Dear Sunday School Teacher

Author: Chara Donahue

Dear Sunday School Teacher,

I recently told my children that we would be transitioning away from our home church in order to multiply the ministry we are a part of.

Two kids cried and one outright refused to leave. She declared that we could drop her off on our way to wherever we were going. She is five, and she loves fiercely. The other, well, the other told us he would miss his best friend—Han Solo. He is three so… peace be with him.

Their grief made me sorrowful as well. I know we, as those who have been chosen to parent them, are making the right choice. But seeing them mourn – while still processing the change myself – threatened the peace I have about the decision.

Then a friend said to me, “You must be doing something right, for your kids to love the church so much.”

I hadn’t even considered that. All I could see were little eyes welling up with petite tears. This valuable outside perspective gave me great joy because my kids are learning to love the family of Christ as much as we do. Apparently, they also love Star Wars. Anyway, the better of the two, the church, even with all its failures, fragility, and faults is seen as beautiful through the eyes of my little ones. They cried tears, had big feelings, and asked God for help. They have learned something bigger than their dad and I could ever teach.

Maybe we are doing something right, but it’s not just us. It’s also YOU. It’s us working together as God intended to teach the next generation, Jesus loves you.

I want you to know that I am not oblivious to the way you have impacted my children, and neither are they. Your names were brought up in the midst of their lamenting along with the names of their peers.

You have changed their nasty diapers and fed their tiny mouths, so my hungry soul could be fed spiritually.

You have shown them mercy when they outright challenged your authority.

You have wiped their noses and been infected with the plagues that have swept through kids ministry.

You have managed conflict, drama, and outright insanity, and helped these children love each other as they formed their own rich, child-like, Christ-centered community.

You have shown them courage when you diligently served in a ministry that was being developed. When you stepped into a class filled with 3 to 10-year-olds who needed your care.

You have stepped up to serve the Lord and teach the word to children who can’t read the words but will listen to your grace-filled voice.

You, who on Sunday Morning find the energy to make exuberant arm motions, dance to loud, cheerful music, and be undignified in order to lead littles in praise to a God who is big, strong, and mighty.

You, who handle the aftermath when my child makes sure the whole class knows David, of slaying Goliath fame, was spying on Bathsheba while she was naked.

You, who persevered year after year, holding and walking alongside my child as they grew from baby into toddler, into preschooler, into elementarian.

You, who stayed late so we could pray with those walking through awkward times and deep waters.

You, who come to their parties to cheer them on. Who rejoiced with me when they experienced success, showed growing character, and began knowing God in new ways. Who celebrated as they were baptized.

You, who pray for their hearts, souls, and minds, while developing lessons, when you could be doing something, anything else.

You loved my children well. They know Jesus more because of you. Thank you feels too small, but I mean it from the core of who I am.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Our culture is wondering if the church is dying. They don’t know people like you.

Much love and gratitude,

The Parents of the Kids Whose Lives You Have Changed

Readers do you have a Sunday School teacher you love and appreciate. Let them know; they are more precious to us than they realize.

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Before I Rise

Author: Chara Donahue

Before I Rise

I must make the choice. It’s on me.
What to believe? What to negate?
Today I ask, which voice will it be?

Live in the light determined to see,
or let depravity poison today’s fate?
I must make the choice, It’s on me.

Passively cower? An internal absentee?
Will truth employed set lies straight?
Today I ask, which voice will it be?

Deciding in the morning hour is key.
What will my life communicate?
I must make the choice. It’s on me.

Resist  and make dark thoughts flee.
Leave behind these chains, this weight.
Again I asked, which voice would it be?

From accusation and doubt, an escapee.
With mind renewed I celebrate.
I will make the choice to live; be free.
Today I declare: His voice it will be.

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.'”~Isaiah 6:8





Readers: Do you think about what you are thinking about? Is it important for us to watch our thoughts? Why?

Somewhere Between the Be and the Go

Author: Chara Donahue

It was early Saturday, my husband leaned over to me and whispered he was going to go to the gym for his jujitsu class. Perfect, I thought, he will take the little ones with him, and I will go back to sleep. What a beautiful plan; he is so wonderful; I love sleep, all drifted through my head as my eyelids surrendered to their heaviness. Then about 20 minutes later he said he wasn’t going to go. I half-jokingly glared at him and said, “Rude.” Selflessness, FAIL.

I had hoped I would escape coming face to face with the pressure to get up. He reassured me that I could retreat back into slumber, but I knew I wouldn’t. Saturday mornings when there is time to make breakfast, slowly sip coffee, and talk with slowly-waking children are sweet times, and I don’t want to miss them. I treasure those type of mornings, of parental demand mixed with the anticipation of joy. I lingered in bed but was determined to get up in attempts to both choose love and assuage guilt.

