Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Justice, reality-TV style

Last night, my husband was on a deadline and worked late. In an attempt to keep myself awake until he came home, I watched some trashy TV. By trashy, I mean the after prime-time reality shows, which can be kind of depressing, disgusting and sadly addicting, so I never watch them. But last night, live TV was my only choice; this weekend we switched cable providers, meaning I was stuck with an empty DVR, not counting the six episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that were already recorded. And I'd already seen all those. (Yes, I could have read, but sometimes I'm so tired I can't process any more words, no matter how much I'd like to.)

I got sucked into a program called True Beauty, which seemed to have somewhat of a moral intent. The contestants, supposedly some of the most beautiful people in America, believe they are competing for a high-profile spokesperson role, in this case being cast as "The Face of Vegas." While I think the Face of Vegas probably looks much like Satan himself, these individuals were pursuing this prize vehemently. Most oozed with egotism and self-flattery, hoping to be chosen as the most attractive and charming. What these outwardly beautiful people were not told is that each challenge held a behind-the-scenes challenge in morality, in order to reveal something of each person's inner beauty. Kind of awesome.

As the episode came to a close, the person who failed the challenges and was about to be eliminated was escorted into a room alone with the three judges, still ignorant as to why she was being cut. By the way, this woman named Liz was beside herself in grief. She had been recognized as the stand-out most beautiful person of the group. She thought she was quite a big deal and was deeply shaken to be knocked off her throne. What was awaiting was even more horrifying.

The host of the show came out and explained to Liz what the show was really seeking to identify: a person with an outer beauty matched by an inner one. In protest, Liz stated that she was the cream of the crop, physically and morally. The host then simply motioned her hand to the massive screen behind her and said, "Let's take a look." Clip after clip was then shown of Liz compromising, cussing, and flat-out cheating her way to what she thought was the top. Watching, she trembled. Eventually unable to bear her shame any longer, Liz walked out of the room.

I'm gonna be honest. By this time, I wanted her to get kicked off. You know that sense of justice you can feel by a proper reality-show elimination? I felt it. Liz was arrogant, incredibly unkind, and took every opportunity to manipulate her way towards winning. She failed all the moral challenge set-ups, easily deciding to shoplift, lie, treat others with contempt, and cheat. I would never in a million years stoop to the levels she stooped for a goal.

And yet...(exhale)...a chill went through me as I watched her watch her sins being paraded before her eyes. All the things she thought were done in secret. Every bad choice, every rude word, every missed opportunity to care for someone else was recorded and then played back to her. And on live TV. Oh my. It suddenly wasn't funny. My perspective changed then. Instead of feeling justice, I felt sick, mainly because I know this verse (Jesus speaking):

But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.
Matthew 12:36

I almost want to cry, because I can imagine myself on that day just like that sad woman, stammering to make a case for myself and the good things I've done, all the ways I've tried to earn a good position with God. And then Jesus motions to a giant screen and says, "Let's take a look." But my scenario is much worse, since God has not only witnessed my bad choices and unkind words; He's also known my every thought. If the image of standing before Him on that day doesn't send a chill down your spine, then I don't know what would.

I will be Liz someday - you will be Liz someday - giving an account for our mistakes. I don't think I'll have an "account," actually. The only reason Liz protested at first was because she believed her sins were committed in secret. Before an all-knowing God, what could I possibly say in my defense?

Only one thing. I get to say it. "But Lord, I belong to You."

I know this too:

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Romans 8:1-2

This belonging is nothing I deserve or have earned, mind you. Ephesians 2:8-9 says:

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

As the Bible says, my tapes get erased. The key difference between Liz and I is that my sin gets forgiven. Jesus took the burden of my guilt onto Himself on the cross. So I am not sent away like Liz, confused and crying and humiliated. In fact, I am invited in. Forever.

I think Jesus' favorite thing to do is take away our shame. The hard part is letting Him.

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:5

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Soundtrack for Summer!

In case you needed them, yesterday produced two more reasons why I’m kind of a big deal:

I now face paint.

