Is There A Right Age To Be Baptized?

[by contributing writer Heidi Eastman]

Since becoming a mother, I view the world differently.  My kids have a way of making me think about things in a new way.  They have a sense of wonder that I lost long ago.  And after a discussion about God and Jesus with a child, the phrase “faith like a child” gains much more depth. 

Baptism is one of the things my daughter is helping me to think about in a new way.

Two summers ago, she was just five years old and we watched people being baptized in the park. 

     Her:  “What are they doing?”
     Me:  “Well, when you love Jesus, the pastor pushes you under the water so everyone will know.”
(Perhaps if I thought before I spoke, I would have come up with a less traumatizing explanation).

Fast forward to this Easter Sunday. 

During the baptisms, my daughter, now seven, whispered:  “Mommy, I want to get baptized.”

I told her we would talk about it later.

Later came:

    Me:  “Why do people get baptized?”
    Her:  “Because they love Jesus.”
    Me:  “You’re right.  And they want everyone to know it.”
    Her:  “I want everyone to know.”
    Me:  “I’m really glad you want to get baptized, but I think you should wait until you’re older.”

Because obviously seven is much too young to truly understand what baptism means.

But is it?

Baptism is a public declaration of faith.  And children have a much purer faith than most adults.  Maybe seven is the perfect age to be baptized.  Maybe she should be baptized while she still has the faith of a child.  Maybe I am over-complicating this beautiful tradition.  Maybe I am preventing something amazing by saying no.

But then again, Jesus got baptized when he was around thirty years old.  Why did he wait so long?
Were there no other opportunities along the way?  If anyone was ready for baptism at a young age, it would be Jesus.

On the flip side, there are multiple Biblical examples of people accepting the gospel, and being baptized immediately.  It seems as though sometimes we want to ensure that people’s Christianity is going to stick before we put them in the tank.  But really, do any of us know with absolute certainty that our own faith is going to stick?  Do we know beyond doubt that we are not going to face challenges or a crisis that will shake, or even shatter our faith?

Is there a right time to be baptized?  Should it be because one feels called?  Should it be when one has been a Christian for a certain length of time?  Should it be at a certain age?  Or is simply loving Jesus and wanting to keep on loving him reason enough?

Heidi Eastman lives in Neustadt with her husband, two daughters, and a beast of a dog. She has been an active part of the HMC congregation from the moment she was old enough to contribute. You can find her over at her own blog, My Sister Told Me To Start A Blog.  [Articles by Heidi]

Consider Yourself Called

by contributing writer Heidi Eastman

For the last few weeks, Pastor Amos has been asking for help in child and youth ministries.  Every area of ministry needs leadership.  And obviously, enough of us are not stepping up quickly.

I wonder how many are actually involved in any area of ministry?  And I wonder how many of the rest are too busy, too lazy, physically unable, or too burned out from helping in the past?

And I wonder how many people are thinking “I don’t feel called”?

For those of you involved: thank you!  

I am so thankful that I get welcomed every Sunday morning by happy faces greeting me at the door and others taking up the offering.  I am so thankful to have somewhere to take my kids on a Sunday morning so I can sit and hear a sermon.  I am thankful to have a team of musicians on the stage welcoming me in with song.  I am so thankful that our church is a place hurting people can find support and healing.  I am thankful for the lovely people who serve drinks in the foyer.  And I’m thankful for all those other volunteers who help make the church an environment I am proud to be a part of.

For those who don’t help: why not?

Too busy? I understand.  I am married to this one.  And if he were to suggest volunteering at the church with his current schedule, I would be the one to say no.  When you are so busy, the last thing you need is adding one more thing to your plate.  You need to take care of yourself and when this busy season ends, the church will appreciate your hard work in whatever area of ministry you decide to join.  But, before using this reason, honestly evaluate your life – are you actually too busy or is it just the first excuse that comes to mind?

Too lazy?  Just stop (or should that be start?).  Jump in.  Not every area of ministry involves hours of time.  For example, the nursery could use you.  Show up on your scheduled Sunday and play with babies.  You can sit in the comfy chairs (unless you have to bounce a crying baby) and read stories to babies if you choose.  It may not seem like a big deal to you but for the stay-at-home mom whose only break from her baby is the nursery, this ministry can be a life-saver.

Physically unable?  If you want to help but have physical limitations, ask the leadership if they can use you.  I expect if you are able to get into the building, the answer will be yes! A few years ago, one of the youth leaders was well into his 80’s.  He couldn’t play the crazy games, but he cheered on and encouraged the teens.  Perhaps seeing you there will inspire some of those kids.  Perhaps your physical limitations will open doors to relationships you never considered.

Burned out?  I’m sorry.  Sometimes we do have to take time out to care for ourselves and that’s okay.  Personally, I stayed in an area of ministry longer than was healthy for me but I found it hard to step out when I didn’t see other people stepping in.  I would love to see a church where there is such a strong volunteer base that when one of us needs a rest, we can do so guilt-free knowing that everything is covered.  Everything has a season and I think that applies to ministry as well.  Sometimes we just need rest, and we need to know the gaps are filled to make our time away refreshing.  I hope you find the rest you need and can rejoin us soon – motivated and enthusiastic.

