Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Flaming Torches

I am remembering things these days.

Yesterday one of my mother's and my dearest friends (also a mentor to me) told me a story about myself that I'd long forgotten. She's known me almost all of my life, and we tenderly recalled the days when I was a little girl and she a young mother.

I had always loved children. I hadn't forgotten that, of course, because I still do. Something about their innocence and wonder strikes me and pulls me into their happy, beautiful world. But to go on with my story.

So yesterday I sat at a table with this precious mother, her husband, and their six lovely children. Fondly, I remembered when each and every one of them were little and before most of them were born. It's strange to look at a beautiful young lady, just entering into womanhood, and remember when she was a baby, holding my hand and learning to walk, talk; sing.

My friend told the story that has awakened my remembrance. I was enthusiastic about teaching children, she told us, by the respective age of eight. After church on Sundays and Wednesdays, I'd gather the little children together - a group of two-year-olds, three-year-olds, and children up to my own age. At times, I'd have a special attendance of children who were older than myself. Very special.

I'd pull out my handcrafted canvas bag, filled with my "class" things. Coloring books, crayons, puzzles, prizes and games would line the corner of the sidewalk in the shadow of the church building where we'd sit huddled and avidly engaged. I helped the tiny ones with writing their names on their sweet pictures, and enthusiastically (perhaps too enthusiastically?) praise the other children's highly innovative artwork and creations.

By the dozens mothers would bring their children and sigh with relief on seeing them productively employed. My friend was one of these mothers. Her daughters were some of my students. It was nothing to me. I was doing what I loved.

Something about it, being surrounded by the happy little voices, joining in their laughter, looking down into the twinkling eyes (and sometimes up at them) and putting my thoughts about God into their heads was the next thing to heaven for me. I planned all week for it, gathered new supplies and ideas, and was as crazy over it as one woman at my church over the VBS program of which she was the leader. Seeing the children happy, employed and united instead of running around the church parking lot and giving headaches to their parents, left me feeling delighted.

And then I'd pull out the book.

I'd read as long as I could. I was quite unaware of the wide eyes that were watching me, the little hands that laid aside whatever they were doing and found their places on little laps or the minds that were turning quickly with wholesome, biblical thoughts. How could I have known?

Years down the road, long after I had moved elsewhere and began attending another church, in another state, with other friends, I'd keep that love of teaching children with me, and it was that same love that helped and spurred me onward as I helped to home school my eight younger siblings throughout my high school years. That pastime of reading stories to children would become a passion for telling stories to children, eventually writing them - for both children and adults. It's never left me and only grown.

But the story isn't over yet.

Ten years later, I sit at a table with some of the same young people who were my avid students of the past. Their mother smiles at me, smiles at one of them in particular, and tells me that my tradition, however small, is still being kept.

Because her daughter is running it now.

Every Sunday at that same church, when the lights in the auditorium are off and the children are running off to play in the parking lot and unknowingly give their parents headaches, my young shadow pulls out her handmade canvas bag, gathers her little class of children under the covering of the building, and sits in a circle with them on a small corner of the sidewalk. She hands them the coloring books, the crayons, the games, the prizes, and together they revel in masterpieces.

And then she reads. While the words are flying expressively from her lips, the children watch; mouths open, hearts beating, eyes flashing, minds spinning.

They are captivated.

And the tradition goes on. It is just a small thing, this story of the connection from me to my friend's daughter, once the little girl who sat in my shadow and listened to my stories. But what it represents is not. The torch I carried so enthusiastically and waved with joy would be carried and waved by one of the little people who watched me so intently those Sundays. How could I have known?

I couldn't have. I didn't.

This act of remembrance makes me think. What other kinds of torches am I passing to those hearts that beat for me, those eyes that gaze upon me, those hands that reach upward? You never know. The things I am doing today may very well be flaming torches preparing to be passed on to the next generation.

Maybe I should be doing them well. Quite well.

Just maybe.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jamestown Memories

It's been one year since my incredible time at the Jamestown Quadricentennial, put on by the ministry of Vision Forum.

I’ve tried to recall a single memory that played such a significant part in my mind, but all of the happiness I felt comes running back to me, swirling my thoughts like a whirlwind.

