Posted in Living this Life

Dust bunnies and Christmas trees

It finally all caught up with me.

I mean, you can only hide the dust that is threatening to engulf your home for so long before it rears its ugly head and exposes you for who you really are.

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Because even though we all may prance around like Lucy from a Charlie Brown episode, pretending to have our stuff together, if we’re honest with ourselves, sometimes we feel a little bit more like the dust-embattled “Pig Pen” of the series. Literally.

Let me explain. Some people use Thanksgiving as their gauge for the appropriate time to break out the Christmas decorations. In my little world, it comes the day after Halloween. After a month of dealing with ghosts and ghouls haunting the aisles of every store I walk into, I can’t wait to throw up the tree and string the lights! (Thanksgiving looks extra good in the reflection of Christmas lights … we don’t skip Thanksgiving in these parts, we just “accessorize” it!”)

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So this year I jumped right in. Only, to my horror, I suddenly realized that this wasn’t going to be as much fun as I thought. It has been an exceptionally busy few months, and though I have maintained the “mandatory” cleaning of laundry, dishes, and the necessary loathsome toilets, I had blithely ignored the dust gathering in all the corners and surfaces of my home.

Until the lights came out and suddenly I could see it all. Everything ugly shone forth in shocking brilliance. And my dreams of glorious decorations stopped short in the depressing realization that I needed to put on my big girl pants and clean.

Truth is, I’ve been struggling with the thought of Christmas this year. I want all the joy, I want all the celebration, but sometimes it just feels like a lot of work, and I’m tired. It’s like I’m bursting at the seams (literally and emotionally) and then we take all these lights and decorations and songs and expectations and pile them on top of all this other stuff going on. And it starts to feel heavy and busy and cluttered.

Kind of like my house with decorations obscured by dust.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the beauty through the chaos, isn’t it?

Don’t blame Christmas. It’s holding out it’s arms with the promise of wonder and beauty … the opportunity to pause and remember. To put up impractical decorations just because they shine and make us smile and to give unnecessary gifts just because we love someone. To remember those important things that we build our lives on, but allow to get squeezed out in the business of life. The problem with Christmas lies in our capacity to receive it. We don’t know how to make space for it, so it just starts to feel like more work, more stuff, more than we have space for. We’re putting the beauty on top of the mess of our lives and it all dulls into incoherent clutter.

So I pulled out my dust rag, and I started to wipe. And as my home started to sparkle a little more, I felt the space around me work a surprising miracle. It was like the literal act of wiping away dust was starting to clear out the dusty corners of my heart. As the spaces around me cleared, I looked at my boxes of decorations and suddenly felt excitement grow over filling these spaces with lights and beauty.

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Are you feeling this with me? Is your soul feeling a bit cluttered these days? Do you have those spaces too – the ones that have been ignored too long and when you let your gaze linger, all you see are those stinking dust bunnies staring back at you? Has the calendar pressed in on you so that you no longer see the moments around you and only hear the ticking of the clock? Has the hurt that’s been done to you hardened your heart so all you hear when you call to God is your own voice echoing back? Are the necessary bills piling so high that every responsibility is just something else you can’t afford? There’s that diagnosis, that relationship, the drama that swirls around us and sucks the joy right out of our hearts… What do we do with all of that? Especially when Christmas comes along and tells us to put up the lights and rejoice and how do you do that when you can’t really find yourself in the middle of all the crazy?

It’s just easier to ignore it all and go on with the daily necessary requirements of life, isn’t it?

But then you hear the echo of that song and it feels a little different …

“Let every heart prepare Him room”… but if I’m honest, there really isn’t room most days.

Maybe what we need this Christmas is a different perspective. Maybe instead of trying to lay baby Jesus in His manger on top of all the other things in our lives, we could try inviting Him into that messy place? Maybe we could hold open our hands and simply ask Him to hear the cry of our hearts.

