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. 

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.

“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?

Lizzy’s Eyes

Something wasn’t right with Lizzy’s eyes.

My almost year-and-a-half-old daughter would sit at the dinner table and look at the food on her plate, and her left eye would slowly drift inward and stay there while the other eye moved about normally.

The first time, I thought it was a weird kid thing, like baby acne and cradle cap.  But then it kept happening.  However, I was the only one who saw it (Dan might have seen it once or twice, but he wasn’t sure).  Maybe I was spending too much time with her.  Maybe all that alone time with a pre-toddler wasn’t doing well for my mental status.

But I got worried and took her to an eye doctor near me.

He took a couple minutes, shined a light in her eyes, and said it was phony lazy eye, pseudo strabismus.  He handed me a brochure that informed me I was seeing things, but the delusion was common.  Who knew they had pamphlets for parents who are hallucinating their children’s medical problems?

But it kept happening.  And Dan started seeing it.

And others started seeing it.

So I took her to a specialist yesterday.  She shined lights in Lizzy’s eyes and moved glass lenses around in front of them.

And she told me that Lizzy can’t see very well.  That she’ll need thick glasses, probably for her entire life.

I wasn’t ready for that.

I’d entertained the idea that she’d need a goofy pirate patch for a while, prepared myself for the annoyance of taping it to her head after each bath.  Wash it after spaghetti dinners.  I’d seen kids with patches and pitied the parents for having to keep them on a squirmy toddler’s head.  I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect, but at least I was prepared for it.

The doctor told me that Lizzy’s vision problems were causing her to prefer the stronger eye, her right one, and the left one was just shutting down.  Her brain was beginning to ignore its signals.

Often, glasses correct the issue.  Kids’ eyes start working again and stop drifting around on their own.

But sometimes kids need surgery in addition to the glasses.  But we’ll know better in six weeks if that’s required.

I was shocked into stunned silence for the rest of the appointment.  I asked a few pathetic questions and was thankful to have a doctor at home to explain all these unfamiliar terms to me.

Clutching Lizzy’s eyeglasses prescription, I walked into the eyeglasses store where the doctor sent me, one specializing in baby glasses.  Overwhelmed by all the little pairs of glasses, I stood staring at the display case for a while, while a very helpful and knowledgeable saleswoman took me aside and spent over an hour talking me through what Lizzy needed.

Lizzy howled as we tried to fit glasses on her head.  I had visions of struggling to get her to wear hers when they come in next week.

Back in the car, I lost it.  Life was unfair.  I’d already been through enough with Lizzy’s health.

But the peace that passes understanding came over me.  I prayed for help, and I got it.  Jesus held me and let me know that he was with me in this.  He has big plans for Lizzy, and this is part of them.

I had visions of my little girl, strengthened by adversity.   It’ll be hard to explain to other kids why she has thick glasses, to endure the teasing that little kids dish out to those who are different.  She’ll become a stronger woman for it.

Jesus is calling her to an amazing life.  He’s choosing to refine her from this very early age, as he’s already done with her other medical issues.  All the pain she’s endured with her reflux and breathing problems are part of the same plan.

It’s agony seeing my child pruned, honed, disciplined, trained, and shaped, all before she’s walking.

But I believe that God is in control.  He has a bigger plan in all of this.  And I’m glad he’s in charge of her life, and I’m not (I’m just here following orders).

But in the moment, when the scares and shocks come my way, I can’t say I’m always thinking that way.  So I’m thankful that he speaks wisdom to me and guides me when I need it.  And boy, do I need it.

Parenting is tough.  Thankfully, we don’t have to do it alone.

My New Packing List

Last week, I shared my struggles with packing.  Thanks to some wise words from friends, and a little help from the Holy Spirit, I’m rewriting my packing list.

Amy’s Packing List:

Dan
Lizzy
Dental Floss

That’s it.  So, maybe the floss can get cut (But really, how annoying is it when you get something stuck in your teeth, and no matter how much you try to pry it out with your fingernails, it won’t come out?).

But the point is, I’m bringing what’s most important.  Everything else can get replaced, or I can go without it.

I’m too dependent on my own plans and strength.  I need to realize that I’m not in control.  No matter how well I pack, God is in control.  And he can sanctify me, bless me, and use me, even if I don’t pack for every possible scenario.  Because, really, who can anticipate everything?

God can.

Not me.

Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Packing What’s Important

I hate packing. But I love travel. So, I pack.

I’ve long been of the opinion that the way people pack for vacations tells you a lot about the person. The old relationship wisdom says to go on vacation with someone to truly get to know them. And while I think that’s true, you can learn even more by observing how they prepare for that trip.