Happy fathers, blessed sons, joyful mothers, sweet daughters, little children, elderly grandparents – they were all there.

At the time I almost wondered if the locals of the historical towns we visited: Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown, were looking at us and wondering, “What has happened? Did aliens land from another planet and did the news forget to tell us? What is with these 14-passenger vans and other vehicles suddenly appearing from nowhere smeared all over with strange messages like, ‘‘Know Boudinot?’’ and ‘‘Honk 4 JT400!”

Whether or not they were actually thinking those things, I’m sure they had to have been wondering something. Indeed, I found it hard to believe that I hadn’t traveled to ‘homeschooling country’ or some other such place. You could see them a mile off, holding hands and crossing streets, walking beside you and taking notes or pictures and laughing and playing on the Williamsburg green. You could see them, you could hear them; you could almost smell them. Families. Everywhere. Something had happened.

I remember the very first night, the grand opening at the Hampton Convention Center. I recall the breathless excitement clearly exhibited by the eager crowd outside the closed doors. Everyone spoke, laughed; murmured. A violin could be heard in the background, nearly, but not quite drowned out by the rumble of the people.

I smiled. It was the definition of grand in a real, live, sensible way.

I remember the thick and spreading elation as the crowd poured in through the open doors and took their seats in quick anticipation. The soft strum of the maidens’ hands on a harp, the thrill as Mr. Doug Phillips took the stage to address the attendees, and the joy of watching the speakers ascend with a powerful message – it’s all coming back to me, as if I was there all over again.

I remember wanting to catch the week in my hands as it flew by, and wishing that I could soak in every single moment and keep it with me always. I feel the wave of exhilaration once more as I recall walking over the ground that Captain Newport, John Smith and Pocahontas had trampled on four-hundred years before. I stand in the unseen footsteps of moccasins and boots from centuries past. I meditate in the shadows of monuments, tall and marvelous, and feel the presence of the Almighty – the same Almighty whose presence they felt so strongly.

Shaking the hand of John Tyler’s grandson, meeting and laughing with the impersonators of Theodore Roosevelt, John Tyler, Patrick Henry, John Smith and Lady Rebecca are memories that will always be with me, instantly coming to mind at the mention of the word, ‘Jamestown.’ I remember laughing at the weight of my notebook, filled to the brim with the many notes I carried to the sessions, and laughing at my sister’s which was stuffed with the autographs of the many godly leaders we met there.

The balloon rides, the boat rides, the historical tours, the walks along the James River – it all evoked the stirring of a part of me that had never been awakened before. The sensation of leaping to my feet with a crowd enthusiastic over the John Smith award given to the very worthy Christopher Klicka, the tears that I shed when Miss Melanie Thomas won the Jamestown 400 treasure for the glory of God and her family – I will watch these scenes in my mind over and over again during the course of my lifetime.

And the parade – the marching, shouting, singing, laughing, musing, smiling rows of children and young adults (some older ones, too) walking through the woods of Fort Pocahontas, that classic civil war battle site, and throwing their hats, raising their swords and spears, waving flowers and flags to the beautiful music of fife and drum that led them – that led us – onward. I remember, and my heart cries with triumph.

When I have at last begun to think I have very well recalled and covered the most prominent of my memories, another grabs my attention and pulls at my heart with vigor.

The children’s memorial.

Nothing can begin to describe what went on in the beating hearts of the crowd at that moment. Little children sat on their daddies’ shoulders, peering over the heads of strong sons and beautiful daughters, and even the littlest of these were silent with awe, as if they understood the greatness of the monument about to be dedicated.

Because, after all, it was for them.

I still feel the tingling thrill and the tears that stood still in my eyes as Mr. Harrison Tyler, the descendant of Pocahontas and John Rolfe and the grandson of John Tyler, stepped down the long path through the crowd and set the time capsule into its position by the monument – underneath a stone that read 2107. Thousands of eyes watched it be set in it; thousands of hearts beat. Cameras flashed.

It was done. The founding of the greatest nation in the world and the great Providence of its God had not been forgotten in our generation. It would be remembered, and we, by causing a monument to be erected, were setting a precedence for the generations beyond us – these children’s children; my children’s children.

