Ants and their effects

We’ve had a bit of an ant problem in the Children’s area kitchen. I believe the problem is solved now with a Pinterest-inspired, non-toxic remedy. That said, Sunday morning was a bit of a downer. I try to have snacks for my volunteers, and had gotten a dozen fresh doughnuts for them. However, after setting the box down and walking away, ants infested the box. I came back and found the entire box swarming with them. I had to throw away the doughnuts – which you must know goes against every principle of mine.

I bring this up because I had a realization: these ants were acting a lot like sin. Hear me out on this one. We don’t often panic when there are a few little ants, nor do we panic when we notice one or two sins in our own lives. However, for every one or two sins, or ants, we ignore, there are many more waiting in the wings.

Often times we tend to ignore sin until it’s a huge problem. The ants didn’t seem to be too much of a problem until an entire box of perfectly good doughnuts was ruined. In the same way, sin can very quickly infect and ruin parts of our lives without us even realizing it.

Sin destroys and ruins. There is nothing productive about sin. Only brokenness, pain, and ruined relationships can follow. And as much as we’d like to say sin only affects the doer, that would be an incorrect statement. It affects everyone in our lives, our friends, families, spouses, and even our kids.

We are called by the New Testament writers to be vigilant, to keep an eye out, to always be aware of what’s going on around and inside of us. We have a great sentry in Jesus Christ, and we can ask him to guard our hearts and minds.

Where are the weak points in your life? Where can Jesus stand to keep your mind and heart safe?

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The Do-Over

For some reason, I was reminded about a childhood rule that is almost never used in adult life, except maybe in video games: the do-over. I can remember missing a shot in basketball or losing a race an calling for a do-over. Shouts of “do-over” resound on playgrounds in response to things not going quite as planned. Even as a teenager playing video games with my friends, someone would inevitably cry “do-over” at the end of a round.

So, I thought, why not use these in daily life? When a child stands defiantly, or refuses to do a task, call for a do-over and give the child a chance to change their behavior. Or maybe the child asks for something rudely or says something inappropriate, call for a do-over and give the child a chance to correct for their remarks.

It goes the same for us adults, too. See, we often make mistakes and yell, or say something mean, or break a promise. Why not look at your child and ask for a “do-over?” It goes a long way with a child to see an adult admit a mistake, and then work to correct it. It creates a culture within your home that second chances are part of life.

Jesus gave second chances all the time. We see “do-overs” with the disciples throughout the Gospel accounts. The disciples argue about greatness, and Jesus calls for a “do-over” and asks them to look at life like a child, and to be the lowest servant first. Peter denied Jesus, and Jesus calls for a “do-over” by asking Peter to love others and move forward.

I think we could all use a “do-over” in our lives. So why not use it in your house?

When I Grow Up…

Graduation season is over, but this post caught my eye. I do enjoy when people ask about my dreams and plans. The mere fact that work with children for a living creates a sense of puzzlement in many, which is an endless source of enjoyment for me!

Piggy-backing off of graduation season, the question most often asked to graduate candidates is, “What are you going to do when you graduate?” I cannot tell you how many confused, pitying looks I received when I gleefully replied, “I’m going to spend the rest of my life teaching children about Jesus!” After many pats on my head and good-luck-with-that responses, my purpose became even more clear. So I ask the question: what about you? What will you be when you grow up?

Yes, yes, many of us are adults with entrenched lives and little to no free time, but when has that ever stopped any– wait. I have noticed that as people grow older, they tend to lose that child-like spark of creativity and imagination that makes dreaming possible. Jesus came to, “give life to the fullest.” (John 10:10) Now, I do not believe this means that Jesus will hand us the cushy, cozy life full of everything that we think we want… that generally just leads to complacency and laziness. Rather, He came to take away the sin that blocks the true us so that we may pursue Him to whatever purpose He put in our hearts to do! (Ephesians 2:10)

Consider the parable of the talents for a moment. Two men doubled their money, but one sheepishly hid his portion in order to make sure he didn’t lose any. Now, we have in this line-up two daring entrepreneurs and one gentleman who is scared of his own shadow. To be Christian does not mean to be weak or timid or an overly-cautious person. (Although being overly-cautious in security for your children is something we take very seriously.) To be Christian means to have a sense of the Romance of life, the old definition of “adventure” not the “chick-flicky” connotation. (See G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy for more details.) Life with Jesus is an adventure! Jesus Himself was not the over-cautious, mild-mannered, tame teacher that we seem to personify in modern times. He was a daring, brave, straight-shootin, no-nonsense kind of man, who was gentle with those who were hurting!

I write this to say, do you know what your child’s dreams are? Are the activities you allow your kids to do helping them to achieve those dreams, or are you needlessly filling up your child’s schedule? What about your own dreams? What passions or goals has God put inside your heart?
When you get to heaven, how do you want to look? Do you want to appear as if life had been comfortable, easy and unfulfilling, or would you rather fellow citizens at the gates see a person who lived fully, loved completely, and dared to be the man or woman God is calling you to be? How would you like your kids to look? These questions are not unrelated. Your attitude about life will be your child’s. How can you change your attitude even now? What would be keeping you from changing it?

“All men die, but few men truly live.” – Mel Gibson as William Wallace, Braveheart

The Law

When we think about the Law in the Bible, many of us adults think about a long, boring, drawn-out explanation to a bunch of kids who will think of a new way to disobey every five minutes… Oh wait, sounds like trying to give craft project instructions or maybe just laying down ground rules for your own children before a long trip.

The Law of Moses is anything but boring, in fact… it’s terrifying! And not just due to the fact that reading legal documents is generally considered a ponderous, tedious task that no one wants to do. Have you ever stared into a mirror? Have you ever had the feeling that maybe you should get a haircut, or maybe pick that spinach you had for lunch out of your teeth? Well, the Law is kind of like that… only much more serious than personal grooming!

The Law points out our mistakes and convicts us of sin: selfishness, greed, covetousness, fighting, anger, and then gives us no way to really deal with it! The Law does not bring forgiveness or love or mercy—only judgment, pain and death. So consider the Israelites reactions to hearing the 10 Commandments in God’s voice of pealing thunder: “[…] the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off [backed away from the mountain] and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.’” (Ex. 20:18-19) The Israelites were scared silly! They saw God’s presence, heard the Law and realized in a few seconds that this Law was going to be a huge life change!

I am so glad we have Grace! It gives me the ability to receive forgiveness for my sin and to forgive others in turn! With the grace I have received, how can I not forgive others!? As Paul says, though, we must be careful that we do not abuse our gift of Grace… “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1) Of course not, Paul goes on to say. The Law reminds us what God’s standard is: perfection. No, we are not perfect, but some day we will be with God in heaven and we will be there! But down here, we must strive to become more like Jesus, who fulfilled the Law by keeping it in its entirety! The only one who ever pulled off that monumental task! And if you notice the one Jesus complimented as getting close, John the Baptizer, he lived in the desert, wore rags and ate bugs and honey.

How do you handle the balance between grace and law in your own home? Are there teaching moments where grace is given? Are there times when justice is served and the consequences are handed out with love? How can you better show God’s characteristics of Justice and Grace with your children?