We all want to move a little slower so we can take it all in, but until we can, let’s “prepare Him room”. Maybe we can dust out the corners of the heart, release some resentment, soften some anger, forgive a hurt – and let Jesus in. Recently I found myself needing to utter a simple, “I’m sorry” to the God of the Universe who I had unwittingly shut out of my heart. Hurts in various form had caused me to want to protect myself and those I love and so I let myself grow hard – and God can’t be heard when the walls of our heart turn to rock.

Maybe this Christmas season, we can string the lights and remember the Light who scatters our darkness. (John 1:5)

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To hear His precious promises – and truly believe them!

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair. – Isaiah 61

Maybe with each twinkling light we see, we can take a deep breath and see the face of Christ – “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6

Oh how my soul needs to hear that truth! Pig Pen and I have some work to do around here! But we’ll have the Christmas music blasting while we do it…

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Posted in Living this Life

The bell still rings for me…

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I rode the Polar Express the other night.

Not by myself, of course – that would have been weird.

My family all jumped aboard with me – we dug out the Christmas PJs and Santa hats and braved the cold to ride the train. We sang the Christmas songs, drank the hot chocolate and ate the cookies – we met Santa, saw the elves, and let ourselves feel the magic of the story.

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But as I sat in the middle of all the merriment – I looked around at all the other families sharing this moment with us and thought – this is all so bizarre. There is the man up there, with his arms covered in tattoos participating in the same experience as me. And in another car, there is the big family wearing matching giraffe costumes – I still don’t know what that has to do with the Polar Express or Christmas, but they looked cozy and happy. Surrounding me are people of all ages – wearing all manner of PJs and random Christmas attire – every walk of life, sharing this moment, this story, this child-hearted experience.

And I can’t stop thinking about it.

Whey do we do these things? We drink lukewarm hot chocolate, eat cheap sugar cookies, and listen to a story we’ve heard over and over … and we LOVE it! The incongruity of it all makes me think that something much more important is happening in our spirits and maybe we just don’t have the words.

If you’re anything like me, this grown-up world can spin you upside down. And if we’re not careful, the harsh winds can form a crust around our souls until we stop feeling. Maybe what we all need this Christmas season is a taste of childlike wonder to wake our souls up and help us see beyond ourselves.

Chesterton says it like this: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Is it possible? Do you think that this is what we’re all really craving but don’t know how to say it? A taste of the kind of wonder that we’ve all somehow forgotten? So we slip on our jammies and ride Christmas trains and whisper “do it again” because we all need to wake up our slumbering souls and savor the wonder again?

What about when it ends, and we wake up the next morning, put on more appropriate attire, throw in the next load of laundry, take the kids to school, and go about our workday, shuffling along in the apparent monotony of life. What about those days that unfold into weeks until we start to feel like robots in a factory?

I saw a man yesterday who had been through mind-numbing physical pain. He was a strong, active man – but sickness recently claimed his foot and part of his leg. As I saw him being helped on stage, with what remained of his leg wrapped and hanging out the bottom of his pants, my heart broke a little. Then he spoke, and my heart swelled. This is what he said about his pain – “it’s been a great adventure. All this pain – it’s worth it to simply feel.”

Maybe we spend too much time trying not to feel. We avoid the pain, numb our spirits with technology and diversions. We escape the monotony by running somewhere else in our minds, wishing we could be anywhere but washing these dishes again. We see other lives on social media that seem so much more interesting than ours and we forget that they start and end the day the same way we do – maybe we all need to ride the Polar Express and remember how to feel the wonder again.

To do it again with hearts awake! To let the magic pour out of the air around us and soften the crust around our souls. “All around us, magic is overflowing and running down the streets. Do you really live on a ball spinning in circles through the stars? Does the heat from the closest star really make trees and grass and moss out of the carbon dioxide in the air? Have [they] really pulled black ooze up from beneath the earth’s skin, mixed it in their lairs into something that explodes, and made us magical metal boxes than can race around on roads, riding on those explosions? Are you bored with that, yawning in your seat belt? Is lightning real? Tornados? Does the big spinning ball beneath us always suck us down, and are we really talented enough to constantly balance on our feet? What kind of creatures are we?