I have created the best summer mix CD on the planet.

Both of these magical things happened yesterday. First of all, I got cornered into the face painting job at my daughter’s end of the year Luau at school. Over the course of two hours, I added painting a horse, three kinds of swirly princess faces, giraffe, Frankenstein and skull and crossbones to my repertoire of skills. The giraffe just basically blew up the place. I did two of those.

But about the mix. I say I have made the best mix on the planet, but let’s be honest: CD mixes don’t compare to mix tapes. Mix tapes are in a class of their own, since so much more effort, and love really, have to go into them. I was seriously gifted in mix tape making, before they became totally obsolete. It’s so sad.

Back to the good news. I think you’re going to want a copy. I’m not sure it’s completely legal to burn you one, but I’m also not sure more than 5 people are reading this and most of them share my last name (or my maiden name). So if you want a copy, please become a follower of my blog! If you don’t know how, click on “Follow” in the right column. If you are already a follower, please leave a comment below stating what you’re most looking forward to about summer (possibly listening to my mix??).

Just to sell you further on the mix, here is the playlist (keep in mind I have an eight year old girl):

What Time Is it? (Summertime!) – High School Muscial 2
Dynamite – Taio Cruz
In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry
Surfin’ Safari – Beach Boys
Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
Stand By Me – Ben E. King
Summertime – The Sundays
Party in the U.S.A. – Miley Cyrus
God Bless the U.S.A. (Proud to be an American) – The Hit Crew
Soak Up the Sun – Sheryl Crow
Sunny Days – Lighthouse
Summer in the City – The Lovin’ Spoonful
Under the Boardwalk – The Drifters
Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
America the Beautiful – Keb Mo

Did you see that? Did you see how I went from Ben E. King to Miley Cyrus in about 5 minutes? This mix spans about 5 decades of classic songs perfect for summer!! I’m so excited.

Here’s who didn’t make the list. I was so tempted, but I just had to say No.

Sorry, Will. But I did see Karate Kid with your son it in, so there’s that. It rocked, by the way.

Also, this. This was hard for me to say No to.

Come on. That is a good song.

Also really great and classic is California Dreamin' by the Mamas and Papas, but man is that song depressing. That's what DQ'd it.

So the above 15 songs can be YOUR soundtrack for summer. I promise it will make you and the people in your car really happy. I'd love to make you one! And just don't tell me if you have a tape deck in your car too, because then I'd be a little jealous.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Big Boogus

When I was little, my dad used to call me Little Boogus. He was Big Boogus, naturally. These special names we had for each other were only one of the many ways he made me feel treasured. And since it's Father's Day, I wanted to tell you about him.

But I hesitate to. I know the quality of my relationship with my dad puts me in a small minority of women. I've been in enough women's groups to see that I have something rare, and I've seen women consequently struggle to relate. Because I've come to realize that most women have had some degree of pain inflicted on them by their fathers, I feel an awful thankfulness that I have not. A girl's relationship with her father is a powerful one, and I am humbled that my dad wielded such power to build and heal and teach, rather than to break.

Maybe your father did things that weren't right. Maybe he misused his power, maybe he wasn't a man. And while my dad wasn't perfect by any means, he did a lot of things that were right, things that worked. Things that ultimately pointed me beyond himself, nudging me safely and confidently toward adulthood and toward God.

And let's not forget something very, very critical in speaking of my dad's success as a parent. My mom was always his biggest fan. She was the one who modeled faith before he had any at all. She was the one who encouraged, prayed for, and inspired him to be the man he was created to be. Their unity was divine, really, and her undying, unconditional support for him is a precious model for me as well.

Today, many of my dad's ways have become interwoven and inseparable from my ways, particularly in mine and my husband's parenting. I hope you too can glean something from them. When you read them, remember that a girl's impression of her father quickly translates into her impression of God. This is one reason why the relationship is so powerful. And this is really what I'm getting at here. The end of the story is not that my dad was the hero. He loved me in a way that simply reflected God's character. I learned that God is my hero and the best Father I could ever have. That's what good parenting does; it points a child beyond oneself. So here are a few landmarks of guidance from my childhood, this Father's Day, in honor of Big Boogus.

