This weekend was bittersweet for our family. My father, a pastor, retired after forty years in the ministry. The last twenty-eight of those years he spent at the same church in Michigan. He took a call there when I was in the fifth grade. I consider it my home church. It’s strange to think of my parents going anywhere else. But retiring is different for a pastor than for other vocations. If someone retires from an office job, say, there’s no need to switch churches as well. However, when a pastor retires, in most cases he leaves his church as well. This is difficult, because often that’s their support network and social circle. These are the people who have celebrated together in good times and pulled together in difficult times; people who worship together every week. Indeed, they are a church family. And it’s hard to say goodbye to such a family. Continue reading “One Big Happy Family”
For anyone who has ever felt like the worst parent ever, this article originally written for and published on the Raising Godly Children website is for you!
I was almost done unloading my shopping cart when another lady pushed her cart in behind me. I glanced at her apologetically, saying, “You’ll be here a while.”
“I’m in no rush,” she assured me.
I smiled and continued unloading. Half of my groceries were already bagged and loaded into another cart, the entire conveyor belt was full of more groceries, and there were still some left in my original cart. The lady behind me observed all this, and tried to make small talk.
“Big trip today, huh?”
“We have five kids,” I explained. “And I try to do a shopping trip for two weeks at a time so I don’t have to come as often that way.”
Her eyes widened. She took in my three-year old and 15-month old sitting side by side in the double cart, uncharacteristically docile as they looked at her. She hadn’t been privy to their meltdown on aisle 8.
“Do you plan out your meals two weeks in advance, too?” she inquired.
I nodded in affirmation, and her eyes got even wider. With awe in her voice, she said, “You’re so organized!”
I sure had her fooled.
One of the most tragic verses in the Bible is Judges 2:10. “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” What?? How is that even possible? Think about this. Joshua led the Israelites after the death of Moses, and through Joshua’s direction, this band of nomads conquered the Promised Land, defeating strongholds like Jericho simply by marching around the city and blowing trumpets. They had seen God’s hand powerfully at work in their lives, and had witnessed what their forefathers only dreamed of- entering the Promised Land of Canaan. But then that generation died and their children grew up, not knowing the Lord. Why? I hate to say it, but it was because of the parents.
I threw a birthday party yesterday. It was a pitiful affair. I made a box of confetti brownie mix in lieu of a cake, grabbed a Bop It and some Star Wars Pop Rocks as a gift, and had the kids sign a card for the birthday boy. That was it. It was pretty meek. But in my defense, it wasn’t even my kid.
The last number of Saturdays have been painful around our household. My son is on a basketball team that has never won a game. They’ve lost every single game they’ve played. By a lot. The most points they’ve scored in a single game is 8. The other teams they play make it well into the 20’s and 30’s. From the first minute of the game, it’s obvious that our team is going to lose. And you know what? I’m glad.
We met on the elevator. I had noticed him earlier, of course. He was hard to miss. I surreptitiously watched him eat breakfast with his daughter, wondering what their story was. We had a one-minute conversation on the brief ride from the first floor to the second, and then he was gone. I don’t even know his name.
Recently I finished a book about a smuggler. Not just any smuggler, mind you. A man who smuggled Bibles into Communist countries to get them to struggling churches and Christians. In some cases, the government had issued “state Bibles,” which were watered down and heavily edited to reflect state ideology. In other words, not Bibles at all. In other cases, congregations shared between them one single Bible, or even part of a Bible. They hungered desperately for the Word of God in their own hands. Hard to comprehend for me personally, when I look at my bookshelf and see half a dozen different translations of the Bible. The book was God’s Smuggler, and the man was named simply “Brother Andrew.” His experiences were fascinating to read, and each communist country tried to stamp out Christianity in their own way. But one particular ideology scares me more than the others. It’s about the children.
The other day I had a panic attack. It suddenly hit me that I was totally screwing up this whole parenting thing. I wasn’t spending enough quality time with my kids, I wasn’t disciplining well enough, I didn’t hug them enough, I wasn’t teaching them enough responsibility with chores, I wasn’t keeping on top of what they were learning in school… In short, I was generally failing at pretty much every aspect of my motherly duties, and I was pretty sure my kids would be completely messed up for life. Bad parent? Guilty as charged.
I don’t know why I even bother. Trying to corral five children in church by one’s self is not for the faint of heart. And truth be told, by the time I’m halfway through the service I’m usually mad at one or more of said children. I generally hear about half of the sermon, if I’m lucky. I usually have to take out the baby and/or toddler at some point. And to what end? Is it even worth it? Do they even get anything out of the service? Do I? Like I said, I often wonder why I even bother. And yesterday was no exception until something amazing happened.