Ron would be happy for this to be his legacy: men and women saved from their sins by the grace of the Lord and living the rest of their lives, however long, however short, aflame with affection for their Savior.

Yes and amen.

It takes a village

As many of you know, we had a wedding in our family last summer. In fact, my son and his sweet bride celebrate six months (!) of wedded bliss today. 

The wedding didn’t get much coverage here on the blog but, hey, nothing’s getting much coverage on the blog. However, today as I was poking around on my laptop and uncovered a few draft posts in a word document, I found the following unpublished post and thought I’d share. I’m so very thankful for those who bless me as stewards of God’s varied grace and I honor them today.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about weddings in general and my gig as mother of the groom, it’s this: weddings take a village.

The responsibility as mother of the groom is, admittedly, far less involved than that of the mother of the bride but I have to tell you, even with the lesser load I could not have pulled it off without a little help from my friends.

My main duty as mother of the groom included planning and hosting the rehearsal dinner. One friend lent me her beautiful tablecloths and toppers; another friend catered the desserts; yet another friend helped with setting up and arranging the room. My neighbor gave me free reign to cut some of her gorgeous hydrangeas for the table arrangements.

During the meal itself I had friends who filled cups with ice, refilled the tea dispensers, replenished the food in the serving bowls, and kept the cheese dip from burning. The evening was all the more beautiful thanks to the efforts of my sister who can take pebbles, candles, and succulents, as well as a stack of black chargers, and make a memorable evening stunningly gorgeous.

A friend made chicken salad for our house party to have here for lunch as well as sausage balls and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Another friend dropped by with a plate of deli sandwiches.

Hear me when I say I could not have survived the weekend, certainly not as well fed or with as little stress, without the care and support of others.

When my husband wrecked his bicycle a few years ago and was in a wheelchair for eight weeks, we were the humble recipients of a similar outpouring of help. Naturally the circumstances could not have been more different but both remind me of how critically we need each other and how beautiful it is when the church serves one another as stewards of God’s varied grace.

Some of us have tablecloths to share and in our generosity we can minister to others. Some of us make chicken salad and sausage balls and so exercise hospitality. Others of us devote their culinary skills to bless others, with chocolate for example, yes and amen, and thus make the world a happier place. Some of us like my sister leave beauty in their wake and bring joy and happiness to the rest of us, especially those among us who can’t even.

A friend remarked on the success of the dinner and I could only give credit where credit was due: the caterers, my friends, my sister. If it were up to me, I admitted, we would have still enjoyed the delicious meal but I would have probably just stacked some paper plates at the end of the buffet line and considered my duty done. Not that I don’t appreciate beautiful décor, sometimes I just would rather not fool with it.

I am grateful for those who do. I know that the more “prominent” gifts-teaching and preaching and the like-are sometimes assumed to have more worth and those of us who exercise them may seem the more spiritual. This is baloney and I say that as one who teaches.

Generosity, hospitality, service, these too are important and critical in the life of the church and in the proclamation of the kingdom. I esteem those of you who exercise these gifts with grace and generosity in the joyous service of our Savior. Thank you.

Favorite reads of 2016

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the “best of” reading lists. I voraciously and carefully read each one I come across, often comparing my favorites (and my non-favorites) and always, always adding to the ever growing list of books I want to read. Someday, one day, maybe.

I read fifty some-odd books so far this year; a few I loved, some I hated, some were surprisingly good, some surprisingly disappointing. Apparently there were many I was just ambivalent about. For those of you who may be curious about my “best of” list, I offer the following favorites among the books I read this year, in no particular order…

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. I can’t stop talking about this one. If you’ve had any sort of extended conversation with me about politics or culture or anything really, I’ve probably mentioned this book. It will open your eyes, break your heart, and make you think. Related: I also appreciated Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates, a look at the black experience in this country, equally eye opening and heartbreaking.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy by Tim Keller. I think the title says it all. You can read this little book in one sitting and be convicted for a long time after.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. Loved it. My favorite novel I read last year, and one I keep recommending, is A Man Called Ove. This story evokes a similar sense of hope amid grief. It is not as sad as the description may make it sound!

Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Killing Glory of Christ by Matt Papa. I need to have this one on re-read yearly, monthly, weekly maybe. So, so good.

Honorable mentions:

I read a lot of fiction this year; no newsflash there as I read a lot of fiction every year. I don’t know if my standards are getting stricter or if I just had an off year, but only the one novel stands out as a favorite. In fact, I track my reading at Goodreads (otherwise I could never remember if I read any given book much less how many and which I might have liked); only a handful of the fiction titles I read I deemed a four star or higher. Interesting.

What about you? What did you read this year that stands out as a favorite? Have you posted a year end favorites list? Let me know in the comments so I can check it out!

Note: this post contains affiliate links.

New mercies on January 3 and every day

So it’s 2017. I’ve spent the majority of this new year either sleeping or blowing my nose. Nope, no somber contemplation of the year past, no careful goal setting or one word choosing. No organizational plans undertaken nor health and fitness changes implemented. Instead, the dawn of this new year is marked by a wad of tissues, regular doses of meds, and the occasional death-wish. The worst of it? I’m three days behind in my read the Bible in a year plan. Already.

Though our family had much to celebrate, not the least of which being the joys of a wedding and two graduations, 2016 was an interesting year, am I right? I am glad to put it behind us, if for no other reasons than acute disgust in the political process and profound disappointment in certain so-called evangelical leaders, you know, just keepin’ it real. Politics aside, 2016 was a sad year and not just nationally and globally. I grieved with more than one friend enduring profound and heart-wrenching loss. One of my friends who recently suffered the loss of a loved one told me she was ready for 2017 if just to know that this year of heartache was over.

Of course there is nothing inherently magical about January 1 as opposed to December 31 and my friend admitted as much. However, we tend to see the newly numbered year as representing something deeper–our collective desire for a fresh start, a new beginning, the old gone, the new come, and the chance to become someone different, better, happier, and yes, often more organized and skinnier. We make plans and dream dreams and formulate resolutions all because we are hopeful that something better awaits.

I have often said that New Years is my favorite holiday, not counting of course my current sickbed status. I claim it as a favorite because it is a day free of obligations and materialism, no gifts to buy, no decor to wrestle, no pomp and circumstance to observe, but rather a day of football and rest and general relaxation, a welcome sigh after the craziness of Christmas.

But I also love New Years because of that very desire for a fresh start and new beginning. It is a holiday marked by hope and I am hopeful, not in any resolution I may make nor goal I undertake because, hello, I know come February or even sooner, I will have failed. No, my hope lies in the One who makes all things new, Jesus Christ who offers fresh starts and new mercies and lavish grace not just on January 1 but also on January 3 with its wad of tissues and on days of grief and days of frustration and days of happiness and days of exhilaration and all the ordinary, boring days in between. All that New Years promises us–redemption and renewal and hope and the promise of something better–Jesus gives us in Himself.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” -Lam. 3:21-24

The story of a blog

Over lettuce wraps and spring rolls, I posed December’s most pressing question to my guys: Do I renew my domain or not?

My question was met with the sort of indifference reserved for queries with ridiculously obvious answers. Why wouldn’t I renew? Why indeed?

Because I don’t blog, I don’t write, and even when I think maybe I want to I still don’t.

The bottom line: I have nothing to say.

Write about us, one of my boys suggested, write about how we don’t want anything for Christmas because we’re so content and stuff, you can write about that.

Which may or may not have been the topic of the conversation just prior.

It’s true, they are, so content it’s frustrating when you really want to buy them something not just for Christmas but for their birthdays too, both of which fall in December, and both of them unable to come up with anything resembling a wish list.

I’m not sure I want to revive my blog with an humble brag about the contentment of my children, but I didn’t tell them that. Instead, I stammered out some sort of excuse about how blogging used to be a big conversation and a bunch of friends hanging out and now I don’t know what it is anymore…but I’ve said all that and more a hundred times over and still I don’t write.

I recently read an article about the benefits of blogging. Ok, so I may have googled something like “why should I blog,” suggestions by my children notwithstanding, of course.

