Saturday, August 18, 2012

An 8-Year-Old's First Bible Study

Last night, Stepdaughter8, who I will call Miss G for storytelling's sake, asked me a whole bunch of very good and deep questions about God.

I chuckled because I did the very same thing to my mother when she would put me to bed: My questions were more psychological and worldly and not related to God (I didn't grow up knowing much about God). However, I have very fond memories of sitting on my mother's bed at bedtime and having what I called our "11:00 Psychology Talk." I did this as a preteen and teenager, not so much as an eight-year-old. At that age I was repeatedly asking Mom for a glass of water so she'd come back to my room for another kiss goodnight.

I swear Miss G has to come from my DNA, though, because the girl knows how to ask really good and deep questions. Already, we are no strangers to staying up a bit too late talking about "life stuff." To my delight, she has many questions about God that a child would have. Unfortunately, I can't spend the time I'd like to talking with her about it because it is bedtime, after all. I always promise myself to pick the conversation back up the next day...

but life usually gets in the way.

(But what life are you really living if you are too busy to talk about God?)

So back to last night: Miss G asked such good questions that I didn't want to "busy" myself out of them. I told her that we would talk about it the next day and, sure enough, right before bedtime we gathered at the kitchen table, she in her cotton, floor-length penguin nightgown, Bible in hand (the one given to her by our church) and questions ready to go.

One thing about Miss G is that she likes to talk. She is not always the best listener. And one thing about me is that when I talk I don't really know when to conclude. I usually make my point in circles.

So to focus us both, I made a list of four questions that Miss G came up with that we would try to tackle. This is what she came up with:

1. Why do they say "fear God?" Does it mean we ought to be afraid of Him?

2. Why does God have to stay up in the sky?

3. How did God never sin?

4. How was Jesus born?

Oh my goodness! Just looking at that list sent my head spinning. I asked her leading questions about #4 to see what all she knew about how babies are made in general...and decided that that question could wait a bit.

We talked about #2 first: Why does God have to stay up in the sky?

Slight diversion: my stepmother, when asked, told me that when I give my stepkids answers to tough questions, I am to be clear, concise, and to the point. I am to be as brief as possible. I hear this works.

Sadly, I do not work that way. Or maybe not so sad...because I think my stepkids are learning a greater vocabulary thanks to me. Either that or they are learning to be completely stumped by my strange metaphors, poetic and passionate language, and circular points.

Anyway, I gave her a succinct answer to #2:

God does not have to stay up in the sky, I said.

We talked about what Heaven was...we looked in her concordance...looked up verses that talked about Heaven...we talked about God's dwelling place....

but also how God is among us all the time. We talked how we can see God working in other people and ourselves - in how we love, trust, believe, serve, and act.

I know that is a hard concept for her to grasp. She wants to think of God as a person, asking how God was born...

we got sidetracked a bunch of times.

The second question we tackled was #1: Why do they say "fear God" in the Bible? Does that mean that we should be afraid of him?

I referenced biblegateway and looked up the word "fear" and all its meanings. Sure enough, I was able to explain it pretty simply. To fear, in a God-sense, means to respect, to show reverence for God.

Then I said something that wasn't on the docket. I knew it could go over her head...and perhaps it did...but I wanted her to start hearing it now because it is something I strongly believe.

I explained how we learn when we are young that God is all about love and forgiveness and joy. And yes, God is all those things. God blesses us with unimaginable gifts. However, I explained carefully, we ought to realize that we must also respect God and follow God's rules for our lives. God knows what is best for us. He is the Ultimate Parent - even more important than me and Daddy, I told Miss G. And while it is so important to know that God loves us, it is just as important to know that we have a responsibility to God to live our lives under His direction the best we can.

Sometimes you have to tell the truth even if it uses big words and grand ideas. 

In talking about respect, I asked Miss G: "how can you show respect for God?"

Her answer amazed me.

