The Last Time Mama Tucked Me In

I tucked in my little seven-year-old girl last night in her bed in her bedroom. She had a night light. She had her music. She had her baby doll that she had to have for Christmas. She had the most important item of all: her blanket. We were all lying down in our beds and sleep had begun to descend on us when I feel a light tap on my arm. I opened my eyes and the unmistakable voice of my baby girl wakes me up:

“I can’t sleep.”

We tried to get her to her bed a few more times; the next thing I knew it’s late and school comes in the morning so guess who makes her bed next to mine, gets tucked in, and sleeps soundly? This happens so much in our house that our three grown children complain that she has gotten the princess treatment.

Perhaps she has, I reason with them. But I do distinctly remember all three of them on the floor in our room many weekends. Three a night in our room = three nights with one seven-year-old. I’ve won the fight of reason, albeit barely.

I’ve watched all three of the older ones grow – the first two have already left home and the signs of the third one leaving are already there. The truth of the nest becoming emptier are all around me and still my little one remains with me for a while.

It’s been some years since I left home to marry my husband. I remember all of the activity surrounding the events of our courtship, engagement and then wedding. There was a shower, presents, dress fittings, florist visits, and rehearsals to tend to. My mom, she went to be with the Lord in September 2008, was busy with preparations and invitations. As time for the wedding drew close, we were like ships passing in the night as she worked and I was going to school and working. We didn’t have much time to connect.

The night of the rehearsal dinner came and went. Afterwards, we all went home to try to get some sleep. Nervous, I checked my dress, rechecked it and made sure my shoes were still where I placed them in the closet. In finally fell into a light sleep after some nervous hours. In the middle of the night as I was dozing, I saw a light turn on in the hallway and the unmistakable silhouette of my mother enter my room. I laid there as she put her hands on my shoulder and prayed for me and cried, wiping tears as she asked for the Lord’s blessing. After some time, she tucked me in for one last time and left the room.

My eyes are now drawn to the little bed on the floor. Mom’s prayers have carried me for many years and have touched all my children and landing on bonus baby number four. For now, I think I’ll keep working on tucking her in in her room but when she needs to come and have mom and dad scare the bad dreams away in our room I’ll be happy to pray for her and remember the last time mama tucked me in.

She will spread her wings soon enough. Until then? Come here sweet one, mama is here.

This is the Way…

One of my favorite accounts in the Bible comes from the book of Acts 17 where Paul was at Athens waiting for Silas and Timothy to arrive. Athens was an “educated” society and in today’s language we would call them “open minded.” Much of their time was spent in debate over new ideas and “new thinking.” They had objects of worship scattered throughout  the city and as I read and re-read the story I get the impression that they wanted to please everyone and every potential “god” that was out there. Theirs was the “PC” society of the day, much like ours of today – fearful of upsetting anyone’s apple cart in any way, shape or form.

As a missionary, I appreciate Paul’s approach to ministering to the Athenians by studying their culture in order for him to better communicate to the people. This is ministry 101: learn to speak in a way that the audience will understand you. My husband and I made it our business to become “students of culture” in every country we served in; this required us to learn new languages, dress accordingly, learn cultural cues, and adjust our thinking when and where appropriate.

Paul goes on to preach to the Athenians in a way that piques their attention, this is evidenced by their agreeing to “hear more about this from you later.” (vs. 32) This is the power of using culture to gain the attention of the audience. Some ended up converting to Christianity, others did not. What I don’t see Paul doing as he uses culture to preach the message is compromise the message for the sake of culture. In fact, once Paul got his “in” to preaching to the people of Athens, he challenged them to turn from worshipping every god to worshipping the One True God – this went totally against their culture to worship multiple gods and accepting everyone’s new idea.

In our day and age of “relevance” I wonder if we would do well if, instead of using culture as an escape to stay in our cultural norms, we use culture as a doorway into the hearts of people. Culture varies from country to country – but the Gospel is the same. It’s power transcends culture! In fact, God is expressed through each culture individually and is to be celebrated!

When we served in Africa, we learned to replace our Western ideas of worship with African worship. Initially, it was strange, but as we learned culture we saw God’s character expressed in a new style of worship. Now, as I live Stateside, I enjoy singing in my native language of English during worship – but sometimes I close my eyes and remember another style of worship that grips my heart: the songs of Africa.

Different cultures around the world are all expressions of God and are to be appreciated as such. He made each and every culture different and there are parts of all cultures that reflect the beauty of our Creator.