When I was little...

I was "Little Boogus;" I had a special name, a name only he could call me.

He taught me to nurture a living thing, whether a hamster or carrot seedlings in the garden. He showed me a passion and a respect for all life.

He showed up. He coached my team. He watched, listened, and proved over and over that I was very, very important.

I learned that he didn't just love me, but he liked me. He wanted to be with us. We went on vacations, celebrated special events, and laughed together. To my dad, I was always smart and funny and pretty.

He always found something to buy from every Girl Scout, every neighbor kid selling candy bars, and every down-and-out kid selling magazines door-to-door. He supported ambition and showed compassion for the less fortunate.

He disciplined me when I was disrespectful or defiant, always very calmly.

He gave me hugs, kisses, and said "I love you" often.

When I was a teenager...

He taught me to strive for my personal best simply for the sake of excellence. He imbued confidence in me by offering encouragement at every opportunity without demanding performance. I never felt that his level of love for me was attached to my level of success at something.

He complimented me constantly, and it never got old. I knew also that it wasn't forced or fake. He was genuinely fascinated and delighted by me and the person I was becoming.

He said sorry when he hurt my feelings, and would take responsibility for being too critical. He was never afraid to admit his shortcomings.

He said "No." He was strong enough to choose being unpopular with me over allowing me to put myself in an unsafe situation. (We're talking the drive-in. In the "valley." EVeryone else went.)

He understood that during these years, social acceptance was important. He let me buy the expensive jeans once in a while, he got me a car when I could drive (it was used, but it was not lame), and he taught me cool things. I never felt uncomfortable around boys because I could hold my own, whether in conversation or in shooting pool.

He took me on dad & daughter "dates." Sometimes they were events at the church, but other times, he'd take me to a special restaurant or a movie, careful to demonstrate how I deserved to be treated by a man.

When I was old enough, he took it one step further, explaining the value of purity to me, and that some of the most special things about me should be especially protected for the person I was to marry. I was that valuable.

And then, he did something semi-terrifying: he began trusting me to make decisions on my own. At some point in late high school, he said he was going to stop steering my choices and that I had all the tools I needed to make wise ones on my own. What courage that must have taken. I was thus pushed out of the nest.

Now that I'm an adult...

He is still my biggest fan. And he is still modeling wise living to me, not so much now as a parent, but as a human being. He pursues knowing God with humility and hunger. He sees others' needs and generously tries to meet them. He spends his days with joy in his heart, constantly setting negativity aside. And perhaps one of the most inspiring things to me personally is how he loves to pass on what he's learned in life. He is available to be used by God to share his story. I'm sure if I didn't have a dad like that, I wouldn't be writing for this blog. I wouldn't be passionate about sharing my stories, and I certainly wouldn't realize how important I am in God's story.

Thanks, dad, for being my hero for so many years, and then helping me understand who the real Hero is. I pray I can do the same in my kids' lives.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

POP QUIZ: Summer + Planning = ?

Becoming a parent introduces you to a new kind of math involving equations where the answers change. In normal math, 2 + 2 is always 4. In parenting math, let's say in the equation "milk + laying down in crib = ?," who knows what you'll get. You can't expect the answer to be "sleeping baby," even after you've gotten this same answer 20 times in a row, because you may get "total hysteria" on the 21st.

Summertime is one of these open-ended equations for me. I want to plan summers out, and then I want freedom from plans. Also, I know that no matter which way I lean, I still won't know what to expect from day to day. (So what else is new, right?) In the past, we've planned out our summer weeks one by one, writing up a loose schedule of what to look forward to on Sunday nights or Monday mornings. This year, we are doing one big Summer List. The kids and I came up with all the things we want to do this summer and wrote them on a big piece of poster board. It is hanging by the front door, reminding me that it is a kind of equation to which I don't have the answer.

