What My Weekend Plans Have to do With You

Day 20, Prompt: WEEKEND

I posted this on my Facebook page last weekend after a particularly exhausting day in the Lord’s house with little ones: In my host country, we go to church on Saturdays. So Sunday is my day of rest and Saturday is the day I wrestle my son on the floor of our church while trying to listen to a sermon in my second language.

This weekend, I also get to attend a ladies meeting that falls after the second service/round two of wrestle mania. My husband graciously takes the kids out for lunch so I can really listen, and every month I am shocked at how much more I understand.

A rare occurrence.
A rare occurrence.

In my language inadequacies, I have spent a lot of time listening and observing. I’ve seen these wonderful women serve God in quiet and honorable ways. They have taught me so much about humility and living for God in a country that doesn’t acknowledge Him.

I sit in the circle, and look around at these women whose hands are calloused and feet still dirty from the morning’s work preceding a commute on foot to church. Many of them do hard labor, picking grass in a field by hand or farming fruits and vegetables to sell at market. They likely don’t even get the whole day off on Saturday, the one public holiday of the week. Yet, here they are, smiling and singing and loving on each other.

Some of them don’t carry a Bible because they started working before they gained a proper education or never had an opportunity to attend school at all. Still, they show up and follow along intently to the message brought by the foreign missionary.

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She speaks her second language which is many of these ladies’ second language as well. Growing up in the village, they learned a different language than the one spoken here in the city and they continue to speak it in their homes and workplaces. I guess some of them probably feel a lot like I do sitting there and never completely understanding.

There’s so much wisdom in this room. So much humility. So much love for Jesus. Their spiritual growth may look different than those who have more time, more resources, and more opportunities. But I don’t doubt that they know Jesus. Because I see that they love and serve like Him.

I am encouraged and challenged by their faithfulness, by their sweet spirits maintained in unimaginable circumstances. They may look back at me and see a spoiled girl born in a church pew in America, but I hope they see my heart. A heart that loves their people and wants to see them turn from idolatry.

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We will be moving on soon, starting our own church and leaving this group that has loved us during our transition into life in this country. Some of them hugged us tight while we waited out an earthquake in the doorframe of the church’s only bathroom. Many have held our children and kept speaking to them until they finally started to understand. And there are a few who have kept bringing them chocolate despite my feelings on the matter.

They have lived the Golden Rule to me and to my family, scared-to-death strangers sitting in their midst. In doing so, they’ve taught us how to love their people well (because not every act of kindness or generosity crosses cultures successfully). I have confidence moving forward reaching out in this city because of their acceptance and affirmation of our efforts to share the gospel here.

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Their faithful witness is the wind beneath our wings as we take flight for Jesus, and I am obliged to honor it with our evangelistic efforts moving forward.

They’ve done the hard labor of planting seeds which we now get to water. Whether we, or the next truth bringer, will get the increase remains known only to the One who laid the foundation for the whole thing by His sacrificial death so many years ago.

We honor their work, by continuing to scatter, water, wait, and trust God to do what only He can do. I dream of the day I sit in the middle of a circle of sisters I’ve seen captivated by the love of Christ and teach them little by little the mysteries of the Word that God has made known to me over the years.

It is the greatest blessing to labor for the Lord in this country. The only thing I feel lacking are laborers to shoulder the work of what we believe God would want to do here. I am begging God to raise up more workers for a greater harvest.

I hope you’ll take some time this weekend to pray about your role in God’s work in your neighborhood, in your church, and around the world.

Are you planting seeds to be watered by gospel preachers?
Who inspires you as a faithful witness for Christ?

Talk to me in the comment section!

Crystal Twaddell

Kicking the Hypocritical Habit

Day 19, Prompt: NOTICE
 (as in, notice I gave up on writing only for 5 minutes?)

My daughter developed a bad habit since we have moved to the foreign field. She sucks on her bottom lip until a raw, red ring appears on her chin. And then she chews some more.

She does it while she is watching TV, riding in the car, doing schoolwork, playing, and even when she is sleeping! I feel like I have said, “Baby, stop sucking/chewing your lip” at least 65 times a day for the past few months. Finally, it seems, she has broken the habit.

I have a bad habit too; I am a skin picker. Any time of the day,  especially if I am anxious or concentrated on something, you can find me pinching and poking invisible blemishes on my face until scabs appear. I don’t notice I’m picking until my husband gently smacks my hand away from my face.

Oh, and guess what else! I’m a  fairly regular lip chewer myself, yet I never realized this until I was refereeing my daughter’s daily habits.

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So it is with sin. It’s easy to pick up on what ways others are failing in their service to the Lord. It’s simple to see the lack of fruits in a believer’s life and maybe even question the status of his salvation. We may even think we can judge a heart’s condition from a person’s words and actions.

Yes, the Bible says we will know believers by their fruits. But how often do I magnify the rotten parts of the branch without glimpsing the healthy bits budding blooms? At the same time I am squinting at the secret sins of others, I miss the major symptoms of sin in my own life.

