i’m exhhhhhhhhhhhausted. and not just because i spent the week with 42 teenagers? no that would not be enough to exhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaust a person...
but this might be enough....
anna camden (on left) and adeladie (on right) are here for the week. they are going to petite players camp and the rest of the day they are involved in inquisitive camp where they ask questions of the marshall girls all day. good thing they are UBER adorable and so sweet and polite and it totally makes the exhhhhhhhhhhhaustion worth it. and the fact that robyn (their mom and my college roommate) is here also and we are having SOOOOOO much fun being together makes it MORE than worth it!
here is anna camden watching the tony awards on millie’s back. millie is also exhhhhhhausted AND she is helping at petite players camp this week. what a trooper!
so as promised (and because i can’t think of anything else to write) here is one of the devotionals that i wrote for the choir tour kids.... it is excessively long and wordy BUT it kept the kids quiet for a while on the bus while they were reading it... SCORE!
"I saw three ships come sailing in" is an Old English Christmas carol. It is also the title of this devotional, which is going to describe three ships from an ancient Greek myth, AND it will illustrate the principle of three ways to DENY yourself as seen in Scripture.
A Christmas song, a Greek myth, AND a Biblical lesson all in ONE devotional. Yes, it will be A-MAZING! So put on your life preserver and let’s take a little cruise together….
In the epic Greek tale of Homer , THE ODYSSEY (an odyssey is a long and perilous journey, kind of like your teenage years), we see three different ships going past the Isle of the Sirens. This was a dangerous island. The Sirens were beautiful creatures that were part human, part bird (doesn't sound really beautiful, but this is a myth). The singing of the Sirens was so wonderful that any person that heard them would become enchanted. The enchanted sailors would hurl themselves overboard and swim to the isle of the sirens'. And they would die on the jagged rocks around the island. Boo hoo hoo.
So the first ship that we see in the story goes through this section of water and everyone on board jumps off, swims to the sirens, and dies. Tragic.
Only two boats are said to have survived the passage over the waters by this island. One boat was manned by a man named Ulysses (commonly known as Odysseus and our word "odyssey" comes from his name and his difficult journey) and the other was led by Jason, and had an essential passenger aboard his boat Argo. The man's name was Orpheus.
Ulysses was warned about these Sirens. He decided to stuff his sailors' ears with beeswax so they couldn't hear the sounds. But before doing so, Ulysses instructed them to tie him to the mast (with no beeswax in his ears) and only make his ropes tighter if they saw him struggle. And so they pass, He hears every note of the tempting song. He struggled and yelled, and screamed, and made vile threatening gestures, but the sailors, oblivious to the lethal song, sailed on, and our Ulysses eventually came to his senses, and the boat moves on.
Then is the boat Argo. Commanded by the wise captain Jason. And on this boat was Orpheus. As they pass this same island, Jason calls to Orpheus to come up to the ship’s deck. Orpheus recognizes the danger, and pulls out a musical instrument. He plays the most beautiful melody, and this drowns out the calls of the Sirens. His music is so beautiful that the sailors do not even care to hear those of the Sirens. And so too, this boat passes safely on to continue their Journey.
And so we too face our own dangerous islands as we travel on our own odysseys...
And sometimes like that first boat... we ride on the boat until temptations starts to sing it's attractive tune (but the way, the Sirens' songs were supposed to be about gaining wisdom, knowledge, pleasures untold, glorifying ourselves, and getting honor for ourselves....hmmm, very much like the "siren" songs of the world today). And once we hear that song, we jump overboard swimming quickly right toward temptation. Until we hit the rocky shore and get cut and bruised. Swimming to the shore always leaves a scar.
But sometimes we try to be like Ulysses as we travel through the dangerous waters of temptation. Ulysses didn't want to die, he understood the danger but he didn't want to totally ignore the songs either. He wanted it both ways. He wanted to live AND to experience the songs... and it made him MISERABLE.
A lot of Christian teens do things the Ulysses-way. They go through life looking at ALL the seemingly really "fun" things other teens are doing and they really WISH they could do that, see that movie, dance that way, and wear those clothes. But they BIND themselves to the mast MISERABLE and hating the mast and cursing the ropes and all the sailors (parents, youth leaders) who keep them “tied up”. They try to get closer and closer to the edge all the time. Looking for any and all loopholes. That is a miserable way to spend your teen years. You might come out safe and secure, you might not crash on the rocky shoreline... but in the end that is not a life FULL of joy and love. That is not victory in Jesus. There is so much more than that...