Sit Moses and Beowulf down, and listen to their stories. Sit Bilbo down and listen to his. Do you disbelieve their tales? Are they made up? Are they fantasy? Now tell them your stories. Have you flown through the sky in a giant metal tube? Do we have boats that can sail to the very bottom of the sea? Have we thrown men all the way to the moon?

A hobbit would laugh at you. To him, your world could not be real. Your stories would be fun to read, beneath a blanket on a rainy day. He might look out of his window and sigh, wishing for a more magical world of his own.” (N. D. Wilson)

Whatever you have ahead of you today, this is the only day we’ve got! Let’s be brave enough to stop the hurry in our souls and let the hardness fall off. I know it’s not all starry eyed happy – I know pain often hovers or threatens to consume. But when Jesus said “let the little children come to me”, He was talking about you and me. In the middle of all we have before us today. He said the kingdom of heaven belonged to them – to us! This is not just future tense, this is our foretaste of the kingdom of heaven now.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8

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Posted in Living this Life

Mr. Wonderful

I called him Uncle David – but in retrospect, I should have called him Mr. Wonderful.

It was his answer every time you asked him how he was doing – I can still hear his gentle voice tinged with joy, “well, I’m wonderful, darling!”

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And it’s how he made us feel. Just plain wonderful.  So this morning, as I process the news that Mr. Wonderful is now with His Savior, I find myself rejoicing in that beautifully gentle spirit he carried – but I have so many questions…

I didn’t know my Uncle David in his younger years. I didn’t know him when he fought in Vietnam, and I don’t know the horrors he lived through there. Those were memories he didn’t want to re-live, and that’s where it stayed. And I didn’t know him well as I was growing up – he was my Uncle, but I was on the other side of the world and saw him only every few years.

But as life weaves a beautiful tapestry around us so often, it brought my life and his closer, and I was blessed over the past few years to get to spend more time with this amazing man.

Uncle DavidHe called my kids silly names like “McGillicuty”. He made them laugh and brought so much joy to all of us. He poured life and love and goodness out on us in unending measure. And that’s what my heart can’t get over this morning as I sit here grasping for words in the midst of my tears. That impossible joy in the face of a life filled with much sorrow. How does that happen? I know it’s not an accident.

Because we all know the natural course of a human heart. Pain causes us to close up and grow hard. Life hurts, so we grow a shell around our spirits to protect us. Anger begets anger and we so often find ourselves in a vicious cycle of pain. So when you see a man who exudes joy and gentleness in the midst of such hardness, you have to stop and ask “why?” Or maybe the better question is “how ?”

He endured much pain. Marked by a hard a brutal war when he was young. He tragically lost his grandson a few years ago. His own beloved son died suddenly just last year. He suffered physically, carrying effects of Agent Orange in his body as well as many other struggles. When life hit hard and seemed to overwhelm, he would simply hug me and say he loved me. I would ask him how he’s hanging on, and he would say, “how can it help to be angry?”  He knew the best protection of a soul comes in staying open – but how?

He must have known a secret. A life giving, beautiful secret that the rest of us need to remember. How do we best remember Uncle David? By making sure his spirit is carried on. He was a special man – and the greatest tragedy would be to let that special spirit die with him. Because what keeps flooding  my heart and mind is this: the secret he had is available to all of us. And we honor Uncle David best by finding it and preserving it and letting it mark our own hearts.

In light of a hard life, he responded with gentleness and peace. It makes me think of these words, “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These words mark how I remember my Uncle David, and I think this is the secret that he would want to pass on to all of us. How did he do it? I see the answer in the next few words… “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with it’s passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:22-25) I believe Uncle David made a choice to let the Spirit of God shape his heart, and though he wasn’t perfect, he kept in step with the Spirit of God. He reflected a different Spirit than the world has to offer, and we were all marked by that.

I can’t quite stop the tears from flowing this morning. I’m thankful my precious Uncle David is no longer living in such pain, however I will desperately miss him and the light he carried. But I also know it’s not completely snuffed out. Because the Spirit of God that lived in him is alive. And there is no darkness it cannot enter and no hardness it cannot touch. And I know the best way we honor the legacy of this amazing man is to let that Spirit change us in the same way.

