A Phone Call with Jesus

Did you know that Jesus talks on the phone?

Lizzy and I were doing our daily quiet time, and she wasn’t being so quiet.  I was knee deep in my Bible Study Fellowship assignment for the day, trying to finish it before we needed to head out the door somewhere. So I was a little on edge.

I was sitting on the couch, Bible in lap, pencil furiously taking notes. Lizzy kept hopping on and off the couch, grabbing books and toys, asking for my attention (asking what I was “coloring”), and I’d had enough.  Didn’t she know it was time to sit and quietly read her Bible?

She had one of our old cell phones and was yammering loudly on it. I hadn’t bothered to listen to what she was saying, or I wouldn’t have done what follows.

In a loud voice and a tone I normally reserve for keeping her from running into the road, I told her to be quiet and stop talking into the phone.

But then it hit me.  She was having her time with Jesus.  It just looked a lot different from my time with him.

Here’s her phone conversation:

“Hey Jesus”

*Nodding head*

“How you?”

*Nodding head*

“Lizzy fine”

“Alright”

“Okay”

“Bye bye”

Repeat.

Once I realize what I’d interrupted I encouraged her to go back to calling Jesus on the phone.  She half-heartedly repeated it for my benefit and hasn’t done it again since.

Of course, I find this heart breaking.  How quick I am to rebuke and judge.  And how much power I have to discourage.

I was being a religious snob because I thought my way of spending time with Jesus was the best one, the only one.  And I was teaching my daughter that lesson.

I bet her time with Jesus was a lot more fruitful than mine.  It sounds like she heard a lot more from him than I did.

I think next time we sit on the couch to read the Bible, we’ll spend some of that time on our cell phones.

Chubby Arms that Speak Volumes

Lizzy doesn’t need to say much to get my attention. In fact, she’s mastered the fine art of whining at just the right pitch to get whatever she wants. It’s a gift.

And when she reaches those chubby, little arms up toward me, she doesn’t need to say anything at all.  I know she wants to come up to Mama, for me to pick her up and hold her close.

As someone prone to obsessing over word choices (that whole English instructor thing), it comes as a shock to me that someone can accomplish so much with so few words.

Lizzy’s toddler eloquence shows me that words are of little consequence.  God can get his message across with or without my witticisms.

Even though Jesus demonstrated that he was a skilled speaker, especially when it came to telling stories, his backwoods Galilee accent tainted his words for audiences outside the region.  In The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey explains how God chose to have a rough accent, a speech style so bad that Jerusalem folks often wouldn’t let people from Galilee read Hebrew in the temple.

Imagine Jesus with the worst redneck southern accent you could imagine.  And you begin to get the idea (apologies to my redneck southern readers, but at least you’re in good company).

Jesus’ humble speech patterns show us that the magic isn’t in the words alone but the Spirit of God that empowers them.  If anything, it should encourage us, we who obsess over saying the right thing, in the right way, in the right moment.  God used the worst accent he could find in Israel just to show us what he could do.

For me, this encourages my feeble efforts at sharing God’s love with others. I worry that in the moment where people need to hear wisdom from me, my eloquence will fail, and I won’t know what to say.

Jesus shows us that it doesn’t matter.  Our words aren’t what change people.  Saying things in the right way doesn’t make the difference. But God’s Spirit behind those words, that’s what heals hearts and ministers to broken souls.

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words (I Corinthians 2:13 NIV).

It’s the Spirit behind the words.

When I’m feeling low, few things cheer me up like when Lizzy smiles and says, “happy,” to me.  All the eloquence in the world wouldn’t have that same impact on me.

So, here I am, raising my chubby, toddler arms up to my Father in heaven.

Dysgeusia

My tastes are changing. And I blame God for it.

There’s a medical condition called Dysgeusia.  It’s where your ability to taste gets distorted. You taste things differently.

And in a sense, that’s what I have.

Technically, my taste buds are the same. But my general tastes have greatly altered since New Year’s Day, when I began my resolution to fear the Lord more.

I’ll explain.

Have you ever eaten high quality chocolate, you know, the kind that is handmade and carries a hefty price tag, usually imported from somewhere foreign sounding? Well, I have.  When I visited Switzerland, I developed a taste for Swiss chocolate, and it’s ruined all the chocolate at home for me.