Then my husband rallied, like a freaking rock star, and decided to go anyway. I nestled into the sanctuary of my pillow, and silently rejoiced at the chance to just be. I listened to the hints of fall gently blow through the yard. Our open window provided an inlet for the cool of the early morning to keep the second story stuffiness at bay, and I was soothed back to sleep by the sweet dance of my curtains breathing in and out. I found peace in the physical reminder that new seasons are just around the corner.

I slept for a while and woke on my own accord, which is quite a luxury when you have four children. Then I disturbed the splendor—I picked up my phone. Dun,dun,dun… slowly, without conscious effort, I obstructed the peace. The world was accessible right there in the little magic box. Email, Twitter, and Facebook are all luxuries, and yet they disturbed the shalom I had so been enjoying.

The brief glimpse of freedom from the hustle, the clamor, and the weight of everything that battles for a place on my shoulders stripped away by a pithy perusal of the phone. I had invited it back in, I would soon push it off, back into the hands of God where it belongs, but temporarily the weight bore down.

What was I doing?

I hadn’t even emerged from the covers that keep me warm at night, and I was already trying to ooze productivity. Seeking out purpose, I laid there reading an article called: Stop Wasting Time, Especially When It Comes to Social Media.

Was I attempting to drown myself in a pool of self-designed irony?

I took the moment to breathe, to be. I regrouped. I clicked on the article because, really, I had already asked myself if lying in bed had been a waste of time. There is so much to do, so many little things to tackle. I wondered if the rest was worth the high priced currency of time it demanded. Is it worth it to just be?

I know God puts value on rest, and yet I find that often this can be one of the harder things for me to believe. Knowing my own propensity to self-deceive, I wonder if I abuse the knowledge that God values rest? Do I manipulate the idea of obeying His command to rest as a defense for my own languor. I CANNOT read Proverbs 6:6 without feeling LAZY, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”

Even if I work all day I don’t know if I will ever work as hard as an ant. Really, those pests are relentlessly focused. However, I long to be wise. “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding.[1]” It’s clear the indolent and the sluggards don’t often see the precious fruits of purpose, so I search for wisdom like the ant seeks out unattended food. I scour for the answer that will alleviate the tension I find between the beauty of being and purposeful living.

