I Am Ananias

You know the feeling: you’re sitting in church on Sunday morning trying to stay attentive to the message. You make it through an interesting opening illustration or explanation of today’s topic…and then he starts to pray. You really want to pay attention but you find yourself looking forward to lunch out or realize you forgot something you were supposed to bring for a friend.

Then he says something that kinda jolts you back to the sermon.

That happened to me on Sunday. Our church is doing a series on the Book of Acts and Benny’s passage this past Sunday was the one about Ananias and Sapphira from Acts 5:1-11. My thoughts were wandering….

“You see,” Benny said. “I am Ananias.”

I can’t do it justice but over at the Redeemer Church blog Jesse is talking about what else was said that morning.

Take a minute to go there. The church blogs are always shorter than mine and you can find it here.

Last Night’s Surprise

Yesterday I mentioned three topics that I’ll be pursuing on this blog, which will start next week.

But today I want to share something really personal the Lord did for me last night…

Benny and I were at our weekly Community Group (our small group that is a part of Redeemer Church). Benny has been leading us through a season of learning what small group ministry at our church should look like. One of the things we are trying to do is learn how to create an atmosphere of warmth, care and compassion that invites folks to openly share the real-life things through which we are walking. Having the “same care one for another” (1 Corinthians 12:25) attitude can best happen when people are free to open up their lives to one another without concern that they’ll be lectured or that someone will try to help with a fix-it, try this, or this worked for me approach. (How often have I done that to people?!?!)

After some meaningful interaction about upcoming mission trips for two of our group members, Benny asked if there was anything anyone is walking through for which they could use help and perspective.  I waited to see if anyone else would quickly speak up. When no one did I welcomed the chance to get perspective on something that’s been churning in my heart and mind.

I talked about the recent decision to invite Benny’s mom to move to Florida to live with us. Jewel is a sweet and generous woman whose escalating health issues are requiring her to leave her quiet life and sizeable home out of state to move in with us. While I welcome the opportunity to love and care for this dear woman, my heart has been restless and I didn’t know why.

I assumed it was selfishness. Just when Benny’s and my home is nearly empty (something I both dread and welcome at the same time!), I find myself having to consider the substantial lifestyle changes that bringing a elderly and needy person into our lives will require. As I started opening up my heart to the group, tenderly probing questions came my way.

Before long, tears were falling. To be the recipient of such tender care touched me deeply. The questions moved from the potential of selfishness to areas I had not considered in my weeks of prayer and conversations with Benny.  I enjoyed the benefits of being a part of the body of Christ where “the eye can’t say to the hand, I have no need of you” (I Corinthians 12:21). We are designed by God to live in community and to reap the benefits of having people in our lives that can see in us what we can’t see in ourselves.

I learned some things about myself last night:

  • Considering living with and caring for my mother-in-law is reminding me of how much I miss my dear mom.  When two of the ladies mentioned that it seemed to them that I am grieving the loss of my mother all over again, I was surprised…but the unstoppable tears that came convinced me they were right.
  • While my heart is eager to welcome Jewel into our home, I’m fearful about this changing our family dynamic. On a regular basis My People (as I affectionately call them) are in our home for both scheduled and spontaneous times eating, messing, playing, cheering and being loud for any number of other reasons. Benny’s mom has lived a quiet, scheduled and immaculate life for decades.  I’m worried that in order to bless her I will spend family gathering reminding people big and small to be quiet, still and tidy.
  • I am selfish. As others were wisely helping me to see my grief, anxiety and misplaced pressure to change how our family does life together, God was confirming in my heart that selfishness is alive and well. I have lived decades serving and caring for others and, honestly, a part of me thinks I’ve paid my dues and deserve some time off. As we talked last night I voiced my flawed, broken and sinful heart: “It feels like God is requiring me to serve my whole life and keep serving until I die.”

Out of the abundance of the heart my mouth spoke (Luke 6:45). Hearing myself so easily say those words was both convicting and freeing. Do the words I uttered sound familiar to you? Remind you of anyone?

