Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Don't See Me at the Pole

It's national See You at the Pole day.  This is a time designed for students to gather around their school flag pole for a few moments before the start of class to share in unity and prayer.  This is a great time for corporate prayer led by students, for our students, teachers, and nation.  I encouraged my two older daughters to head to the pole at their respective schools and I accompanied my youngest daughter to her elementary school.  My youngest had not yet participated in a See You at the Pole prayer and as we walked to the pole, she had some questions:

What are we going to pray about?

Who is going to pray?

What if nobody shows up?

These were all good questions.  I really only had an answer for the first one.  Questions two & three I had not considered.  Surely, we knew a handful of other Christians attending this school.  Did they know about this event?  Then I was mad at myself for not organizing a gathering.  I've been a poor planner recently.   

We arrived at the pole well before there was activity at the school and much to our surprise, no one else was gathered.  My daughter looked up at me and took my hand and shrugged and said, "Okay, Mama, let's pray".  I said, "Should we pray aloud or silently?" "Let's do it in our heads." She said.  So by ourselves we bowed our heads and prayed.  As the start of class drew closer, the teachers and crossing-guards took their posts.  And one by one the sidewalk filled with moms and students.  Nobody else showed up to the flag pole and my daughter continued to pray.  

I, on the other hand, self-consciously opened my eyes, and sort of posed as though I was looking at a bug on the concrete.  My prayer was replaced with a few other thoughts:

I can't pray with all this distraction-don't these kids see I'm praying?

Oh, there's my neighbor.  I wonder if she's wondering what I'm doing. What do I look like I'm doing?  Do I look like I'm looking at a bug?

I wished I lived in the South.  I'll bet there are 150 students gathered at every elementary flagpole in the South.  Oh how I love the South.  

And as my ten-year-old daughter continued to pray among the noise and awkwardness, I realized this is why Jesus said we should be like the little children. (Matthew 18:3)  My little child wasn't embarrassed to be there praying by herself.  She wasn't worried what people thought of her.   I stumbled for a few minutes standing near that flagpole because I have never considered myself concerned with what people think about my love for my God.  I've never been quiet about or been ashamed of my faith.  I have always thought I would die before I denied Jesus and yet I could not even pray for 30 minutes in front of other people not doing the same. I could blame it on general insecurity, because I hate being noticed or standing out.  I could armchair psychologist this baby til the cows come home, but God and I know the truth and the truth is that I didn't want to be weird or have someone think, "Wow! Taking that Jesus-thing a little too far.  Now WHY is Carie PRAYING in front of the school?!"  

So as I ask forgiveness in the quiet confines of my home, I will also ask to to be more like my sweet girl who cares nothing of what others think of her faith.  Maybe more importantly, I'll ask that she continues to be fearlessly unashamed of any aspect of her relationship with God and that she'll never feel she has to pretend she's quietly observing a bug on the concrete instead of fully engaged in prayer because she'll be so locked into the moment with God, she won't be preoccupied with anyone or anything else. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Girl Who Will Eat You for Breakfast

My 14 year old knows these girls.  You probably know them, too. You know those girls, the ones who send other girls into the bathroom to cry?   She chooses not to spend time with them, but they're a little hard to avoid.  They're at Youth Group, school, and Theater.  She really can't escape them and it's become quite disturbing for her.  They're that 'it' crowd and she's watched them suck her friends in and spit them out and then watched as those same girls are sucked back in again.  Frankly, she's disgusted and it's been a challenge as her mother to stand by and watch.   My trite and feeble attempts to console and encourage her fall short.  
"Keep your chin up"  
"Don't stoop to their level"  
"What would Jesus do?" 
just haven't helped.  This morning I was reminded of scripture.  On her way out the door, I told her to remind me to talk to her about heaping coals.  She was in a hurry and often thinks I'm weird anyway so she just said "ok" as she headed off to school.  For those unfamiliar, heaping coals comes from chapter 12 in Romans and reads: 
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. 20"BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
If you know me really well, you know I come from a family of very strong personalities.  I was raised by a strong, in-your-face and fairly pugnacious man.  I am a chip of the old block, albeit not so feminine.   I own a sharp tongue, sport a [very unhealthy] competitive nature, and frankly, if provoked, I am a girl who could eat you for breakfast.  I'm a girl who sees injustice, cries foul and instinctively reaches for my vigilante badge.  If you wrong someone I love, I see red.  I am not a girl who naturally comes upon relinquishing vengeance and I am most certainly not someone who feels inclined to offer my enemy a drink.

The thing is, I have to squash the breakfast binging girl inside of me every single day.  Not because she's ineffective, rather because I was supposed to have washed her away in a baptismal fountain in 1998.  I have learned there is no space inside of me for both the Holy Spirit and an antagonistic spirit.  There just isn't.  Every day I have to choose which I'll allow to occupy me.  

Today while telling my daughter about heaping coals upon her enemy's head, I told her about my battle and that she will have to make the same choice here because let's face it, we all have a little something ugly inside of us we have to fight.   I want to encourage her to allow the gentler, kinder, Holy Spirit to prevail.  It doesn't mean it will feel good while doing it and it doesn't mean we will win in every situation.  But it will mean she did as God desires her to, and after all, that's the only victory we need to claim.  Let someone else eat the mean girls for breakfast.