What I’ve found to be the common thread in each and every country that I’ve served in is everyone’s need to excuse certain behaviors because “This is the way we do it here in this country.” Speaking honestly, when I was a foreigner in Africa, I was told “This is the way we do it here, you don’t understand because you don’t come from here. We are far too busy to do more.” Now that I’m an American back in the USA, I hear the a similiar thing, “This is the way we do it here, you don’t understand because you’ve been away so long. We are far too busy to do more.”

The nature of man is the same all around the world. Our lifestyles may occupy us in different ways but everyone is busy. Whereas in Africa people are busy farming, harvesting, washing by hand, fetching water, taking care of babies, and the basics of life, people in America are busy with jobs, family, hobbies, and entertainment. Busy-ness is a common thread around the world; we are unable to escape from its grip!

Could it be that our culture itself is what needs to be challenged?

Could it be that if we want our outreaches to grow in power we have to adjust the way we do things according to Kingdom culture and not our own cultures?

When I studied Cultural Anthropology, I learned that for Christians, its automatic for us to believe that the culture wherein we received Christ becomes the best culture automatically. The views we hold near and dear become “godly” without thought to the actual spiritual consequences of those views. This, I believe, is why we sometimes struggle internally with the cross of Christ and the message that goes crossgrain to earthly cultures.

Here in the USA, we pride ourselves in being “open minded” and caring about what other people think and believe. This vein of thought has infiltrated Christianity to the point where everything we do is filtered through, “How will this make everyone feel?” To the church leader, I say, yes, by all means use culture as a tool to get the message across. However, at the same time, understand that the message of the cross is “foolishness” and will bring conflict wherever it is preached. We cannot hope that we will please people with the message of the cross. The cross offends our pride, the cross displays our utter helplessness without Him. God has created all people with an inner need to know Him and when Jesus is preached, the power of the message draws people. It’s not cultural appropriateness that draws people – it’s only power of God that we can’t apologize for.

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. I want to grow, change, and expand in everything I do – and if this is really the case, then I, not God, must change. Maybe I need to change my priorities, maybe my cultural views have infiltrated me to the point where my needs, my wants, my desires have dethroned Him.

Lea Peters

When The Time Was Right

It’s happened to me before that I’ve started something thinking I was doing it for one reason and in the end, it turned out to work for another reason all together. Of course the planning had nothing to do with me – I’ve discovered that God is always planing and working through me despite my ill-conceived ideas.

Genesis 50:20 NCV “You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done.”

Even when bad things have happened to me, something that seems to be at my expense, God always works it out for my good and the good of others. I’ve learned and been reminded over and over again that God’s plans can never be thwarted; there’s nothing that anyone can do to prevent Him from working out HIs will.

Joseph had a dream of being a leader over his brothers and family – they became jealous and sold him into slavery. Things went poorly for Joseph for a while but in the end, not only was Joseph used to save a nation but also to save his family.

The “icing on the cake” was God reconciling Joseph to his family. That didn’t have to happen but God made sure it did. If the seemingly unforgivable has happened to you and it seems your life has been forever negatively affected – remember Joseph. He was in prison for a while, but in the end, he became ruler over a great nation and God brought everything back into His order when the time was right.

No More Shoulder Pads Please

I get caught up in the hype of the newest trends from time to time. I’m sure everyone, at one time or another, has heard of a trend, diet craze, exercise program, or vitamin supplement that has intrigued them and drawn them in to at least try and see what kind of results might result. Culture and trends ebb and flow with time. What was cool in the 80s (big hair and shoulder pads) is looked over in favor of straight hair and straight lines with absolutely no shoulder pads.

There are some things, however, that never change with culture or trend: the need for food and water. That is something that will never change! We need air to breathe and sleep every night. Try as we might, we cannot change our need for those things.

God is incredibly relevant and keeps up with the times – He is able to fit into whatever style of worship culture throws HIs way. He fits into the village worship in Africa, the trendy city worship in New York City, to the small home worship with a lone guitar at someone’s home. He ministers to people wearing shorts, jeans, suits and ties, and business casual outfits. He is not limited by how we are wrapped up or how we like to sing.

However, there are some things that never change when it comes to actually hearing God’s voice and having a relationship with Him. Just as we need to breathe air and drink water, we need to hear His voice as it is spoken apart from the noise of our cultural wrappings:

“There are no in-betweens when it comes to the voice of God. Either it is heard or not. Yet we live in a salad-bar, fashion-trend kind of world that picks and chooses its truth, as though truth could change with the times. But the Ancient of Days doesn’t tell us to anchor ourselves in seasonal truth. He grafts us into the Eternal Son.” Chris Tiegreen

The ebb and flow of culture is seasonal, changing from day to day and is unpredictable. What works today is thrown out tomorrow. This year, I will be anchored further in Him and HIs truth – unmoved by what is trendy at any given moment.