Today my heart is lightening because I’m seeing that God is giving me an opportunity to be like Christ, who served His whole life and kept serving till He died.  Because He paid the ultimate price and served ME as each drop of blood dripped onto the ground beneath the cross, I can serve my mother-in-law. I can make her food; take her to doctor appointments; answer questions I just did minutes ago; be the one to respond to calls for help from the bathtub so her son won’t have to; do some extra cleaning because it will bless her; and, if necessary, not choose the house I prefer when we move because it wouldn’t be the best floor plan for her.

And I can also warn her that the house is about to get loud because eleven adorable little people are coming with parents who can be just as loud as they are. Hopefully she will have a nice room where she can retreat and perhaps turn up the tv a little louder to drown out some of the noise of a family who will always be wonderfully and joyfully loud.

I can do this only because Jesus Christ sacrificed far more for me. He isn’t asking me to do anything He didn’t both do and provide the power for me to imitate.

Thinking of having a old lady in my house does reopen the wounds of losing Mom twelve years ago and, yes, I’m  afraid of what this change will mean. Yet because the church was being the church last night, I know and understand myself better.

Mostly, though, I’m reminded of who God is. Faithful. Comforting. Gracious. Good. And able to help me repent of selfishness and grow in love.

I’m freshly grateful today for Him and for His bride.

Good News About Aging

This week two of my sons have birthdays.  Jesse (on the left below) turned 29 on Sunday and Josh (on the right further down) will be 34 on Thursday. It’s strange that I typed that sentence. One of the signs of true aging (verses the 20 or 30-somethings that just think they’re old) is that you say things like, “I can’t believe how fast time flies” or “How in the world did my kids get that old?”

But the fact is at nearly 58 I will be officially in my late 50’s when I have my birthday in August. That qualifies me to talk like an old person.

Today I’m thinking about the things I love about aging. Our culture doesn’t value aging, and I’m one of the baby boomers who has been sold the lie that aging is a bad thing that should be disguised as much as possible. I even tell people how old I am to do just a little thing to demonstrate I’m not ashamed of my age.  But I do cover my gray so there’s a part of me that still doesn’t want to look it.

One of the things I cherish about aging is watching my children become adults. My adorable little tow heads who used to have air bands to Lion King songs in the basement and did “Mediocre Magicians” shows using our first huge video camera, are grown men with families of their own. They work hard (actually, Josh is Jesse’s boss); seek to provide godly leadership for their wives and children; and are lovingly devoted to our large extended family.

Yet the thing I am most grateful for this week is their passion for the Lord and His church. You see, last Sunday was the official launch for Redeemer Church. For the first time, Jesse and his family joined our months-old church. Mom/Granma was thrilled because, amazingly, God moved each of our children’s hearts to be a part of this.  Josh and Jesse (and their wonderful wives) have sacrificed greatly to be a part of Redeemer.

When they were young, their dad was working hard to build another church up in Northern Virginia. Josh, and later Jesse, drove early with Daddy to help unload equipment or set up the book/tape tables. Before long, Josh was working in the sound booth and Jesse proudly served as an usher. Before we knew it, Josh was leading worship for the youth ministry and Jesse ended up serving as a pastor-in-training here in Florida.

When they decided to leave the church they love and join a small group of people to start Redeemer Church, both couples said one of the main reasons for this was that they wanted their children to grow up serving on a church plant. For the past several months 7-year-old JJ has been joining Josh early to help unload sound equipment. This week, Jesse’s three toddlers were mingling with the other children before the meeting for their first Sunday there. It’s only a matter of time before they join Daddy doing things that makes little boys feel strong.

Benny and I prayed our children would love the church. God heard our prayers and has answered them in a big way.

If you have young children, don’t stop praying. Don’t stop praying when it seems He’s not listening. Don’t stop praying when your children go through seasons of spiritual apathy or rebellion. And if you do stop praying, don’t feel guilty about that and neglect to start praying again. Can you tell I’m speaking from experience? I am.

Pray for your children or future children. And remember, there are little people to come that will benefit from the grace of God as He answers your prayers.

In a big way.

Happy birthday, Josh and Jesse. Because of God’s faithfulness in your lives, Mom is finding aging to be not so bad.