You don’t feel called?  I have been involved in some area of ministry since I attended high school.  And guess what?  I don’t feel “called” to help – and I never have.

And I think that’s okay. 

And I think it might be normal.

This “called” word that gets tossed around in Christian circles gives us an easy excuse not to help.  If we say “but I don’t feel called,” other Christians don’t dare question us. 

But I am going to. 

What if being a Bible-believing-Jesus-loving-Christian is all the calling we need?

I believe God can use us without a clear calling.

But why would I help when I don’t feel called?  My current reasons include:

  1.     I love our church.
  2.     I feel most connected to other people when I am actively involved in something.
  3.     I want to set an example for my children of the importance of volunteerism.
  4.     My current job does not use my social work background, and I spent a lot of time (and money) learning those skills, and I don’t want to lose them.
  5.     My toddler needs to learn that the world will not end if Mommy is not home every single night.
  6.     But the bottom line is: I am a Bible-believing-Jesus-loving-Christian, and I think that is all the calling I need.

So please – honestly evaluate why you are not currently helping at the church. If you don’t have a good excuse then make a change and get involved.   It may surprise you to find that ministry will sometimes impact you just as much or more than those you are there to help.

1 Corinthians 12:27
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Heidi Eastman lives in Neustadt with her husband, two daughters, and a beast of a dog. She has been an active part of the HMC congregation from the moment she was old enough to contribute. You can find her over at her own blog, My Sister Told Me To Start A Blog.  [Articles by Heidi]

The Miracle of Deliverance

by contributing writer Heidi Eastman

sometimes the greatest miracle of all is God changing out attitude towards our circumstance

This past Sunday, we had the opportunity to share our stories of deliverance.  (You can listen to some of those stories by watching the video from Sunday morning.) It’s always encouraging to hear how God answers prayers.  I wanted to share, but I have difficulty keeping things short, so I stayed in my seat.  I feel my sharing is best done with some thought and preparation.  Thankfully we have a blog that is a more comfortable setting for me to share.

I was in an ambulance heading to London, just 31 1/2 weeks pregnant – and in the early stages of labour.  (For those of you unfamiliar with pregnancy, 40 weeks is full term).  Our local hospitals (including Owen Sound), are unequipped to deal with infants born that early), so they had shipped me off to a facility with better resources for both me and my unborn child. 

The paramedic suggested I try to sleep (dear paramedics – there is no point in telling a pregnant woman in an ambulance to sleep, it’s not going to happen).  Instead I turned to prayer.  I kept begging God, over and over to “keep this baby in me”.

But somewhere on the road, that prayer changed.  I stopped treating God like my personal genie who would grant me my wish, and started treating Him more like the supreme creator of the universe He is.  I surrendered control, and prayed “Give me peace”.  And shortly after that, that prayer was answered. 

Nothing had changed – I was still in an ambulance, I was still having contractions, the situation was still serious. 

But that simple prayer to give me peace changed everything.  And God had the groundwork already laid – He was just waiting for me to ask.

The sense of peace I felt snapped me out of panic mode and helped me to have a clear mind, and be able to communicate my wants and needs more clearly, and have a better understanding what was happening.  And while I have no medical evidence to back me up, I believe that peace helped lower my blood pressure, which may have bought us more time – time enough for my husband to make the drive to London, and be by my side.  He also provided a mild January night, so both the ambulance and my husband could arrive safely.

God gave me peace by providing a wonderful obstetrician to care for me.  One whose current field of research was directly related to what was going on inside of me.  She was perfectly equipped to recognize my symptoms and acted quickly enough so that our daughter was born alive.

I was given peace by my paramedic being an old school mate, and providing a much needed distraction from my thoughts by catching up with each other.

Our daughter was born that night.  At 8 weeks early, she needed some medical interventions, and constant monitoring, but thankfully never required surgery, and was able to come home after a long seven weeks.

For those who knew of our situation the night of her birth, and the weeks following and prayed for us,  thank you.  God heard those prayers, and he answered them.  He delivered our family.  Our daughter, despite her scary start is a healthy, busy, typical two year old.

My prayer, and God’s answer was not an instant fix.  Some days I think about those first few weeks of her life, and I hurt about it still.  But it is impossible for me to reflect on those days without seeing the goodness of God.  He really is a God of miracles.

Sometimes the greatest miracle of all is God changing our attitude towards our circumstances.

Heidi Eastman lives in Neustadt with her husband, two daughters, and a beast of a dog. She has been an active part of the HMC congregation from the moment she was old enough to contribute. You can find her over at her own blog, My Sister Told Me To Start A Blog.  [Articles by Heidi]

When a Carpenter is Called to Raise a King

by contributing writer, Heidi Eastman

When a Carpenter is Called to Raise a King

I was hurt, betrayed and angry.  Mary, my betrothed, was pregnant and it was not my child.  And then she made an elaborate story about an angel and she said that the child growing inside her was the Son of the Most High God.  It was insulting.  As angry as I was, I didn’t want to bring more shame upon her and I decided to end things quietly.  But then an angel came to me and confirmed everything Mary had said.

