Tag Archives: children

Bee Sting

Does True Faith have a Plan B?

I grew up in suburbia twenty miles east of Los Angeles. The community was built in the mid-1950s, a pretty typical suburban development of the time. The neighborhood was cookie cutter houses, chosen from about five different floor plans. All of the houses used the same group of plants in the landscaping but they were arranged a little differently at each house. The kids all played together in the street a little like “Leave it to Beaver”.

When I was about eight years old one of the favorite activities was to catch bees. Now, as a parent, I call this type of activity, “childhood stupidity”. So, write it off to childhood stupidity, but catching bees was what we did. The neighborhood was filled with shrubs called, wax-leaf privets. They have dark green waxy leaves about an inch wide and two inches long. In the spring they produce dense clusters of very small white blossoms and the bees loved them. The neighbor across the street had a hedge made of wax-leaf privets; the perfect place to catch bees.

To catch bees you would take a milk bottle, yes milk came in glass bottles at the time. You would hold the bottle upside down and lower it over a bee humming about the blossom cluster. Once the bee realized that something was wrong, he would try to escape by flying up into the bottle. Then you quickly place the cardboard bottle cap over the opening to trap your prize.

The first bee is the easy one. We would repeat this process of opening the bottle and trapping a second bee without letting the first, rather angry bee, out. If you were good you could trap four or five bees in the same bottle.

Normally there were about three boys involved in this activity. We would egg each other on, or encourage one another, depending on your perspective. There was an element of competition and pride over who would push the envelope and do the dangerous thing of catching one more bee.

One day a couple of the neighbor boys came knocking on the door. They were all excited. As I came outside they said, ‘Mike caught a bee with his bare hands.” Okay, that had to be the ultimate accomplishment in bee catching. That was boyhood bravery.

As we were walking across the street I was overcome by a sudden wave of childhood stupidity. Was it bravery, courage, naivety, pride, or misplaced faith? I don’t know for sure but the boys assured me that Mike had accomplished this extreme act of bravery and he had not been stung. I believed them and I wasn’t about to be out done, so I confidently said, “I can do that.”

As the other boys watched in nervous anticipation, I boldly walked up to the hedge. I looked at them again and asked for reassurance, “Mike really caught a bee with his bare hands and was not stung?“ Mike said “yes”, and the other boys said, “Yes, I saw him.” So based on that testimony, I stepped up, cupped my hands and caught a bee WITH MY BARE HANDS. For a brief moment I could feel his wings buzz against the palms of my hands and his body bounce from side to side. The other boys looked on in amazement. Then it happened, the bee stung me. I jumped back and let go of the bee. My hand hurt, and tears began to roll down my face. I can’t remember for sure, but I think I went home for a while.

I was hurt and confused. How did Mike catch a bee with his bare hands and not get stung? Was he just lucky? My friends wouldn’t have lied to me. What really happened out there?

A few minutes later I went back outside and questioned my friends. “I thought you said that Mike caught a bee with his bare hands?” They all said that he had and that they had seen it with their own eyes. So I challenged Mike, “Do it again. Show me.” So Mike turned to the hedge, pulled the sleeves of his heavy sweater over his hands and nervously cupped a bee in his hands. He held it for about one second, then let it go and ran about ten feet away.

The childhood debate ensued. “That’s not bare hands.” “Yes, it is.” “No it isn’t, you pulled your sleeves over your hands.” “That’s sill bare hands. “ No, it isn’t.” “Yes, it is.” “I never said you couldn’t use your sleeves.” “That’s cheating!” “No, it isn’t.” “Yes, it is.” And on and on it went.

My friends had made a claim that I took to be true at face value. I believed that what was true for them could be true for me. I had faith, as misguided as it was, it was childhood faith. Based on their statements, I stepped out in faith (or pride), and I got stung. On closer examination, they didn’t believe their own claims. They said you could catch a bee with your bare hands, but they were unwilling to truly risk it. They hedged their bet. They covered themselves.

Last night I was giving a couple of young men a ride home. As we were driving I made a statement that sounded so good. It was one of those quotable statements that someone would post on Facebook. I said, “Real faith doesn’t have a back-up plan.” It was so easy to say, but as soon as the words cleared my lips I was struck by how good and noble it sounds, but how hard it is to do. Pastors and other Christians talk boldly about living by faith, but when it comes down to it we are formulating back-up plans. We are pulling the sleeves of our sweaters down over our hands. We say that we believe but we are going to protect ourselves so we don’t get stung.

In Matthew 6, Jesus says to not layup for yourself treasures on earth. Do we believe that enough to actually practice it, or do we not lay-up a lot of treasures. Or do we lay-up treasures but then claim that we really aren’t placing our confidence in them.