"By reading the Bible," she started. "And...going to church...and praying...every day...praying when you are sad or mad or when someone is mean to you or when you need something..."

I chuckled.

And then she said, "and you have to trust Him."

I stopped in my tracks.

I felt the Holy Spirit fill the room and I felt God whisper to me: take this opportunity.

I swallowed hard, prayed quickly for wisdom and guidance....

"All the things you said are great things," I told Miss G. "God certainly wants us to read the Bible, go to church, and pray every day."

She smiled, pleased that she had said the right answers.

"But what you said at the end....that is the most important, biggest, hugest, most gigantic thing of all."

Her eyes got big and curious.

"Because think about it," I said. "If you didn't trust God...and that includes loving Him...if you didn't trust that God was all-powerful and mighty and loving and all the things we know, would you want to go to church and read the Bible and pray every day?"

She was starting to catch on, but I knew I had to elaborate.

"If you thought the Bible was just a storybook, a fairy tale, just another cool book that parents read to kids at bedtime...would that make you realize how awesome God is? And then make you do all those things you listed before?"

She shook her head no.

We matched smiles and I continued: "It is so important to decide to love and trust God because then reading the Bible and going to church and praying will spring forth from that! It will be so much easier and more fun because you trust and believe."

It was getting late so I decided to end our lesson for tonight. I told her what "closing in prayer" meant and she joined me in thanking God for giving us this opportunity to talk together; I thanked God for giving Miss G a heart full of great questions and I asked God to continue to give Miss G strength to ask those questions, no matter what. I also prayed for Miss G as school would start soon and she would meet people who didn't share her beliefs. I prayed that Miss G would be strong in her love and trust in God and love those who were mean and to pray for them.

I could have gone on and on. I could have talked circles about loving, trusting, believing in God.

But I knew my little inquisitive 8-year-old girl had to get to bed.

And so I tucked her in, hugged, and kissed her goodnight.

I feel a glow inside me as I write this. I don't feel prideful or think, what a great stepmom I am. 

Rather, I think, what a great God we have!

I am so grateful that Miss G is who she is and I am who I am and God placed us together "for a time such as this" (Esther 4:14).

I am so honored by the role God has given me. Of course, I carry doubt and worry that I am not "qualified" to teach God's Word...that I don't know "enough..."

But God does not require us to have a PhD in Divinity Studies for us to share and teach about Him.

He asks us to love, trust, and obey Him.

And I think I did that tonight.

More importantly, with God's wisdom and guidance, I think I paved the way for a little girl to do just that..

****note: I realize that many could argue with the answers I gave Miss G. However, I feel I gave her the best answers for her maturity level that I could. Thank you for grace. ****

Thursday, August 9, 2012

me and You

I have found
I am put in the Wilderness
just so I recognize
my need 
for God. 

Last night
thunder sounded
lightning struck
in the caverns
of my soul

leaving me to feel
completely forsaken
by everyone

and that is when
the enemy goads me
into thinking

You are alone

No one wants you around

You are a burden to everyone you love.

But God beckoned me out on the front porch last night
and I dialed multiple phone numbers
for help
to cry out to someone
whose voice I could hear,
whose prayer I could let settle over me
like the clouds I envision Him 
sitting upon. 

I finally got a hold of my pastor
(worrying about myself as burden
flared up the whole time)
and he prayed over me
and this house
for patience
for love
for many things
and, indeed,
I let the prayers settle over me
like the clouds I imagine God
sitting upon.

So the danger was over;
I felt the enemy flee
and while I sat there on the front porch
I took in the view.

The sky was dark from a before-rainstorm
and though night approached
the clouds began to stretch apart
from each other
to let some light in. 

And I saw
how very close
God was.
Not upon the clouds
way up high
far away

but very near
right beside me
in every moment. 

I felt very grateful for this. 

