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Thursday, October 31, 2013

As Seen On TV

I hate commercials. Like, seriously, I loathe them.

I used to think they were cute, funny even. I'd watch things like the Superbowl and the Oscars just to see what hilarious ads marketing execs had come up with that year. I'd tear up at the Publix Christmas know the ones I'm talking about. The family who is baking Christmas cookies and in the door walks Daddy-the-soldier in his fatigues, a true Christmas miracle, or the old-lady-widow who is alone for Christmas and all the neighbors pitch in and decorate her house and invite her to Christmas dinner. All in the world was right for the minute and four seconds that the commercial ran, and everyone who saw it had a case of the warm fuzzies.

Then I had kids.

Nothing irks me more (well, maybe a few things irk me more, but let's go with this for emphasis' sake) than when commercials come on during my kids' TV time.

Now, I know you don't let your kids watch any TV, that they probably spend most of their time exploring the great outdoors, collecting bugs and leaves and eating bark, or maybe they are in kiddie-Crossfit and are getting their active on. Perhaps you are raising the world's next Steve Jobs, creative-genius, and your little inventor just can't get enough of building circuits and blowing things up.

My kids watch TV.

Not all the time; they can play outside with the best of them when I lock them out the weather is nice. But I'd say, for transparency's sake, they watch at least one or two shows per day (please, no one tell Michelle Obama).

It always happens around the same time. 7:00am and my kids are up like little alarm clocks without a snooze button. They get their vitamin water juice and settle in to watch a show while I make breakfast. Power Rangers is their current favorite. I can always tell when the first commercial break hits because of the change of temperature in my home. My kids, who were sitting so quietly and relaxed on the couch imagining themselves morphing just like their Power Ranger friends, sit up straight and lock their eyes on the TV. They start talking amongst themselves excitedly. Foaming at the mouth. Then it starts.
Oh. No.
"MOMMY, you HAVE to come see this RIGHT NOW! Quick, it's gonna go AWAY! MOMMY! Come HERE!"
I walk around the corner from the kitchen.
"Yes, honey, what is it?" 
"MOMMY, it's a STUFFIE! I want one of those for my BIRTHDAY!" (Which I don't even try to explain is ten months from now.) 

"MOM, I NEED ONE 'cause it has SEVEN pockets that keep my TREASURES safe! 
After trying to explain that, no, unfortunately we are not going to be able to call that phone number up there and "buy some money to pay for one," as my daughter so wonderfully puts it, I head back into the kitchen to finish mixing up the pancake batter. Seven minutes later, commercial break number two hits.
"Yes, son?" 
"FLIPEEZ! It's the SUPER FUN action hat that comes alive right before your EYES! MOM, I NEED ONE! You squeeze the puff ball in the tassle and FLIP, FLIP, FLIP YOUR FLIPEEZ!"

"MOMMY! It's a SEAT PET! I REALLY WANT ONE! They make trips more fun to take, and my seatbelt will always be secure! My head won't dangle anymore, and I'll never ask you again if we're "there yet!"


Thank you, my As-Seen-On-TV friends, for nothing.

After explaining to my children that us not purchasing a Stuffie is not cause for weeping and moaning and utter misery, that it's really more of a first-world problem for a kid to have, back into the kitchen I go, back to my happy place away from the infomercials that suck my kids in product by product, enticing them to spend money on more crap they don't need.

It's easy to get on to my kiddos, to correct them as situations like these arise. It's easy to say, 'be thankful for what you have," and, "don't know you know there are starving kids in Africa?"It's easy to be pious, to be the one who, in front of my kids, practices an attitude of thankfulness and contentment.

Then I get alone.

I want stuff. I want trivial, stupid, wasteful stuff I don't need. I am not content. I am rarely satisfied.

Are you?

Maybe it's material stuff. Like, I really, really want a pair of FRYE riding boots, not because they're any better than other leather boots, but because they're FRYEs. I want some Luchesse cowgirl boots, too, you know, for all that cowgirl stuff I do.

I want a new minivan. Let me say, first of all, that yes, I do realize I wrote minivan, and yes, I do realize this officially removes me from the categories of all things cool. However, just being transparent, I want a new minivan. A pimped out Odyssey or Sienna with a DVD system (for my TV-watching kids) and a cool navigation system (even though I rarely get lost) and leather seats.

