Want What You’ve Got! (weekend)

Bubbles and shell

Bubbles and shell (Photo credit: Fellowship of the Rich)

This weekend I have the unique privilege of spending time with a family of four, in preparation for their baptisms. Do you remember your baptism?

I don’t. I was tiny, judging from the size of the baptismal gown that has been worn by many a baby in our family’s faith tradition. Many of us share this memory-gap when it comes to our initiation into God’s family, coming from traditions with deep roots and long histories.

The language I’ve inherited for these baptism classes I teach is kind of fun – they’re called Splash classes. Usually I meet with the parents of a baby or young child, discussing with them the connection between water and Spirit, and talking through what they can expect on baptism day. We light a candle, share stories from our experiences with the sacrament, and we talk about what it means to be a member of God’s family – at any age.

One of the gifts that is given to each family is a page-full of ideas for living out their baptism as believers in a dry and thirsty land. These suggestions for walking wet as a family include things like praying together at mealtimes and bedtime, listening to scripture songs in the car, and modeling a life of God-seeking for others by “getting caught” reading your Bible and praying at home.

Walking wet means living out a whole slew of potentially trite sayings – things like: Practicing what you preach. Walking the talk. More being ‘caught’ than taught.

Walking wet means keeping your cup full (vs half-anything) so that there’s enough Living Water in your life to splash around in. To splash on others. To have some fun with!

I don’t know your story. I don’t know whether you were sprinkled as an infant, dunked as a grown-up, or whether you’ve been splashed on by the Spirit in some equally supernatural way.

This weekend, will you consider what it means to Want What You’ve Got in terms of Water supply?

If you’ve been baptized, will you take time to remember and thank God for your faithful family members and the nudge of the Spirit that brought you to the river’s edge?

If you’ve been involved with God’s family but haven’t yet taken the plunge, will you consider joining many who, on Easter, will take their first dip in God’s sea of forgiveness and forgetfulness on this grace-filled day?

And if you’re dry and dehydrated and seek something holy to quench your thirst, will you come to the Water for something much, much better than the temporary beverage this world is trying to sell?

Whether it’s a puddle or a birdbath, a pond or a wave, a squirt gun or a water balloon… let’s make a Spirit-splash and Want What We’ve Got today!

Hair Gel in the Holy Water

Last week I sat across a (very short) table in the church nursery from a mother and her son. As the staff member who is tasked with preparing families for baptism, this meeting was unique by virtue of the child’s age: Justus is eleven.

Of course, for many of you, this is not unexpected; but for those who worship in denominational churches like mine – you understand. Most of the time, when the baptismal waters part in our congregations, the candidate for baptism is an infant – presented by faithful parents with a future Confirmation class in mind. Sitting with me at the table, however, was a mischievous middle-schooler with an infectious enthusiasm for life and a smile that cannot easily be described but which most certainly takes place not at the lips, but at the cellular level.

Our “splash class” proceeded as you might expect, with myself and mom doing most of the talking while Justus’ eyes danced with anticipation. We talked about what to expect at the baptism. We discussed our understanding of what “happens” in the water, when the Spirit of God hovers over the face of the deep and resurrection-life springs forth. We wondered out loud about how much of this baptism was a profession of faith by Justus in God, and how much was God’s own pronouncement that Justus belongs to Him.

I described the upcoming event in detail so as to dispel any possible trepidation on the part of either mother or son, but the look Justus gave me when I described how the water would be splashed onto his head made it abundantly clear that this guy wasn’t nervous about baptism day; instead, he seemed ready to take on some water, and something told me that Justus had never met a puddle or swimming pool he didn’t like.

Sunday came, prayers were offered, and water was poured over Justus’ bowed head in triplicate, “in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.” A candle was lit, a faith chest presented, and the family of God cheered him on.

After the service, I ran into Justus, whose grin betrayed his feelings about the day. Even as I write this now, I’m not sure what I expected to hear when I told him what a great morning it had been. “Yeah,” he chuckled easily, as he reached up with one hand to pat the hair on the top of his head, “and I got hair gel in the holy water!” He was giggling (and so was I) as he turned toward his friends and walked away.

Hair gel in the holy water.

Isn’t it just like God to meet us where we are? For Justus on his baptism day, a holy transaction took place in the water; something human met Someone holy in the process, leaving a swirling residue as proof in the baptismal font. God made His mark on Justus, and the hair gel in the holy water goes to show that God is ready to deal with the consequences of calling imperfect, mischievous, in-progress people to life in the community of His Son; He can handle the messes we make. In fact, He expects them.

Of course, Justus may not have realized all of this at the time, but that doesn’t make it any less so – or any less perfectly beautiful.

TREK to the MANGER 20: STINKY Friday

Clean drinking water...not self-evident for ev...

Image via Wikipedia

Like it or not, when my alarm goes off each Friday morning, it has officially begun…

STINKY Friday.

New to our family “traditions,” STINKY Friday was instituted through the back door by my 6th grade son after school began last fall. If you’re a parent, you may have noticed how much harder it is to rouse your sleeping students by the time Friday morning rolls around. It took about three weeks of middle school before the Friday phenomenon showed up on my radar, and I realized that no alarm clock seemed to be able to cut through the Friday a.m. fog.

I’m a slow learner, but one lesson that God has graciously allowed me to repeat many times is the one that says, “choose your battles.” I decided that making my son get up in time for a shower on Friday mornings was not a battle worth choosing, so I “unofficially” let it slide (to my son’s great joy). Upon hearing about this decision I had made, my husband coined the consequences “STINKY Friday.”

STAR SIGHTING

Ever been camping? By day #3 things can get pretty stinky.

Been on a plane lately? Not everyone who buys a ticket boards the plane smelling shower-fresh.

After days and days on the road, I imagine that things might have been pretty pungent for the Wise Men (they were traveling with camels, after all).

A by-product of travel is perspiration.

A by-product of perspiration is odor.

It simply goes with the territory.

The act of living produces a similar by-product, according to the prophet Isaiah. Just like body odor, which none of us is immune to (hence the full shelves of deodorant, body wash and cologne at your local WalMart), our words and actions contribute to what ends up being the Ground Hog Day of STINKY Fridays:

“All of us are dirty with sin. All the right things we have done are like filthy pieces of cloth.” Isaiah 64:6a (NCV)

Even our best efforts at living produce the inevitable by-product of stinky sin.

It simply goes with the territory.

The best remedy for body odor is a long shower and the help of some powerful antibacterial soap products.

The best remedy for sin-stained lives is the waters of baptism through the powerful Spirit of God:

“It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives.” Titus 3:3-7 (The Message)

God’s gift to Trek-weary travelers is a good bath in His sea of forgetfulness. Now that’s a star that I can follow.

DAILY GIVEAWAY

Perhaps the best thing you can give away on STINKY Friday (and every day) is the active realization that all of us are dirty with sin. We can be the most diligent followers of Christ, the most purposefully generous of people, yet on our best day we are no better than mud-stained, grass-stained jeans. Our only hope for emerging from this life in the pristine white robes of the saints is to be washed in the saving blood of the once-child-now-sacrifical-Lamb of God, whose cleansing is offered without condition to all who have breath. No exceptions.

The life-giving work of the cross is God’s work, not ours.

On this STINKY Friday, let’s choose to embrace the level playing field of souls that are the men, women and kids we encounter every day. In light of the good bath you’ve been given, find a way today to share the sweet fragrance of restoration with someone whose own stain-removal efforts have failed over and over again.

By giving us back our lives, God makes it possible for us to reach out and guide others onto the path – this lifelong Trek to the Manger.

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