My mind, however, flipped back
like an old Rolodex
to things I needed to-do,
My old habit of obsessive list-
making had resurfaced this month
and so I began thinking about

blogs I wanted to write
budgets I had to make
forms I had to fill out
questions I had to ask
obligations I had to fulfill
and how would I do those?
I thought about
how this or that would make a great essay
or photograph

but then I heard



This is about you and Me. 

No blog, no essay, no picture,

no budget, no human to talk to,

ask questions of,

no obligations, My child,

except you and Me,

sitting here


And so I strove to put
those shirt-tug-thoughts
out of my mind
those annoying fruit-fly-thoughts
that return again and again
no matter how much you think
you've cleaned your soul out. 

I said,

Okay, God, 

days ago I prayed for a deeper relationship with you

I prayed for more intimacy and more intensity

More passion and more devotion. 

So here I am, God. 

No blog, no pictures, no essays, no lists.

Just me and You...

with trees swaying

wind stirring

light barely getting through.

I feel You, God. 

I did not think a prayer like I prayed
would have warranted such a 
but I sat there
and every time one of those
fruit-fly-thoughts flew into view
I batted it away
and focused on God. 

I knew I was in God's presence
because I felt peace
and mercy. 

I sat there, transfixed, in awe,
desperately hoping, too,
that I could carry the peace with me
into the house
where all the commotion

Songs went through my head:

And I returned inside where everyone was already asleep. I entered the bedroom, knelt by the open patio door with the curtain dancing from the breeze - from the air that I felt God blow - that same breath I felt come into my own spirit. 

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
~ Job 33:4

By God's grace, I fell asleep with arms wrapped round me. 

I awoke this morning to a quiet house, the sky still hung low with dark clouds. I sat on that same porch and looked at that same wind decoration that Stepson5 had made, now hanging on the porch, swinging in the breeze, reminding me of God's breathing last night, the breath of life refueling me for another day in the wilderness -

yet not alone. 

I sat there and enjoyed the morning scent of wet grass, just-after-rain, fresh breeze. 

And while thoughts of today started buzzing around in my head
and, yes, as you can see I took picures
and, yes, as you can see I am writing this blog,
and, yes, as you might expect, I will probably make a list today...

I know God breathed life into me last night
and this morning
and will do so every day
and has done every day

I head out
feeling my Companion

so grateful
to have had 
my personal time
with Him

so grateful
that my Savior
certainly saved me
last night.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Watching this interview with favorite author, Ann Voskamp (an hour long - so worth it!)

Staying up too late soaking in the fresh breeze we are now able to feel through the screen doors which we've opened now that the heat has subsided.

I have the honor of assisting ministering at tomorrow's church service. This feeds an insatiable craving to serve on a larger level...

...and yet God still brings my gaze back to my husband and stepchildren and reminds me of my call to serve them first and foremost.

Thinking of the Sovereignty of God:
which, to me, means the Why's and praying for His Because's...which sometimes rest in silences

realizing, like Ann Voskamp said in her interview, my default is fear.

How I want to do all of this just right. I want to be a good wife, stepmother (I am a mother, in all practical ways), and mostly, a good and faithful child of God.

I care about and invest myself in helping the poor.

But do I show my dependence on Him for that which I lack here in my life?

At bedtime, I tell my 8 year old that God loves and takes care of her, but do I let my fear control me so that I am not showing that I believe and trust God to love and take care of me?

"I'm stumbling through it," Ann says. "It's not my default to get this right. My default is...I am fallen. And how do I intentionally reorient to the Cross, to Christ, and to Gospel again?"

So tonight, as I stumble over rocks which trip me up, rocks of my past, rocks of pain and heartache; tonight I cling to the Rock that is my Salvation and my Hope.

I pray that you are having a blessed and peaceful weekend, wherever you are.

And I am so grateful that we don't get it right all the time.

Because sometimes the sweetest thing is to be lovingly reorientated back to what matters most.

God lifts my head to Him. May He lift yours as well and bid you goodnight.