Here we are!

Here we are!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Toothpick Shudder Story

Tonight Daniel found a toothpick lying on the counter. He picked it up and turned it around a few times before tossing it across the room on the floor. I said, “Go pick it up. Never leave a toothpick on the floor.” He asked why not. I replied, “Don’t you remember the story about Nana and the toothpick?”

A few summers ago, Nana stepped on a toothpick. It was at the cabin. The cabin has barf-colored indoor/outdoor carpet that hides a lot of things, namely toothpicks. The toothpick broke on impact and neither Nana nor Papa could tell if part of it lodged in the wound. They went to the Hume infirmary. Then they went down the hill to urgent care. Then they went to the ER because urgent care could not do surgical type injuries. After numbing the foot and digging around for a toothpick fragment, they stitched the wound and prescribed pain meds. After all that excitement, they needed a vacation, so they went back up to the cabin.

I was telling Daniel this story and I got to the part about Nana having to go to the hospital and numbing her foot with a needle, when he quickly covered his ears and shuddered horrendously. Full-body, face-scrunching shudder. “No! Don’t tell me anymore!”

I don’t think he will throw toothpicks on the floor anymore.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Good 'Ol Days

Last night we ate dinner with my parents and grandparents. My grandpa was a boy when he emigrated to the U.S. from Russia. We sometimes get him to talk about his World War II days or even further back to when he first moved to America and only spoke Low German. But most frequently, the conversation will revolve around the local Mennonite Brethren church. They like to compare the church my family attends with the church they attend since both are of the same M.B. denomination. It’s never in a competitive spirit (my church is better than yours), but more of a quantitative comparison. They want to know the ages of members, the race of members, how many families attend, how many children go to Sunday school, what songs do we sing, how many organists there are.

They talk about the days when their church used to be made up mostly of “our people” (Mennonite Brethren defined as being Germans from Russia or their descendants). They lament the smaller choir and lack of organists and pianists. They mourn their friends who once overflowed the Sunday school classroom. They miss the special music at youth night and Sunday evening services. They are hesitant that you can really learn the Bible sitting in the living room of someone’s house (unless it’s the youth group). They don’t understand why people now walk in and out during the church service; people didn’t do that before.

Of course I don’t debate with them. I never do. This is their faith; in a world that has changed so radically they want to wear their faith like a favorite sweater. It really has nothing to do with fear of change as some may think. It’s more that they’ve embraced so much change already, their faith is the steadfast rock they turn to. Life’s complications can be endured as long as there is a pulpit and an organ on Sunday mornings.

The church my family attends is hard to quantify. Just taking attendance on a Sunday morning reaps questions. Does it count if people come in for the last 20 minutes? Last 10 minutes? What if they tried to make it but the bus was late? Does it count if they are “here” but not sitting in the pew? We frequently hear the phrase “I’m a member of your church” from strangers. We know they have not taken the membership class and been officially received into membership, but their children come to the sports club or tutoring club. What if you only come on Wednesday nights, but you come every week. Does that count for anything? What if (gasp) you worship on Saturday nights so you can have Sunday free? I’ll take it one further: what if you attend every meeting put on by the church at your apartment complex, but you’ve never actually set foot on the church campus?

What is church? By defining church, are you being exclusive when you think you are being inclusive? What influences shape a church compared to the direction leadership wants it to go? What about defining the legal aspects of being a “religious institution” 501(c)(3) and yet living in a world that separates church from state? I think it is going to be harder and harder to define “church” in our society, but the followers of Christ will continually turn to the Bible (Acts) for foundational guidance. Forgive my rambling thoughts, but this doesn’t even address the biblical issue of resting on the Sabbath. Can you go to the Saturday night service so you can sleep in on Sunday morning? Does that count?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

All Scripture is God-Breathed

Last night I was reflecting on life and thought about the passage in 2 Timothy 3 that says all scripture is God-breathed (NIV), as in living and breathing; alive. So I looked it up to get the context and see what else Paul had to say to Timothy. I like the New Living Translation:

15. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.
16. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
17. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

Wow. So instead of fretting over what to talk about with my boys regarding life and death, I can help them learn the scriptures. They will gain wisdom, truth, and righteousness. They will be prepared and equipped. And I particularly like the part about, “it straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.” I’ve got a 7-year-old that could use some scripture teaching lately…

Monday, April 05, 2010

Talking to the Boys

After attending three funerals in two months, death seems to be on the brain. But more so, talking to my kids about death seems to be on the brain. Here are the things I want them to understand:

Everyone dies. My sons seemed to be sincerely amazed when I told them this. But I shouldn’t be surprised. What child would want to think about it? And when you’re young, old is old, whether you are 25 or 85. To a child, life span means nothing, and when a grandparent dies, it is the exception and not the rule.

You will feel bad when someone dies. You will be sad. When you think about that person, you will remember they are gone and it will hurt bad. Remember when we dug up that plant and there was a hole in the ground? Our heavy soil left the hole with sharp, defined edges. We could even see marks from the shovel edge.

But it won’t hurt this bad forever. Just like a skinned knee or bumped head, bad pain from grief won’t last forever. While grief doesn’t go away as fast as a skinned knee, eventually the pain is duller. Kind of like that hole in the ground, the rain will soften the hard edges and the crumbling soil will fill in the depth a bit.

It’s okay to be happy when you’re sad. You can go to school and play with friends. You can learn math and music and make believe. You can be happy and sad at the same time; it will just be a different kind of happy. Like when we planted a new plant in the hole. We could still tell that the old plant used to be there, but the new one brought anticipation.

Love Jesus, don’t fear death. It’s scary thinking about dying, but Jesus tells us he has a really cool place for us when it’s time for us to die. That’s how faith works. None of our ancestors have ever come back from heaven to say, “It’s really true! There really is a God and a Heaven!” We have to believe it even though we haven’t seen it yet.

Sigh. I wish I was one of those great moms that could teach all of life’s lessons in full comprehension to my boys. I wish they could have an in depth adult conversation with me so I would know how much they understand and what I still need to work on. I wish they could download everything I want them to know, like Neo in The Matrix. Most of all, I wish impossibly that they would not have to experience the pain of grief.