It will never be forgotten. The history of the four hundredth anniversary of Jamestown and a new country, eventually to be the United States of America, is the great story of an Almighty God and of His tender mercies. And this story, experienced and felt like never before, will live on in the hearts of those grandparents, parents, young adults and children forever.

For me, I must add that a part of me that had never been lived before flung open its doors and lived in a way that left me changed, strengthened, and envisioned for eternity.

I will never be the same.

Soli deo Gloria!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Generation Joshua 2008

For those of you who are not familiar with the ministry of Generation Joshua, please feel free to familiarize yourself with it here.

Generation Joshua is a branch of HSLDA and an organization dedicated to creating political awareness in teenagers and teaching them about the faith of our nation's founders and the practical application of the constitution.

This year my sister and I will be joining hundreds of other teenagers and young adults around Washington, D.C. and at Patrick Henry College for a week of prayer, learning, celebrating, friendship, spiritual encouragement and vision. Please pray for us June 29 - July 5.

And in the meantime, check out their site. GenerationJoshua.org.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Walk

A few days ago I posted a writing entitled My Life Song, a piece that accurately displays what I am learning in my heart and life.

But I've been thinking some more.

While I still believe what I said about making Jesus my life song, I wish to clarify some points for my readers, and unite the beauties of heart and life.

First, Jesus is our leader and our passion. Always. But some of us (myself included) may find it an easier route to simply claim the name of Jesus with everything that we do, everything that we share with people, etc. But here's the catch. Unless our lives are being lived according to what Jesus taught and did, our proclaiming His name is a worthless act, and in many cases, a detrimental one.

I live in the United States, and in this country, the brand Christian is so commonly used by so many people, that the term can be used and identified with by both slums on the street and with millionaires. The name of Jesus itself is flung off the lips of both the heathen and the moral, screamed in swear words and sung in church hymns, and is used in every possible way in between, and by every kind of person. What makes the difference between the real and the unreal, the false and the true?

Only one thing. The walk.

Anyone can talk. It's easy to go to church, sit in seats, sing songs, and listen. It's easy to tell people we're Christians whenever they ask us. And for many people, it's easy to put one's kids in Sunday School, take them to VBS, etc. For some people, it's even easy to tell others about Christ - to door knock, to share through music, to witness in everyday places. To some this is the walk.

But let me tell you what's not easy.

What's not easy is telling one's wife that she is appreciated- even on hard days, taking time to wrestle on the floor with one's children, helping old ladies across streets and old gentlemen, too; meeting deadlines, deporting ourselves with grace and honor when relating to parents and elders, speaking kindly to those who speak unkindly, choosing the moral over the immoral, the right over the unclear, holiness over mediocrity; running the Christian life when we feel like walking, or when our culture expects nothing more. That's not easy. But it's right.

And that's the walk.

Who cares if I can tell the world I am passionate about Jesus Christ? What does my life say? My mouth must speak, my heart must sing, and my feet must run with passion, but unless my soul is grounded in truth, I speak for nothing, sing for no reason and run with no end in sight. To be a thoroughly passionate Christian, my heart and life must proclaim the lordship and greatness of Jesus Christ.

It's not easy, but it's right. For me. For you.

Monday, June 9, 2008

My Life Song

Here I go, thinking again.

I love talking about things that mean a lot to me; convictions, beliefs, ideas and goals of mine that tend to be prominent pillars of who I am. However, I am realizing that these things should not be my passion and what makes me Sarah.

Because after all, although I am passionate about writing, the art of writing never saved me. It never gives me hope.

And though I love to discuss theology with friends, theology isn't what gives me life and eternity.

I love, love, love to be around intelligent, gracious people. (Highly civilized, as my family teases me by saying. :)) But intelligent people never gave me a reason to live.

I will always enjoy proclaiming my views on subjects such as Christian modesty, courtship, parenting, home education, etc., but my views on these subjects will not show a hurting world that Jesus loves and died for them.

When I speak, who am I proclaiming? Myself? When words flow from my mouth, are they my own understanding of perhaps Biblical, valid issues, or are they the words of the great foundation of these issues - Jesus Christ?

Oh, yes, these things are right. Yep - they're even worth fighting for. And sure, I would defend them left and right if the need arose. But truly, I think that some of the things we rant and rage over, some of the things that we proclaim to the world as truth, are not nearly as worth the time and effort proclaiming as Jesus Christ and His kingdom is.

