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My kids are with my husband and they are ok

My mother was a stay at home mom.  She is college educated as a teacher, and smart as a whip, but when she began to have children she decided to stay at home and invest in us. I am forever indebted to her for her sacrifices.

Even at an early age I knew the benefit I had in my mother. If I left my lunch at home, she was at the school to delivery it. She knew my teachers and they knew her. She was president of the PTA. She always had dinner on the table. She was with us to drop us off from school and pick us up after. She was present and I was blessed.

I, like most little girls, wanted to be just like my mom. I was driven in school and set career goals but I knew eventually I wanted to be a stay at home mom. But when it came to be my turn, it just didn’t seem like a good fit for me.

I had a bit of an identity crisis as I returned from maternity leave the first day.  There I was with my 3 month old baby bundle, it was like 6:30 am in the morning. I am not a 6:30 am type of girl. And here I am at this ungodly hour with a smile plaster across my face. I was gripping the steering wheel with excitement! I was ready to return to work.

I no longer had a pull to stay at home and quit my job. I honor those who do but it just didn’t seem like what was playing out in my own life.

I do full time ministry which means that I work Sundays, some Saturdays, some evenings and I am generally on call for just about anything.  Don’t get me wrong, I prioritize my family, I cook dinner almost every day. I hug and kiss my babies, I teach them, walk with them, train them, pray with them and invest in them daily. But the difference is that when you may particularly expect to see a mother with her children, mine are with my husband.

There are several Saturdays that I kiss my son and daughter set them up in the bed with my half sleep husband and put on a movie to give him just a little bit more rest before they are ready to really get moving.

Sundays are a work day for me. I am either, teaching or training, planning and greeting. There are many times I can steel away for a service and nestle in next to my husband and hold my baby girl to my chest as we listen to the sermon. I wish I had more times like that but the times I do have I cherish.

Most Wednesday Nights my husband puts dinner on the table and I get home after the babies have gone to sleep. I admit sometimes I listen for them to stir so I can pick them up and rock them. I do miss them something terrible throughout the day.

When I am out and about on my job people ask me all the time “Where are your kids?” I get things like “Christen I am starting to believe you don’t have children.” I honestly feel like I need to have a shirt made that says “My kids are with my husband and they are ok!”

I get this question all the time and I wonder, “well do people ask you where your kids are at when you are at work?” Do they assume they are not safe and cared for because they are not up under you as you go from task to task?

Men and Women seem to be perplexed about how I can do what I do. My answer is always the same, by the grace of God and the consistent presence of my husband.  I can’t do what I do without him bottom line and guess what he is ok with having to fill in the gaps on my behalf.

As we face a culture of fatherlessness, my kids are blessed to have a father. Not only are they  blessed to have a father but they have a father that is actually willing to change diapers, cook and clean and bring the kids to church on his own. But yet somehow that is not enough!

One day after explaining to a group of people, how my husband is the key in allowing me to play my role, there is yet still the push that if I am not the one cooking on a Wednesday night, if I am not the person who is watching Saturday morning cartoons, if I am not the person who dresses them for church that somehow my family is missing out. Some how I am not fulfilling my call as a mom.

So this is my challenge and my response. My kids are ok, in fact they are more than ok. They have the love of their mother and they have the love of their father. They know what it is for their dad to comprise what others view as traditional gender roles for the sake of this children. They know what it is like to be rocked to sleep by mom and by dad. They know that my husband has cleaned up their vomit, cleaned up their poop and cleaned up their tears. They know that this whole God thing isn’t just something that belongs to mom, but that dad on his own volition and his own will leaves the house on Sunday morning long after I have gotten up. He baths them, he dresses them he cooks for them he packs extra clothes for them, he brings bottles and snacks for them. He manages to get two toddlers in and out of the car by himself and sits in church, often without me by his side, because this God thing is not just my thing, but it’s his priority and he is passing it on to my family.

So next time you wonder where in the world my children are, they are not wandering the streets. They are with their dad and they are ok.

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Ezekiel 4: God and the Performing Arts

artFor all of you who are gifted in the world of performing arts, have you ever thought: Where does God fit in all of this? Outside of church centered performances it seems that the world of the arts can at time, exist in a vast contrast between what is sacred and what is secular. Let’s face it, many, movies, TV shows, plays, improv, and so on are used as a platform to debunk God and what his will for humanity is.