The List begs these questions for me: Do all the boxes need to get checked off? Does the number of checks equal my level of success at something? I am soooooo tempted to make a math problem out of it. A real, predictable one. I want to count up the boxes, divide them by the number of weeks of summer and figure out how may per week I'd need to check off to cover them all. Man, do I want to do that. But I am NOT letting myself because I know I need to balance my intentionality with flexibility. All the boxes don't need to get checked. And certainly I need to abandon the list if it ever starts to take the place of other better or more important things. I have to remember that my success lies not in the number of boxes checked off, but in maintaining a daily understanding of and sensitivity to the needs of my family.

I'm pretty good at being intentional with my kids - setting into motion a variety of fun, educational, spiritual, and artistic experiences for us to have together - making sure we maximize not only our summer, but our lives. However once I set plans into place, I'm not so good with flexibility when the equation equals something I don't expect. That's going to be my challenge this summer. Rolling with the punches. Laughing at the small disasters. In a word, GRACE: for my kids who act up; for circumstances that thwart my plans; and especially for myself on days when I just can't give anymore.

Next year's list will have one additional box at the end: "Be flexible and keep smiling." This year, you'll just have to remind me, starting next week when the fun begins. Wait and see...we have many happy activities in store and I can't wait to share them! (I didn't even put any crafts on the List - it is too much of a given around here. But I do want to talk about craftiness in a post soon.)

Oh summertime, how I love you. You know you're my favorite.

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Come unto me..."

"Come unto me, and I will give you rest."
- Jesus, Matthew 11:28

The brief discourse below based on this verse is challenging me today. It's pushing me up and out of myself and the sluggishness that I keep fighting this week.

[taken from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, June 11th entry]

Do I want to get there? I can now. The questions that matter in life are remarkably few, and they are all answered by the words - "Come unto Me." Not - Do this, or don't do that; but - "Come unto Me." If I will come to Jesus my actual life will be brought into accordance with my real desires; I will actually cease from sin, and actually find the song of the Lord begin.

Have you ever come to Jesus? Watch the stubbornness of your heart, you will do anything rather than the one simple childlike thing - "Come unto Me." If you want the actual experience of ceasing from sin, you must come to Jesus.

Jesus Christ makes Himself the touchstone. Watch how He used the word "Come." At the most unexpected moments there is the whisper of the Lord - "Come unto Me," and you are drawn immediately. Personal contact with Jesus alters everything. Be stupid enough to come and commit yourself to what He says. The attitude of coming is that the will resolutely lets go of
everything and deliberately commits all to Him.

". . . and I will give you rest," i.e., I will stay you. Not - I will put you to bed and hold your hand and sing you to sleep; but - I will get you out of bed, out of the languor and exhaustion, out of the state of being half dead while you are alive; I will imbue you with the spirit of life, and you will be stayed by the perfection of vital activity. We get pathetic and talk about "suffering the will of the Lord!" Where is the majestic vitality and might of the Son of God about that?

Whoa. Have you processed that before? A kind of "rest" that results in vitality and action? Sticking close to Jesus delivers a restfulness - a peace - to our spirits, and a simultaneous power to live, not just survive.

Love that. Want that. Need that.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

If I were an attorney...

...I'd probably use the phrase, "I'd like to strike that from the record!" A lot. In movies with attorneys, it seems like someone is always yelling that. I wish I could do the same in my life. I'd yell it all the time. I'd also write a letter like this, so I could just flash it when I didn't feel like yelling.

To Whomever is keeping the record - my kids, husband, God, friends, the mail lady (wow, is she judgemental about how many days I can skip without picking up mail. I'm okay with it. It's not going anywhere!), you people I run into at swim lessons and the grocery store:

Sometimes I want to strike stuff from the record. X it out. Pretend stuff didn't go down the way that it did. I'm sorry, and you all deserve better.
Love, Leslie

Today was a day I wanted to paste that letter up in my house. I had no good, logical reason to be a hot mess (as Chelsea Handler puts it. OK there was a major confession hiding in there. Did you catch it?). I just was. I can't even put my finger on an individual problem. But at one point, all I could do was go into my room, climb onto my (still unmade) bed and press my face down into my pillow as I pleaded with God for something that didn't even have words attached to it. My sinking emotional ship needed some supernatural rescuing.