For now I’ll just be over here in my comfy bed, or out in my city trying to bust out some passionate purpose, and I will keep praying for wisdom. I will search to discover how to dance between the two, with hopes that in whatever I do, I do it all for the glory of God[2], and I will rest in knowing that whether I BE or I GO there is grace for it all. For is by grace I have been saved through faith. It is so much bigger, it is a gift from God[3].

~~~

Readers,

How do you find the balance between the beauty of being and passionate purpose? Let us know in the comments.

[1] Proverbs 3:13

[2] 1 Corinthians 10:31

[3] Ephesians 2:8

Chara is a freelance writer, certified biblical counselor, and speaker. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She loves to write about faith, culture,  and the deep truths that drive our fascinations with it. Chara is the founder and editor of  Anchored Voices and can be found on multiple social media platforms @CharaDonahue.

Hope at Camp

Author: Chara Donahue

This past weekend, I got away from my little city and drove through even smaller towns to reach the wilderness and find camp. I retreated into the forest shade to find quiet that soothed my mind from the intensity of creating summer fun for four young children. As I prayed and prepared to teach workshops to women, coming from all parts of the Pacific North West, I looked out upon the lake of Camp Tadmor which boasted a giant inflatable slide, kayaks, and paddle boards. My kids are too young for camp, but I dreamt about someday bringing them there.

I envisioned the fun they would have, and the ways they might encounter God in this sacred space that whispers shalom. Many of my friends experienced camp as teens. In the church, I’ve heard the term “camp high” tossed around as though it were an experience universally shared in high school. I remember the people I knew at that age, my circle of friends, people I loved. They were also in search of a high, just not any camp high.

Soon my sessions were over and it was my last night at camp. My good friend and I decided a trek underneath the star-filled sky was a must. We set off into the misty dark and tried not to twist ankles or awaken the marshy edges of the sleeping lake. We settled for a while upon a deck floating gently on the wet tranquility. The night sky drew our gazes into its generous splendor, and we stared side by side into literal space. We enjoyed a clear view of the Milky Way’s trail, watched meteorites calling for wishes upon their failing majesty, and saw mythic constellations slowly make their nightly arc. With backs flat on floating boards and eyes drawn into the depths of  the unveiled universe, my friend and I reminisced about the years in high school, and told tales not previously shared with one-another.

My  stories from these times are best told in open spaces where the ears of children are distant.

It is not that I won’t tell my children these stories. They will surly view them as an origin story for the mother they know, but I can assure you that most of my teenage anecdotes will lend themselves to the genre of cautionary tale rather than inspirational autobiography.

But on this night, with this friend, she offered me space to not be a preacher, to not be the seasoned mother, to not be the redemption story, but to just be. As bats zoomed by and jetted slightly above the shiny still of the water, I felt the freedom to say “yeah, it was foolish and ultimately, the hurt was only bearable because I fell into the arms of God. But every once in awhile, it was so dumb that it makes a hilarious story.”

I told her about the sheer stupidity of some of my choices that could have easily cost me my life, the times God tried to get my attention and I withheld it, and I told her about friends who were terrible influences but I still deeply loved.  I told her of my favorite intoxicated philosopher who would discuss the deepness of dreams, the crack addict who came back from jail clean and Christ-focused, and my favorite drinking buddy with whom I had countless conversations about the God who now rules my life.

All of these people have long been out of my life, many of them even encouraged me to leave their circles. They saw violence sweeping into my life and knew I had to find a safer space. So I said goodbye, and honestly I don’t look back often; I don’t seek them out, but I do cherish the memories of friendship, however tainted, I had with them at that time. On this night my friend allowed me to leave behind the heavy tone in which I tell these stories from the stage, and tell them with laughter that sings “I still can’t believe that was my life.”

She also gifted me with the privilege of listening to her stories. She let me into her past spaces, and honestly, they are like those I hope for my children. Stories not populated with drug addicts and witnessing knife fights. Reports of innocent expectations and choices made out of wisdom. Highlights of what a life submitted to Christ early on could look like. As she dove into some of the funny and sweet chronicles of her life I listened with peace and hope. They simply made me feel happy.

Many of my close friends know the darkness of my story before Christ. They know how dangerous relationships ended, and that I would have been better off if that had never been a piece of my life. I know it too, but it is part of who I am. I can be grateful for the scary, the mourning, and the horrors that fill in a chapter of my story, because I truly have seen Jesus work it for good. It is He who gets the final say on the theme of my life.

I am living a story always being redeemed; all Christians are. It pains me when people preface how God met them with “Well, it’s not one of those dramatic stories.” Praise God that it isn’t! Any story about how someone finds the purest form of love in a dark and fallen world is powerful. The truth is that we are all a mess, and it is a miracle when Christ meets us in the midst of it. We should not shame a repentant person for the things they have turned from, but offer them room for their whole lives to step into the light. We must also not overlook the glory found in stories long-balanced on the narrow path. We must treasure narratives different than our own because without them we miss the beauty of diversity found in the story of God. May we be space-makers, place-setters, and room-prepares, just as Jesus is.

 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? ~Jesus (John 14:2)

Jesus makes space for all that come.

 

Hope at the Comic Store

Author: Chara Donahue

As a child I often wove through tales of great heroes. Aligned in sequence they greeted me in a procession of freedom fighters, redemption seekers, and ruckus rumblers. Box after box they lured me into worlds built around different rules and unique powers that surpass the things of dreams. There in the aisles of my uncle’s comic book shop I lifted Wonder Woman, Captain America, and the X-Men carefully from their plastic sleeves and invited them into my imagination.

