Become Childlike

Matthew 18: 1-5

I find myself struggling with this passage. Jesus instructs his disciples that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, one must become like a little child. Are you kidding me? I have spent my adult life trying to grow up, trying to get it together, trying to act like a responsible adult and now Jesus is telling me to act like a child!

After reading and rereading this passage, what I finally see is what Jesus does not say. He does not say act childish; demanding your own way, crying and whining when you don’t get what you want, stomping your feet or dragging along when you follow Him down a path you don’t want to take. What He does say is to be humble like a child in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

I spent some time reflecting on my own two sons. I have learned that in many ways they are my greatest teachers in the ways of the Lord. They rely on me to feed them, clothe them, care for them, tend to their cuts and scrapes, dry their tears, rejoice in their successes, console them in their failures and most of all just to love them for the beautiful children that they are now and the beautiful men they are becoming. If I can do these things in my own broken, human way, does not my Father in heaven do as much for me and so much more?

As a volunteer in the kindergarten classroom I have seen that children are free to be open, loving, and vulnerable far more often than adults. As adults, we have learned to close off portions of our hearts to protect ourselves from the big bad world around us. Children know nothing of the world. All they know is love so they are free to love those around them with a selflessness that is unmatched by most adults.

My ten-year old son demonstrated this openness recently in an act of kindness that touched me at the deepest levels. We were at Mass on Thursday afternoon. As we knelt, he leaned over and whispered to me “At the sign of peace, can I go over and give the sign of peace to that nice lady over there?”. I glanced across the aisle at the elderly woman he was pointing to and without really giving it much thought, said “yes”.

At the sign of peace, he quickly kissed my cheek, climbed over his six-year old brother, crossed the aisle and walked halfway down the pew to reach this woman. I was shaking hands with those around me and it was not until he was coming back across the aisle that I realized what he had seen about this particular woman. She was alone and isolated. There were four empty pews in front of her and five empty pews behind her.

As we knelt again, I glanced across the aisle and saw her sobbing into a tissue. It struck me then exactly what my son had done for her. He saw her. Nothing more extraordinary than that – he saw her. He realized she was alone and reached out to her. He did not shake her hand but instead gave her a big hug, full of all the love and light that only a child can give. She needed that hug. I don’t know why and neither did he, but somehow he knew what she needed. I didn’t know the woman that was at Mass Thursday and neither did he. He told me he just wanted to be nice to her.

This is what it means to be like a child. It means not to look but to see. We are called to see the people around us as though we are seeing through the innocent eyes of a child. If I am a child of God, then those around me are also children of God. As children in this classroom that is the world, we need to remember what it is to be kind, to be accepting, to be loving, to share well with others, to laugh, to play, to comfort each other and while we can’t realistically befriend everyone, we can respect them and treat them fairly.

As adults, this can feel uncomfortable, even emotionally dangerous. Yet this is what Jesus calls us to be – a child who is open and loving. He told his followers, “When you welcome one of these little ones, you welcome me.” He never said it was going to be easy but He did say that with God, all things are possible.

Prodigal Daughter

Luke 15:11-32 – The Prodigal Son

Think you know this story by heart? I thought so too until last year when a week of guided prayer, based entirely in scripture, caused me to take another look at it.

The first things that stood out to me were the missing parts of the story. The prodigal son was in a far off land. He didn’t go hang out with a rough crowd on the wrong side of town. He skipped the country with his inheritance. I know what happened next – wild living, ending in disgrace and famine. Next thing I know, he wakes up, smells the pig wallow, and decides to throw himself on his father’s mercy – smart kid.

Now the part of this story that really intrigues me is the journey home. No hopping on Jet Blue for my boy. No, he has a long, hard road home. I don’t get to hear about that part of it. Why? Probably because if I am to see myself in this story, I need to be able to look at my own journey home.

How many times do you think he second guessed his decision on the road home? How many times do you think he tried to find other ways to survive on his own, only to end in failure? I know I would be thinking of anything and everything to avoid going home in disgrace, especially knowing big brother was there to rub my nose in it. I’ll come back to big brother in another posting.

The other piece of this that really stands out to me is this: when he finally makes it within sight of the estate, his father sees him while he is still a long way off and rushes out to meet him. The prodigal son goes through his rehearsed speech, declaring his unworthiness. His father barely hears him, calling to the servants to prepare a banquet, dress him in fine robes, and to put a ring on his finger. After walking all that way in the heat and dust, coming home in rags, exhausted, smelling of swine – was he relieved or ashamed by such an over-the-top greeting? And if you think about it, if the father rushed out to meet him while he was still a long way off, doesn’t it then stand to reason that the father and he walked home together?

For me, I was raised with religion and gained my faith, or so I thought, when I lost my father at fourteen. God in His great love had surrounded me with the people I needed to guide me through seeing my father lose a seven month battle with lung cancer. I knew it was God who provided me with all the love, guidance, and support that I needed at the time but how quickly I forgot.

By the time I was nineteen, I had begun to turn my back on every belief I had once held dear. I began to act like a spoiled brat, deciding that God had ditched me during the year I had spent with an abusive boyfriend and therefore I could do whatever I wanted.

I still went to church. I was married in the church at twenty-two and both of my sons were baptised there, but little by little I quit coming the banquet of love that is the Mass. By the time I was thirty-three, I rarely went at all.