So here I sit at the foot of the cross. Here I reflect on the words that offer freedom – “if you declare with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9) and this – “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) Oh! and these beautiful words that many know but it takes a lifetime to fully grasp – “For God so loved ___________________ (put your name in here) that He gave His only Son (Jesus), that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life!” (John 3:16)

The everlasting life is what Uncle David is experiencing right now. The changed life is what we got to experience through him all these years. I find myself sitting here on this rainy fall morning asking my Jesus anew to form and shape this spirit that gets twisted by circumstances into a spirit molded by Him. Knowing that in the midst of the unbearable pain life brings us at times, there is freedom on the other side. Uncle David is seeing it unveiled with his own eyes for the first time, but he tasted and reflected the beauty of it all these years. And I want to reflect more of it today and tomorrow and the next. In honor of Uncle David. In honor of the Savior he loved so very much.

Oh – and Uncle David? Say hi to grandma and grandpa for me!!

Posted in Living this Life

He knows that we are dust

 

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I have a confession to make … I’m not very good at following rules. I don’t mean to be rebellious, I just float through life doing things my way and don’t pay attention to inconveniences like “exit only” signs (much to my oldest child’s chagrin).

So here I sit, thinking about the 10 commandments. I take the Word of God very seriously, and even in my fickle ways, I know that holiness and purity matter in the Kingdom of Heaven. Not being much for legalism, I tend to lean towards the “heart” of these commands, as Jesus addresses in Matthew 5. In spite of that, there are some of these famous 10 that we take very seriously – “do not murder, do not steal”, while other commands we find it easier to fudge a bit – “do not covet your neighbors stuff”. And since I can’t stand inconsistency in life, what gives? Why do we value some of the “big 10” while blowing off others?

This came to a head in my personal life when I was recently challenged to take the Sabbath a bit more seriously. To incorporate rest into my life on a regular basis. In my family, we tend to live an ebb and flow lifestyle – much of it out of necessity given the ministry God lets us be a part of. This means that we go all out for a few months until we can barely pick ourselves up off the floor and then we try to get away to refill and restore for the next “all out” season. This works – but I’m beginning to realize that there might be a better way.

In fact, this is not God’s original design. Jesus often refers to “how it was in the beginning” – so let’s go back there.

In the beginning, God designed a breathtaking creation – filled with intricate minute detail and overflowing raucous extravagances of creativity. This didn’t tire Him out – He is God and this is just the overflow of who He is. But nonetheless, on the 7th day, He modeled for us a day of rest.

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In God’s top ten list of commandments, He says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20)

I don’t know about you, but for much of my adult life, that “keeping it holy” part has meant “go to church”. But I’m wondering if there’s much more here that I have been missing. So come down this road with me a bit – I’m excited about what I’m discovering!

Our modern evangelical world tends to celebrate breaking from tradition. It wants the freedom and freshness of interpreting Scripture “personally” rather than following the age old traditions. It’s not wrong to embrace some of that freedom, but I think we often miss out because we don’t take the time to explore the traditions that we are a product of. Understand them. Follow the links to the original story to find the richness and the ways they feed the souls of generations.

We miss the beauty in verses like these: “Then He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28 – emphasis added). In our passion to break free of the legalism of the past, we miss little words like “for” – this Sabbath rest, this seventh day, this holy space is a gift from a Creator who knows we are dust and has provided a way for us to walk strong.

And then this! The echoes of our glorious future that God weaves into our present. The promise of what is to come that gives us strength for today. In speaking of that future day when we who trust in Jesus will rest all our sorrows, release all our burdens, lay everything at His feet, the writer of Hebrews says this: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” Hebrews 4:9.

It would seem God is weaving into the weekly fabric of our lives the great promise of eternity! In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon tells us that God has set eternity in the hearts of man – is this part of it? Looking forward to the wonders of eternity by purposefully choosing rest one day a week?