Maybe it's not material things that lure you away from contentment. For instance, I really want a hot body like _____. After three kids, skin is sagging in places I didn't know possible, my hips are large and in charge, and I'm not content with how I look. I very easily fall into the sin of coveting the way others look in their appearance. I want a magic infomercial to offer me a product to "fix me,' for appearances sake.

Maybe you want the life that other women appear to lead, the wonderful husband that _____ gushes on and on about, or the worlds-most-well-behaved-children just like _____. Maybe you want to be "more spiritual" and sought after for advice like _____. Maybe you still desire, like you did when you were twelve, to be a part of the "it" group.

Whatever your struggle may be, none of us escape this battle between discontentment and being fully satisfied in Christ. It's a war that will rage until the day we're perfected in Christ, and let me tell you, I can't wait for that day! It's exhausting battling with yourself, isn't it?

The Bible calls this attitude and condition of the heart, very simply, coveting.
COVET: yearn to possess or have (something), desire, crave, have one's heart set on, hunger or thirst for. 
Having STUFF isn't bad. We all have to have material things, emotional health, physical health to survive. However, the shift to coveting takes place when we remove the Lord from the throne of our hearts and instead place _____ there. When we yearn to possess _____ more than we yearn for Him. When we have our hearts set on _____ rather than on Him. When we hunger or thirst for _____ instead of hungering and thirsting for the Spirit of God and the Word of God.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 16:19-21 
"Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household..." - Proverbs 15:27a 
"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" - Matthew 16:26a 
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." - 1 John 2:15
Contentment comes, not in having everything we want, or even everything we need, but in keeping an eternal perspective on our possessions, our hearts, our bodies, and our spirits. We will never have "enough" to meet the desires of our flesh. But we always, always have enough in Him. My prayer is that, when we stray into the alluring land of discontentment, the magnitude of how wonderful our God is will quickly draw us back to Himself.

This is not to say that I will never want stuff. In fact, right now, I want a Sham-Wow. And maybe a Magic Bullet. And maybe a Snuggie. One can never have too many Snuggies, and besides, it's for the children.

Feel free to laugh!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Legos and Life

It's 8:15am, and while in the middle of watching HGTV and eating bon-bons washing the never-ending supply of dirty dishes left for me in the sink I hear the shriek. You know the sound...the one that escapes a child's mouth and reverberates off the walls of the house for several seconds. The high-pitched, someone-just-gouged-out-my-eyeballs-type scream. I drop what I'm doing and run, soapy hands and all, to my four-year-old son's bedroom, prepared for the worst. I round the corner and find him purple-faced in the middle of his floor, about to pass out from holding his breath for 20 seconds. I run to him and gather him in my arms. I check for blood and teeth fragments (hey, it happens), and when I don't find anything amiss, I try to talk to him.

"Son, what happened? Breathe, baby, and tell Mommy what happened!"

I can't decipher any human language through the blubbering, snotty, hot mess that is happening and so I ask him again.

"What happened, buddy? Answer me!"

This time I gather a bit more information. "Foooooossssssttttteeeeeerrrrrrrrr something-something-something-something! WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Using my best mommy-detective skills, I insightfully gather that my youngest son, Foster, was involved, so I call him into the room.

He enters wide-eyed and angelic, the "what-me?" look plastered on his face.

After everyone (i.e., my spastic son) is calmed down, I ask one final time, "Boys, what in the world happened in here?"

Sutton, still upset, manages to finally get it out. 

"Foster picked up my Lego spaceship and broke the rocket boosters into pieces!"

Oh. My. Gosh.

All of THAT over Legos. That can be put back together. That are MADE to be taken apart.

It takes everything in me not to chastise my son for scaring the you-know-what out of me by reacting like he was being disemboweled. I hold my tongue and hug him for a moment, then I correct the offending party and ask him not to break his brother's Lego space shuttle again. Then back to the dishes I go.

Legos are kind of Sutton's thing. He has ten million of them, and he is forever building airplanes and cars, rockets and castles. He has even has a Lego table in his room with a huge drawer to store the ten million pieces.