You would think that big ol’ beam in my eye would hurt a little more, right? I may not notice the pain, but I will see the ways it hurts my ministry. Maybe after it’s too late.

Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye (Matthew 7:2-5).

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In our zeal to see others’ lives changed by Christ, it can be tempting to focus on the sin rather than the Savior. Christians have earned derogatory terms like “Bible Thumpers,” “Holy Rollers,” and others I’m not comfortable typing out by failing to love others according to the Golden Rule.

While I may not be picketing soldiers’ funerals or rejoicing in a homosexual taken from this world too soon, if I am open to the Holy Spirit’s conviction in my life, I can notice ways that my gospel proclamation is hindered by my judgment of others.

In 1 Peter 3, we see instead the power of guarding our own ways to influence the hearts of others:

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear (1 Peter 3:1-2).

The wife of a lost man is not instructed here to nag her husband about his sinful state in order to change him. She is instead challenged to submit to him, love and serve him. To live a glowing gospel testimony in her home for the good of the gospel message.

I am not advocating solely practicing lifestyle evangelism. What I want to promote and practice is living a life of repentance as I share the message of the Cross.

And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear(1 Peter 1:17).

Living in fear in my home and in my work proclaiming the gospel message means being careful not to tread over the hearts of those to whom I witness. This includes my children, members of my community, and those to whom we formally minister through our church-planting efforts.

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It is God who judges hearts and opens the doors to heaven. The only job I am given is to love others and faithfully tell of the gospel of His sacrificial death and the Good News of His resurrection. It is above my pay-grade to change the spiritual condition of others. I leave that responsibility with the Holy Spirit where it belongs.

I am promised the Word of God will not return void. I trust that as I carefully handle its truths and surrender the heart-changing job to the only One who can witness the inner workings of man, I will see lives changed.

In my daily surrender to Jesus, I can be certain mine will. I can’t be the hands of Jesus if I am a hypocrite.

Are your evangelistic efforts hindered by a critical attitude?
What bad habits need to be dealt with so you may be a gracious gospel messenger?

Talk to be in the comment section!

 

Why Can’t We Live in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood?

Day 18: NEIGHBOR

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

This melody rings through my home at least once a day. Netflix just came to Nepal, and all my kids have wanted to watch for the last month is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

I love that my four year old sings, Thank you for everything you do to me while she’s brushing her teeth and has learned to Flush, Wash, and Go. Daniel’s mom and dad always are understanding of his whiny ways and sing sweet songs to teach him how to maneuver around his tiny tigey-centered world. In some ways, I wish I was more like them.

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Or that I was more like the dad of young girl who starred in a recent viral video. He held her, standing on the bathroom sink looking in the mirror reciting some inspiring words before she went off to school. It is super adorable and sweet, and I admire such a hands-on and loving parent. But I stumbled over part of it which kept me from sharing for sake of smiles.

He leads her in saying, ”I am the best. No one is better than me.” She repeats, “I am not better than anyone else,” but the number of time she states, “I am beautiful. I am amazing. I am the best” caused me to just forget about that part completely. I wonder if she did too.

I want my children to be bold and confident and sure that God made them special because it is true. But I also want them to understand that God made them special for service.

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Unfortunately for my fun-loving, self-centered children (and for me too) a Biblical application of the concepts of being a good neighbor is a lot less fun than play-dates and birthday parties in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:2-8).

Oh, boy.

Teaching these truths doesn’t even feel like living the Golden Rule towards my children because my own flesh fights them so fiercely. However, I am confident that one of the best things I can do to ensure lasting joy for my children is to teach them how to treat other people. How to make a snappy new day not for themselves but for others.

Some days living the Golden Rule turns out to bless us in tremendous ways and, on others, our kindness is not rewarded. We have only the satisfaction of having done right.

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We say we want our kids to be like Jesus, but this is one of the million and one ways we don’t. Jesus loved and poured himself out for people who called for His crucifixion. His great love was spat upon by the very people for whom He died. Yet, He still commands us to love every single hot mess person we meet (unfortunately, there is not a friendly face on every street just waiting to greet us!).

We don’t want to stand in front of our mirrors and say, “I was made for Jesus. In this world, I am nothing. I will lift up the needs of others and seek to glorify God with my life.” It goes against our very nature which is nurturing our children in the Word of God is so vital. And we can’t skip the hard parts.

I have to believe that friends who show themselves friendly will find their tribe and be loved in the loving. In the fear of all the ways humility will hurt my children, I am certain the love of Jesus will cover the multitudes of sins against them.

At times, there may be a lot more suffering than singing in our neighborhood, but it is ultimately a joyful place. It’s a place I’m happy to show my kids around even if it has its dark corners.

When my kids want to know why can’t we live in Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood, I’ll remind them,  It’s a land of make believe.

Are you teaching your children to live the Golden Rule?
How can you encourage your children to serve others despite the cost?

Talk to me in the comment section!

linking up: RaRaLinkUp

Two Tender Hearts and One Untrained Teacher

Day 17, Five Minute Prompt: STUDY

In my host culture, it is not uncommon to ask your teacher his credentials. When we studied language at a college, our professor would just explain his right off the bat to avoid having to repeat himself.

