chunkin’ my flashlight like I chunked punkins’

In the past 7 years, the hardest Christian concept for me to grasp has been understanding how to give God the glory and remain humble.

I’m a do-er by nature.  I don’t sit still very well.  I’m also very transparent; I don’t have much to hide.  And the things I “hide” from people are just things that would gross them out or things I know not everyone can appreciate.

I thought being humble meant I could never talk about the cool things happening all around me and in me! I learned a hard lesson in separating the definitions of bragging and letting God have the glory… uh multiple times actually.  I think it’s perfectly biblical to help others.  And I also think it’s completely against biblical teaching to let your good deeds shine for all to see.  I think that’s bragging.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  – Matthew 5:16

“Um Ann, you just contradicted yourself.”
“Actually, no.  I didn’t.”
(pretend conversation between you and me, in case you were wondering)

Jesus says to let our LIGHT shine so that they may see our good deeds – the good deeds that are meant to glorify God, not ourselves.  I have come to understand that when Jesus is IN me, I am the light of the world.  When I am not representing Jesus and glorifying God (AKA bragging), I am like one of those cheap little flashlights that you have to smack on the side to fire up the puny little light bulb.   I admit it, sometimes I need a good smack on the side of the head.

I tried on humility like you try on 15 pairs of jeans before you find the ones that fit right.  Each time I failed and I could feel myself wanting to brag.  The desire to brag never went away.  But this weekend was different.

Our church hosts an incredibly cool fall picnic each year called Punkin’ Chunkin’, and I had the pleasure of co-leading it for the second year in a row.   The event was to be held on Sunday afternoon.  Now, if you’ve ever planned a party you know that the planning and purchasing starts months in advance.  Hosting a church picnic is no different.  The set-up we did on Sunday was like putting the last few pieces into a puzzle… it was almost complete.

And then it started to mist.  And rained.  And misted.  And it was super cloudy outside.

I couldn’t stop praying, in fact I think I might have been begging in there at some point.  “God, this picnic is for your people to celebrate all you have done, PLEASE take the rain away!  I don’t need sun or anything drastic, just no more moisture!  Please bless our efforts to spend this kingdom money wisely, bless our time spent planning so that your children can embrace joy and community for three hours today! Let people see a great example of a healthy and non-judgmental Christian community here on the land you have given to us!

One of the families that was helping us set up in the rain had a precious 7 year old girl and her prayer was this, “God, please stop the rain.”  I saw her resting her elbows on a pumpkin, praying for God to stop that rain.  And you know what?  He did.  Not a drop fell on us at our event.

So in the end, when people were congratulating us on a job well done guess what happened?  I knew it wasn’t all me, or all my co-leader, or all the volunteers… I completely felt 100% secure giving God the credit.  Through Him we had multitudes of people wanting to serve.  Through Him we had joy and safety and blessings.  It was for Him, and through Him, that the picnic was a successful event.

And yes, I let my light shine for all to see.
No, I did not let my good deed shine for all to see.

And in reference to the C.S. Lewis quote above, I was able to accept the compliments and the thanks from people for a job well done because it was indeed a lot of hard work and planning.  However, I was very quick to make sure that my thanks led to God getting the spotlight.

And guess what?
It wasn’t hard.
Because my heart is finally in the right place.
And my cheap flashlight is in the trash where it belongs.

 

making the call to “that” friend

Why do we do that thing where we make an issue bigger than it really is?  Often times it isn’t even an issue but we don’t take the time to clarify someone else’s words and we go from harmless words floating in the air to panicking because there is an air raid and you’re being singled out.  You’re the only one taking shells!  RUN! HIDE!  GET IN YOUR FOX HOLE!

Or…
What if you just called your friend and asked for clarification.

GASP!

No Ann, you can’t possibly mean to face the issue head on could you?
Why yes, that’s exactly what I mean.  Hold on, let me finish rinsing the sand out of my teeth so I can share with you what I learned yesterday.

I’ve made this mistake too many times to count.  I had a conversation with a friend and walked away a little injured, then my mind went ahead and dropped the atomic bomb and made me think that friend didn’t care about me at all.  If I had a dollar for every friendship I have single-handedly ruined this way, I would quickly give it all away so no one would see how awful I have been.

Earlier this year I decided to change this way of catostrophasizing, but yesterday was my first real attempt at picking myself up from my face-plant in sand and setting my feet on the instructions that Jesus gave us.

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.  Matthew 5:21

Since I gave up sacrificing animals for Lent (a bad, and probably inappropriate Catholic joke), I tend to think this looks more like when I am praying for peace, asking for God’s forgiveness, and asking for help to be obedient in His will — except that I am trying to step over the dead friendship I have created to get to God’s blessing.

You pretty much have to address the friends with whom you must reconcile. FIRST.

So I did.

I called “that” friend.  The one who said something to me early in the day and it messed with me all day long.  I said, “hey you know when you said this and that?  It hurt me and made me feel yucky.”

She was SO grateful that I called because as it turns out, she had only shared a teeny tiny snippet of the full story.  As I listened, I used my hazmat suit and gloves to clean up the chemical warfare carnage that I had created in my mind.

At the end of the call I felt SO much better.
And I also had more work do to… yup, more sand.