Anyway, the article highlights various benefits to blogging, some of which I found appealing and inspiring, some not so much. For instance, I seriously doubt I will ever make any money in this hobby though it’s certainly a nice idea and one I would not be opposed to. 🙂

I didn’t really need the article to tell me that blogging/writing makes me a better thinker or that it encourages interaction with new people; I’ve experienced both firsthand. In fact, nearly all of the article’s points have proven true in my past life as a regular and enthusiastic blogger. Except the making money part.

So what happened? I don’t know, really. I’d like to blame the explosion of Facebook and Twitter and the movement of online conversation from blogs to those platforms. But that doesn’t explain my personal reticence here in my space. Somewhere along the way I grew self-conscious and I decided to keep quiet.

Not too long ago my husband and I were having lunch with a couple who was visiting our church. We asked, as we generally do, how they came to find us. We’re always genuinely curious; we’re a small church without the bells and whistles that tend to draw anyone in who doesn’t already have a connection of some sort with or invitation from someone in our congregation.

They described, of all things, a Facebook post written by my pastor that someone in their timeline had shared. Challenged by his thoughts, they decided to check us out.

I love that. Behold the potential eternal ramifications of the Facebook status! What we write / post / tweet can carry kingdom influence! Not that they deciding to visit our church is some kind of notch in our belt, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But in their coming to see us on a Sunday morning, because of something someone wrote online, that encourages me as much as any list of blogging benefits.

So maybe I will renew. I have nine days to decide. Either way, I can certainly still blog! When and if I write anything here, I don’t aspire to the sort of inspired writing that will change your life. It’s good to know one’s limitations after all! But I would like what I offer here, however humble, however rare, to encourage and to challenge and maybe point us both, reader and writer, to Jesus as our only hope.

Watercolour ponies one day ride away

Earlier this week, my sweet daughter in law texted me a picture of three of my guys sharing a meal around the table at their home. I love the pic so much, not only because I miss all those faces terribly but also because among the many things I have wished for my boys I have wanted them to be friends, to look out for one another, to value the bond of family. She and my son having my other two guys over for a home cooked meal makes me all kinds of happy.

I am sad too, just keepin’ it real. I have not transitioned well to our third son leaving home, to which my husband would probably reply is a vast understatement. I never transition well anyway, no matter the transition at hand, but this particular life change has been all the more difficult for me.

We married off our oldest son on a Saturday and it was sweet and precious and happy and beautiful, a glorious day of friends and family and celebration. I mean, it was exhausting too, don’t get me wrong, but it was altogether lovely and wonderful.

That was a Saturday and the Wednesday following we moved our third son off to school. Talk about an emotional roller coaster! I laugh and say that we tried to cram as many big life events in the smallest number of days possible. Not funny, really, but true.

It is quiet around here and much slower of pace. I am learning how to cook for only three of us which means my freezer is filling up with leftovers for future meals. The laundry takes no time at all. I tell my youngest son all the time he’s my favorite, to which he sagely replies, “You only say that because I’m the one still at home.”

Many, many years ago my husband and I were riding in the car with our very dear, very best friends. My oldest was my only and he was just an infant. In fact, if I really want to blow my own mind, I ponder the fact that the age I was then is the age he is now…

Anyway, he was a baby in an infant car seat perched in the middle of the back seat between me and my friend. The menfolk were in the front seat and we were all singing along to a cassette tape of Wayne Watson’s Watercolour Ponies.

I know, I know. I KNOW.

My husband and I, being the experienced parents in the car, you know, having all of a couple of months’ under our belts thus rendering us experts in the field, got into a discussion of our interpretation of the song. I reflected that when Wayne would sing “when it comes back to you and me” he’s meaning the responsibility of parenting lying squarely on us, the parents. You know, the buck stops here and then what will I do? My inadequacy loomed large even then.

My husband interpreted that line as a foreshadowing of the time when it would only be “you and me,” as in the empty nest, just the two of us once more. We could neither of us imagine that day, it seemed so very far in the future it blew our minds just to consider it. Certainly we had no idea at the time that we would welcome three more little ones into our home and hearts! The years of Toy Story and Bible Man and Legos and soccer and basketball and band and choir, all of that was yet to come. And after that, what?

I don’t know which Wayne meant but I do know we were both right in a sense. Motherhood has taught me many things, chiefly my own insufficiency to the task. How much I need the grace and wisdom of the Lord!

