Monthly Archives: October 2011

Putting Yourself First

Anyone who has flown on an airplane as heard the flight attendant’s safety talk. Included in this instructions is the following:

In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will drop from a compartment above your seat.  To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you.  Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally.  Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask.  If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.

Buried in that last line is a life giving truth for homeschool moms: “secure your mask first and then assist your child.” It can seem counter intuitive when you first hear it. In an emergency, don’t we want to act quickly to save our child before ourselves? But, considered biblically, it’s just one more way to express the truth that we moms so often miss: we need to have oxygen flowing to our mask so that we don’t black out while trying to serve our kids.

Yes, this is another exhortation to carve time out of each and every day to meditate on the love of God as displayed in His gospel. The essentials of “touching the hem of the Lord’s garment” so that you may receive His power are these:

  • Meditate on the sinfulness of sin. Specifically, your sins from yesterday. To do this, you’ll probably need to have the inerrant Word of God before you so that you have a God’s-eye view of your sins as they really are. We are all more flawed and sinful that we can believe!
  • Meditate next on the holiness of God: His character, His incommunicable attributes, His love, His patience, His compassion, and~ supremely~His provision for you to become His child by pouring out all of His holy wrath that you and I deserved on His Son, thus crushing Him in utter agony to death.
  • Finally, soak in the amazing nature of grace. In Him, you are a new creature. Because of Him, all things are yours! Your biggest problem has been solved already: you will live for eternity in blessed peace, sinlessness, and joy. Until that time, God has bestowed on you His very presence: the Holy Spirit, resident in your heart.

Fresh from this meditation, you can parent and teach with far more grace, joy, love, and effectiveness!

  • The moments when your children become unruly or surly can be transformed from trying moments to teachable ones! Having reminded yourself first that you are a sinner who is amazed by grace, you can seize the opportunity to show your child the sinfulness of sin, the holiness of God, and the amazing nature of grace as you gently correct and instruct him. (Galatians 6:1-2 and 1Thessalonians 5:14).
  • On the days when circumstances pile up and you become disheartened and think that you’ll never make it as a homeschooling mom, the gospel is there to agree: you won’t, on your own. But, God! You are not on your own! He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all will graciously give you all that you need. Your children are His children; He works in the scope of decades and ages, not minutes and hours. Because you know the amazing nature of grace, it can be easier to rest in God’s loving sovereignty, and know that when you are weak, He is strong!
  • Being freshly aware of the price God paid for your life, and the amazing truth that you are living in and through Christ usually gives us grace for an amazing array of situations, from doing chores to running errands to paying bills to walking the dog in the cold. The love of God in Christ warms our hearts with a deep down peace that then pervades into all areas of our home, including our teaching.

Do we need more patience, grace, faith, and diligence? We get them through the oxygen mask of a daily tryst with our loving God, who then supplies the spiritual oxygen we need daily. Don’t misunderstand. We can get this oxygen without “performing the quiet time.” But, since this is a limited analogy, what I’m really saying is, “Be sure to spend time with Father. He’s eagerly awaiting your coming!”



Last month, our young church celebrated its 5th-year anniversary. As I sat in a special Sunday-morning meeting, I especially enjoyed a centerpiece of that service: some of our members had collaborated on a longer-than-usual slide/video show of images from the whole five-year history of the church. Naturally, this show brought back many memories for most of the congregation. Since I have only been in this body for about two years, many of the in-jokes and images were not familiar to me, however. I didn’t know everyone, and hadn’t been there for many of the events that flashed before me on the big screen. But I really enjoyed the presentation anyways.

As I sat there looking at images of brothers and sisters partaking in life together–funny times, sad times, youth retreats, Sunday meetings, and church picnics and the like–I was struck with this thought: “Our relationships are made of piled-up memories.” This thought has only become more deep and wide as I’ve mused on it since. It’s practically cliche to say that “life is lived in the moments” or “memories make up our relationships.” But, for me anyways, this truism has gained new power.