But let us not forget, Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  James 1:17  Essentially this means that if it is Good, it belongs to God and brings Him glory. A ballet doesn’t necessarily have to play out a biblical story line to glorify God and an instrumental does not need to say the name Jesus in order to display His Grace and Mercy.  These things intrinsically give a glimpse into the character of God because we are created in His image an our capacity for Art belongs to Him and honors Him. If you are a non-believing performer, perhaps you don’t even know that your very talent and skill are good gifts from God. Even when art is used to put itself at odds with God it also cannot exist without Him. (Side note: Artistic Expression is extremely hard to fit into a Godless paradigm. If we were not created for a purpose what would it mean? If there is only death after life would all the beauty fade away?)

If God delights in art, is honored by art and art is sustained by His character,  it would logically follow that He himself is an artist. Not only in the masterful way he has painted the sky and clothed the meadows in wildflowers, but also in Ezekiel chapter 4, he is in fact a director of a silent drama acted out by his prophet. There is a set that is made, and experiential art on display! And maybe, just maybe pantomime was used!   

Take a look: God is not happy with Jerusalem in Ezekiel Chapter 4; as a people of God they have consistently turned towards sin and worshiped false idols. God has had enough of their claims to straighten up and walk right so he sends Ezekiel to declare that there will be a great siege of their land that they will be punished for their sin. But God does not use words to communicate this! Instead he uses something far more cool!

This is what He says, ” Now son of man (Ezekiel), take a block of clay, put in in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it.”  Ezekiel 4:1-2

That’s right folks! God had Ezekiel perform his prophecy through somewhat of a skit utilizing mini models. It is thought that the model he built with clay brick was complete with drawing, sculpting and carvings. There was a battle seen created with tiny battery rams and maybe even tiny troops!

And this is not even the best part! In Ezekiel 3:26 God made his prophet mute “I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious people.” While Ezekiel was erecting this model of doom outside before the people he could not talk. Just imagine them asking him what they heck he was doing, or undoubtedly the throngs of children who wanted to touch it and play with it. Ezekiel was silent thus using art and symbols to speak the Word of God. Some even say he may have acted out these scenes in a mime like fashion! So for all of you mimes out there preserving this old art keep hope alive your craft is honored by God.

God then instructs him to act out a Four Hundred and Thirty day experiential exhibit! God says to Ezekiel “Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the people of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the people of Israel.”  Ezekiel 4:4-5

After he finishes this part up he tells Ezekiel to lay on his right side and do this again for 40 more days! If you are thinking that this experiential art couldn’t get any worse for the artist you are wrong. Verse 8 tells us that Ezekiel would be tied down before the people so he couldn’t turn. God gave Ezekiel specific instruction on what to eat during this time  but in order to demonstrate to the people that they were defiled he ended up having to bake his bread in front of everyone using cow dung as fuel for the fire! That’s right people!!!!! Cow Dung!

For all of my actors, street performers or improv friends can you imagine getting this gig? Can you imagine how physically involved it would be, all to communicate a lesson to the people. And Ezekiel gave himself over to this craft for the purpose of serving God.

Now I will let you in on a little secret. I am not the most artsy person in the world. Don’t get me wrong I see beauty in the arts. I love to write and I try my hand at painting (I have one of my original works hanging in my office, its an abstract representation of Texas Wildflowers. A little girl recently came in and looked at it hanging and asked me if my son had done it lol!!!!!!! so deflating) But what I mean by “not being artsy” is that I walk around an exhibit and I cannot for the life of me understand why one bold stripe of paint is worth 2500 dollars and demonstrates racial tension. I have seen experiential art exhibits where a Man screams loudly with no explanation and I have been pretty unmoved.  But even with own lack of artsy, I can look on God’s use of the Performing Arts in Ezekiel in wonder! What a way to communicate truth! What a way to get your message across! What PR event to draw in the crowds!

What a fantastically complex God we serve, in that he doesn’t choose the easy road of communication here, rather he chooses the arduous labor of art.

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Untitled: This one is personal!

0811_emoji-screaming-624x429What are we really doing here? I mean when you quiet your heart, block out what we have learned to say and really just search for the answer what exactly have we, as Christians been up to?

We spend so much time trying to correct the behavior of a sinner instead of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with them.