Right now I'm sitting at Barnes and Noble with my cutie orange laptop because in the middle of the day, I emailed my husband at work about how pathetic I was. I actually said, knowing where I was at then, and guessing I would be even more spent by the end of the day, "Tonight I think I should just leave, go to the bookstore, and spare you all". I think you know what I mean. You know those times when you feel sorry for your "loved" ones because they're just not getting any actual love from you? (Tell me you do.)

So here I am. Away, refueling. Writing. My own kind of therapy (remember what bookstores do for me)? Sitting here remembering myself and feeling like a healthy person makes me want to remind you to do the same. It's way too easy to neglect your own needs and just keep pouring out. Time off won't fall into your lap. You have to carve it out, when it makes sense for you. I bet if you asked your husband or wife for the time off, they'd understand. My husband actually thanked me for trusting him with my real self. That was a surprise. Sometimes we expect criticism for being a mess. It's probably what I deserved, but it's not what I got.

I got rescued. God knew what I needed, and I guess he told my husband about it. Whew.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Teachable Moment: Broken

Teachable moments with my kids don't come around every day. I mean, I teach them things daily. But a true teachable moment - those priceless times where the world seems to stop and I get to impart a major truth about life - happens unexpectedly, and not all that often.

I have an inkling that they don't come around all that often because I am not seizing all the opportunities. Right? My preoccupation with my agenda sometimes keeps me from having open eyes and ears to their little lives. It's sad, but true. So I understand one element in experiencing teachable moments with my kids is awareness. This awareness in my life is equivalent to having a sensitive spirit to God and how He desires to use me.

When those moments come, as one did today, I decided I need to write about them for two reasons. One, I want to always give God the glory for the successes in my parenting. I'm not any good to anyone without Him, seriously (I've tested this). And two, I'm hoping that passing on the experience will help you as a parent recognize and then seize moments with your small ones when you find yourself in similar circumstances.

So here's what happened. My daughter got to do something fun and special that my son didn't get to do. He was really, really upset. But it was a version of upset that I haven't really seen him do before. It started with a little crying, but then became an eerily quiet, blank-staring despair. He wouldn't answer my questions. He wouldn't move. For a long time. He was totally frozen in his pain.

After a while, I approached him, scooped him up, and asked him if he'd tell me how he felt. He didn't answer at all. So I gave him some examples of feelings: angry, sad, hurt, jealous. And asked him again. He mumbled, "Jealous." I said, "Anything else?" He muttered, "Broken." His answer was so raw, it made me want to have a speedy solution, an emotional band-aid to patch this whole mess up. But I knew I couldn't - and shouldn't - quickly wipe away these feelings of his like wiping up a spill with a paper towel. I recognized that he was experiencing real life, and I know there is a very important reason God allows disappointment on this earth. This was a chance to teach him about the brokenness in his world, not hide him from it.

He was sitting in my lap, his head snuggled into me, his body totally limp. Empathy came to me first, in the form of a story from my own life when I felt jealous and broken. I said I knew what that was like. Everyone does. I told him this kind of thing is called disappointment, and how life is filled with it. Then I said that the reason God allows disappointment is because he never wants us to forget that this earth is not our home. (My little guy knew where our real home was: "Heaven," he said.) I continued to say that heaven is a place where there is no broken. Everything is fixed. I said sometimes, when I feel broken, I want to be at my real home. Don't you? (He nodded.) But for now, I said, God wants us to remember how great everything will be in heaven, and that is called Hope. Hope is knowing that someday, all the broken will be gone.

