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.

The Bible in Three Words

Leave it to my two-year-old to summarize the Bible in three words.  Kids see things we don’t see through all the mess and complication of life.

I’ve started a daily quiet time where we both read our bibles together, quietly.  I have varying degrees of success with this, but the more we do it, the better it’s going (on good days, I get fifteen minutes of very interrupted reading time).

Lizzy doesn’t quite understand the idea of silent reading, so while I read my Bible, she reads one of her seven children’s bibles out loud (can you have too much of a good thing?).  At first, I found it highly distracting and slightly annoying, but then I started listening to what she was saying.

Most of the time, she opens one of her Bibles, turns to a story, and says “Jesus is alive!!,” then turns to another story and yells the same thing. It doesn’t matter if the story is about Noah or Jonah or today’s example, The Tower of Babel—“Jesus is Alive!!”

And you know, she’s right.

Jesus is alive today, as he was yesterday (in the Bible stories), and will be in the future.  He’s the great “I AM,” the name God shared with Moses (Yahweh).  He is, and he always has been, and he always will be.

But it’s more than that.  Because Jesus is alive, he conquered death on that cross.  That’s the good news, the big deal about Easter, that whole sin, death, suffering thing is over because of him, because Jesus is alive.

Those Bible stories, even the really old ones, where the pictures books focus on the animals frolicking in the Garden of Eden or on Noah’s ark, they’re also saying that Jesus is alive.

In the Garden, when death first rears its ugly head, God promises that Jesus is coming on a rescue mission.  He’ll crush that awful snake (Genesis 3:15).  Jesus is alive!

When Noah builds that ark, and God rescues people he loves from destruction, it’s the same thing Jesus does when he rescues us from destruction, from death and hell.  Jesus is Alive!

And that tower, all about people trying to reach heaven, to build a powerful fortress to protect them and bring them to the level of God.  That’s about Jesus too.  He is a tower, but not one created by man.  He’s the fortress, the sanctuary.  This tower is built from heaven down, bringing God down to us (not us to God’s level). Jesus is Alive!

Why is it that my college students have such a hard time finding the major theme in short stories, but my two-year-old nailed the major theme of one of the longest and most complex books in the world?

Jesus told us this would happen.  The kids get it.  The wise adult’s don’t.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children (Matthew 11:25 ESV).

Jesus is Alive! What more is there to say?

 

If you like thinking about how the Bible is all about Jesus, I highly recommend The Jesus Storybook Bible, which is one of Lizzy’s favorites as well. 

Book Review: The Night Circus

ImageI picked up this book because everyone is reading it. I see it all over the place, even in the grocery store check-out line.  And when books finally hit my suburban checkout line, I know that I better read them.  I like to read what everyone is reading to keep in the cultural conversations surrounding these popular books.

And it’s summer.  This book is an excellent summer read. It also comes on the tails of the Harry Potter obsession with magic, and I think it is a more “grown-up” look at magic, perfect for those Potter fans who have grown up along with the series.

The book is a bit of a romance, I admit.  But I think there’s enough magic in there to appeal to male readers as well.

While the cover seems to indicate the story is about a circus, it’s really more about a contest between two magicians, pitted against each other from their youth in a mysterious competition that even they don’t fully understand.

A young boy and a young girl are chosen as competitors by ominous mentors who shape them, train them, and push them to excel in magical skills.

The story becomes entwined with the story of a circus that appears in town and countrysides by night, with a black and white aesthetic and unique acts.  Crowds flock to the circus, which is more than a circus, as this challenge is playing out in its tents.

There are some confusing points where new characters are introduced for no clear reason, and they seem to distract from the momentum of the story, but I quickly forgive the author when we get back to the main storyline that keeps pushing ahead.

Even though dates are given at the start of each chapter, I often found myself wondering where or when we were in the story, but I eventually gave up trying to figure it out and just went along for the ride.

Don’t expect any great literary feats here, but expect to have a hard time putting it down.  And enjoy a little escape into a magical world that has moments of stark realism, giving it a surprising edge of believability.

Expect a movie version soon.

Published in: on September 3, 2012 at 8:00 am  Comments (1)  

Teachable Moments

As a brand new mother, I freaked out that I wasn’t engaging my newborn with enough structured stimulation. Basically, I wasn’t educating her properly.

I think I saw another mom with a Baby Einstein book, teaching her two-month old to read (or something like that), and I felt the pressure to plan a training ritual for her little brain, including expensive learning tools that all the “good moms” touted.

But then I was sorting laundry with her sitting next to me and held up a sock and said, “White sock.”  Her eyes lit up, and she smiled as I held up another white sock and said the same thing.  I talked about the entire pile of laundry in the same way, and I realized that the best teaching was taking place in them moment, in the middle of my mommy chores and mundane tasks around the house.

