Friday, April 23, 2010

Lighten Up, Francis

"Lighten up, Francis." My youth minister used this phrase my entire adolescence. I think it's from a movie. "Monty Python", maybe? Maybe "Airplane". Not sure. Anyway, I digress...
I need this phrase quite often in my life. Here's what a jaunt through my thought life on any given day might read like:

Thought One: "Oh no, the girls are going to mess up those new tennis shoes in the dirt!"
Thought Two: "Seriously? Lighten up, Francis! Why did you buy those in the first place?"

Thought One: "If I don't get this laundry done, I have failed for the day."
Thought Two: "Is anyone walking around your house naked? Lighten up, Francis!"

Thought One: "I ate WAY too much of that cake. Now I'm going to look like the broad side of a barn."
Thought Two: "Someone should smack you right now. One episode of excessive cake eating doesn't determine your weight. Good grief! Lighten up, Francis!"

On and on I could go. We all do this, right? (Please say "yes" or else I might really have a crisis!) We wrestle with our thoughts. Even more than that, in general, don't we take life WAY too seriously? I know that I could benefit from asking myself the question, "How much does this matter in the grand scheme of things?"

For a few years, now, I've added the phrase "kingdom perspective" to my rhetoric. My basic personality focuses on the long term. Since I was a teenager, I've made decisions by thinking about what I would think about the decision ten years down the road. As I've matured in the faith, decisions have become less and less about my future and more based on making choices that reflect the future I've been guaranteed in Christ. I call this having a kingdom perspective. It's not original, but it reminds me all the time that there's a kingdom - it is God's, not mine - and ultimately, that kingdom is what really matters.

When I'm raising my children, for example, I desire to raise them with a kingdom perspective. I see who they are as part of who God made them to be so that they can do whatever God made them to contribute to the kingdom. It's not mine to determine who they are or what they do. It's mine to put up guardrails of truth (based on Scripture) so that they can choose the path God ordained before one of their days came to be (see Psalm 139) and still have the protection of right and wrong, character, and my love to keep them on their path. The kingdom perspective helps me to lighten up and let them be who God made them to be rather than trying to make them who I want them to be.

My sister was always WAY more laid back than my mother and I. Ironically, we always joked that she would out live us because she had such low stress levels. She did not take anything too seriously. My mom and I decided in the days after her death that we were going to have to lighten up. For that reason, my mom didn't make her bed the day of Lauren's funeral. Lauren never made her bed. So, guess what? Sometimes, I don't make my bed (gasp!). And you know what? It's freeing for an uptight person like me to not get all beside myself about whether or not my bed is made.

Kingdom perspective doesn't ask questions about what my house looks like, or what my kids act like. Kingdom perspective produces questions like, "Who have I served today?" "How have I served my kids today?" "Does this affect my kids' character or do I just want them to do something my way?" "How much of Jesus was evident in me today?" Notice that kingdom perspective, in my opinion, focuses on TODAY. Not yesterday and not tomorrow. Today.

Maybe you don't take things too seriously. If that's you, good for you. I'm trying to learn from people like you. Still, I think we could all use the reminder from time to time to lighten up. So in the words of my youth minister (even if it was said WAY too often), "Lighten up, Francis!"

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's for Dinner?

I really like to eat. Food makes me happy. I like the smells, the combinations of flavors, the chemistry, and the presentation of food. Cooking is one of the best things for my psyche. I made Paula Deen's "Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding" yesterday and not only did eating it make me happy, but making it for my family made me even more happy. I have a husband with a sweet tooth so it's love in a bowl for him!
Eating out is also a great experience. Lately, we've eaten out more as a family than usual. We are, for the most part, at home eaters. I like to cook - so I cook. With the kitchen painting (which is now complete - hallelujah - see "Painting and Pouting" blog if you have no idea what I'm talking about) and some other spring time spruce ups around my house, cooking has been the thing to go.

My mom and I had a conversation yesterday about heaven and food. She is reading a book by Randy Alcorn called 50 Days of Heaven. In it he talks about food in heaven based on references to feasts in the Bible. Having not read the book myself, I am by no means weighing in on whether or not I agree with Mr. Alcorn, but I am fascinated by the thought and plan to study it more for myself. He says, "Words for eating, meals, and food appear more than one thousand times in Scripture, and the word translated 'feast' occurs another 187 times. Feasting involves celebration and fun. Great conversations, storytelling, relationship building, and laughter all happen around the table" (pg. 177). The main thought is this: Jesus ate in a resurrected body (see John 21:4-14). Therefore, Alcorn says we will eat in our resurrected bodies once either Jesus returns, or we close our eyes here and open them in heaven. As a food lover, this more than thrills me. Food and tables and all the relationship it represents are one of the highlights of being with people for me. Doing this for eternity - bliss!

So I'm just wondering, "What's for dinner?" and more importantly, "Who are you inviting?" In Luke 14:12-14 Jesus says, "When you give a luncheon or dinner...invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Please believe me, this is as challenging to me to read as I'm sure it is for you. I'm honestly not even sure how to do this. I do, however, know some people who just need company during meals. I have friends who I need to catch up with and we're all most likely going to eat dinner - so why not together? I heard a guy talking about community building at his church and he said that their mantra was, "Do it together sometimes." The meaning is this: We all go to the grocery, we all eat at some point in the day, we all mow our yards, clean our homes, etc. We're all doing these things individually, so their church simply encourages folks to do it together...sometimes.

Whether here or in heaven...let eating be more than routine. Let it be a reminder of the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9) and of the opportunity to be Jesus to the hurting and forgotten as well as an opportunity to connect with friends. Bon Appetit!