But I mean, let’s be realistic – I’m a mom. 3 kids (and one very handsome husband) want to eat regularly. And I guess ice cream for breakfast doesn’t cut it. So whenever I have thought of “Sabbath-ing” in the past, I have shrugged it off as an unrealistic expectation that obviously doesn’t apply to mothers – or anyone else with regular responsibilities in life. And so I subconsciously resented those who might suggest I should try, wallowing in a little self pity while I’m at it.

I guess that’s why this recent wake up call has captured my imagination. Because what if? What if there was a way to purposefully make this happen? So I’ve been trying to think more pro-actively. Letting creativity have a bit more reign in my schedule. Saying “no” a little more often. And here’s what I’ve discovered over the last month.

It’s not as much about “not doing” as it is about “doing the day differently”. This speaks to a different place in each of our lives. In this interview with John Piper, he suggests that we approach the Sabbath as celebrating a different part of life than we get to live every other day of the week. (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1upfCmBy-kA) If your work requires you to be at a desk all day, then go outside! If your work is as a farmer, construction worker, someone who is outside in the elements all day, then sit on your couch and let your body rest! Take a break from the normal so that the different can speak to your heart. Our lives are all unique and each season requires different things from us – the day we take, may actually look like only an hour or two when you have a newborn. The point I’m trying to get at is how to find a window to be purposeful about making your day of rest a priority!

My typical days at home are filled with cooking and dishes and laundry and decisions. So where I used to say “I can’t just stop doing all that”, I now ask myself how I can plan ahead so that for one day a week, I do less. That Sunday morning rush is my undoing – so I’ve asked my family to let me find a different way and not make a breakfast that morning. Sometimes I plan ahead and buy muffins or something they can grab that’s special. Sometimes it’s just a frozen waffle – but it’s something that won’t make a mess I’ll have to clean up later, and it’s something that I don’t have to make.

I pick out the kid’s church clothes the night before.

I spend an extra half hour Saturday night emptying the dishwasher, cleaning up the sink, taking care of details so that I won’t be drawn to handling the mess at all on my Sabbath – it has a place to go and I can deal with it again on Monday.

I am a putterer. If I have to walk to my bedroom, I will clean 5 things on my way and then forget why I was going in the first place. I have a terribly hard time sitting still – my kids sometimes have to remind me to just be with them and not do something else on the side. This one day, I let myself sit. I watch my kids play. I play with them, and when that voice in my head tells me to take care of the dust bunnies under the couch, I let myself smile and say, “tomorrow, dust bunnies – tomorrow”.

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I rest from my phone. That random little game that I unwind with some nights. Those check-ins on the world of facebook and instagram – all the things we just “have” to do can suddenly wait. It’s about curbing impulses to cultivate a quiet space. I’m finding that part harder than I had expected, but it is so freeing!

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I light a candle that I love. A candle that is special and I save for just this day. The gentle smell reminds me of beauty and makes my soul breathe. It’s an echo of the age old Jewish tradition of lighting the Shabbat candle, and it makes me smile. (http://www.jtsa.edu/the-meaning-of-the-shabbat-candles)

These are things I do to remind myself that God cares. He cares about our work and He cares about our rest. He cares about rhythm and balance and peace. He cares about our health. And so I want it to matter to me as well.

The irony of all this is I sit here on a Saturday plunking out these thoughts on the verge of our busiest 6 weeks of ministry in the year. Tomorrow is my Sabbath, and then it will be 6 weeks before I get the opportunity to practice this again. I needed to write this today – so I could be reminded in August that this matters.

Since this is all a new focus for me and I feel like I’m experimenting, asking God to show me new things, I’d love to hear if this is something important in your life. How do you set the Sabbath apart? I’d love to learn more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Living this Life

Friend of Silence

I stood there stunned as I looked at my 8 year old with tears streaming down his face. We thought this would be fun – a fun reward for the many days they had spent on the road with us doing work stuff.

We had a couple hours free in the middle of a whirlwind trip recently, so we asked the kids what they wanted to do. The consensus was to find an arcade somewhere and have some fun.

