The horrific news from Florida has all of us reeling. It’s leaving far more questions than answers in its wake. And it’s possible your kids are contending with some of the same questions we as parents are: “Is my school safe?” (If it helps, Keys for Kids just posted this devotional story to read with your kids.)
A few thoughts as you consider what to say to them.
You guys know I’m not big into getting political. Promise I’ll try hard not to go all soapbox-y on you. Yet I gotta admit: I was pretty hot under the collar last week over some rumored comments regarding African nations like the beautiful one I raised my kids in. In my gratitude for this place, with its remarkable people and so much to offer the world–people who’ve changed my life–I was more than a wee bit appalled.
I admit to thinking something like, REALLY?
And maybe some other things that were not so generous nor gracious.
Our kids are going to be under authority their entire lives. With the exception of a few horrid dictators of suffering countries, everyone on this planet is under authority of some kind. (Jesus is, too.) Offering our kids the gift of submission is one of those keys that opens doors for the rest of their lives.
We were headed to church, exhaling clouds of steam in the still-cold car. Up in the front seat, I happily remarked to my husband about the expanding diversity in our small town–as judged authoritatively, of course, by my trips to Wal-Mart. After five and a half years in Africa, I can feel a little stifled amongst all the vanilla around me.
My daughter, from the backseat: “Why does ‘diversity’ make you happy?”
She didn’t, it turns out, know what diversity was. So we talked about it: That God expresses Himself through every culture. That differences make us more vibrant and loving and whole. That we want people of all types to be welcome here.
In light of this year’s extensive, heartrending violence, maybe you’re wondering along with Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, “How did we get here?”
Here’s what we know. The Church must–must–lead the way in accepting each other as Jesus accepted us (Romans 15:11)–when we were still His enemies. As pastor and radio host Bob Lepine recently pointed out,
The source of all racism and white supremacy is the person the Bible describes as the father of lies (John 8:44). Racism is demonic. It’s diabolical. To believe that one group of people has more value or worth than another is the spirit of antichrist…
Racism is a sin against God Himself. It is God who created us in His image, after His likeness (Genesis 1:27).
….Christians must publicly, humbly, and boldly stand against racism. Followers of Jesus should be at the forefront of the chorus speaking out against what has taken place. Especially when white supremacist groups claim that what they’re espousing is somehow a Christian way of thinking.
There should be no equivocation on this. No nuance. We must speak clearly and forcefully in proclaiming that all men and women bear the imago dei–the image of God.
Allow me to tell you the story of a friend of mine, because her story’s stuck with me. I’ll call her Susan.
Susan has a couple of daughters. They’re grown now–but back in the day, she was ready to pull them out of their public school and opt for private: Their public school was performing among the lowest 20% in the UK. But it’s her take on this that struck me:
I realized most the kids from our church remaining there didn’t have a place to go or the means to get out. They were stuck there. And it didn’t seem like ‘being the church’ if I pulled out and left them to flounder.
So we pulled together a bunch of people and started praying. And some of us got on the [school board], and I eventually became the [chair].
Together, they considered their school problem a community problem, and therefore a Church problem.
An unexpected, happy ending God tacked on? Susan’s daughter ended up with stellar test scores on all her IGCSE’s–British university entrance exams (6 A-stars, if you’re familiar with their system)…better, in fact, than some friends removed to private schools.
Allow me to clarify: The point of this post is not “you should put your kids in public school”. As a former homeschooling mom of eight years, know that I understand the heart behind all sorts of school decisions.
But I am saying this–an echo of another friend who’s both school board president and pastor’s wife. If our greatest strengths are some of our greatest weaknesses, our focus on our own families and what’s best for them can at times divert us from a beating heart for our communities.
Alright, if it isn’t obvious already–I’ve never really been one of the cool cats. I will sheepishly admit to wearing pleated pants in high school. I had braces until I was a junior. It took years for me to learn to tame these crazy curls (not to mention the frizz and curly eyebrows that went with them). I was more than a little Anne of Green Gables-ish with all my melodramatic creativity. And as you could probably pick up from my blog–I am guilty of trying too hard. Which is woefully beyond any scope of cool in high school.
But in church circles? I have one of those personalities that’s easily accepted. I’m bubbly. I’m a married, creative mother (bonus!) with domestic-diva interests and a bleeding heart. I’m high-capacity in my time management, irreverent in the right ways, and–wait for it–I was a missionary. (I know! Cue the heavenly theme music!) So my gifts, talents, and temperament can lend me toward respect in these circles.
I’m tickled pink about today’s freebie. And I’d love your help in passing it on, pinning it, or sharing it with people who might use it.
After teaching refugees for three years, I had a wish list. I wanted a free, printable discipleship guide that could take students through basic concepts of Christianity. I wanted it to be useful for a single person or in small groups. I wanted discussion questions and verses to memorize. But as much as I love to play with words in my own writing–I needed something without complex idioms or words that would discourage or confuse an early English speaker.
Please, pass it on to cross-cultural workers, adult literacy instructors, teachers of ESL/TOEFL/TOESL/English as a second language, or anyone else who might use it in their own creative ways. (I’ve also passed it out alongside films like the JESUS film or the Gospel of John.)
My vision for this is for it to be as universal as possible. Because of this, I consider it a “living document”–one I can alter to accommodate as many groups as possible. That’s where you come in. I’m still dreaming up new topics I’d like to include, and changing the language to be more understandable. Though I’ve taught ESL in a couple of other contexts, my experience is limited to a few people groups. I don’t know, for example, how it may be received in Asia, with Buddhist or Hindu audiences exploring Christianity. If you’ve got ideas on how to improve this or make it more palatable for certain people groups, please comment below.
And thank you for spreading the message of true freedom everywhere.
She learned to read and write in the last decade or so, when she moved to Kampala from her village in northern Uganda. But despite my college education, she has a lot to teach me.
When I visited her shared compound on Saturday, she couldn’t wait to show me inside her house. I had to comply looking into the toothy ivory grin parting that smooth, ebony face. And when I entered, I understood why.
I view the items in my home differently now. Everything is slid into a category in my mind: Pack it. Sell it. Give it. Just as we did five and a half years ago in Little Rock, we’re packing up our lives here in Africa. But of course the person who packed up then isn’t the same person who’s packing now.
And thankfully, those intangibles are things I can keep.
They don’t take up precious luggage space; I won’t need to sell them for pennies on the dollar with which I bought them. They’re Africa’s gifts to me.
Last Thursday was one of those days that encapsulated so much of what I love and what drives me bananas about living in Uganda. I veered through jaw-clenching traffic on the 45-minute drive home, assembling all the clutter of my day into the appropriate mental file folders. This is quite a task to begin with–considering both a) my mind and b) at least four sudden oncoming governmental convoys. (Let’s just say mental “papers” kept being upended from their file folders by real life.)
As I do every week, I’d taught Bible at the refugee center. Even after three years, it’s a bit of a rabbit hole for me. There are so many cross-cultural experiences to make sense of at once that I’m flying by the seat of my skirt.
Really glad you're here. Welcome to a lingering conversation about a head-turning, life-altering, undeserved kindness. This site's about Jesus in a pair of well-worn Levi's: faith scuffing up against real life and real people.
After five and a half years in Uganda, my family and I have recently returned to the U.S., where we continue to work on behalf of the poor. I write and love on my family from Colorado.