From the Mouths of Babes…Valentines Day

We tried to make Valentines Day really special this year. The month of February we all memorized I Corinthians 13:4-8 and I John 4:7-11, and the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.

Our Love Tree. With a listing of all that love is, based on I Corinthians 13

Our Love Tree. With a listing of all that love is, based on I Corinthians 13

We learned about the history of St. Valentine. Then, on February 4, the kids found this sign in the kitchen:

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And each day, they would find a new heart on their door with something their mother loves about them [Can I just HIGHLY recommend doing something like this, especially if you are struggling with appreciating your children, ahem, I mean, not that I don’t always appreciate them, of course. But writing out their good qualities does something to a mother’s heart in thankfulness for the great things about them, and somehow lifts one above the complaining spirits or the bickering or the fact that they always forget to do their chores, and it enables us to see beyond the frustrations that can bog one down] So that by Valentine’s Day, their doors looked like this:

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And My sweet, loving husband, set out dark chocolates and flowers for me after I fell asleep (no huge feat, for I’m falling asleep around 8:30 pm these days). Which looked like this when I got up at 5:00 am to get water and set up the rest of the kid’s surprises (little boxes of chocolate, heart cookies, and waffle mix ready for the waffle maker).

My husband set up the table for me. Soon to be bombarded by the "results of our love".

My husband set up the table for me. Soon to be bombarded by the “results of our love”.

Danny's "Healthy Valentine" from me

Danny’s “Healthy Valentine” from me

After being up for a little while, I headed back to bed to doze for a few minutes before the masses came storming down our door.  It wasn’t long before I heard it….

“Moooommmmmmyyyyyyyy!!!!!!! Benjamin ate some of your chocolate from the table!!!! I see it on his face!”  Daniel Josiah our faithful, controlling, reporting son exposes the crime.

Then we hear Benjamin’s little voice at the door.

“No, I didn’t!!! No, I didn’t! Somebody….somebody….somebody just come put chocolate on my face!!”

And some people think children are born good, with pure hearts.

Well, we didn’t teach that child to LIE (and do a bad job of it) just to save himself from getting in trouble. No, I think that comes deep within. And its in all of us. And we all need a perfect Savior because of it.  A Savior who the real St. Valentine’s needed, and needed so badly that he was willing to die for Him.

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We must win them.

We had just finished going through Barnabas Aid’s prayer guide for the persecute church.  Nearly every single prayer plea was for Christians suffering in the hands of Muslim persecutors. That’s when Dave called to tell me he found an international student that needed a room to rent, and would it work out for us to rent ours to him?

“Yes! We’d love to meet him and see what we can work out.  Where is he from?”

“He’s a Muslim young man from Libya.” I hear on the other end of the line.

And I’m embarrassed to confess the very first thought that flashed through my mind.

“He’s going to bomb our house.”

It’s true.  It’s the very first thing that came to my mind, and in light of last weeks events, and the many worldwide ones, and 9/11, it probably runs through yours as well.

Fear of radical Islamist and their slow, strategic infiltration of countries throughout the world, including our own, haunts me. Fear for my children, and fear for their children haunts me.

But not for long. Because, just as I had to remind myself of the truth when my first thought was that this Libyan man who ended up becoming like a family member was going to bomb our house,  I also have to remind myself of which Kingdom I belong to. And where my Hope and Security rests.

For persecutions, nail-embedded bombs, and crashing towers are a temporal thing, and I serve a King whose Kingdom lasts far longer, and has far greater power than the encroaching power I see entering into this temporal “Land of the Free”.

And I serve a King who did not run and hide from those that would crucify him, but who entered into their midst that He might win the few whose hearts would open to a love and forgiveness and truth found in Him.

And I serve a King who even today has not turned His back on the 1.6 billion Muslims who have been told lies about who Jesus is, and who live, and work, and play, and raise children in a darkness yet to be infiltrated by the Light of the World.

And I serve a King who told us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.

Because He Himself did so.

He even loved me.

And because I was once an enemy of the Living God, declaring jihad on anything or anyone who got it the way of fulfilling the god of myself, and he didn’t ignore me.  He didn’t move away from me.  He did not hate me.  He died for me.