Indebted

Romans 11:33-36 NCV “Yes, God’s riches are very great, and His wisdom and knowledge have no end! No one can explain the things God decides or understand His ways. As the Scripture says, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been able to give Him advice? No one has ever given God anything that He must pay back.’ Yes, God made all things, and everything continues through Him and for Him. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”

Unconsciously I’ve thought that God should reward me for good behavior, for the things I’ve done for Him.

“I’ve lived for You, done what You’ve asked, can’t you give me a free pass? A little bit of an easy ride for now?”

When things don’t pan out the way I want them to, I have developed attitudes of “You owe me, I’ve done this for You.” Of course I would deny those feelings until I would catch myself soaking in sarcasm and cynicism.

God owes me nothing and I owe Him everything – He is not made for me but I for Him and His glory! Whatever I may “do for Him” is all for His glory, the debt is mine not His. I am indebted and unable to pay – thank God for Jesus!

May my motives reflect giving Him all the glory – not searching for my own.

Join the Club

It’s rare to hear words like “anyone” and “everyone” as being those who qualify for membership into exclusive clubs or societies. Even on college campuses, fraternities and sororities have rights of entry for “anyone” and “everyone” do not qualify.

Another interesting note regarding private clubs and societies is that they do not generally advertise openings. Students on college campuses eagerly await invitations to be screened for membership into a campus club. Exclusive club memberships are only offered on rare occasions and when they are received, those receiving invitations to apply are honored simply to be considered. Such invitations come either via mail or personal delivery. Those delivering the notices consider delivering such news an honor.

Romans 10:11,13,14,17 NCV “…Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disappointed…Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved. But before people can ask the Lord for help, they must believe in Him, and before they can believe in Him, they must hear about Him; and for them to hear about the Lord someone must tell them.”

A club for “anyone” has been advertised and those who accept membership guidelines are never disappointed or turned away for they cannot be disqualified. The only way “anyone” can be disqualified from this group is if they themselves refuse entry.

What a club! What kind of club is this? One would be tempted to think what kind of benefits could there possibly be to a club that has so little required for entry? The benefits of this club far exceed those of any of the most exclusive clubs here on earth – if the choice is between Heaven and Hell as benefits, who would choose the latter?

I have been given the opportunity to be one of those delivering the invitation to entry into this exclusive club to those of this world. I am the someone. It’s an honor and delight! However, there are times, more than I care to admit, when I have resisted delivering that letter of invitation.

May I hold those sacred invitations with honor this year as one who is sent so others may hear and join the club.

Bribes…

As a mother, i am accustomed to the “reward” system. The system that rewards the desired behavior of my children: if you clean your room, if you do your homework, if you taste the new food, you will be allowed to watch tv or play video games. Each child is motivated differently: one loves to play video games, another loves to stay up later, and yet another loves to have play dates with friends. Children are motivated by rewards.

You may call that bribery but I prefer to call it rewarding…

OK so it seems I bribe my children!

God cannot be bribed to behave as we want. I’ve been reading this year from the book of Genesis and my reading brought me to the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau were twins, Esau was the firstborn of the two and in their culture, they firstborn had many rights that subsequent children didn’t enjoy. Jacob grew to envy his brother’s firstborn status and eventually stole his brother’s birthright from him.

While Jacob was wrong in wanting the birthright, Esau didn’t value what he had:

Genesis 25:34b ESV “…Thus Esau despised his birthright.”

The story goes that Esau was hungry for some stew Jacob made, and the condition (reward) to receive the stew was for Esau to give his birthright to Jacob, which he apparently did without much arm-twisting.

Thus began Jacob’s career as a successful conniver. Time went by and Jacob, in deceiving his own father, stole from Esau something much more valuable: his father’s blessing. Esau became angry and Jacob left to avoid conflict with his brother.

Jacob had been so successful in achieving what he did through bribery and deception that he thought God could be bribed:

Genesis 28:20-22 ESV “If God be with me and keep me in this way that I go…I will give a full tenth…”

What did Jacob think? That God actually needed his tithe? God didn’t need his tithe as a motivation to be with Jacob. Even in Jacob’s corrupted state, God was ready to be with him and didn’t need his tithe as a bribe or motivation to do so. Jacob had imposed on God the same standard of conduct that he had seen work with his family. The difference with God is that His love isn’t bought by condition, reward or bribe. What can any one of us possibly have that God needs and is willing to trade for a blessing?

Nothing I do can motivate God to want to be with me more – if I’m doing well or poorly, God wants to be with me and He wants to bless me. This year, I’m not going to try to be good so I will be blessed – God, my Father, already is on standby to bless me. No strings attached.