We spend so much time up in arms about Red Cups, protesting at Christian Rap Concerts, arguing about Politics.

It not just the things we as Christians let bother us, but its also the good things too. We attend churches with a smorgasbord of ministries designed to enhance every bit of you. You can learn cooking, you can get thin, you can come to learn about marriage, you can do all of this.

But somehow after decades of auxiliary boards and fellowship halls most of us continue to walk around without grasping the gravity of what having a relationship with the Almighty God really is. Just imagine the Lord, Alpha and Omega who created time and lives outside of time, who spoke our world into existence out of nothing, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the God who sacrificed for us so that He could build a bridge to us through Jesus Christ. The God who knit us together in our womb, the God who hold all things together down to every joint. This is the God who has invited us into a personal relationship with Him. This is the God who dwells within us.

Not only do we not appreciate who God is to us, but the fact that we are intrinsically tied to His Power through the Holy Spirit. We have access to be heard among the inner court, in the Holy of Holys and the Scripture tells us that He delights in us. That He is a good father who knows how to give God gifts, that He is our refuge and our shield, that He goes before us in the presence of our enemies and prepares us a table before them! Scripture says that the cedars of Lebanon shake in His presence, that mountains are laid flat before him. This is our God, our Father.

We often forget to bask in His presence, we forget that we have power in the name of Jesus and we forget that we are commissioned by Him! This should be even more astounding to the people of God to know that this same Almighty God chosen to work in and through us. Scripture says that He has prepared in advance good works for us to do. We are called ambassadors of Christ. We are commissioned to make disciples to love deeply, to live holy, to care for the orphan and the widow.

I fear that we have a lack of understanding of Who God is, Who we are in Him and What we are really called to do. If this world is temporary if life is but a breath, like grass that is here today and gone tomorrow then we must consider there is something more to our Walk.

Is it possible we have been up in arms for the wrong reasons. Is it possible that we have been accustomed to treating the church as our filling station rather a place of sacrifice where we go to glorify God because He is worthy? Have we been too busy trying to meet our need that we have forgotten to address what God has commissioned us to do?

Don’t get me wrong, I know that God’s house is to be a house of prayer. That God delights in healing us, mind, body and soul. I know that health ministries and marriage ministries and small groups are important but my question is, have we given this too much weight while not focusing on the fact that the Holy Spirit came upon the believers who waited in Jerusalem  like cloven tongues of fire. These tongues of fire didn’t simply initiate a good ol’ head banging foot stomping worship experience, rather it was the the fulfillment of God’s promise to give us another helper, a counselor who is the Holy Spirit.  What can God help with, if we are not actively engaging in spreading the Gospel, what can we be counseled on if we are not operating with a vision to be the hands and feet of Christ in the Earth?

I recently attended the Right Now conference where I  heard Francis Chan preach on this very subject. It was his desperate plea to us and to himself, that we may open our eyes and know that what we have been concerning ourselves with, just may not capture the gravity of Who he is, Who we are in Him and What we are supposed to do.

Read along with me Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 as he cries out to the church.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in Heaven and on Earth Derives it Name. That he would grant you, according to the riches of His Glory to be strengthened with Power through His spirit in the inner man. So that Christ may Dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ wrasses knowledge, That you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  Now to him Who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or Think, According to the power that words within us, To Him Be the Glory in the church and in Christ Jesus To All Generations forever and ever. Amen!”

I challenge you to pray this prayer alongside of me this week! To pray that we will know! That we will comprehend! That the God from whom every family in Heaven and on Earth Derives its name, can and will strengthen your inner man! That at the very core you can find Power through the connection God has provided us through Christ Jesus. This strengthening of with power in the  inner man is not for not… The Scriptures says that we pray for this “so that” Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith! It doesn’t stop there but this should catalyze us to Know and understand the deep deep deepness of God’s care for us through the love of Christ. Here Paul is praying that the church of Ephesus, and by extension you and I, may know something which is beyond knowledge, that is the Love of Christ.

All of Paul’s prayer produces this product, ” that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God!” All the fullness of God!

Will you pray this prayer with me this week? Have we just given up on being filled up with all the fullness of God? Has the conservative evangelical church written this off as spiritual hookie pookie? Has the Pentecostal church just settled for a fullness that makes you dance and wiggle mostly at church? Or are we as a people willing to press pass this and see what God really has in store; not just for us, but through us.