Exhibit A, my friend

Her method for packing is to wait until the last minute, which of course varies depending on the person, but in her case, it is literally the last minute. A couple hours before the airplane begins taxiing down the runway, she opens her suitcase and dumps the contents of her dresser drawers directly into the luggage. Packing done.

Exhibit B, Me

I make a list. Or several lists. And I begin weeks before the trip, sometimes months, gathering the appropriate gear, making shopping trips to get the items needed, write more lists, and generally dedicate a lot of thought to it. And I always pack WAAAAAAAAAAY too much. The day the airlines began charging for checked luggage was a dark day for me. I can’t fathom fitting my gear into a carry-on, even for an overnight trip.

Exhibit C, my college buddy

He joined me, Dan, and 30 or so other students on a semester long trip around Europe and Israel. I packed the largest suitcase possible. He fit everything into a small carry-on bag, and most of it was packed with books. And he saw just as much as I did and probably had a heck of a lot more fun.

You can imagine how both friends challenge me. I love them, despite their different packing styles, but I also shudder when I consider letting them pack for me.

Now that we have Lizzy, the packing went to a whole new level. All the baby gear far outweighs anything Dan and I pack. And the lists. My goodness, the lists.

Last week, we went on a mini-getaway to the University District of Seattle while Dan attended a conference. I had the cushion of knowing I could drive back home if I forgot something important. Plus, I had two cars to pack, instead of one. But I was still stressed out about the packing (and I barely fit everything into both cars. Sad, but true).

The night before, we prayed that I wouldn’t stress out as much about the packing (this is a recurring issue). That we wouldn’t forget anything important. And God answered our prayer. Not like I wanted, though.

Boy did I forget stuff. I thought my last vacation had a colossal mistake, since I forgot to pack underwear. But this time, the quantity of things I forgot was quite embarrassing, especially considering the amount of lists I made.

And I was tempted, hours after arriving, to drive back home to pick up the stuff I forgot. But I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Because I had everything I needed. God didn’t let me forget anything “important” (be careful what you pray for, and choose your terms precisely).

I forgot Lizzy’s placemat, something I rarely leave home without since it lets her eat at a table with us and allows me to scrape the food into a pocket instead of littering the floor with all her leftovers. Instead, I worked on teaching Lizzy to eat off a plate without throwing it and all the food across the room. We had some trying meals, but she’s gotten the hang of it, so much that by the end of the trip, we could trust her to eat off a breakable plate, in a restaurant with white linen table cloths! We were so proud of her.

I also forgot Lizzy’s baby spoons. So now, she’s eating off our spoons quite well, as long as we heap the food on the end of the spoon.

And I forgot my laptop stand. I get carpal tunnel pains when I write without my laptop at an angle, so I have this little collapsible stand for on the road. But I saw a student propping up her computer with its cover and realized that I was an idiot and could use just about anything to keep my computer at an angle.

As I write these examples, I realize how petty I was in worrying about them. It seems silly, now.

But I feel God’s grace, as he’s teaching me, in small ways, how little I “need.” But also, how much he gives me what I truly need. In the end, my lists won’t cover my needs…he will.

I won’t be giving up on my packing lists. If anything, I’m planning a more detailed system for the next trip.

But the anxiety level is going down because I realize that the lilies of the field don’t pack suitcases, but they look great each day with one outfit, without a truckload of beauty products, and none of the baby lily gear.

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:28-34)

Smelling the Roses

Okay, so I know it’s cliché, but Lizzy and I stopped to smell the roses yesterday. We also stopped to point at and smack around some balloons.

I’m an agenda driven person. I like to know the plan for the day long before the day starts. I know how long I’ve allotted to get from point A to point B, and I’m not too happy about detours, interruptions, and unforeseen obstacles getting in my way.

So can you imagine how challenging it is to have a little one who competes with an agenda of her own?

But my plan didn’t account for lovely roses, perfectly in bloom, a beautiful array of purples, pinks, reds, and yellows, free along the sidewalk for anyone to smell and enjoy.

And I fail to notice, like Lizzy notices, that every grocery store has balloons at the checkout stands. Did you ever notice that? And some are gigantic! They also come in animal shapes. Some even play music.

You should hear her try to call my attention to the balloons. I’m in my own world, headed to point B, and she starts saying “Baa boo” “Booo Booo” Baa baaa baaa baaaaaa.” And she points and gesticulates wildly toward the sky. Believe it or not, I sometimes miss these highly elaborate cues.

So Lizzy interrupts my plans. She makes me stop, constantly, and messes up my schedule.

And I’m loving it. Well, sometimes I’m loving it. Because I see how I’m imperfect, and I need reminders to stop, smell, touch, enjoy, and be.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,

but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)