I was terrified!

How does a man treat the woman carrying the Son of God?  I’m just a carpenter.  I couldn’t afford to give her everything she deserved.  All I could do was provide a dry house (most of the year), and work hard to provide for her basic needs.  I still cannot fathom why God would tell me to marry her.  But He did, and I obeyed.

I did everything I could to make Mary comfortable and she never complained or asked for anything.  In the midst of morning sickness, sleepless nights, and being the center of gossip, Mary never forgot how blessed she was.  She never forgot how special her child was.

As Mary’s stomach stretched, it started becoming real to me.  I was responsible for raising the Son of God.  Wouldn’t a rabbi or a scholar of the Torah be a better option?  How would I ensure he learned everything he needed?  I did my best to hide my worries from Mary.  She had enough to deal with without adding a frantic husband to the mix.

Mary was getting more uncomfortable every day, when Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken, and I had to travel to Bethlehem.  I was taking her away from her mother, and any woman she knew that could help her deliver a baby.  I was taking her on a dangerous road, with risks of attack – both human and animal – and robbery.  Not to mention that the stress of the trip could cause her to go into labour at any time.

Yet we went.  And I spent the entire trip in prayer.  I prayed that Mary would be okay.  I prayed that I could be the father this child needed.  I prayed that we would have a bed to sleep in.  I prayed that what we were doing was indeed God’s will.

We finally arrived in Bethlehem.  I completed the census and we looked for a place to stay.  Mary was becoming more and more uncomfortable.  She tried so hard not to complain, but a woman in labour does not easily remain quiet.

So many people had come for the census that there were no vacancies anywhere!  Finally an innkeeper offered us his stable for the night.  A stable is far from what I imagined but it was dry and Mary could rest.

Jesus was born that night.  Mary had told me about childbirth on our journey in anticipation of us not finding a midwife.  I had never seen a child born before.  It was long, messy, loud and disgusting, yet somehow beautiful.

I had been expecting a King.  Yet I held a tiny, fragile, helpless infant.  A baby who interrupted our sleep and demanded to be fed and changed.  A simple, beautiful, perfect baby boy.  He was not a king.  He was not born with a crown on his head.  The only miracle was that of birth.  He was completely human.  Yet I knew, when I looked at him, that he really was the son of the Most High God.  And I was given the honour of being a part of his life.

I still do not know how to raise a king.  I will honour his mother.  I will pray for wisdom, and I will teach him what I know.  I will raise the creator of the universe as a carpenter.

Heidi Eastman lives in Neustadt with her husband, two daughters, and a beast of a dog. She has been an active part of the HMC congregation from the moment she was old enough to contribute. You can find her over at her own blog, My Sister Told Me To Start A Blog.

Choosing Discomfort: Communion Is Not Just A Pretty Ritual

by contributing writer Heidi Eastman
Church is sometimes too comfortable.  We have cushy seats and we sit with the people we know and like. Even communion is comfortable, with the pretty silver trays filled with pieces of tortilla (with a gluten free option) and tiny thimbles of grape juice.  We partake while listening to beautiful, reflective music and often leave the service without a second thought about the meaning of the ritual we just participated in.   
Jesus’ death was messy and dirty and chaotic.  Communion is clean and organized and quiet.  The two are worlds apart. The bread is the body, the wine (or juice) is the blood but how can we connect bread and juice with the brutal death Jesus suffered?

I will never fully understand (nor do I want to) the agony Jesus faced while dying on the cross but occasionally, I try to focus on the brutal reality. The reality that Jesus was beaten violently, forced to carry the instrument that was going to be used to kill him, nailed upon a cross – completely naked, for everyone to mock and spit at –  waiting for death to come.  Every single breath would have been agony as the open cuts from his beating would scrape over the cross.  And if breathing hurt, can you imagine the pain of projecting his voice so people around could hear him?  Yet he chose to seek forgiveness for those crucifying him, to assure a man dying alongside him that he would be with him in heaven, and to make sure his mother was taken care of.  The physical pain would be indescribable, but the emotional pain?  The pain of being killed by those you love unconditionally, because one of your closest friends betrayed you?  That pain is unfathomable!

So the next time the silver tray comes your way, try choosing discomfort.  Next time you take the bread, actually think about Jesus’ body.  Think about what He suffered for you.  When you take the wine, actually think about His blood, poured out willingly and without complaint.  The only reason we have the privilege of partaking in the beautiful tradition of communion is because of the ugly, violent and messy way our Saviour died. 

Will you approach this Sunday with a little more thought and reverence? Will you set aside the worries of your week to really focus on what Jesus’ sacrifice means? Will you choose discomfort?
Heidi Eastman lives in Neustadt with her husband, two daughters, and a beast of a dog. She has been an active part of the HMC congregation from the moment she was old enough to contribute.