Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ala Carte or Smorgasbord?

My sister-in-law came up with a great education analogy that I have her permission to share.  I think it is a good way to think about how and why we educate our children the way we do.

Let me preface these thoughts by saying I have never been a die-hard, "homeschool or you're going to hell" sorta woman.  In fact, God called me to homeschool my kids much to my dismay initially.  I was really looking forward to some ME time.  But, He had other plans for my days.  He wanted me to die to myself and my plans and plunge headlong into the sometimes thrilling, sometimes painful world of schooling my children at home.  Even "Homeschooling" is a misnomer because I am often not home.  On any given day, my children and I can be found perusing shelves at the library, visiting at a friend's house or scouring for a deal at Goodwill.  By labeling myself as a "Homeschooler" - I simply mean that Phil and I are the primary decision makers about and implementers of an education plan that we have chosen for our kids uniquely.

Homeschooling is a bit like dining at an Ala Carte restaurant.  We compose the menu of our children's education from the thousands of resources available - focusing on specials, recommended items and eating more of one course than another.  We look at and decide upon each course based on our families priorities, each child's strengths and weaknesses and sometimes, what is available to us in the convenient, drive-thru version.

Schooling outside the home (be it public or private) is a bit more of a Smorgasbord - Old Country Buffetish, if you will.  In one place, a child gets what is available to consume - all of the courses chosen by the assigned teacher or group of professionals designing the curriculum.  Often, the options are pre-determined but varied and more easily accessible than going Ala Carte - a definite plus for many families. 

There is no one right way to get your child's belly full of food when it rumbles and no one right way to fill your child's appetite for learning.  I would simply pose to you: 

If you grew up eating at only one restaurant, have you considered branching out? 
What menu is God asking your family to dine from? 
Is their hunger for knowledge being satisfied with nourishing meals?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Son, My Church Become Teenagers

This month marks 2 major milestones in my life that cause me to pause and reflect, stirring my heart to gratitude and deeper levels of trust in God. Mars Hill Church and my son both turn 13. Ahhh, the Teen Years. Many of us remember that awkward, glorious coming-of-age season of life with mixed emotions. What will they hold for these two creations of God that I hold so dear?

I remember it well - the fall of 1996 brought many exciting changes to our lives. Phil and I were entering parenthood for the first time as MH was officially launching itself as a "Gen X Church called to the city of Seattle". I had no idea what was in store in either realm - motherhood and membership in a fledgling church palnt. Over the years, I have witnessed God grow, prune, redeem and shower His grace upon my son and His Church so many times that it simply brings me to my knees in worship.

As I look back, I recognize that both have grown in humility, maturity and influence. My son is becoming a young man who understands that being a godly man involves service, sacrifice and strength. My church is becoming a body of believers that understands the cost and joy of truly being a disciple of Christ.

As I look into the future, my hopes and prayers for my son and my church are similar.

1. Keep making it all about Jesus. You have both been given much and much will be expected as you carry out the call that Christ has laid before you.
2. Keep entrusting yourselves to the One who does not change. The teen years are filled with identity crises - change is inevitable. As you look to Jesus, the Author and Perfector of your faith - you will remember who you are and what you are about amidst the clamor.
3. Keep believing that He will redeem. The next few years will hold both the utter thrill of enjoying God's grace and the exhausting trial that living in this broken, fallen world undoubtedly brings. God's promise to you both is that He will conform you to the image of Christ in all circumstances.

I have no doubt that God has brought each of you to where you are today - the exact place and time chosen by Him for His good purposes before Creation. That I get to be a mother and member fills me with great joy and a profound sense of responsibilty.

Happy Birthday Jacob and Mars Hill Church!! I daily thank God that I have been blessed with each of you in my life.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Giving Birth to Sin

James 1:14-16  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

In the Smidt household, we have been talking about evil desires that give birth to sin and the trouble that results from feeding that sin.  James uses interesting imagery by pairing our sin with giving birth.  Phil harkened back to the creepy abdomen baby of Total Recall but for the chidlren's sake, I toned down the object lesson. The change we see happen in Jack Jack from the Incredibles will have to suffice.

We cannot be deceived - we must be vigilant.  This is a call to FIGHT!  The seemingly harmless, somewhat fleeting thoughts that enter our minds each day that tempt us to sin are not sinful.  We are all tempted - Jesus was tempted.  The problem is when the adorable, innocent enough looking "baby temptation" is taken into our care to be coddled, fed and burped.  We believe ourselves strong enough and smart enough to know our limits but we are playing with fire.  Before we know it, we've been lulled into caring for and protecting a sinful desire that is now eating us out of heart and home.  We have nurtured and elevated the desire to a ruling passion in our lives.  If we do not turn from it and worship our Lord, we will be consumed by the fire much like our cute little Jack Jack friend turns molten.

Do you have sin swaddled, fed and tucked into the cradle of your heart?  Do not be deceived - if you are a Christian - YOU ARE DEAD TO SIN - live like it!  If you are not, I urge you to trust Christ right now - it is a matter of Life and Death.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kindness Kills

Romans 2:4b ....God's kindness leads you toward repentance

I know, it sounds strange - totally paradoxical - how does kindness kill?  Before I answer my own question (which may be your question), let me describe the certain death that harshness delivers to its recipient.

Harsh words and tone of voice are well-worn weapons in my arsenal of relating to others.  When I am feeling insecure, annoyed or displeased, the contempt in my demeanor spews at the victim like a spurting artery.  I am quick to speak, slow listen and adept at diminishing my perceived enemy to a stunned and silenced soul.  Yes, I am aware that that response is completely the opposite of what we are taught in James.  It leaps out of my heart before my lips can close.  When correcting my 3 year old daughter with that unpleasant tone and reminding her we don't speak harshly, she looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "What about your harsh heart?"  Nailed it.

Harsh words kill intimacy.  They murder trust and bury warmth in relationship under a pile of fear, anger and sadness.  I can see the pain and confusion spill from my family's eyes when they receive my wrath.  Herein lies the paradox.

Kindness also kills.  First and foremost, God's kindness towards us killed His Son.  He lovingly offered His Son on the cross to cover for the atrocities of our sin - harsh words and deeds alike.  Kindness also kills harshness.  My husband tells me that nothing disarms him and leads him to humility and godly sorrow more than a kind word or gesture from in the midst of an argument.  I'm sorry to say he is probably a bit Pavlovian in his response to me during conflict after years of harsh responses.  He is prepping for the onslaught and I am seeing some glimmers of hope - I am not unkind every time.  Hmmm...that same kindness that God shows me TIME and TIME again when I sin is being extended to my husband and my kids.  My kindness kills defensiveness and offers grace.  It rescuciates relationship with gentleness.  It leads me and those I love to the foot of the cross where God's kindness pours out like a fountain and we can all repent.

WOW - what a concept.