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And we did. We found the biggest, best arcade we could find. Not only was this arcade bigger and better than many we had been to, it was much, much louder. Like walking into a physical wall of noise. We had a lot of fun, yelled over the chaos as the kids engaged in a Rampage battle and my ‘80’s loving husband impressed us all with his Galaga skills. I leaned over and asked Joshua what he wanted to do next – well, I yelled at him “WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO NEXT?” And he responded by slapping his hands over his ears and bursting into tears.

We quickly found a quiet place to talk. He said “everyone keeps yelling and it’s so loud it hurts!”

I feel your pain, little man. Have you watched the news lately? Or tapped into any form of social media? It seems like everyone has something to say and no-one is listening anymore. So we all just seem to move faster and yell louder…

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Joshua said to me through his tears that day, “can’t you just talk quieter?” So I decided to try. As we went back into the arcade, in the middle of the ear-splitting din, I leaned in and whispered to him. I found that if I whispered right into his ear, he could hear me despite the noise, and I wouldn’t have to yell anymore.

And as a result, I discovered some beautiful things. He could hear me – and it didn’t hurt. My spirit quieted as I whispered through the chaos. And we had to draw close to each other to communicate.

How do you handle the noise? There are definitely days I want to slap my hands over my ears and find a quiet corner to cry in. But by that time, I usually have to make dinner or take a kid to some sports practice, so I kind of shove the feelings in and keep moving.

But what if we just stop? Stop yelling, and try whispering? Draw close to each other so we can hear the whispers from the hearts of those around us? Maybe even hear the whisper of our own hearts? We look for big, mighty things from God, and often get swept away in the wind, earthquake and fire that come before the still small voice of Jehovah. We shout over the wind, try to be the earth shakers, and pray for fire to burn up the evil, but God is not in those things.

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:11-13

Did you hear that? Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle at the still, small voice of Almighty God. In this world of sound bytes and Instagram likes, might the truest power lie in truth spoken gently from the Maker of our souls?

“I think there is nothing so startling in all the graces of God as His quietness. When men have raged untruths in His Name, when they have used the assumed authority of the Son of God to put to death His real children, when they have with calloused heart twisted the Scriptures into fables and lies… when they, using powers He grants them, claim universal autonomy and independence, He, this great silent God, says nothing! His tolerance and love for His creatures is such that, having spoken in Christ, in conscience, in code of law, He waits for men to leave off their bawling and turn for a moment to listen to His still, small voice of the Spirit.” – Jim Elliot

What a beautiful wonder those words awaken in my heart! What common sense goodness.

Do you find your heart reeling from the din of voices clamoring to be heard? Do you find your soul growing numb from the chaos that swirls around you?

Maybe rather than pushing away or trying to yell louder, we could try whispering back. Draw near, listen closely – not only to the words, but to the hearts, of those around us. Especially those we disagree with. Hear the fear that makes voices rise to a screech. Listen to the pain that causes those we share this planet with to build walls around their hearts. Draw close, and whisper gentle truth. You will find your own heart softening in the process. You may not agree, but you might understand. When you understand, you will learn to love the heart of the person, and maybe in that quiet place, Jesus will be heard.

Maybe we all just need to whisper a little more?

“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence … we need silence to be able to touch souls” -Mother Teresa

 

 

Posted in Living this Life

Lessons from my 13 year old

13 birthday photoThis has been a challenging one for me to write… not because it’s hard, but because there are just so many “feels”. On Thursday, my firstborn turned 13. I’ve got all the “can I really be that old?!” feels, along with surreal feelings of “where did all the time go?” – nothing that would surprise anyone really. But more than anything, is this. This sense of wonder over what God has done and who He is – how He shows up in the most unexpected places and fills us with awe.

So all I have in way of saying happy birthday to my 13 year old is a picture and a story. This – that I have been savoring in my heart, searching for words.

When I was just 14 years old, I came back to the states from Liberia, a silly, inexperienced, insecure girl moving from the jungles of Africa to the jungles of Los Angeles. Rich in experience and adventure, but all sorts of awkward.

