Up to Down to Up

A while ago several of my kids and I got a kick out of watching the comedian Jerry Seinfeld on DVD. One of his bits has stuck with me, a clever commentary on children and their parents:

When you’re little, your life is up. The future is up. Everything you want is up.

“Wait up! Hold up! Shut up! Mom, I’ll clean up! Just let me stay…up!”

 Parents, of course, are just the opposite. Everything is down.

“Calm down. Slow down. Come down here. Sit down. Put that… down!”

In another week, all 9 of my grandchildren will be at my house. I’ve been working to baby-proof the rooms, removing breakables and swallowable objects as I go. No matter how I try, though, their parents will find all sorts of interesting things in those youthful mouths.

Toddlers and pre-schoolers are experts at reaching the things we adults think have been put… up. Not even the kitchen counters are safe once they figure out the stools. And so we do what level-headed adults do: we put stuff up higher.

Car keys, cell phones, ipods, DVDs, candles, phone chargers and other valuables will end up heaped in places we can barely reach. To us it’ll be a slight inconvenience. To the children it’ll be frustration. Their days will be spent looking… up, and scheming to bring stuff… down.

The problem comes in having cross purposes. Our little people judge themselves capable of handling adult-only items, while we know their touch brings death to valuables. Interestingly, when we provide substitutes, (toy phones or blank keys), they quickly learn the ploy and toss them aside.

Little children are to us what we are to God. When we look to him, it’s always “up.” He’s higher than we are in all categories, and his decisions to keep certain things out of our reach are for our good. Just as kids can’t understand why they can’t have our breakables, we get frustrated when God doesn’t give us what we want, too.

Children whine and reach endlessly for whatever is too high for them, but I ought never to whine at God. His “up’s” should be allowed to stay there without me complaining about it. When I’m wanting what he doesn’t want me to have, I’m missing what has already come… down… and is available to me: Jesus himself. 

Someday, after a new heaven and earth come… down, even  frustrated toddlers will finally be able to reach everything that used to be… up.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming… down… from the Father of the heavenly lights.” (James 1:17)

Praising and Praying with Mary

  1. I’m thankful for a family-filled holiday weekend and for feeling good after 2 weeks away from chemo.
  2. Please pray I’ll have an improved attitude about going back to chemo. Once I’m feeling good, it’s very hard to head back into it.

Just tell me!

Once in a while Jack will walk up to me and quietly whine. If he’s been walked and fed, I’m not sure what he wants and wish he could just tell me in words, so I could help him.

Little children have a similar problem. They’re born with needs and opinions but can’t talk for a couple of long years. Parents are left to interpret the different nuances of their cries and behavior, hoping they’ll understand.

The first fiveBack when we had the first 5 of our 9 grandchildren visiting, all of them were sick at once. When they didn’t feel good, they’d whimper and cry, but 4 of the 5 (ages 1, 10 months, 7 months, and 7 months) didn’t have words to report what they were feeling. Sore throat? Clogged sinuses? Tummy ache? Headache? We could only guess.

During those weeks, there were several other reasons we wished our little ones had words: important items began disappearing. One day a baby monitor we’d used in the morning was nowhere to be found by afternoon. About the size of a cordless phone but white and with an antenna, it should have been easy to find.

Baby monitor setAll of us hunted with diligence, becoming increasingly frustrated not to find it. A day of searching went by and then two. We even prayed about it, not so much for the intense need of the monitor as to know where it went. “Lord, you see it right now. Won’t you show us?”

We asked our small fry, too, but of course they couldn’t tell us. After several days, we could only conclude it had gone into a local landfill by way of our trash.

Why didn’t God answer our prayer and show us the monitor? It would have been so easy for him. I find this exasperating yet symbolic of many unanswered prayers. We say, “Just tell me, Lord!” and he refuses.

Why? Maybe he wants us to:

  • practice waiting
  • increase in patience
  • learn to be more careful next time
  • learn to handle frustration
  • order our priorities
  • find humor in the situation

Apparently our family needed to learn those things, because we never found the monitor…

…until 3 months had passed.

Monitor in the middleWhile cleaning out the candle cabinet (a child-high, double-door cupboard), there it was. Little hands had hidden it in the back. Maybe we’d finally learned our lessons after all.

And interestingly, God didn’t use any words to answer our prayer.

“ ‘Can anyone [or anything] hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:24)

Praising and Praying with Mary

No chemo tomorrow, Labor Day, but please pray medical personnel will find a good vein on Tuesday for infusion #13.

What a Character

Character CountsWe often see the slogan “Character Counts” on banners stretched across elementary school entrance doors and are taught from young ages that who we are when no one’s watching is the real us. Some people conduct their lives based on principles they refuse to compromise, but others live in the wiggle-room between conviction and chaos.

Most of us know that doing the right thing usually means making the hard choice, and that’s especially true when no one’s keeping track. But how many people actually do the right thing every time? Probably not many.

What if we define the specific lines we won’t cross no matter what, and then a test comes? How likely is it we’ll stick to our guns? How likely we’ll give in?

Satan lives by a set of principles, too. The trouble is, his are always at odds with ours, if we’re Christians. Everything that coaxes us to violate our own standards comes from him. But sometimes we can be our own worst enemy, unaware of crossing our own lines-in-the-sand until both feet are planted on the wrong side.

We tell ourselves, “A thought to do something bad is only a temptation, not a sin. I can’t help what pops into my head, and one thought leads to another. Until I’ve acted on it, it can’t be sin.” Is that the truth?

Scripture teaches us how to defend our principles by providing a model in Jesus. As we study his example, we see how to faithfully do what’s right. He lived a human life hounded by the devil just like we are, but he never crossed the line into sin. Satan often used the established Jewish big-wigs to harass him in unrelenting attempts to break down his resolve.

PhariseeOne day these officials approached him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.” (Matthew 22:16) Then they went on to try to trap him with words. But in this introductory statement we find two keys to living a principled life: (1) Base it on “the way of God in accordance with the truth,” and (2) don’t be swayed by the opinions of others.

As we work at these two things, we’ll learn to deny our natural me-firsts and substitute the ways of Christ. With enough practice, we’ll stop justifying our sins and find ourselves doing the right thing, even when no one’s watching.

“Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)