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How I longed for superpowers as a child, how perpetually that desire increases now as a mom of four. If only I was faster than light, had an extra hand, or could just see through the stinking wall. Come on, whoever doles out the mystery gifts, I am waiting. I would even settle for no real powers and accept fancy gadgets and expert training like Batman.  Is that really so much to ask?
Oh, wait, just one more request, could I please have the ability to absorb the energy of others? My children seem to have that aptitude. In fact, this vigor theft seems to be at its strongest when I am seeking to empower them.
Whether teaching the kids how to load dishes or to stand up for what they believe in, empowering them seems to drain my vivacity. It is my kryptonite. I must resist the pleadings from my ancient nemesis Thy Own Self that says  “just do it on your own, that will be faster, done right, and done at all.” I must step forward into the depths of patience, diligence, and perseverance while joyfully giving thanks to the God who supplies all strength. I need to teach them to pee in the toilet as opposed to on the floor, tree, or toy of choice. It is my duty to impart to them the wisdom of not sticking metal objects into electrical sockets. It is imperative that I instruct these precious ones in the ways that are right, but more than anything else, these little lives need to know what it means to truly follow the real life hero who supersedes the things of fiction and brings the greatest love the universe has ever known.

To know this hero of torn flesh and sacrifice lived, this conqueror of death and reconciler of all. The one for which heaven opens to reveal through the clouds, “behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.” The God man who’s eyes are like a flame of fire. Who’s robe is dipped in blood.  The firstborn of the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth. The Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

Jesus—Greatest hero EVER!

I MUST give from my own power what it takes to empower my children to live for Him. I will take the risk of treading into areas in which my parenting tactics seem questionable to others, because I begin to become less concerned about obedience to me and more concerned with devotion to Christ.

I begin to say things to my children like, “Yes, respect your elders, but you can say ‘no’ to adults. Especially, if they are asking you to do things that make you uncomfortable.”
“Yes, it is good to have friends, but their opinion doesn’t define you, Christ’s does. He says that through Him you are the righteousness of God,”
“Yes, God tells you to obey your parents, but not over obeying Him. If anyone tells you to do something that is against what God tells you in His word, don’t do it, even if it is Mommy or Daddy.”

“Yes, the world will ask you to choose what is popular and easy, but stand, baby stand. Stand for justice, offer freedom, and walk humbly. Stand for mercy, share truth, and above all, love Jesus. For there and there alone  ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.’ There and there alone will you taste power uncorrupted.”

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Hope at Nap Time

Author: Chara Donahue

nap time theologian

I was putting my four year old down for a nap, and she thought this was a horrible idea. I began to fluff her covers and nestle her in, and she kept flipping around and thrashing like I was tying straps instead of tucking sheets.  Then suddenly she freezes, stares at me intensely, and spits out, “Mom, why do you work out?” Not a completely random question considering earlier that day I had taken the kids to the gym with me and had yet to change out of my lovely sweat laced active wear. I told her, “So, I can be strong, healthy, and live a long time.”

Apparently, still quite irate at my insistence of a nap, she grunts out these kind words escorted by an icy glare, “I want you to live with Jesus.”

My jaw dropped. Her words felt threaded with poison, yet in them hope.

I didn’t know how to feel. On one hand, living with Jesus is wishing the very best for me, and on the other…”Child, did you just say you want me dead?”

I was thoroughly confused and mortified.  I also didn’t know how to respond.  I stumbled through communicating my deep bewilderment, hurt feelings, and greatest hope.  I then backed out of the room, shut the door wide-eyed, and looked around as if to find someone who had just witnessed what had happened.

Um, hey Jesus, WHAT WAS THAT????

This isn’t the only time she has blown my mind, leaving me baffled and scrambling to put together a coherent thought.  Four months later, she was angry at me, AGAIN, for putting her down for nap (I promise she really does still need naps).  I finished our usual rest time routine and took my leave – ready for my own quiet time.  That silence was soon shattered when I heard a hefty bear like grunt, fists slamming into her bed, and a shout of “Jesus died for you!” echoing through the hall.

It was clear to her, as it is clear to me, that my biggest problem is that I am a sinner.

I totally get it. I empathize; when I’m frustrated with daily things, I begin to see other people’s sin clearly as well. I ask God for the strength to be patient. Calmly, I mentally state to myself that “those” people are loved, that “they” need the gospel, and “he/she/them”  is/are in desperate want of grace. I wholeheartedly proclaim the same words my daughter screamed at me. “Hey world, Jesus died for you!”

In that, I promise, there is genuine, beautiful love that God has grown in my heart for others. But… really, if I am honest – there is a bit of something dark and ugly in there.  As my flesh and spirit war I declare as my daughter did, “Jesus died for you!” and my depraved inner self silently hisses “so do what I want you to.”

Don’t worry God doesn’t let me get away with this stuff. He doesn’t take it lightly when others are vying for His place, and He is too good to let me slide. I am quickly and lovingly chastised with truths spelled out in scripture: God is God. I am not. His kingdom. His justice. His law, not mine. The Holy Spirit graciously chimes in with “you” are loved, “you” need the gospel, and “you” are in desperate want of grace.

He is God. I am not.

Yep, the kid is right. Jesus died for me. I need a savior.

Present tense, not that one time needed so that I get to live with Jesus when I am good and dead. That’s there – yes, but I need my Savior, every moment of every day.  I need His strength to fight the fights that come my way, whether they be with mundane tasks, seductive temptations, or letting Him become more as I become less.

I am also seeking and pleading for His patience, hope, and power at about 1pm each day, so I can stand under the truth from my local nap time theologian who keeps me humble and points me at Christ.