It is comforting to know that the person who teaches you is qualified. Unfortunately, my children don’t have that assurance.

I feel about as equipped to give my children a complete Biblical foundation to grow on as I do homeschooling them from now until graduation (which I am not planning on doing at the moment).  But I’ve become aware that my children study me, mimicking my every move and repeating my every word. And one of them asks me at least 462 questions a day. I’m lucky if I know the answers to half of them.

I have more formal opportunities to train them as well, and I have to take advantage of these while I can because the hard reality is they’re just not gonna get it anywhere else. And the “monkey see” behaviors aren’t always the most dependable reflections of truth.

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I don’t have the benefit of her learning in Sunday school each week in her first language, though she is finally beginning to recite a thing or two class.

Everything we teach our children doesn’t make sense in light of what they see outside of our home in this Hindu country. Our daughter comes home asking questions before her shoes come off her feet by the front door. We have our hands full of opportunities for gospel conversations. In this way, I am so grateful for her cultural experience that differs so much from what I would craft for her in safe little mommy world.

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I have to be careful about what I teach her, thinking always of the Hindu context in which she lives. I have to be careful not to say, “We don’t celebrate this holiday, wear tikka, etc. because we are Christians.” Because we aren’t (don’t worry, keep reading).

Her daddy and I have received the gift of salvation and given our lives to Christ, but she hasn’t. It’s a popular belief here that you are born into a religion, and we don’t take that lightly with our children. She tells us she wants to love and know Jesus, and we are excited to hear that, but we are careful not to convince her she already does.

Right now, we are driving home that she, her brother, and the whole lot of us are all just stinky sinners loved by a perfect God. We’re adding a little more every day, and while you may not see her quoting 26 scriptures for each letter of the alphabet anytime soon, I sense some understanding and a softening heart towards the things of God.

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I will keep studying and growing in the Lord and sharing the change and the knowledge that comes with my children. Just as I expect my pastor to be seeking the Lord and faithfully prepare sermons on Sunday (or Saturday here) to feed his flock, I must be diligent to prepare myself and my teachings specifically for my children.

I’ll also remember that they are watching their imperfect teacher, taking note of what my actions say about the God I claim with my mouth.

Maybe the monkey-sees will get better as we mature in the Lord together. But maybe they won’t. That’s not really what I’m after, and I reckon He didn’t sacrifice His Son for good behavior.

He wants their hearts and every facet of their lives. And I want them to give it all to Him when they fully understand the life-wrecking, beautiful mess they’re getting themselves into. I beg that it will be sooner rather than later. I know that my two precious pupils are much more loved by Him, though I can’t untangle my tender thoughts to understand how that’s possible.

With this assurance, I trust that, in His perfect timing, He will draw them to Himself despite all the ways I’ve failed them as a teacher.

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).

What are your little monkeys learning from you?
How do you integrate Biblical teaching into your daily routines with small children?

Talk to me in the comment section!

 

Help for the Little Years Hater

Day 16, Five Minute Prompt: LITTLE

I don’t know if it was raising support all over America with a baby in tow or moving clear across the world with a three month infant that made me have a hard time loving the little years.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the curl of a sleeping baby resting to the sound of my heartbeat. I love tickling tiny toes and receiving bubble smiles in return. Little is cute and sweet with its plump red cheeks and dimply knees. But when it comes to kids, let’s be real, little is a whole lot of work.

Because somehow they know when I sit down with my cup of coffee. Seems they have an internal clock that tells them when mom is relaxed and then to rouse me. Meeting the needs of fickle little dictators is exhausting and overwhelming.

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Yes, she always wears this hat.

I want to tell them, “Get your own juice,” but I know it will end up on the floor. I want them to solve their own problems, wipe their own booties, and brush their teeth without the accompanying toothpaste explosion in my sink.

More so, I want them to be little Jesus lovers who model a life of repentance. I want them to reek of the fruits of the spirit like they just got out of a steaming bubble bath of the stuff. I trust God with all my heart that we will get there, but expecting these behaviors before God gets their hearts is unreasonable and unfair.

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My little ones may be pagans, but they’re people too. With souls, thoughts, and feelings as unique as their outfit choices. A while back I read, Your Child is Your Neighbor and was completely wrecked. I must handle them delicately, trusting the Lord will fill them one day and they will become vessels used for His service.

I must remember, it’s exactly their neediness, dependency, and child-likeness that leads them to the feet of Jesus. And isn’t that exactly where I want them to be?

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein (Luke 18:16-17).

So how do I embrace their littleness and love their wild hearts? I reference my instruction manual which I find to be surprisingly short.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Matthew 6:37-39).

I share my home, my kitchen-utensils-turned-toys, and my dinner table with these small people made in the image of God. I’m gonna love them till they don’t need me. Then I’m gonna love them some more.

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Do you need to ask God to help you love the little years?
How can you stoop down to serve tiny wild hearts today?

Talk to me in the comment section!