As it turns out, when you allow that atomic bomb to be built and to detonate in your mind, you create a World War II recreation in your own family by throwing up all over the people you love the most… and the cat would like for me to share this with you:

identity hidden to protect the innocent
identity hidden to protect the innocent

I had to go home and apologize to my husband for letting my chemical mess burn him, and I had to ask for his forgiveness.  He happens to be a pretty amazing guy who understood, forgave, and got the yard blower out to help clean up my sandy mess.

I was a brat last night

 I got more sand in my teeth last night.

22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.  Matthew 5:22

Ok, I didn’t call my son an “idiot” and I didn’t curse him but good golly miss molly did I have attitude with him.

Photo from: http://www.gamepressure.com/
Photo from: http://www.gamepressure.com/

We were playing a cool Lego Wii game based on the Indiana Jones movies.

Have you ever heard kids play video games together, specifically the ones where they have to WORK TOGETHER?!?!  It sounds like this…

Me: “Woah – nice shot!”
My boy: “Where do we go now? Let’s look over here. What’s this green ball?”
Me: “Wait!  When you go that way it pulls me off the screen!”
My boy: “I know, so just come this way so we can see what this is over here.” (said in a “duh” tone of voice)
Bratty me: “NO – I don’t WANT to go over there.  There’s nothing over there! UGH, forget it – I’m not playing this anymore with you!”

(for the record, you have to push that green ball off the top of that dome to get to the next level — apparently every 10 year old boy knows this and moms do not… just go with the flow, ladies and let the boys lead you)

I don’t know what it is about playing these games with my son that makes me revert into a bratty 9 year old girl, but sadly it happens.  I am more patient than I used to be, but y’all, I have a controlling nature that is brutally mean to my child when he makes judgement calls with which I disagree.

Was I angry? Yes.
Annoyed? Yes.
Did I walk away? Yes.
Did I walk away before opening my mouth? Uh … do I have to answer that?

I think I called my son “annoying” or something similar; because I’m a grown up and I know how to handle my anger properly.  I know, I have issues.

So again last night I went to bed picking sand out of my teeth and I still have some grit in there today.  I didn’t keep my feet squarely planted on the rock of Christ that is found in His instruction, and down I went … face first into the sand.   Another shot at playing the game his way will ensue today – but not before I pray and then apologize to him.

Maybe you have anger issues with your kids, especially when they are in that obnoxious wonderful stage of learning how to assert themselves because they have good ideas that are worth listening to.  Maybe you need some prayer too before you open your mouth and fill it with sand.  Let’s pray this together:

Lord, thank you for not punishing me the way I SHOULD be punished for speaking to my child in ugly ways, using ugly words.  I don’t know why I think those words won’t hurt him, but it’s obvious that they do.  I strongly dislike the way it feels to know I have caused him hurt.  Create a strong desire in me to let him lead on things that will not matter in 2 years — or in 2 minutes for that matter.  I want to create confidence in him and I want him to know I have his back, even if I am disappointed by his actions. Remind me that my words stemming from anger don’t just hurt him, but they also cause tension in my relationship with You.  Forgive me, Lord, and give me another opportunity to shower my child with grace.  AMEN.

I think I’m going to need some dental floss for this mouthful of sand.  Hopefully apologizing to my child wholeheartedly will be the rinse-aid I’m needing.

Do you struggle with keeping ugly words in your mouth when your kids are pushing your buttons?

sand in my teeth

I tend to visualize things as I read them.  I recently read the portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where he discusses building on a solid rock foundation, and this is what I pictured.

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 

{visualize} standing on a rock – a HUGE rock, like a boulder, next to crashing waves.  Now picture the name “JESUS” painted so big on that rock that you can’t possibly miss the fact that Jesus is holding you up and your feet are firmly planted.

26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”  Matthew 7:24-27

{visualize} standing on the sand next to the crashing waves at the beach.  An enormous wave breaks in front of you and it knocks you off your feet, sucking you under the water and tossing you to and fro.  It’s like you’re in a front loading washing machine with salt water, fish, sea weed, and … sand.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly care for sand in my … well, everything… but particularly not in my mouth, or worse in my teeth.   It’s gritty, gross, and takes days to really get it all out.  While I had these (hopefully common, otherwise I’m just weird) visualizations it dawned on me how many “sand in my teeth” moments I have had over the years.

Photo courtesy of: http://mariannewildart.wordpress.com
Photo courtesy of: http://mariannewildart.wordpress.com

These moments occur when I screw up.  
Let’s just call it what it is.

These mishaps occur because I’m not standing on the rock that is Jesus … I’m strolling along the sand thinking it’s a solid rock, but knowing deep down I’m not really following Jesus’ instructions.  You know the feeling, right?  Like when you are judging someone and you know you shouldn’t be judging them so you tell yourself an absurd lie that somehow justifies your sin.  Yeah, like that.

Once a week, I will be sharing a “sand in my teeth” moment to show you that regular people screw up … often … but what sets us apart as Christians is that we learn from those mistakes by referencing instruction in scripture and we hopefully* don’t repeat them.

*Caution: if you’re expecting perfectionism from me, you’re reading the wrong blog.

Put your seat belts on, it’s about to get real up in here.