He actually started crying a little once again. I took this as a good sign, that a wall had fallen. I held him, and said we could sit that way until he was finished feeling sad. In about a minute, he said, "I'm ready." And on about our day we went. Amazing. That holy window of time lasted no more than 10 minutes.

I can tell you with certainty that the above bit of inspired parenting did NOT come from me. How could it? I had a load of responsibilities, errands, and stuff to do. In fact, for the first few minutes of my son's brooding, I tried to brush over the drama with my lame, logic-based explanations as to why he didn't get to go. But when his sadness persisted, when I noticed his response was a little more serious, I started to slow down and see him. I started to tune into my own spirit, reminding me of my job. I started to participate in the situation, rather than simply trying to manage it. Our resulting talk may have been the most fruitful part of my day.

The thing about teachable moments is that they like to sneak up on you. You don't usually get to prepare for them. And that means it's best to lean heavily on God. When I see a moment is presenting itself, I stop everything. I try to see the person and his or her needs, and nothing else. I sometimes ask God for the right words on the spot. I try to listen in my spirit before speaking. And thankfully, God - the most perfect, loving, and wise parent ever - is happy to take it from there.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Stockpiling feels good

It's almost summertime. School is out in about 2 weeks here, and that means change. I think it's no coincidence that around now, every year, I feel a compulsion to scrapbook and make digital photo albums. A school year wrapping up makes me want to organize and stockpile the paraphernalia, art projects, photos, and certificates. That's all well and good - dare I say, normal. But I'm sitting on my couch realizing the compulsion runs deeper than that. Underneath is a true anxiety about loss: the bits of a sweet season with my kids I won't see again, the feelings I enjoyed, even the feel and smell of the physical spaces that grew so familiar and inviting to my children and me. It all wilts so suddenly.

I want to hold these things in tight fists. Saving every little thing and making digital photo albums are activities that delude me into thinking I am succeeding. They are ways I try to placate my anxiety over loss, but does the anxiety ever feel quenched? Do I actually have a better hold on what's past? Not really.

Today a friend was telling me that all her cool stuff keeps getting ruined. Her expensive jeans fell apart after one wearing. A special piece of jewelry from Europe just broke. She had a minor car accident. And all I kept thinking was how none of this stuff will last, and stop trying to expect anything besides regular loss with the passage of time. How depressing is that?

Well, very. If you don't understand what's happening. God wants us to have regular reminders that this life is not all He has for us, and this earth is not our home. He wants to meet our deep need for security with what is permanent. We feel confused about loss when we forget these truths. I can grapple for feelings, memories, even stuff that I don't want to lose, but when the day is done, I just have to let go. Stop with the tight fists. Be okay with a shoe box instead of five glossy albums. And then look to the Lord to speak to me about what will really last.

That's where I need to live: in the continual practice of opening my hands to all that is fleeting. Letting go.

I'm actually super comfortable with letting go of certain things. Hurt. Anger. Sometimes my agenda (sometimes, unless it's May). But I wish I could stockpile memories the way I stockpile paper towels. Rolls and rolls neatly stacked, always available. Just the idea of that sounds delicious and comforting. Secure. As if having a good grasp on what is behind me will somehow ensure greater stability for the future. (This is where God smiles at me the way I smile at my kid when she wants to wear black athletic socks with a summer dress. It just plain doesn't make sense. Right?)

So I'm ignoring the boxes of unfinished scrapbooking materials. And instead of lamenting the days that are coming to an end, my best recourse in quelling the anxiety is to be fully present in each day with my people. (I try to do this anyway, under normal circumstances, but remember I'm coming down off of May like it was a drug).

The giggles. The warming weather. The resistance to bedtime and the craving for bike riding. I'm soaking it all in and trying to remember what it was like to get that pre-summer buzz. Because in a few more months, I'll be missing that too.

The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the Word of our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:7

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

This little light of mine

Last night, I brought out an old favorite children's book to read to my little guys. It's called Let It Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals by Ashley Bryan. It is an incredible book in many regards. For one, the illustrations are amazing, as you can see. It is a compilation of lyrics of the three songs "This Little Light of Mine," "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," and "When the Saints Go Marching In." These are such classic songs - a part of American history, actually - and we typically sing our way through the book.

