Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes



For those of you with children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, godchildren, you know how profound those little people can be. Well, my kiddos are no exception. I'd like to share some God-moments for each one...

Kalin a.k.a. K-Man

My13-year-old K-Man is a deep thinker, y'all. One of my friends once nicknamed him D.W. or "Deep Waters". Kalin is the artsy type. He daydreams a lot and lives in a constant state of creating. At any given time he's either composing a new song or rap, writing a book or producing a short film. He's a sanctified Kanye West, J.K. Rowling and Spike Lee all wrapped up in one.

The downfall to this creativity, however, is that people some may not take Kalin seriously. I've had teachers tell me they weren't sure he was really "getting" his work, until he busted an A on an exam. Kalin shocks us with his intellectual and spiritual depth at times.

Take, for instance, a few years ago in Children's Church at Strong Tower. After dramatizing the story of the three Hebrew boys and the fiery furnace, the teachers had begun answering the students' questions about the Daniel text.

One of the children asked, "What did the boys have for food in the furnace? Didn't they get hungry?"

Kalin, who a friend of mine said had looked disinterested during the entire skit, said, "No they didn't get hungry. Jesus was in there with them, and He is the Bread of Life."

Now that could preach. And why do we hunger for the things the world has to offer, when we've got the Bread of Life as our Savior, our Lord, our Friend?

Christian a.k.a. Christian Man a.k.a. Ray Lewis

My Christian Man is the roughneck of the family. Recently he had to write an essay in his third-grade class, answering several questions. Almost each of his answers read "I really want to play in the NFL." And believe me, very few of the questions dealt with future aspirations. For instance, one his questions was "What are you afraid of?" His response: "I'm afraid I might not make it into the NFL." To say he's focused on his life goal is a gross understatement.

On the other hand, Christian is my sensitive heart child. He is the first one to run to his baby sister if she falls, rushing to nurse her wounds and make sure she's okay. He's the quickest to tear up after an offense. And at this time, he's the one whose heart is most bent towards the Lord. A couple of weeks ago, we started leading the kids through the gospel of John. After the first night of study, I prayed that the children would begin to long for our times in the Word. The next night my Christian asked, "Mom, are we going to read John again tonight?" I wish all my prayers for my kids were answered so quickly!

As I compose this blog, Christian just asked where he could find a Bible. He's now reading the Word of God on his own. Right this very moment. God is so good. Lord, may we have a love for your Word that I see in my Christian Man.

Joelle a.k.a. Joellie Bell a.k.a. Joella the Bella

Now my Joelle is my girlie girl. Don't get me wrong. She can run around and wrestle with the big dogs. But I've never known a 5-year-old obsessed with makeup and hair glitter. I call Joelle my "Diva". Once in Children's church the kids drew pictures of what they were praying for. While other children were probably praying for their sick grandmothers, my daughter prayed for, what else? Makeup!

But Joelle is also my sweet, affectionate child. My most extroverted child, Joelle has never met a stranger and never will. I'm convinced her winsome personality will win her homecoming queen, class president and head cheerleader all in her senior year of high school.

Joelle is in that adorable stage in life when she answers every spiritual question with -- Jesus. Who was the first man God created? "Jesus!" Who tried to run away from God and got eaten by a big fish? "Jesus!" Who died to save us from our sins? "Jesus!" Okay, sometimes the answer is actually right.

Although we crack up with the inappropriateness of her answers, it makes me ponder. After all, isn't Jesus really the answer to everything we face in this life?

Jada a.k.a. Jadie Padie a.k.a. Jay Jay

And last, but not least, is my Jada Girl. Although the youngest of the bunch, we haven't been able to convince her of that fact. Jada is quite convinced that she's the boss around here. Jada is my take-charge, no-nonsense two-year-old. She regularly instructs her older siblings what to do and not do, locks all the doors around the house (while everyone's outside the rooms) and constantly asks me for money to buy something from the store.

Jada may be my bookworm. She loves when I read to her, and just "read" her first book herself -- If You Give A Pig a Pancake. I was amazed at how well she'd learned the story. She's also at the "why" stage. We have to remember what all the child development books say about the inquisitive nature of a child so she doesn't drive us crazy with all her questions.

But best of all, Jada already loves to pray. One day Joelle asked me for our regular bedtime prayer. Before I could lay my hands on her and open my mouth to pray, Jada had already laid her hands on her and begun to pray for her big sister. She's done that several times since then. She's a little spitfire prayer warrior.

Last month Ant and I attended a seminar led by Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. His two main points that day: 1. Learn to love people as Jesus does and 2. Pray, pray, pray! My little redhead Jada has encouraged me to do just that.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Today has been a nostalgic day for me. After spending a weekend in Franklin, Tennessee, I just realized how much I really miss that place. Franklin -- for those of you who have never been there -- is a sweet little city outside Nashville. It has the charm of a small Southern town with the conveniences of a larger city. What other city its size has a beautiful mall, almost every food chain you can think of, and both a Borders and Barnes and Noble? What more can a girl ask for?