Basically, I didn’t need new fangled, IQ stimulating toys.  I just needed some patience and a willingness to find opportunities to teach my baby as they came along—out on walks, in the grocery store, or while washing dishes.

So it’s not surprising that I expect my father in heaven to use more formal methods to teach me.  I am ready and waiting at the appointed times, with the correct materials. I sit in church, ready to learn the lessons he has for me for the week, or I open my Bible, the proper curriculum for lessons, and wait for the teaching to follow.  I’m not saying that God doesn’t use these opportunities to teach.  It just seems like he has a far more varied education in mind for me.

Just like Lizzy learns best during teachable moments, God is also teaching me in the moment, in those little mundane tasks of life.

That same laundry pile, the odious chore I faithfully perform weekly, is a chance for me to learn a little humility (workout clothes smell pretty awful a week later).  I also develop a servant’s heart as I stain stick puke and other bodily fluids out of Lizzy’s clothing (sometimes, I fail to learn the lesson and throw the item directly into the garbage).

The best teachable moments are those really frustrating ones, the ugly times when life isn’t going my way.  I’m learning that God is in control and I am not.  I learn about his grace and my weakness.

The challenge is using those ugly moments to teach Lizzy as well.

She’s there, eyes open, when mom makes mistakes.  I admit, I’m not so great at recognizing those stressful moments as learning opportunities. I forget that she’s soaking up my responses.  (“Uh-oh” has been on of her favorite phrases for awhile now…wonder where she learned that one.)

I’d like to say that the times when I arrive at the grocery store and have forgotten my wallet or when I am late for an important appointment, that I step back and consider how I’m teaching Lizzy to handle the stresses and trials of this life.  If I’m honest, I’ll recognize that the lessons I teach her at these times are about how to freak out and lose one’s cool, instead of asking for help or praying for guidance.  A little laughter would help too.

I think I like those structured, formal, planned teaching moments because they are under my control.  I have a lesson plan.  I have a goal.

It’s not surprising that God uses daily life to teach me. I mean, his son, Jesus, did that constantly with the disciples. I didn’t see Jesus running to the nearest Christian supply store to stock up on the latest disciple training materials.  He used what he had, which was wine, shepherds, figs, fish, and rocks.

Just like for the disciples, learning takes place for both Lizzy and me in the midst of the mess of life. In the highs and lows, we’re both learning.

Here’s hoping that when teachable moments arise, we’re both good students.

Are you a good student, in planned times of learning and unplanned ones as well?

“The ear that hears the rebukes of life Will abide among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31 NKJV).

Faith like a Child

I want to believe like Lizzy believes.  I want childlike faith.

She’s obsessed with “hearts” right now.  Every electronic device in the house has been repurposed as a stethoscope (daddy is proud, of course). The phone, my iPod, the thermometer—all get placed upon our chests.  Lizzy holds the item against us and says “heart.”

She was holding the thermometer to my chest while I was changing her diaper, and I figured that since she knows what a heart is, she might be ready to talk about what it means, its metaphorical meaning of love and compassion.  (You’ve got to know that the literature instructor in me is anxious to teach her about metaphor.)

After she pointed to my “heart,” I told her that Jesus lives there.  And she didn’t look shocked in the slightest.

I just told her that the guy in her picture Bibles, who is at once a baby and also a grown man, is living inside my chest.  He’s also the guy that died but is also alive.  This wasn’t a problem for her.

“Alright,” she said.

That was it.  Jesus is in my heart.  If you ask her where Jesus is, she’ll point to mommy’s heart.

What a privilege it is for me to share these important truths with my daughter.  If only I could so readily accept Truth.

With Lizzy’s faith, I would read that God works out all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28), and I’d say “alright.” Meaning, I wouldn’t freak out so much when the dinner I prepared crashes to the floor, where its container shatters into a million shards (tonight’s lovely example).  I’d recognize that God has a greater purpose, even though the situation stinks at the moment.

I’d read that God is the healer, meaning he can heal anything (Exodus 15:26).  So the hamstring I pulled this morning during my workout wouldn’t worry me so much.  God could heal it in an instant, if it worked out according to his purpose (see above).

And the power outage we had this morning for a few hours wouldn’t concern me as much.  I’d remember what Jesus said about the birds of the air and the lilies of the filed, how they don’t need to worry because God cares for them (Luke 12:24-27).  And they don’t have electricity either.

Lord, grant me Lizzy’s faith.

If you’ve never read Robert Munger’s little story, My Heart, Christ’s Home, I highly recommend it.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV).

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?