So how do you go past the Isle of Sirens that calls to you on your journey? You do it like Jason and the Argonauts...
You take along a great musician like Orpheus. Orpheus was not afraid of the Sirens' song. He played a sweeter song. And all on board listened to it and if they even heard the Sirens' song, it was so faint in their ears that they didn't give it a second thought. There was joy on board. There was victory. It was a song so breathtaking and satisfying that it made the alluring melody of the Sirens no more appealing that a far away slightly obnoxious car alarm...
The lesson? There are three ways to DENY yourself as you navigate the Isle of Sirens...
#1: DENY YOURSELF NOTHING. Go after those Sirens and their songs. Just make sure you take lots of band-aids. There are dangerous consequences to that choice. And there is death in that choice.
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
#2: DENY YOURSELF through bondage to the law. Make it all about you following the rules and boundaries and restrictions and judging others BUT you get as close the edge as you can. This will make you miserable, but you will look like such a GREAT Christian on the surface while inwardly you cursing those who are trying to help you and judging everybody around you.
Romans 6:12-14 (The Message) That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don't give it the time of day. Don't even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you've been raised from the dead! —into God's way of doing things. Sin can't tell you how to live. After all, you're not living under that old tyranny any longer. You're living in the freedom of God.
#3: DENY YOURSELF by FORGETTING YOURSELF
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
This Greek word “deny” that is used in this verse actually has this meaning…
“Deny- to forget one's self, lose sight of one's self and one's own interests”
Those sailors on Jason’s boat forgot themselves. They forgot to listen to anything other than the sweeter song. They lost sight of their own interests. They let go of selfishness and pride. And they listened to the sweeter song.
Have you ever done something wonderful, something GREAT, something so HUGE that you threw yourself into the task so hard that you forgot what time it was? You forgot to act cool? You forgot to eat? You forgot that you were tired? Or that is was a very difficult thing to do? You forgot that your muscles ached and your shirt had sweat stains on it? And afterwards you remember it was the BEST thing that you ever did?
Well, I wish it was always that easy to FORGET ourselves. Sometimes in moments of worship or service it is the easiest and most natural thing to forget who and where we are and lose ourselves in the love of the Lord.
But for every easy time there are hundreds of hard times to FORGET your self. Times we really want to give in and it be ALL about ME! It is so hard to “die to self” when someone has criticized us and we want to strike back. When we know that standing up for what is right may lose us a friendship or our reputation or a boyfriend or a girlfriend relationship. The times we hurt and are tired and hungry, when we think we have a “right” to be angry and don’t want to choose “righteousness” instead. The sweeter song is sweeter in the long run, but sometimes CHOOSING to listen to it is a difficult act of will when the Sirens are shouting in our ears.
If we have Christ on our boat, if we listen to His Words, His Message, He will give us that sweeter song. When we behold His face, the things around us become strangely dim... and the light of this world becomes a mere shadow...
Matthew 10:38 (The Message) "If you don't go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don't deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me.”
So which ship are you sailing on through your teenage years?
Think about a time when you have been on boat #1 and DENIED YOURSELF NOTHING. When you have jumped off and swam after whatever song the world was singing to you… recount the cost of hitting that rocky shoreline. Ouch.
What about boat #2? Have you journeyed close to the edge? How close can I get to sin without it touching me? How did you feel about those around you who you started to see as “standing in the way of your fun”? How miserable were you (or how miserable are you now as you may be tied to that mast right now) as you listen to the voices calling you to come for your glory, your popularity, your comfort, your pride, calling you to come and be killed on that shore?
And can you even conceive of being on boat #3? Listening to that sweeter song? Forgetting yourself as you lose yourself in God’s love, in His plans, in His grace and glory? Can you hear Him playing that sweeter song and is it starting to drown out those other voices? He is there, He is singing, and He is calling. He will release you from being tied to the mast to being free to live in joy forgetting yourself, abandoning your agenda for the sake of the call…
The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.