With all its positive points, what I realize I miss most are the people there. Having resided there for nine years, I dug some really deep roots there. This was evident to me when after church at Strong Tower Bible Church -- where my husband served as Assistant Pastor for several years. While telling a girlfriend that I was praying for a challenge in her life, I found that I was the one in tears. I then commenced to share about the challenges of having relocated, and yet relocated again. When the conversation ended and we parted from one another, I asked myself a deep, heart-probing question: What was that? I was as surprised as she probably was by my tears and my transparency.

The day before I had attended a baby shower for Cassie and Rabo Garba, a young couple that my husband married right before we moved to Virginia. Cassie and Rabo moved to NoVA with us to help us start the church that we thought we were starting there. They lived with us for several months, but moved back to TN when we answered our call to Arkansas. When I saw them and gave them huge hugs -- despite Cassie's protruding belly -- I burst into tears. I guess they were a reminder of both lives that I've left behind -- one in Tennessee, the other in Virginia. Both lives that I was pretty happy with, thank you very much. Standing out on the sidewalk in a flood of tears, and a little embarrassed, I asked that same soul-searching question: What was that?

Now that I've had some time to process, I think I know why the tears fell so readily. In Tennessee, I felt safe. I felt at home.

The sermon yesterday, given by Pastor Curtis Zackery a newly ordained pastor, was right on time for me. He reminded us the real reason behind ministry: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of our heart-stirring worship music and motivating ministry programs and deep theological sermons mean nothing, if the Gospel isn't the motive and the message of it all. At the end of the sermon I recommitted my heart back to the Lord. In my heart, I told him that I'd go anywhere for the Gospel -- even Conway, Arkansas. I don't know when this place will feel like home for me, but then again heaven is really my home anyway. Until my citizenship there is fully realized, I'll go wherever He calls me to go for the sake of the Gospel.

My encouragement and conviction from the Word of God: Mark 10:29-30: "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers and sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields -- and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.'"

Friday, October 8, 2010

You know you're in Arkansas when...

Okay, so I've been serious and deep up to this point. But today I'm feeling kinda silly. So come on and have some fun with me. And if you're in -- or from -- Arkansas, don't be offended. I'm just having a little fun getting acquainted to my new hometown! Trust me, there have been days here that I've had to laugh to keep from crying!

Now I must say, when I lived in Franklin, Tennessee I thought I was in a Southern town. And I was. But now that I'm in Arkansas I must say, I'm in a more Southern town. And I didn't think it possible! So, for whatever it's worth, here's my list of:

YOU KNOW WHEN YOU'RE IN ARKANSAS WHEN...

1. The status symbol of choice isn't a Mercedes or Jaguar, but a big ol' hefty pick-up truck.
2. People don't love Razorbacks paraphernalia, they live for it.
3. Mature and mentally stable adults wear pig snouts to football games.
4. Fried foods (meats, vegetables and fruits) are a delicacy.
5. People either adamantly oppose or adore Bill and Hillary Clinton.
6. Hunting season receives the honor of a national holiday.
7. People sport bumper stickers with pictures of ducks, proclaiming "If it flies, it dies!"
8. Plastic pink flamingos as lawn decorations are alive and well.
9. You can leave the presence of a perfect stranger knowing her name, where she lives and works, where her children go to school and her shoe size.
10. Your fellow Arkansans live five hours or less from several cool major cities, but never visit any of them.

But you also know you're in Arkansas when you meet some of the kindest, sincerest believers in Christ that you could ever meet! And I have already met quite a few of them!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Faith Beyond My Years

For the past few weeks, I've been attending a Bible study at Mosaic Church taught by three of my favorite ladies. The study, entitled "Faithful, Abundant and True: Three Lives Going Deeper Still", is taught by Kay Arthur, Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore. This study has convicted and challenged me tremendously.

This past week, Kay challenged us through the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, often deemed the "Hall of Faith". I was once again challenged by the faithful steps of  Noah, Abraham, Moses and so many others. But what spoke to me deeply through God's Word this week was verse 4:

"By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead."

Amazing. "And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead."

On July 18 of this year, I lost a dear cousin, Marcus L. Adair. Marcus and I grew up close -- geographically and relationally. In my early twenties we landed teaching jobs at the same elementary school, and carpooled together in the mornings and afternoons. Since we shared the last name Adair, our most difficult task there was convincing our coworkers that we were cousins, and not husband and wife. 

Marcus was bright, extremely talented and always smiling. Having earned a PhD in Higher Education Administration and Policy, he had accomplished much in just 43 years. And yet he had the potential and resources to achieve so much more. But Marcus suffered from severe seizures, and the Lord decided to take him home a bit early.

In just a few years, I will reach the age of 43. Who knows how many more years the Lord will give me? When a young person passes away, it makes us all -- young and old -- consider our mortality. I've certainly considered mine. Through Hebrews 11 God has commended me to live a life of faith. A life so full of faith that the testimony of that faith extends beyond my years on earth. I pray that the epitaph on my tombstone could boldly proclaim:

"And by faith Carla still speaks, even though she is dead." And may God receive all the glory for that faith.