Boxed Curriculum, Busy Work, and Being

20 years ago when my oldest was kindergarten age we started to homeschool. I wanted the best for my son so I went to an Abeka meeting at a local hotel and purchased the entire kit for kindergarten. Teachers manuals, flashcards, and all. When my boxes arrived I worked hard setting up the school room. I got a little wooden school desk for him at a yard sale. I hung up posters. Made folders up. Got my lesson plans ready. I was on top of it. Then the first day began.

Through out his preschool days he had already learned a lot. Mainly by us taking construction paper and doing little made up projects that I thought up on how to learn letter sounds and recognize numbers. Nothing formal, just us playing and learning together in a fun atmosphere, but in my mind, in order to do things right, I needed to become more disciplined and do everything by the books, literally…

That’s when the trouble began… My sweet 5 year old son struggled with the concept of sitting still and doing page after page after page of workbook work. There were no fun projects. It was just him at a desk with a pencil.

In order to get through a day, we would do 15 minutes on 15 minutes off. I would make him plow through every page. Even if he understood the concept. It was miserable for him. It was miserable for me. After several weeks of this, I started talking to a seasoned homeschool mom. She encouraged me to return to what worked: A little less busywork, a little more creativity and fun. Now 19 years later, with 3 kids graduated from our homeschool and either graduated college or in college, I’m on my final kid, a sophomore. He’s benefited from all the experiments I tried on his older brother, who I’ve jokingly referred to as “the guinea pig”. I’d like to think his learning through the years has been a combination of the best, creative fun learning experiences through the years.

This morning as I read my Bible I came across the story of Mary and Martha. I was contemplating my own life. How I’ve set up a lot of religious “busywork” trying to create “the best” Christian life I can. Running Bible studies, heading up ministries, going to leader meetings, etc. But somewhere along the line the “busywork” has stolen the joy of a creative, living, breathing relationship that I’m meant to have with Jesus. I’ve reduced myself to a lifestyle that mirrors the kindergarten year of my oldest son. “Sit here for 15 min. Do this work. 15 minute break. Repeat.” All of this to try to make something special out of my life for the Master.

I’ve been a lot like Martha, wanting to have things perfect. Having thrown several dinner parties in my home, I can imagine her thought process. Everything must be in place, sparkling, and the food needs to be excellent as well. Jesus pointed out that that was not his expectations. Mary’s approach was what touched His heart. She wanted to be with Him. Soak Him and every word He said in. Enjoy the moment with Him because the moment was all she had and soon it would be gone.

Lately, I’ve woke up in a new position. A lot of the things I was striving to do ministry wise have suddenly ended. All the busywork has stopped. I’ve awaken to a new possibility of letting the Martha in me go and embracing the Mary. In a homeschool mom’s terms: I’ve come to a place where I can let go of the boxed curriculum’s rigidity and embrace life giving and freeing lifestyle learning.

God give me the grace to open my eyes and enjoy the things I already have. Let the striving for more cease as I learn once again to sit still at your feet and soak who you are in. Let You be enough. Not what I think I can build to enhance the perfection that You already are. Let me be like Mary and sit at your feet, enjoying You and all that You have given me to enjoy.

“Lost the Plot”- How Did We Get Here?

A few days ago another prominent Christian came out as questioning and denying his faith, Marty Sampson of Hillsong in Australia. For some reason the ins and outs of his Instagram confession have been reverberating inside of me. My own questions arise: As the church, how have we missed it that we have not addressed the issues he struggled with: “Preachers fall”, “Miracles don’t happen”, “Bible contradictions”, “a loving God sending people to Hell”, “Judgemental Christians”, and “Just Believe it- never doubt” ?

I think most of these questions are rooted in a much deeper issue than one of an individuals “crisis of faith”. I believe they come from a disillusioned parishioner of a well oiled, performance machine/ business that we commonly call “the church”. It’s an oh too common scene in our modern church world. How can we get more people, build larger facilities, create a more exciting atmosphere, have the best programs, be the “church” that has a name everyone knows? In the meantime the ones within the machine bear up under the weight of trying to be producers and workers instead of what we were meant to be “the bride of Christ”; a “family”, instead of a multi level marketing scheme that we buy in on in hopes of creating some kind of profit in our own life- the benefits of association I guess…

My heart aches for this man that I don’t know. Because all the questions he listed are questions that many struggle with and instead of reaching out with loving answers, we point our fingers and doubt the sincerity of all the years he tried to be what he says now he is not. It is sad to me that the weight of the lies he has struggled to overcome have now outweighed the truth in his life and now he finds himself on the outside of the church and his relationship with God and he is “fine with that”.

The Newsboys released a song in 1996 called “Lost the Plot”. The lyrics are a haunting reminder of where we land as a church:

“Out among free-range sheep

While the big birds sharpen their claws.

For a time we stuck with the Shepherd

But You wouldn’t play Santa Claus


Let’s be blunt.

