Friday, May 24, 2013

Coming of Age

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

When I was in high school, I dated a young man who belonged to a religious group that is generally recognized amongst evangelicals as a 'Bible-based cult'.

[Aside:  that always seemed odd to me, as the premise of belief in that (and other groups that share the same designation) is that the Bible has been corrupted and is not the final word on faith and, in fact, cannot be trusted.  So the term 'Bible-based' seemed but that's a  topic for another day.]

Anyway, I was shocked to learn in the early stages of our relationship that he did not view the Bible in the same way that I did; that he did not believe the church I attended had any authority to operate as a church at all...well, let's just say that there were a NUMBER of points upon which we found ourselves at odds.

But, having grown up in the little evangelic congregation, I had not been much exposed to other viewpoints.  Suddenly, it was not enough to know what my preacher said or what my Sunday School teacher said...I found myself in the position of needing to know what I really believed for myself and began a journey of reading and studying my beautiful little Cambridge King James Bible to find out.

First, I had to decide what I believed about the Bible itself...was it trustworthy?  Or was it corrupted?  Was it truly the word of God, or just a bunch of religious writings by some old dudes a long, long time ago? If I believed God inspired the old dudes to write, then I had to decided what I believed about God...was He really interested in the people walking around on the planet?  Did He even exist, really?

It was a lot of thinking for a 16 - 17 year old.  I won't go through the whole process, but in the end, I decided that I did believe God existed, that He does care about people, that He caused the Bible to be written and preserved it for generations to come...and that what it said was true.

That really should've been the end of that dating relationship, but, well, I really wasn't very emotionally strong as a teen and it took me about 3 years and two tries before it finally ended.  That's also a story for another day.  Maybe.

But the whole process had a benefit that I was not even aware of at the time...I made the decision to live life absolutely as a daughter of God.  I fell in love with His word.  I learned to talk and to listen to Him.

In short, I made the faith that I had grown up learning about part of my identity and character.  I moved from religious observation of rules and doctrine to relationship.

Before I left home.

That has made all the difference in the world in my life.  I have watched church friends, who did not make that decision before leaving home, walk through very dark and difficult things.  Some have come back 'round, with hard earned lessons; some have not and are still struggling in many ways all these years later.

This is why I teach teens today.

Because there comes a time in the life of every kid raised in a Christian home, who grew up going to church and hearing all the Bible stories, when that child has to make a life-determining decision.  Even if they made a profession of faith and were baptized at an early age, the decision still has to be affirmed as a abstract-thinking self-determining young adult.

The decision is to walk in relationship with God, walk in religion or walk away.

The most humbling thing as a teacher of a parent of to see a youngster at that point of decision and know that it is the kid who must make the decision, from their own convictions.

I grieve when I see kids choose to make it religious...'I do the church stuff and then I do what I want' OR have a strict do/do not list of rules to live by...because they have missed the joy of relationship.  I grieve still more when I see kids walk away, who make decisions that cost them so much.

So I pray and I do my best to show these young ones that God is real, He loves each of them as a true daughter, He can be trusted, and the Bible is a love letter full of  wisdom and guidance.  And then I pray some more.

Because I know that the tipping point of decision will set the tone for much of their lives. It matters.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Verse 10: Exodus 33:21

Last week, for some reason, I found myself reading down the Faithful Friday Faves summary list and suddenly realized that, although I have already memorized a fair number of those verses, and a few of them were lengthy passages that did not lend themselves to memorization,  there were several verses listed that I had never committed to memory.

So I decided that, if I didn't have a verse ready to go by the time the next one is due, I'd pull a verse from that list.

And, lo and behold, the second verse on the list was one that had actually popped up in various places in the last couple of weeks.  So I decided that it might be a good time to pull that one out and get it in the game.

Here's the tenth SSMT verse:

Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock." - Ex. 33:21

That has so many layers of truth on it that it'll take me the next two weeks just to ponder on them.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Oh. You mean me.

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi.

Our current topic in Friends Club is 'self esteem'...but we have some adolescent drama that is smoldering in the background and, instead of doing the intended teaching on self esteem, I found myself telling the following story...which I thought I had posted here, but an extended search did not turn it up, so here goes...

Back in the day, I was the youth leader in a very small church.  We had our share of adolescent drama then, too, and I remembered one young lady who was very easily offended, often by folks she didn't even have actual contact with, because they happened to scowl in her direction, or some such thing.   I assume that by now she has outgrown that...but I am not in a position to know.

However, a year or two or three ago, I had a dream that I was back in that position, planning a major youth trip.  And this particular young lady showed up wanting to go.  However, she had with her a large package of Pull Ups, as (remember, I was dreaming) she was not yet potty trained.  At age 16 or 17.  She just couldn't be bothered.

I remember that I was absolutely flabbergasted...not just because she was not yet potty trained, but because she expected to go along with us and make all of us deal with the issue.  Of course, I told her that she could not possibly go along with us unless she made up her mind to deal with her, um, issues in a more, um, mature fashion.  

She was upset, but, because she wanted to go on the trip, she reluctantly agreed.

Then I woke up.

I was really surprised at it; I hadn't thought of this particular child in a long time, really, and I didn't know why I would dream about her in that fashion.

Then I remembered something from the class I had on dreams and their interpretation...that a dream about another person really isn't about the other's about me.

Suddenly, the whole dream took on a new shape.

It wasn't the youngster who had maturity was me.  There were (are?) areas in my life that I am not dealing with in a mature fashion...and I cannot go where God wants to take me unless I pull myself together and deal with it.    Put on the big girl panties, as I have heard in many places and fits this scenario extraordinarily well.

Of course, that applied to the drama in the classroom, but I have to ask myself...does it still apply to me?  Am I STILL refusing to deal with issues that are keeping me from going forward?


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Verse 9 - Ps. 51:12

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

May first

Time for the next SSMT verse.

This time, I found a likely verse in one of my studies sometime last week and marked it so I could find it easily when today rolled around.

Problem was, when today rolled around I couldn't remember which one of the studies it was.  The Girls Only lessons?  The Friends lessons?  One of the other books I'd been reading?


So I picked up my teacher manuals and skimmed through the last few lessons to see if, perhaps, the elusive verse was notably marked.


But, in the looking around I found myself taken in by another familiar scripture that hit me in a whole new way.

So.  The May 1st verse it is.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. - Ps 51:12, NIV 84

What hit me this time was the second half of the verse... grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. We have heard much about the first part of the verse, David's plea for restoration after his huge moral failure, but that second part does not get much press.

But read it over.  A willing spirit to sustain me.  A willing spirit to sustain me.  A willing spirit to sustain me.  Willing to follow, willing to obey, willing to serve...and the willingness is, of itself, a gift of grace.

If the joy of the Lord is my strength, then that gift of willingness in my own spirit is my endurance.

And I'd never seen it quite like that before.