It’s kind of like that.  Once you develop a taste for God, once you begin to understand him more, to honor him more, your tastes for other things diminish.

And this is highly unsettling if a particularly cherished idol is losing the battle.

For example, I’ve shared before how comfort is a huge idol for me.  And it still is. But as I read about the God of all comfort, I’m learning that my other sources of comfort can never compare.

So that 5-star-resturant isn’t as thrilling. It doesn’t excite me like it used to.

And that bothers me a bit. Because I expected that a deeper knowledge of God would lead me to appreciate everything else more. But it’s just the opposite. I appreciate everything else less and am blown away by how much greater God is.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to turn down a five-star-restaurant opportunity.

But I know something even better.  Let’s call it a ten-star-restaurant.  It’s the banquet feast at God’s table (Isaiah 25:6).  It’s also the comfort he provides like no other. And well, that’s what is going to get me the most excited.

And Swiss chocolate is still amazing.  I still haven’t figured out how God is better than that (there better be lots in heaven). But the year isn’t over.

And that would be a miracle.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8 ESV)

“That” Mom

I was “that” mother today.  You know, the one who appeases a wailing kid with a new toy at the grocery store.

We’re now the proud owners of a baby doll that sits in a pink baby carrier.

And I told myself I’d never be “that” mom.

It was already a rough day.  Lizzy took a miniscule morning nap before waking up and singing in her crib, messing up my plans to eat something nutritious at home before heading out on errands (we ate fast food instead).

My maniacal master plan was to drop off Dan’s car at the mechanic to repair the brakes and walk to the grocery store (Fred Myer) to kill the 2 hours it was supposed to take to get fixed.

But the early wake-up messed up the plan.   Plus, the parts weren’t in, the car needed more work than expected, and we were there for 4 hours. And boy was I tempted to lie about her age to meet the 2-year-old minimum requirement for Freddy’s Fun Zone…aka mom relief center.

So I let her play in the toy aisle when I was at my wit’s end.  Of course, she bonded with a little baby doll with eyes that close and a bottle that I mistakenly encouraged Lizzy to feed it, furthering the attachment.  Lizzy packed that doll around the store in its little carrier as we listlessly roamed from aisle to aisle.

When the car was finally done, I realized we had a problem.

When I tried to remove the doll from her grasp, the four horsemen of the apocalypse appeared, there were tears and gnashing of teeth, and people were stopping by to see if everything was okay.

So I put Lizzy in the cart with the doll.

And the doll stayed there through the checkout line (The cashier had to sneak up behind Lizzy with the scanner to get a price on the thing.).

So we now have a baby doll with a carrier.

And a mom who feels very humbled.

Ever catch yourself being “that” mom?

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2 ESV).

God’s Little “Helper”

Lizzy likes to “help” me around the house.

She has her own little broom to sweep along side me as I use the big broom.  Of course, her favorite way to “help” is to sweep the little piles I’ve made and redistribute them around the kitchen.

My little helper also assists in the cooking process.  She likes to mix things.   After scratching my head to find elements of each meal to mix, I finally gave up and started making up things to mix.  Rice is very popular.  Our rice is well mixed in the Letinsky household.

I often catch myself thinking that I’m God’s helper.  As if the omnipotent God with limitless power needs anything from me.  It’s my pride, thinking I have something wonderful to offer.

I think I “help” God when I offer my wisdom to someone, whether they want to hear it or not.  God has his own method of offering his wisdom, just when the person needs to hear it, in just the right way.

I think I “help” God when I do some small act of service like cooking a meal for people, as if he couldn’t provide for them on his own.  I forget about how he says he provides food for the birds, and so much more for us (Matthew 6:26).

Of course, this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t serve others, as a way to serve and glorify God.  But I shouldn’t imagine that I’m doing anything that God needs from me—that I could do it any better than he could.  I’m not saving him any effort or energy (he’s got limitless stores of both).

I can imagine how God puts air quotes around “help” when he’s describing my service, the same way I do when I talk about Lizzy offering her “help.”

I love having my little helper by my side as I do chores, even though she often makes the process take much longer and have far more complications.  I delight in her presence and the time we spend together.

And I’m God’s child.  He delights in spending time with me.  He loves it when I do things for his sake.

