Sunday, March 30, 2014

Which (Fill in the Blank) Character Are You?

Lately my Facebook news feed has been overwhelmed with people taking quizzes to find out who they are.

Which Frozen character are you?

Which Twilight character are you?

Which fairytale creature are you?

What state do you actually belong in?

What is your real age?

Maybe I am just way too skeptical and cynical but I feel like all of these quizzes are set-ups for the powers that be to collect data on you.  The same with things that say things like...

LIKE if you love Jesus.

LIKE if you know what this item is.

LIKE if you remember these things from the 80's.

It all seems so fun an innocent.  I say we are way too gullible.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cheerfulness in Serving

"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity:  for God loveth a cheerful giver."  2 Corinthians 9:7

I have to say that this has become one of my life verses over the years.  Most of the times when I've heard it read or quoted, it has been in the context of tithing.  While it certainly can apply there, I think it also applies to many other areas as well.

I had been wanting to find a place to serve for a while since I had become a member of my church.  I wasn't sure where.  I had ideas of things I'd like to do and things I was passionate about, but the thought of adding one more thing to my plate overwhelmed me.  I think maybe the timing just wasn't right.  I felt excited at the thought but overwhelmed at the same time.  I started by doing a few little design tasks here and there which didn't take up too much of my time.  I felt cheerful and joy in my heart being a help in that way.  I loved the projects and I loved just serving as part of the body of Christ.  At the time, that was all I was capable of and I learned to be okay with it.

When I first became a member of the church there was one thing I feared... because I had children in the children's ministry I feared I would be expected to serve in the children's ministry.  I did not want to serve in the children's ministry.  I wouldn't mind maybe holding babies during the services but I definitely was not interested in teaching toddlers or older children.  I had been there and done that already for many years in the past.  I was ready to be done with it and just enjoy NOT serving in that area anymore.  My two children were enough to handle.

Then last summer, I was asked to help with the children's craft time during the summer mid-week children's program.  I wasn't going to be in charge of the whole program.  I wasn't even in charge of the craft.  I would just be helping with the craft.  I love crafts.  I thought it might be kind of fun.  After all, it was only for about five or six weeks over the summer.  I cheerfully agreed.  And I had a great time.

A few months later, since I had a good time helping out with the summer crafts, I was asked if I would be interested in helping in children's church once a month.  Again, I wouldn't be in charge of anything, I would just be leading the review at the end and the game.  This time I was less cheerful but because there was a need, I reluctantly said I would pray about it.  I decided to sit in on the class one Sunday to get a feel of what I would be doing.  Maybe I would feel more comfortable after that.

At the same time this was happening, I had also been dealing with a lot of anxiety and panic attacks.  (They were separate and not as a result of the children's ministry idea just to be clear).  I was really struggling.  I felt comfort in talking to the assistant pastor's wife about it all who, ironically, was the same person who asked me about helping in children's church.  Funny how that happens.  She was always very kind and sympathetic to my needs.  She obviously saw something in me that I did not see.

The longer I sat through that first children's church lesson, the more and more uncomfortable I felt about it.  My anxiety was increasing.  I sat counting the minutes until it was over.  It seemed like an eternity.  I knew I was going to have to say no but I also felt terrible saying no.  I felt guilty saying no.  Here I was with two kids in the children's ministry and I was unwilling to work in the children's ministry.  What a selfish church member I felt like I was.  But I knew I had to say no.  Or at least not yet.  I could have forced myself to do it but I kept thinking of 2 Corinthians 9:7.  I would be serving out of obligation not as a cheerful giver.  At the end of that service, I explained that I just wasn't ready yet to take on that role.

Several months later my anxiety was well under control and I was asked to lead the craft for the midweek summer children's program this year.  This time I won't be just helping with the crafts.  I'll be in charge of it.  I enthusiastically and cheerfully said yes.  I enjoyed helping last year and I do enjoy being in charge of things as well.  I couldn't wait to go home and search Pinterest for all kinds of ideas related to the summer theme.  It felt good to be involved in something that I enjoy doing and I feel like God has equipped me to do.

And then it came.  The second request to consider working in children's church one Sunday a month.  I promised to pray about it.  I was still unsure if it was something I really felt like I should do.  I prayed all week until that next Sunday.  When the woman in charge came and sat down next to me that week she handed me the lesson for "my" week.  I guess the Lord must have told her I was going to do it before He told me, ha ha!  I didn't know when I walked into the sanctuary that I was going to do it, but as soon as she handed those papers to me, I felt a confidence and excitement about serving in the children's ministry.  It was most certainly a supernatural act of God to change my heart that way.  He certainly did give me the desires of my heart because prior to that, those desires had not been there for a while.

I'm glad I said no that first time.  I really wasn't ready.  I'm also glad I said yes the second time with a cheerful heart.  That Sunday that I taught it was amazing.  I had the best time!  The kids were all really engaged.  They were all able to learn their Bible verse in a fun way.  They weren't wiggling in their seats and talking to their neighbors.  They were all involved and excited!  Even though I had come to be excited to serve in there, I didn't expect how much I would love it.  I currently can't wait until my next week to serve!