So our family moved into a place of personal death of fear, death of stereotypes, and death of pride.

And we extended our hearts, and our home, to a man from the religion that licenses the killing of my brothers and sisters in northern Africa, and the Middle East and throughout the world.

And OUR world opened up. We got to know quiet, thoughtful Adnan whose smiles were brought forth most frequently when seeing our children play. Which led to meeting his friends, and celebrating their graduations, birthdays, and births of new babies. Which led to the joy of getting to know “James and John” through a Christmas hosting program. Which led to adopting our next very Muslim, Libyan tenant-turned-family member, Nader.  Which led to his entire family, including his parents come to stay with us over the course of the next few weeks. Which has led to a whole new view on Muslims.  The Muslims who DON’T make the news because they are busy working, and taking care of their children, and having parties for their friends, and living a quiet, humble life, just like we are. How do I know?  Nader’s mother, Wafa, brought me a stack of old pictures from Nader’s childhood (brought from Libya to be put in a slideshow at Nader’s upcoming wedding).  And they could have been a stack of my own family’s pictures…Vacations to the beach, toddlers running around in diapers, siblings playing dress ups, trips taken to other countries, Boy Scout events (yes, they have Boy Scouts in Libya), birthday cakes, and smiling faces pausing in the middle of life’s joys to be captured on camera. And they stop to say their prayers, and they memorize the Qaran, and celebrate their religious holidays, JUST LIKE US.

Except.

Except, they do it without the Light of the World reigning in their world.  They do it, having a truncated view of the real Jesus, Isa or Yesu, and therefore live in ignorance of Who He Truly is, and the wonder and joy of knowing Him. They do so always trying to obtain a righteousness, good enough for Allah, when a Righteousness has already be paid in blood, and given freely to them to receive as a gift, not as an earning,

IF

SOMEONE

WOULD

JUST

TELL

THEM.

AND SHOW THEM. AND PRAY THEM INTO THE KINGDOM OF THE KING OF LOVE.

What better way to reach a people who have been so unreachable for the past several decades.  We are hindered from going THERE.  But they are coming HERE.  And we cannot ignore them, or hide from them, or fear them or fight them…… we must win them.

Win them with love. Win them with hospitality. Win them with generosity. Win them with forgiveness.  Win them with prayer. Win them with the TRUTH.  For Truth Himself, won us, and now lives in us, and He is strong enough to overcome every hint of fear, stereotyping, and pride in our hearts, if we just offer up to Him ourselves.

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I love you bigger…

I love you bigger….than mudprints you just left all over my newly mopped floor.

I love you bigger….than the noise level you  bring to our home.

I love you bigger….than the temper tantrum you just had in the middle of the grocery check-out line.

I love you bigger…than being on-time to all the places I need to get to.

I love you bigger….than ever being “caught up” with housework.

I love you bigger…than having the sense of accomplishing something that stays accomplished.

I love you bigger…than the feeling of being recognized for my hard work and sacrifice.

I love you bigger…than an immediate, tangible, visible “contribution to the Kingdom” which I could gaze upon.

I love you bigger than all these inconveniences and frustrations, for you are are little souls, little creative minds, little bundles of energy that bring so much LIFE and fullness to my days.

I love you bigger, for Someone has loved me bigger.  Because, lets face it kiddos, apart from a Spirit-work, this Mt. Rushmore of SELF in your mama, with all its carved images just doesn’t move easily.  And those images of cleanliness and organization, of free time, of my pride out in public, of my convenience, of being in control, of feeling significant….they don’t move too easily.  But the Everlasting Father has loved me bigger than my temper tantrums, my obstinate self-reliance, my godlessness and He’s intervened His Son into this messy whirlwind of my sin. And He’s destined me to glory.  So, as the breath of His Spirit moves through me, that Mt. Rushmore starts to crumble, ever so slowly.

And guess what anvil He is using to chip away those images carved into stone?

He’s using YOU.

And all those things you do to force me to make a choice over what I will love bigger,

they are the means by which He is doing it.

Thank you, sweet ones.