There must be nothing more saddening to the heart of God then to see His children squabbling like accomplished bickerers over the smallest issues, or even the greater issues, when in reality they are all nothing in comparison with His great message to the world.

In the scope of eternity, what will it matter if I went to this church or that, if my friend taught in public school or not, if I believed one great doctrine while another didn't, if so-and-so went to college and this other person didn't, whether I wore striped jeans every day or dresses? Will it matter?! At all? No!

But what will matter is whether or not you loved and served Jesus Christ, and in whatever climate you lived in, in no matter what conditions, whatever color your skin or hair was, and even if, yes, you went to a bizarre church and believed a bizarre doctrine. (NOT that we should if we know better, but to many, the church WE attend is a bizarre church and the doctrine WE believe is a bizarre doctrine, just to put things in perspective, no matter how much we know we are right. Believe me, I understand how it feels to be right. Just ask me about any issue we disagree on.)

I am the first to advocate and even fight for the great truths of the Bible, the foundations of our faith, etc. But my stomach is also the first to get queasy when I observe Christians in my life divided and unhappy over things that are not important in eternity.

As Christians, we should be far more concerned about the name of our Creator being proclaimed to every living creature along with His praise, His worship and His glory, then we should be about our agendas, ideas and thoughts on issues being broad casted for all to hear. In the end, that doesn't matter. That won't hold. God will not be asking us when we stand before Him whether or not we told everyone about what we thought the Bible said. He will ask us, though, whether or not those in our lives saw us consumed with the fire of the Almighty; with the love of Jesus Christ and for His kingdom.

That is something worth fighting for. That is something worth living for. That is something worth dying for.

So I'm changing my life statement. Instead of Sarah being defined as, "a girl who wants to change the world," she will now be defined as, "a girl who's passion is Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone." IF that happens to change the world, so be it. It will only come about because God made it happen through me.

I choose not to ask of everyone the same, but as for me, my passion will be Jesus Christ. He must be glorified in everything that I do - He must be. When people look at my life, I will not be able to take any credit for anything I have done, because really, I'm not the One who has done it.

I may not ever become a famous author or a prolific musician, but that's okay with me. My life will be a song of the Savior of the world.

Friday, June 6, 2008

My Hard Things

I am spending some quality time with a dear friend and spiritual mentor of mine right now.

She's teaching me many things.

The first is that although my life may be surrounded by people who do not necessarily live for the glory of the Lord, I must anyway. Otherwise, I will stand before God and be completely responsible for my sin. I won't be able to blame it on anyone else.

If I dishonor an elder or spiritual senior in my life, I am breaking God's commands, no matter what they may have done to me, and I stand in violation of scripture. Even though I may not agree with those in authority over me, yet I answer to an even higher authority to respect them with my words, actions and bearing.

When a sibling does something extremely provocative to me, am I qualified to blow steam, rant and rage? According to God, no - even when they have done something very provocative to me.

For married couples all over the world, I think many of their problems start right here with the act of refusing to take responsibility for themselves. I am responsible for the sins I commit. It's not Adam's fault and it's not Eve's. Neither is it Satan's. It's mine. End of story.

The other thing she has been helping me to see is that although God controls all events, nevertheless I can choose to be strong in character or weak in it, and hence can choose to have a pleasant future or a rather unpleasant one, by the way I prepare for it now. Consider Joseph for a moment. He certainly was placed in difficult circumstances yet nonetheless was capable of rising above them and experiencing God's power poured through himself and onto an entire nation as a result of his choice.

I choose that same choice.

I will willingly take responsibility for the faults I have and the sins I commit. I choose to ask forgiveness quickly and embrace the hard idea of a teachable spirit, regardless of the outcome. These are two of the hardest things I will ever do, and no one ever said it was easy, or that it will be over soon, or that I will have an easy life if I do these things. Chances are it will be much harder, much more against-the-flow, and far more complex.

But still, it's right.

If that's not what it is to be a practical Christian, one who actually lives his faith, what is? Faith is not limited to a foggy idea we have, but the actual walking out of it.

It's where the rubber meets the road.