Debbie’s Treasure (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 9, 2014)

How is it that kids move at the speed of molasses when you actually need them to get somewhere, but as soon as you turn your back for a split-second, they can perform superhuman feats of agility? I have found myself in this situation more often than I care to admit, but I’m thinking about a particular instance when one of my sons (about 4 years old, at the time) managed to climb onto a curio table, and the sounds of broken glass and him screaming sent me running back around the corner from where I could swear I had *just* turned.

By God’s grace, he was ok, but my table was demolished. It was the one “pretty” thing I had displayed in the house, and it held my most precious souvenirs from when I lived in China. The trinkets may not have much monetary value, but they are certainly sentimental and irreplaceable – especially a Chinese art book from a friend whose English nickname is Debbie.

I remember going to dinner with Debbie one evening in the city where we lived, and she asked for a fork. I thought she was being polite and offering it to me (though I knew how to use chopsticks), but she said that she had never used a fork in public before and wanted to try it. We had such fun together. The colorful book of ink drawings that she gave to me when I left is all the more special simply because it was a gift from her. I would be devastated if it was ever ruined.

Yet, in that moment of consoling my son and making sure that he wasn’t injured, the table and its contents didn’t matter. That art book may very well be the most priceless possession I own, but it is still just “stuff.” Matthew 6:19-21 reminds us where to place our priorities when it comes to the “stuff” in our lives. It says to not worry so much about stocking up treasures here on earth, where thieves can rob and time can erode (and preschoolers can demolish!). Instead, stash away heavenly treasures – the ones that can never be destroyed or stolen.

I haven’t told you the most special thing about Debbie yet. Yes, we had fun together and I miss her a lot, but she was more than just a sweet friend … she became a sister in Christ. All of the fine art in the world cannot compare to the joy of knowing that even though Debbie and I may never see each other again this side of eternity, we’ll be friends forever in Glory. And that is a treasure, indeed!

Ash Wednesday

Last night before bedtime, I held a family meeting to talk to the boys about some concerns that I have — namely, bad attitudes and tempers. I started by reading the passage from Luke 4 about Jesus being tested (tempted, provoked, antagonized, had his buttons pushed, egged him on … things that I tell them they do to each other frequently). We talked about how Jesus turned Satan’s arguments around with Scripture and how he made the decision not to make the choices that Satan wanted him to.

We talked about verse 13, which says that Satan eventually gave up and went away until a more convenient time. I reminded them that just because they make a good choice one time doesn’t mean that they’ll never face that issue again. Each and every time is a new choice. I reminded them that anger by itself is not a sin. There are plenty of times when it is justifiable to feel angry. What’s not ok is to take out your anger on others.

I confessed that I don’t always make the best choices, either, and they’ve seen me lose my temper more times than I’d like to admit. I told them that I’m sorry and asked them to forgive me for times when I’ve not set a good example with my own anger. I explained that I want us to commit as a family that we will pray together daily (and individually) about anger.

When I described Ash Wednesday, I said that some Christian traditions (mainly Catholics) recognize Ash Wednesday as a day to mourn – or feel sorry for – our sins. It’s a time to get straight with God about our choices and focus on making better choices as we prepare our hearts to celebrate Easter in a few weeks.

Before the meeting, I had one of the boys cut out several Bible verses about anger that I had printed, and we put them in a bowl. I told the boys that each day, we will draw a verse and read it aloud. I told them that if they felt like giving up something for Lent as a way to give a sacrifice to God, then they certainly could, but the thing I want us to focus on together is getting rid of anger. Everyone agreed, so one of them read the day’s verse and prayed before I sent everyone to bed.

An ash cross (albeit smudged) to remind me that I came from dust and will return to dust.

An ash cross (albeit smudged) to remind me that I came from dust and will return to dust.

I’ve never attended an Ash Wednesday service before today, but the university where I work offered a program during the lunch hour at the seminary chapel, and I thought it would be a nice time to reflect and experience something new. The service was a nice reminder about the things we discussed last night.

The chaplain reminded us that the symbolism of the day isn’t just to focus on our sin and feel remorseful about it, but to recognize our sin, own up to it, and walk away from it. Therein lies the struggle, and it’s a daily battle.

Lord willing, these baby steps that we’re taking together through our daily readings and prayer will help to instill some Scripture in their minds and hearts to draw from in the future and equip them to defy Satan’s provoking.