God doesn’t need my pitiful offerings of “help.”  But he welcomes them, despite how much I mess up things.

How do you “help” God?

Replacement Baby Jesus

Do you replace Jesus with anyone or anything?

Lizzy has a Fisher Price Nativity Set that she loves, so much that we let her play with it all year.  The manger scene characters mingle with her farmyard animals, and Joseph regularly drives the tractor.

But her favorite piece is baby Jesus. I’d like to say it’s because he’s Jesus, but it probably has more to do with it being a baby.  She likes to kiss it and pack it around the house.

Baby Jesus ends up in surprising places around the house, and he’ll go unseen for days.

So I found another one online.  A “replacement” baby Jesus.  Amazon even calls it that.

And I realized that I have a lot of replacement baby Jesus idols.

Jesus is my “Savior,” but I always find functional saviors, pale shadows in comparison—things and people that temporarily save me but don’t offer the full fix.

He’s my “Helper,” but I look for help in other places first.  I lean onto my husband, good friends, helpful books, and wise teachings.  And Google searches seem to be my favorite helper in the parenting department.

Jesus is my “Peace,” but I seek peace through other means (chocolate, earplugs, exercise), only to turn to him as a last resort.

Who or what is your replacement Jesus?

Stay-at-Home Moms Feed Thousands

Stay-at-home moms are changing the world, one lunch at a time.

I’ve been packing Dan’s lunch for over 10 years now (roughly 2,600 lunches, but who’s counting).  During residency, it was more than just a lunch, a large sack we nicknamed “El Doble” (“L”unch, “D”inner, “B”reakfast…it makes sense if you’re tired and a bit goofy, which describes us pretty well during residency).

He was reading John the other day during his quiet time, and he had a sweet sentiment to share with me.  I thought I’d pass it along.

He’d read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, and in John’s gospel, it mentions that the food came from a boy who had 5 loaves and two fish (John 6:5-15).  Dan recognized that someone packed him this lunch.  Somebody just like me.  And look what Jesus did with it.

Dan knows how to make me feel special.  And the next time I packed his lunch, you can bet I did it with a more joyful heart.

Because Jesus can use it to feed 5,000 more.

We stay-at-home moms do a lot of thankless, repetitive tasks.  And we don’t see much benefit other than the spouse who gets fed for one meal or the kid who stinks a little less because they are wearing a clean diaper.

But out in the world, lots of people are getting fed because of our work.

As a doctor, Dan is feeding the masses daily.  He sees 20 some patients each day, and the meal I make him gives him the energy to treat them well.  When I plan a balanced lunch for him, I’m helping him think clearly to solve the difficult problems people are facing.  When I give him a special treat, like a homemade cookie, I’m helping him relax a little, amidst the stresses of helping broken people with life threatening problems.

That little box never seemed so special before.

Who is Jesus feeding because of your small service today?

God is Bigger than This

By NASA. Photo taken by either Harrison Schmitt or Ron Evans (of the Apollo 17 crew)

It’s really handy to have some “go to” phrases, truth for when life gets rough.  I’ve already told you about “God is in control.” That’s been life changing for me.

But my New Year’s resolution to fear the Lord more in 2012 has taught me another one, just as helpful, if not better than the last.

“God is bigger than this.”

No matter what I’m going through, no matter how earth shattering, how grand-scale, monumental, and colossal…God is bigger.

That’s one thing I’m learning about the Fear of the Lord.  When we fear God, we stand (or kneel) in awe of his greatness.   His BIGNESS.  He is big, and we are small.  But he’s also bigger than anything else we can imagine.

I thought my worries were big.  God is BIGGER.

I thought the news about Lizzy’s eyes was big.  God is BIGGER.

When we serve and recognize a mighty God who is more powerful, more life changing, more present, more knowing, more in control, and more loving…we know a God who is BIGGER than everything we encounter, everything that happens to us, everyone we know, and everyone who hurts us.

And all our problems seem pretty dang small.

This doesn’t mean our problems aren’t significant.  The same big God of the universe died for the sin that causes all those problems in our lives.   This big God takes our little problems very seriously.

With that much bigness focused on such littleness, well, you know who wins.