In the same passage Jesus said, 25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Elsewhere Jesus says, “pick-up your cross and follow me.” That is not just a willingness to die for Jesus. It is a following Jesus with no plan B. There is no turning back. No hedging your bets. No pulling down your sleeves to cover yourself.

The question is not what other people are doing. The questions are for me. Am I willing to risk it all and follow Him? Am I willing to move forward without a plan B, a safety net? I have seen how others do it. Theirs is limited faith, but what is mine? Am I willing to believe Jesus for what He said, the way He said it? Am I going to reach out in faith, and risk being stung? Risk the ridicule of those around me.

Can you really catch a bee with your bare hands? It is hard to do when you have been stung once; but this time the challenge doesn’t come from childhood friends, it comes from the Son of God. Do I believe Him? Is it child-like faith or childish stupidity? I think I will risk it again and go with faith.

Mother’s Day Father’s Day

I have heard it said that the biggest day for church attendance is not Christmas, it is not Easter, it is Mother’s Day and that the lowest day for church attendance is Father’s Day. By the way, I don’t think that is correct but there is little doubt that Mother’s Day is a big day and Father’s Day is not. The normal explanation is that Mother’s Day arrives and Mother is asked, ‘What do you want to do today?’ Mother responds, ‘I want to go to church and I want all of my family with me.’ When Father’s Day arrives and Father is asked, ‘What do you want to do today?’ Father responds, ‘I want to sleep in and then later I will go golfing or watch the game.’

Pastors think it is as simple as that; Mothers want to go to Church and Fathers do not. They seldom ask the question of, “why”? What is it about church that makes mothers want to go and fathers want to stay home? Could it have to do with how churches celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?

At the typical church on Mother’s Day, Mothers are all dressed up; sometimes wearing a new outfit. They may even have been given a corsage. They arrive with their families with the anticipation of being honored. The pastor asks all of the mothers to stand. The mothers all proudly stand, exchanging glances with their families all lined up next to them. Through a series of questions one of the mothers in singled out for special honor. “Which of you most recently became a mother,” or “Which has the most children?”…or the most children in fulltime Christian service, or the most children with you in church today. One way or another some mother receives a special gift for being there.

Then it is time for the sermon. The pastor gushes about the importance on mothers to your development. The congregation is told of the great sacrifices the mothers make for their children. We owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. If the pastor is so inclined he will speak of the special plight of single mothers. He will speak of working two or three jobs and taking kids to soccer practice.

At some point in the sermon the pastor quotes a passage from Proverbs 31 ‘her husband and children shall rise up and call her blessed.’ The sermon will continue with an admonition to the family to praise their wife or mother. Kids will be told to obey and honor their mothers and do their chores without complaining. Father is told to acknowledge all of the hard work his wife does. He is told that when he gets home from work, he should take over watching the kids, or do the laundry, or fix dinner, or say, ‘Dear, I can see that you are tired. Let me take you out to dinner tonight.

The sermon ends with a touching personal story or poem. Everyone is told to take their mothers to lunch and to spend the day pampering them.

It is no wonder that mothers want to be in church on Mother’s Day.

Now let’s take a look at Father’s Day in the average church. Well, to begin with there are no flowers or special gifts. Fathers may get a greeting of, “Happy Father’s Day”. Generally the pastor does not have the fathers stand and award one of them with a special recognition.

The song choices may include “Faith of our Fathers”. As the pastor enters into the sermon, he will speak of the importance of a father’s influence in the family. He will mention how important it is for a father and daughter to have a good relationship. He will also speak of the relationship of a husband and wife.

At this point the sermon will take a turn. Instead of praising Fathers for what they do, they are chastised for what they don’t do. The Father that works two jobs will be told that he is a workaholic and he should be at home more. No mention will be made of his hard work. No one will tell the families that they should stop making demands for more and more things. No one will tell the families that going into debt will result in the father working long hours. There is a simple choice, ‘you can have things or you can have your father’.

The pastor will go on to talk about how fathers need to be there at children’s sporting events and recitals. The assumption will be that fathers are not there. No mention will be made of the many fathers that coach the teams. The one event that is missed will be the focus rather than the many times father is there. Some touching story of heartbreak due to an absentee father will be told.

There will also be the appeal for husbands to have better relations with their wives. They will be told that they need to have a date night. They will also be told how hard their wives have it and they need to help out more around the house.

In addition there will be a call for fathers to be spiritual leaders in the family. Pray with your wife and children and conduct family devotions.

By the time the sermon is over the father feels beaten and dejected. He is worn out and loaded down with the guilt of unmet expectations. Worse yet the wife and children are not taught to honor their husband and father. Instead they are convinced that the father is not doing enough and it is ruining their lives.

It is no wonder that Fathers would want to be somewhere else on Father’s Day.

Pastors, use this Father’s Day as an opportunity to truly honor fathers for the things they do and build their value in the eyes of their families.