Though we love the songs, my favorite part to read to my kids is in the back of the book, on the history of the Negro Spiritual as an art form. My kids are fascinated by the fact that not long ago, it was against the law for African-Americans to be taught to read or write, and so their songs of faith were passed on orally for generations. Ashley Bryan argues that the very creation of such songs were "as the Spirit led," often morphing in tune or lyric based on the joys or tribulations of the singers themselves. I love that idea. I love that my kids and I can feel the freedom to add a verse that fits the formula: "He's got ________ in His hands..." and on we sing, as the Spirit leads. That flexibility was an inherent part of the form of the Spiritual. And so a Spiritual maintained a life of it's own, in a way, reflecting a real and personal and conflicted and desperate faith of a people group. So beautiful.

Then today, I heard something on the radio that brought this book to mind again. The pastor was speaking on the day of Pentecost found in the Bible in Acts, chapter 2. This day came a while after Jesus had been resurrected and had promised to send His followers a "Counselor" (John 16), whom we know is the Holy Spirit. The day of Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit literally descended onto the believers. The Bible describes this event this way in Acts 2: 1-3:

"On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them."

To jump ahead, the point the pastor was making is that from the day of Pentecost to today, you can't see your own fire. In reference to Pentecost, He said, "Which of the believers could see the top of his own head?" None, of course. I thought this was a great point. On the day described in Acts, don't you think everyone was looking at everyone else's head with a flame and asking, "Do I have one too?" It's easy to see everyone else's fire. It's much, much harder to remember your own, and then let it shine.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Back to the book. Let's remember that this Negro Spiritual did not begin as a children's song to be sung in Sunday School. It was wrought through suffering. And therefore, I'm guessing the "little light" was little not because it was a child's light. I'm guessing it was because that's all the light that was left in the soul of a slave. It was little because it was nearly snuffed out. But somehow, the slaves who sang that song knew without a shadow of a doubt that they indeed had lights, the undying, holy and powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, the living God. And they were determined to let them shine.

Wow. That is seriously convicting to me. I have relatively no suffering, and yet I forget about my light, the Holy Spirit who wants to live and move in my life. I actually believe that our many comforts insulate us from realizing just how badly we need God to work in and through our lives. My light suffers from my own complacency.

My light also suffers from comparison. I look around, admiring the lights of others - their impacts, their gifts, their beauty - and forget about my own. Really I have no business doing this. It must be insulting to the Holy Spirit himself, as God has made me uniquely designed to reflect Him.

Instead I need to remember that because I am God's daughter, I have a great light of my own. And I need to remember who gave me that light; it's not my greatness that made it appear. It's God's. His influence, His gifts, His beauty. The light is really His light, and I need to step aside to let it shine through me.

If you are a follower of God, and you have asked Him to be in charge of your life, you have a light too. You might not be able to see it, but it's there and it's amazing. That fire is God Himself, the best possible Counselor you could ever have, offering you encouragement and wisdom so that you can impact the world around you. Walk in that truth today, because for me, just acknowledging His presence is the first step. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

May, May go away...

Oh good, you did.

Good-bye, May. I will be happy to wait eleven more months to see you again (I think it may take me that long to recover). That end of two baseball team seasons - two kids' birthdays - mother's day - end of year school reports - and trip to Disneyland - month of extravaganzas is finally over and I can breathe again. And write again. I've been anxious to write this month, since my time has been so limited; so many posts have been swirling around in my head, I'm sure most of them are lost by now. But in my brief moments today before I go to the grocery store, I had to post this.

Today's "Serious Wednesday" post on the blog Stuff Christians Like is very funny and very well put. I hope you enjoy it too. Click below.

Stuff Christians Like #784: Worrying too much about trends.

Some of my own words (perhaps on my aversion to spending hours at time constructing things with Legos) will be coming soon. Promise.