It was also exciting just experiencing the process with God.  It wasn't really fear that kept me from serving that first time.  My spirit really felt checked by the Holy Spirit that the timing wasn't right.  I know that God could have still moved in that class if I had agree the first time because, after all, it's not about me.  I just know I would have been serving out of guilt or obligation and it wouldn't be the same.  It's like the safety demonstration on an airplane... in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, they always tell you to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.  That's because you can't assist others if you're not okay yourself.

It was a neat lesson to learn and a great experience for me to walk through.  Please understand that I'm not saying feelings are the test of whether or not you are in God's will.  After all, Jonah felt far from cheerful when God told him to go to Nineveh.  Sometimes it's our attitude that needs adjusting and God will be in every step of that process as we humble ourselves and learn to trust Him.  However I also believe the words of Psalm 3:4, "Delight thyself also in the Lord: and He shall give thee the desires of thing heart."

I love what Oswald Chambers said once:

When you are rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight, you are God's will, and all your common-sense decisions are His will for you unless He checks.  You decide things in perfect delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will always check;  when He checks, stop at once.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Anxiety Training for Kids

I've mentioned before that my nine year old son, Garren has DiGeorge Syndrome as well as autism.  Last year I took him to an anxiety training study at the children's hospital and the techniques we learned and practiced there have really had a life changing effect on him.

Last weekend we went to a bounce house place.  My six year old, Evan was all over that place.  He went on everything.  He didn't care how tall or steep the slides were.  He wanted to go on them all at least a hundred times!  He had a BLAST!

As I sat down to watch my little one run from bounce house to bounce house, Garren chose to sit right next to me instead of exploring.  He didn't like all the commotion of kids "acting crazy."  He didn't like how high some of the slides were.  He didn't like the thought of bouncing around where other kids might bump or run into him.  He just preferred to stay right next to me.

However, I had paid $9 for him to go there and by golly he was going to jump before we left that afternoon!  Plus I wanted him to be able to face his fears and be proud of his accomplishment.

We started out just walking around and looking at all the different bounce houses.  We talked about each of them.  Some had smaller slides.  Some had larger slides.  Some had more areas to jump.  Some had an obstacle course.

Next we went around and touched the outside of the different bounce houses.  We went slowly and just followed little brother around watching him have a great time with his friend who came along.

After that, I encouraged him to sit just on the edge of each bounce house but not go all the way inside. He was a little apprehensive at first so I assured him he didn't have to go in any further than he wanted to as long as he at least sat on the edge for a couple of seconds.  He slowly tried out each one.  After a few stops, he decided to surprise me and even stand up and go in a little further all on his own.  He was so proud of himself.  And of course I whooped and hollered for this great accomplishment.

Now that he was getting a little braver, I encouraged him to not just sit on the edge but climb in part way on each bounce house.  He was happy to oblige. 

The moment was here.  It was time for him to attempt going all the way inside a bounce house.  He wasn't sure whether he had the courage to take on this task.  We chose the simplest of bounce houses as a good place to start.  It was mostly just a flat jumping area with a small slide off to the side.  He waited for it to clear out and then ventured his way in.  This time he didn't just sit in the middle.  He stood up and started jumping!  "Look at me!!!" he said beaming with excitement.

Now he was a pro.  On that one anyway.  Next it was the obstacle course.  It had two entrances and wasn't very busy so I assured him that I would block off one side so no one would come in and bounce behind him.  He went about half way through.  He didn't quite make it to the slide part at that point yet but he did go in far enough that I couldn't see him anymore.

He still wasn't ready to try any of the slides yet and decided he wanted to just take a break and watch his brother.  I tried to convince him that he was really brave and I was pretty sure he would do great on the pirate ship bounce house slide as it was the smallest slide of all of them.  He wasn't so sure. This is where bribery came in.  He loves to watch monorail videos on You Tube so I told him later that day he would be allowed to watch 15 minutes of videos plus one extra minute for every time he went down a slide.  Well, wouldn't you know... he hopped right up and climbed in!

He was still a little hesitant once he got in.  That's when I witnessed a sight that would melt any mama's heart. Evan climbed in with him, took his hand, and led him up to the slide encouraging him that he could do it as they climbed up.  That kid has the kindest little heart!

Next thing I knew, they were both sliding down!  That was the first of twenty-five times down the slide!  He actually tried three different slides that day.  I was so proud of him and let him know.  We talked about how even though he was afraid, he still faced his fears and tried it anyway.  That's courage.

Anxiety training is great.  It not only helps kids overcome their fears, it also develops confidence and courage to try new things.  The same technique has worked with a lot of Garren's fears.  Take it slow.  One baby step at a time.  I don't always have to prompt him every time anymore.  He will try some new things and can't wait to show everyone how brave he was.  His favorite line is "I was afraid and didn't really like it but I still tried it anyway!"

"Wait on the Lord:  be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart."  Psalm 27:14