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Brown Bag Jesus

A lesson in humility, priority, and compassion from the Brown Bag Jesus.

Salina Beasley

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It was 6:35 a.m., the second day of Kindergarten, and this was the moment we had been preparing for all summer long.

Besides exposing my Autistic son to the Judeo-Christian plan of salvation complete with visual aids, social story boards, song and dance, and standing on my head, my sole aim this summer break was to teach him how to brush his own teeth. Start to finish. Rinse to spit. Why? Because pediatric dentists guard the pearly white gates of Eternal Judgement — dressed in floss-count robes waving chewed up bristle brushes at helpless parents like me who liken brushing their Autistic children’s teeth to spaghetti kissing a rottweiler puppy.

Every six months, the dentist informs me that I need to brush better, longer, and floss my kids’ teeth. Oh, and if I had a nickel for every time I heard the word’s “electric toothbrush.” Do I have to spell it out for you, Doc? A buzzing rod inside an Autistic child’s head. Sure. Right after I trim his hair with a chainsaw. It’s all the same to him. In this moment I am tempted to open my own mouth and say “Ahhh” just to prove to Dr. Buzz that I myself am cavity-free and therefore could’t possibly be labeled a “lazy plaque junkie.” But before I can redeem my family’s good name, I am hurried out the door with a goody bag filled with kiddie floss and a wildlife finger puppet with a caricature-scale smile to soothe my aching ego.

Where was I? Oh, yes.

It is Day Two. 6:35 a.m. Moment of truth.

Water on.

Check.

Rinse.

Check.

Water off.

“Way to go, Buddy.”

Thumb nail-sized toothpaste dollop.

… and GO!

“No, sweetheart. This isn’t the time to fixate on the soap dispenser. Put the brush in your mouth. Put the brush in your mouth. Put the…”

That’s when the school bus pulled up to the driveway. Early. Those flashing yellow signals spotlighting what was about to be the biggest mommy-fail, epic-sensory meltdown public transport has ever seen. I snatched the brush out of his hand, thrust it into his mouth, and began hurriedly brushing my son’s gnashing teeth.

Yes. I know better. Yes. I completely lost my patience. Yes. I broke all the rules of prompting and transitioning and video modeling and picture cuing that typically “work” for my son with Autism. Nevertheless, a bloody scene unfolded in the driveway ending in me scooping up my flailing son despite my 7-month pregnant belly and throwing him in the arms of the bus driver. As the bus pulled away, I could still hear him screaming as though he’d been shot in cold blood. It was all too much. I went back in the house, buried my head in the covers, and cried. Hard.

Later that day, I text-informed my husband that I was hereby terminating my parental rights between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. He was to assume sole custody of our son and all of his dental complexity, and, “While you’re at it, can you get him dressed, make sure he’s eaten, and get him on the school bus? Thanks. You’re a gem.”

Was I quitting? Perhaps. Or was I surrendering my child over to the parent with the better battle strategy, more emotional (or in my case hormonal) capacity, and higher pain tolerance? It’s a toss up. Either way, I wouldn’t — couldn’t survive another round with my firstborn like that again.

The next morning, I woke up early, had my coffee, and proceeded to sit on my hands while my husband woke up our son to begin his morning routine.

Clothes on.

Never mind that he sleeps in his school clothes so we don’t have to hassle with it in the morning. One less thing.

Breakfast commenced.

Half a Larabar outta stick to him until snack time, right?

Bible story.

So far, so good, Dad.

But would he accept the Colgate challenge and claim victory in the duel to the death of childhood tooth decay?

Not exactly. Rewind. Back up to the Bible story.

Our kids like to watch these lesson videos where all the Bible characters are DIY puppets made out of brown paper lunch sacks. True story. Clark and I make fun of them, but my preschool film critics give them two thumbs up. This particular morning’s video featured Brown Bag Jesus calling his Brown Bag disciples to come and follow Him … “and I will make you Brown Bag Fishers of Men.” My son was so inspired, that he begged, literally pleaded with Dad to make him a Brown Bag Jesus before he went to school. That’s when the kitchen table became a flurry of colored construction paper, glue sticks, and scissors.

Snip. Snip. 6:20 a.m.

“Sweetie, do we have any blue paper for Jesus’ sash?! Never mind. I’ll just use purple.”

6:30 a.m.. Snip. Glue. Snip.

“Babe, where’s the permanent marker?”

6:35 a.m. The back of my hands were numb from where I had been sitting on them all morning. It took every ounce of will power for me not to interfere, or hint, or periodically announce the countdown to blast off — T minus 5 until the bus shows up. T minus 2. T minus 30 seconds.

The bus arrived just as Clark finished what looked like an exact replica of the star of The Passion of the Brown Bag Christ. Salem was so overcome with joy, he barreled out the door, the Brown Bag Jesus puppet swallowing his arm up to his striped short sleeve, waving to the bus driver, “It’s Jesus! It’s Jesus!” He ran up the bus steps and happily took his seat blowing kisses and signaling thumb-pointer-pinky “I love you’s” at us from the bus window as it pulled away.

At that moment, I took a lesson in humility, priority, and compassion from my husband who had so instinctively chosen relationship over routine.

So, the morning plan was blown. So, Salem’s teeth didn’t get brushed. So, I had to give the teacher a text message head’s up about the Brown Bag Jesus about to exit the bus and how, “…we are not religious fanatics on a mission to convert the faculty and staff vicariously through our kindergartner. Nevertheless, Christ be with you, today.” Her daily report that afternoon read, “Salem took Jesus with him everywhere today. He was telling his classmates all about Jesus!” Funny, she didn’t send a note home the day before remarking on his exceptionally clean teeth.

Humility. Priority. Surrender.

I have to face the pediatric dentist next week to hear the inevitable “electric toothbrush” lecture and endure the finger puppet humiliation. We may have to swallow decades of fees and condemnation from our kids’ oral healthcare providers. But my husband’s example and the image of my son’s beaming face on the bus with Brown Bag Jesus is forever etched into my memory. A reminder to choose relationship. To choose surrender. A reminder that what we might pay in dental bills, we might not have to pay in family therapy. When I think of it that way, the choice is a no-brainer.

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Salina is a worship leader/songwriter with her husband, Clark. The two spent the early years of their marriage touring with Grammy-Award winning worship leader/songwriter, Matt Redman. They are now living in Atlanta, Georgia, where they enjoy leading worship for their local church. Salina is also a freelance writer and mother of two children. You can follow Salina on twitter @salinabeasley.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Brown Bag Jesus

by Salina Beasley time to read: 5 min
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