Jesus does.  And so do we, if we place our trust in his BIGNESS.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky aboveproclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
 There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
  Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19:1-6

Pity Party Poopers

A few days ago, I caught myself in a familiar, yet unflattering, line of thought.

I was tired and feeling sorry for myself, wishing that I could just go out to a movie or go out to dinner on a whim. I wanted to drop everything and spend some time relaxing at a coffee shop or bookstore. But instead, I had a little one who needed my attention.

And then I realized what I was doing. I was lamenting the fact that I had a baby keeping me from other things, as if those other things are more important. I wasn’t focusing on the joy and privilege I have in staying at home with my little one. I was only focusing on the things I couldn’t do anymore.

I really hate it when I do this. I focus on what I don’t have instead of realizing how good I have it.

It often takes others to help me realize how pathetic I’m being.

A couple days ago, I was talking with a mom who is going back to her full time job and leaving her newborn in daycare. She’s dreading leaving her infant. And here I am, blessed to stay home with Lizzy, complaining about the lack of spontaneity and play time that I have.

I had this same kind of “aha” moment when I was at Children’s Hospital with Lizzy. I was freaking out and feeling sorry for myself that I had a kid with acid reflux and some tongue problems. I was having a big pity party.

But then I met the woman who was sharing the room with us. Her newborn, just days older than Lizzy, was diagnosed with a horrible mitochondrial disorder. The day before, she had gotten the news that her son was deaf. Earlier that morning, she learned that her son would never be able to eat solid food and would need a special liquid diet for the rest of his life, which wasn’t expected to be long.

But she was so happy. She was praising God that her son was alive. She called him her miracle baby, for surviving so long, through so much.

It certainly made me rethink what we were going through.

I’m not saying it’s always a good idea to compare ourselves with others. Usually, this results in making us feel inadequate or prideful, depending on whether we see ourselves as better or worse than the others.

But I think that God also brings people into our lives to shock us out of our pity parties. I’ll call them pity party poopers. They show us the errors in our thinking and reorient us toward thankfulness.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who always looks for people who have it worse than I do, just to make myself feel better. But I appreciate these wake up calls God gives me, when I’m stuck in a thankless attitude, throwing myself a pity party.

I have so much for which to be thankful!

Children’s Bible Wisdom

Have you read a children’s bible lately?

We’ve been reading to Lizzy from two different children’s bibles, pretty much since the day she was born. The first one was written in the 60s and was my bible as a wee one. It’s a little dated, so you’ll find phrases like this: “It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time we have been brought here, so that he may find fault with us, and fall upon us, and take us for slaves, and seize our asses.” Up until the last month, she was okay staring at its limited pictures and was more interested in listening to us read.

Nowadays, she wants more pictures to look at while we read, so we got her the Jesus Storybook Bible, something our pastor recommended. And it’s been a big hit, partly because of the pictures, partly because the stories are told in a way that emphasizes sounds, repetition, movement, and words kids can understand.

But I never expected this was going to be a learning experience for me. I thought we’d read all the stories I already know by heart, help Lizzy learn them, and that would be about it. But I’m finding that I’m seeing stories in a new way and am getting take home messages of my own from them.

For example, we read the story of Jesus and the disciples on the the Sea of Galilee when the storm hit and Jesus calmed it. That was especially fun because of all the noises I could make to mimic the storm. But the message hit me in a profound way. The retelling emphasizes the fact that as long Jesus is in your boat, you have nothing to fear. What a simple fact. Jesus is always in my boat. Why in the world do I fear the big storms?

Lizzy thought the passover section was a bit boring, guess the pictures weren’t up to her standards, but I managed to learn a bit. That’s humbling, considering that Dan and I have been holding or attending passover seders every year since we’ve known each other (Almost 14 years! Now I feel old.). Jesus’ action of cleaning the disciples’ dirty feet is significant because Jesus also cleans the worst kind of scum out of our hearts. Not sure why I didn’t see that so clearly before

So, I’m realizing the proud attitude I’ve had towards bible stories, how I already know them and don’t need to reread them. Or worse, I only should read adult versions, especially the type with lots of footnotes, since I’m more complex.  But of course, they’re more than just children’s stories, even though they make great stories for little ones.

Our morning bible time is turning out to be an enriching experience for the both of us. I might be getting more out of it then her. And like most aspects of parenting, that was a huge surprise.