In theory.

Ironically, more often than not I find Legos everywhere BUT his Lego table. In the washing machine. In my printer. Inside the travel-size shampoo bottle. The garbage disposal, the driveway, the bathtub, even in his sister's fish tank.


Nothing brings me closer to losing my religion than stepping on one of those little torture devices. If I really wanted to feel that much pain I could just go down to the garage, get a nail, and jam it into the arch of my foot.

I saw this meme the other day and died laughing, because it's true (let's all agree right now, though, to never show this to our children, because in doing so we will be giving them the upper hand):

Ultimately, I put up with the mess, the screaming, the arguing over who made the best Lego-version of Daddy, and more, all because my son loves his creations. They are his masterpieces, and he loves to build. He builds for our affirmation. He builds me Lego flowers. I want to encourage him to build, to be creative, to work hard when he has a vision for something.

So what are we building?

I have been studying the book of Haggai (yes, you read that right). If you're anything like me, I kinda thought Haggai was a big snooze fest, sorta an opportunity to let my eyes gloss over and my mind wander. It's a book full of "the word of the Lord came by Haggai," and "on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius the king," and "Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel." Even the prophet's name, "Haggai," sounds sort of dweeby. Yes, I know it's in God's Word and is therefore important, but I'm just being honest when I say that I liked to breeze over that book of the Old Testament in the past.

However, a friend has been teaching me some new study methods, and so I decided to dig into Haggai to see what I could learn. And learn, I did!

Here's a synopsis of what happened during the time of Haggai the prophet: After many, many years in Babylonian captivity, God called the Jews to return to Israel to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed. Only a remnant of the people obeyed, and upon returning they realized that building the temple was going to be hard. It was a big job, and workers were few. So instead of obeying God, they put off the temple project and instead forcused on building their own homes and families and lives, even going so far as to say, "The time has not come...for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt." Which was untrue, because God had clearly shown them that it was, indeed, the right time. He wanted the temple built for his pleasure and his glory - he does not like the share the spotlight, and rightfully so. So, in order to gain their attention, God allowed a drought on their land, affecting their food sources, their animals, and even the people themselves. God used Haggai to help the people see the error of their ways, and the people ultimately obeyed God and began to build, and they experienced God's presence and his glory as he poured out blessings on them for walking in obedience.

I chewed on this for a while and took in the history. And then I prayed and asked God to show me how this related to me, today, right now, and I believe He spoke.

You see, all of us are building something. We are always building. Some of us are building careers, others families. Some are building stock portfolios and others social status. Maybe we are even building our physical images.

Building is not a bad thing, right? But the question is, who are we building for?

I believe God is calling you and calling me to lay down our own building plans for the blueprints drawn up by the ultimate Architect. I believe he is asking us to build toward something of value that's greater than the things of this world, to build toward something that magnifies his glory and not our ourselves.

Is there something you are sensing that God is calling you to? Maybe he's been nudging you for a long time now.

"Build my temple."

But it's hard. It takes time. Maybe the job seems impossible, too big to take on. Overwhelming.

"Build my temple."

Israel's temple was the place where God's glory was illuminated. What is God calling you to "build" to shine his glory far and wide? And are we so distracted by building for our own temporal gain, like the Jews who returned to their country from Babylon, that we have forgotten the eternal things God has called us to?

Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?" 
"Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.' Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified,' says the Lord."
"'You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?' declares the Lord of hosts. 'Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.'"  HAGGAI 1:3-9

Are we so concerned with our own "buildings," like my son and his Lego space shuttle, that they have become everything to us? 

We must repent. Lay down our earthly tools and exchange them for the ever-abundant tools of heaven.

Oh, that we wouldn't miss what he has for us. Not because we need to "do" more for him, but because, like my little one and his Legos, the joy is in the building when we're building for HIM. And our Heavenly Father gives us the chance to be a part of his story, a part of things that last and matter - eternal things

Kind of like Legos. They last.

Last time I checked Legos were not biodegradable. They are the gift that keeps on giving, probably for centuries to come. I find another one every day, usually with my foot, and in those moments I curse the world's Legos and beg the Lord to end my misery and beam me home to him.

Feel free to laugh!