Then my life was upended again. This time, my four year old son was dangerously ill and my marriage was falling apart. I suddenly found I couldn’t pray for myself, not even for strenth to care for my son. I was so undeserving and so unworthy that the only prayers I could offer were for my innocent son, often begging God to listen to me despite my sins.

Finally, after several months of trying to cope with a child on a feeding tube twelve hours a day, the responsibility of changing the tube, caring for my eight year-old son and his needs too, seeing what was left of my marriage disintegrating before my eyes, it was all too much.

On June 16, 2006, at 1:00 AM, I collapsed under the weight of it all. The pain was too great and the darkness crashed in on me. I found myself drowning in every awful thing I had ever done and every awful thing anyone had ever done to me. I was submerged in a most hideous noise that reverberated in the depths of my soul.

I could take no more and I grabbed a knife off the end table in the living room, which had also become my sleeping quarters. I was intent on slitting my wrists. I knew I would spend an eternity trapped in Hell for committing suicide and since I was already experiencing Hell, I knew I didn’t want to stay there. Finally, in desperation, I fell to my knees, knife still in hand, and cried out from the deepest part of my soul for my God to save me from myself. And He did.

I found myself surrounded by silence, wrapped in stillness, and embraced by peace. I rested in that silence, stillness, and peace until dawn. It still took me a long time to find my way back to the banquet of love and even longer to find my way to Reconciliation.

God didn’t wait for me to make it back to confess my sins or even to get myself to Mass. He rushed out to meet me where I was, kneeling on the floor of my living room, surrounded by the shattered pieces of my life, drowning in darkness, knife in hand, about to take my own life. He came the moment I called out for Him.

I was too blind to see that He had been beside me and within me all along, but I know now that He walks beside me and inside me. Most importantly, He will walk home with me, even when I forget the way.

Me? A Puddle Jumping, Rainbow Chasing Son Worshipper!

What do you see in this picture? If you were sitting on the seawall, would you be running for your car?

I see the power of God displayed across the sky. The wind was blowing and the rain was just starting to pour down. The smell of fresh summer rain was everywhere and all around this downpouring, wind driving black cloud was clear blue sky. I know all this because I didn’t run for my car. I got out of my car and stood with my face in the wind, breathing in the power all around me.

I’m sure the people in the cars around me thought I was more than a little nuts. But what does that matter? I have my own way of giving glory to God, just like we all do. When I give Him glory from the depths of my soul, that joy deep in my soul is undeniable. That joy is there to glorify my Creator. For me, I never feel closer to God than when I am outside experiencing His creation as if it is all new. I notice this newness most often at the beach where the wind and waves change the face of the sand by the hour.

On a calm, sunny day, I can hear the gentle lapping of the waves whispering to me with love. The warmth of the sun on my face draws my face heavenward to soak in the gentle caress of the light breezes. Somedays I can walk for hours and on others I am called to find a quiet spot to soak in the love of my Father, Abba, Daddy. And it’s good to just be Daddy’s Little Girl.

On a stormy day, I love to climb out on the rock jetties and stand with my face in the wind. The power of the waves crashing around my feet, spraying me with a cool, salty mist that is both energizing and awe-inspiring. The greater glory of God is all around me and I can’t soak up enough of it. To think that this same powerful God dwells inside of me is both humbling and empowering. Together with my God, there is nothing I cannot do!

I can’t always be at the beach, but look for me outside after the rain. I’ll be the one barefoot, splashing in the puddles laughing with pure joy and looking skyward, searching for a rainbow. God created puddles and barefeet. Man separated the two with shoes. How often we separate ourselves from the simple beauty of the creation all around us!

If the Bible is God’s love letter to us, Creation all around us is His gift to us. Look around you – hear the birds, feel the softness of the grass under your feet, smell the flowers, enjoy the cool breeze, the warmth of the sun, the refreshing rain. Remember this, God doesn’t need to create any of these, anymore than He needed to create us. He created us to shower us with love and He has surrounded us with beauty to remind us of that love everyday.

Notice the H and the arrow sign point up the rainbow to heaven and smile because God truly loves you!

Why This Title?

Why a cup of coffee with God? Does that seem a bit informal? Let me explain it from the perspective of my life story.

From the time I was small, I remember watching my father take his first cup of strong, black coffee out to the back porch. He would sit there in the early morning hours, quietly watching the world come to life. I asked him once why he did this. His answer was simply, “Well Nudnik (his private pet name for me), I just like to have my first cup of coffee with God.”

Somehow that made sense to me. I was eleven at the time and since I had started school, the nuns had been teaching us that we could have a personal relationship with God. They taught us that God loved us and wanted to be a friend to us. At the same time, we were learning to confess our sins, which were offending to God, and we were also learning the structured prayers. In my young mind, this seemed like a very strange way to be friends.

But a cup of coffee got me thinking. I watched my parents take their after-dinner coffee outside on the porch or at the dining room table, hold hands and quietly talk about what had happened during the day. That was an image I could understand and relate to very well. As I grew older and found close adult friendships myself, it was an image I cherished.

Thus the beginning of the most beautiful friendship began to unfold before me. This was not only THE GREAT I AM but the same Father that calls me his Beloved Daughter. I am so overflowing with His love for me that I have to share it with the world.