We’re a little distracted.

What do You want?

Once we could follow,

Now we cannot.

You would not fit our image,

So we lost the plot

Once we could hear You.

Now our senses are shot.

We’ve fogotten our first love.

We have lost the plot.”

Is the gospel really reduced to an hour/ hour and a half production on Sunday that we can come in, go through the motions, and then go home, having checked off the box that we went to church on our “What Christians Do List”?

“We’ve forgotten our first love. We have lost the plot.”

I’ve been looking at accounts of the early church in Acts quite a bit lately. Trying to sort out in my mind and heart what we, as the church, should be looking like. I guess a lot of the picture I had in my mind of what it should be has become what it should not. Like the people in the time of the Tower of Babel we’ve ignored the order to go out and influence the entire world by multiplying in it and spreading out. Instead we’re content to build ourselves a tower and make a name for ourselves. We don’t want to be scattered we want what’s comfortable and convenient. Once again, we’ve “lost the plot”.

I keep wondering if there was some place and time in Marty Sampson’s life where his “religion” was more about “relationship”. Not only between himself and God, but between sincere believers that lived as family and not a business. That maybe within that time there was a seed planted of what it is we were supposed to be by now. Not all the trappings of a performance, music label, organization, etc. But an organism a living, breathing body that exists for so much more than building a name for itself, but as the bride, to know her groom, Jesus, in the most intimate way possible; as a family to laugh with those who laugh and cry with those who cry; as Jesus body to glorify God, not ourselves, in all we do with humility and love.

God grant us the grace to return to our first love.

Be Strong and Courageous

Written 3 years ago as my Facebook Post, I needed this today:

Youthful zeal is a good thing. As a high school and college student, I had confidence in a God who answered my prayers and I knew that through Him I could conquer giants. Time and circumstances can wear away at your confidence, if given the opportunity, or time and circumstances can build your faith to see the faithfulness of God in all things.

I am struck this morning by the life of Joshua. He lived a long life and saw the miraculous. If I’ve got this all calculated out right, he crossed the Red Sea and saw the armies of Pharaoh drown in the water. He spied out the Promised Land at the age of around 40. He wasn’t intimidated at the size of the giants in the land or their fortified cities. Instead He boldly said, “The Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:9)

Due to the Israelite’s rebellion, he wandered with them for 40 years depending on the Lord’s provisions of Quail and Manna. He saw the constant complaining of the people. He was there when the people worshiped the golden calf. He experienced all the hardships of wandering and watched as one by one the people who rebelled died. Once again at the age of around 80 he was given the chance to go in and conquer giants.

This is what sticks out to me the most in the story of his life. Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God comes to Joshua and tells him, “You are going to lead this people into the land I have promised. I am going to go with you. You are going to conquer the land.” But more than anything, He tells Joshua more than once, “Be strong and courageous.” He encourages him to not be afraid. Could it be that there was a reason for that? Joshua knew what was ahead. He knew there were fortified cities. He knew there were giants. He saw them. Could it be that the 40 years of wandering and watching may have worked a little on his resolve? He knew he had a big God capable of miraculous intervention, but he also knew the hardship of walking out God’s plan for him in 40 years of wandering with God’s people. Maybe Joshua needed to hear God say, “Don’t be afraid.”

I’ve always pictured Joshua as some muscle bound, warrior. Chomping at the bit to go out and conquer it all. It’s quite a bit different to picture him as an 80 year old man, who has seen a lot in his lifetime and may be a little weary from the journey. It may be possible that Joshua needed to hear, “Be strong and courageous.” Straight from the lips of God. So he would know that God really wasn’t done with him yet. He had plans for him and promises yet to be fulfilled.

Giants in the land can be quite the intimidating thing. Fortified cities can stand before you as a mountainous obstacle. Wandering around for 40 years can wear on your resolve.

Sometimes I can look at what I perceive I must face in front of me and I may feel like the 80 year old Joshua inside of me. I know I have a faithful God. I have seen Him do great miracles. Yet I stand at the beginning of yet another adventure and wonder, “Do I have the stuff to conquer the giants facing me?” Here is where I can find great comfort in looking at the life of Joshua. Forty years later, at the age of 120, as he knew he was getting close to dying he says these words, “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Joshua 23:14.

He fought many hard battles as they conquered the Promised Land. But he also knew the secret to his success. “The Lord God fights for you. Just as He promised. ” Joshua 23:10

My giants I face may stand looming as great opponents of significant size, but my God who fights for me is bigger than whatever battle I face. Not one promise of my God will fail me. They will all be fulfilled, and I stand as a victor against my enemies that rise up and try to cause me to walk in fear and doubt.

Now is not the time at the age of 45 to curl up and say that life is too hard. Now is the time to go on in and let the Lord fight for me as He leads me to the place He has given me. His place of Victory in Jesus.