See, I’m a confirmed “Martha.” Left to myself, I am all about the tasks and goals of life. I tend to maximize the big picture and long term goals, and minimize the mundane, ordinary, “normal” days and events of my life. The significance of giving a cool cup of water to a weary pilgrim in the name of the Lord, calling someone to see how they are doing, or bringing a meal to a sick friend doesn’t usually break into my consciousness. I do these things, and then I do the next things, and seldom stop to consider what these things mean to God and others.

Perhaps it was because I hadn’t lived many of the moments I was seeing, but as I sat watching the Church’s anniversary slide show, I saw moment after moment pass by and thought, “How many such slide shows have I viewed? How many years have I seen this kind of portrayal of the life of the church?” There were shots of friendship (groups of gals and guys hugging in front of the camera), shots of service (moving folks, serving at soup kitchens, serving in outreaches), shots of funny moments (face painting, relay races, and mud wrestling), and shots of profound moments (worship, teaching, and quiet times). Each shot was a single moment in time. I didn’t know many of the people involved in them, but somehow in that very detachment something clicked: I saw that, cumulatively, these moments had added up to form the strong, vibrant relationships of the church family in which I am privileged to partake now, day to day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this since. I’ve been seeing that all those days of teaching and training my six kids during the homeschool years were used by God to build the strong, young, dedicated Christians that my kids are today, by His grace. They can’t remember so many of the details about those years that I do. I know, because I’ve asked them. They were the kids, though, and I was the managing adult who wrestled with questions like “which curriculum is best?” and “how will I get Latin done?” They just did the next thing that I told them to do–or bucked it–and so the moments of our school years unfolded. They acted, reacted, and responded in each moment, and so did I. And now I see so clearly that God–invisibly but surely–shaped them us all into the people we became through those moments layered one upon the other. I see afresh the opportunity that you younger moms, who are currently walking through those homeschooling years, have to live one day at a time, one moment at a time, unto God as you homeschool. I don’t mean that it’s “all on you” to live each moment perfectly. But moments are easier to grasp than years! Moment by moment, you and I can ask God for the grace we need to overcome sin and to mirror God’s love, grace, and power to our kids, and know that those moments will be the shaping influence that God uses to grow them into the adults that He intends them to be. Jesus Himself taught us to live in “today” and let tomorrow take care of itself (Matthew 6:34).

So, this insight about the power of moments applies to churches. It applies to homeschooling and parenting. It certainly has helped me be more conscious of little ways that I react and respond to my husband, Scott, after 32 years of marriage. But, I’ve also been surprised to see that it applies to our walk with God. Daily quiet times can become dry, every day, and rote. (This is less common when we keep in Scripture and mine the “unsearchable riches of Christ” daily.) Even when they are, though, consider the difference between letting daily devotions lapse altogether and making the daily decision to have a moment with your Heavenly Father. Many of life’s moments are so ordinary. But when those ordinary moments with others (including God!) are layered upon one another, day after day, week after week, and year after year, they simply are the essence of our relationships! If we let those moments go, we build nothing. If we hold on to them, though, we build something solid. As we see God answer prayer after prayer, as we watch him meet need after need, as we receive forgiveness time after time–the moments pile up. How else could we discover for ourselves the rock-solid nature of God’s proven character, the omnipresent comfort of His sustaining grace, the deep, thirst-quenching pools of His forgiveness and acceptance, yes, and the soaring joys of mountaintop moments but by spending time, day in and day out, with our God and Savior?

Moments are powerful things. Layered moments really do form relationships of all kinds (good and bad). As with papier mache crafts,  each fragile, paper-thin, soggy layer dries to form rock-hard, resilient things that (leaving the analogy behind) will last into eternity. Since seeing this, I’m more careful with the moments, I take more notice of them, and I’m more thankful that God directs each and every one so that we “…beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor 3:18 (ESV)