And yes, one day, sooner than I ever could have imagined, the nest will empty. My youngest son has two more years and then he will follow his brothers’ footsteps, break his mother’s heart, and leave home. Who knew it would come so quickly? And yet here we are.

I stink at transition, and I grieve change far more than I should, but I do know that one reason this is a bittersweet season for us is because we have known so much joy. So. Much. Joy. The years of the watercolour ponies were good ones.

There are watercolour ponies on my refrigerator door
And the shape of something, I don’t really recognize
Brushed with careful little fingers and put proudly on display
A reminder to us all of how time flies

Seems an endless mound of laundry and a stairway laced with toys
Gives a blow by blow reminder of the war
That we fight for their well-being for their greater understanding
To impart a holy reverence for the Lord

But baby, what will we do when it comes back to me and you
They look a little less like little boys every day
Oh, the pleasure of watchin’ the children growin’ is mixed with a bitter cup
Of knowin’ the watercolour ponies will one day ride away

And the vision can get so narrow, as you view through your tiny world
And little victories can go by with no applause
But in the greater evaluation as they fly from your nest of love
May they mount up with wings as eagles for His cause

-Lyrics by Wayne Watson

A martyr’s pose, a burden, and a call to serve

My church has various community groups that meet on Sunday nights in homes for food, instruction, and, of course, community. Five classes are offered in the course of a year, each set in an eight-week rotation. The children have their meal and instruction at the church building and their teachers rotate each 8 weeks.

Yeah, it’s complicated but it works.

I am currently three weeks into my eight week children’s teaching responsibility. I have lamented loud and often over my dislike of teaching children, criticized teachers whose groups run late and whose participants are thus late in picking up their kids, and just generally whined and cried all the while striking a rather dramatic martyr’s pose.

Just keepin’ it real.

Something my husband said to me recently drew me up short and made me realize for all my disdain, I had been given both a privilege and an opportunity—one I had actually volunteered for, mind you—even if it wasn’t the sort of privilege and opportunity I most enjoyed. I’ve always maintained that I will rock the babies during my turn in the nursery and, yes, teach the children (for eight weeks a year, mind you) because someone once rocked my babies and taught my children, affording me the opportunity of a few moments’ peace and an uninterrupted among grown ups, yes and amen. In other words, I always thought I was serving the moms and I do.

I also serve the children. Sure, they interrupt me when I’m talking and they can’t remember one week’s lesson from the next and they surely would prefer a funner and funnier teacher (I would!). Hello, I don’t even do crafts.

But I do have a burden: Biblical literacy. Thus what motivates me to teach women on Sunday mornings in Sunday school and on Tuesdays in Bible study also motivates me to teach children on Sunday evenings. So every lesson I emphasize the following points:

  • Everyone has a Bible in front of them. We work together to find the correct passage and we read it together. We rejoice in the incredible, amazing privilege we have to read and hear God’s Word for ourselves!
  • We pray before our lesson because we acknowledge that God is the author of His Word and we need His Spirit to help us understand. We want to know more about Jesus, about the gospel, about God, about ourselves, and about the Bible. These things are spiritually understood and we need the guidance of the Spirit so we prayerfully and humbly ask.

These are simple truths but they are truths that I didn’t fully grasp until I was an adult and once I did, my spiritual life was radically changed. My passion is for others to see the beauty of God in Christ as revealed in His living Word. May the Lord do so and more in the lives of the children who must suffer my teaching on Sunday evenings!

I know that we all want to serve in ways we most enjoy. Sometimes we get to; sometimes, however, the need lies in the sort of service that tries our patience and exposes our arrogance. I am ashamed of those times in my life. Let me save you the same heartache and remind you: it is our privilege to serve others as Christ served His disciples, on His knees washing their feet.

I daresay your church is like mine and is in need of willing volunteers, particularly in children’s ministry. If you belong to the Lord Jesus then you have a message to share and a story to tell and, whether you are a man or a woman, whether you feel gifted or called, the next generation needs to hear them. My story is not your story, thankfully, but all our stories fit together in the grand, glorious Story of grace and redemption found only in Jesus Christ. May you find a need and fill it, serving others as you have been served!