Of the many things that marked my “different-ness”, sports was one of the biggest. I hated PE, never wanted to jump into a game, and generally avoided anything having to do with a ball. I didn’t know the general rules of games and I didn’t understand the social norms that surrounded them, so my insecurity told me to avoid these situations, as they would just prove what an outsider I was.

So a few months ago, when my tiny, shy daughter informed that she wanted to try basketball, a game she had seen only some from the outside, but never tried in her 12 years, my heart quaked inside me. Not because I didn’t think she could, but because all those old feelings from my own childhood rose up in me. This girl is a quiet one, but firm when she knows in her heart what she should do. So we jumped in – I became the sports mom who understands nothing of referee calls or what plays are happening – but cheering with all my heart for this fearless girl who jumped in with all her heart to a place that I had spent my life avoiding.

Playing on a team of older girls, she dove in with all her heart. I quietly wondered if she would know how to play and what to do – she didn’t care. She just did her best and learned as she went. I sat on the sidelines and watched as her spirit rose up within her – she would scoot around the court, holding back a little, but still putting herself out there. Then one magical night, we all held our breath as she had the ball. In a heartbeat, she turned… instead of choosing the safety of passing to a more experienced team member, she took this shot qA beautiful 3 pointer – her first basket in a real game, and God gave her this. Friends and family erupted in cheers, and I wept a little.

Because it’s not about basketball at all, really. It’s about having the courage to put yourself in a place where you can fail. Most of my life, I chose safety. I chose to blend in when my life was anything but “normal”. When the cheerleader in high school rolled her eyes and said, “that’s weird” on hearing about my life in Africa, I retreated and instead tried to be like everyone else.  I stopped taking risks for many years.

But God doesn’t stop when we do. And He has relentlessly put me in places of risk to keep me from hiding. It has been a glorious journey to discovering that the best we can be is unabashedly who He made us to be! Regardless of who and what surrounds us, regardless of the fainting heart within us, let us fearlessly pursue this truth. In the moment I saw Charissa take that shot, I saw so many moments of my life flash before my eyes. Moments where I had stepped back in the face of God asking me to walk forward. Moments of opportunity I had missed because I had let fear erect a wall in my path. In that moment my daughter captured for me a picture of what it means to courageously walk into the “new”. I found myself overwhelmed by thankfulness. Thankful for all the times in my life God didn’t give up on me. Thankful that He didn’t let me hold back when all of me wanted to. And here I was, watching Him be faithful in her life like He has been all these years in mine! It took me longer to grasp it, but here in this moment, watching my daughter experience this moment, it all played before my eyes. The unending, daily, unfolding faithfulness of God.

So, my dear Charissa, welcome to your teenage years! I know there are a lot of things people say about teenagers, but this is what I have to say. Over the course of these 13 years, you have shown me the beauty of irrepressible curiosity. You have shown me the wonder of untarnished love for Jesus.  You have shown me that you don’t have to be loudly vocal to be strong.  You have made me laugh until my sides hurt, shake my head in awe at your insatiable questions, and sit in silence at the strength and boldness in your spirit. Thank you for teaching me once again the value of being fearless in the face of the new. I pray that as you step into this new adventure, you will boldly embrace all of who Jesus made you to be. I know that as you follow Him, you will find your way. 

This is just the beginning.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Posted in Living this Life

Rest for the soul

I haven’t written in a while.

Thing is – I’ve been chewing on something for a long time. This is, in fact, my New Year’s post – delivered to you about 3 months late. Because on January 1, 2019, I sat in the quiet of my room, taking stock of my 2018 and peering into a new year.

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I was worn and bruised. And I needed more Jesus. But His answer wasn’t really what I was expecting.

And here I sit, 3 months later, still trying to digest it and work it into my system. To believe something is one thing – to make it a part of you, something different altogether. So I have been a bit silent.

There’s no way to sugar coat it – I ended last year a bit out of tune. A summer adventuring across this country, seeing God’s glory in a thousand places and watching Him work miracles. Meanwhile, I felt like this mama’s heart couldn’t really absorb it. My boy was in a world of pain – with migraines that we couldn’t seem to stop and all number of challenges stemming from that.

I came home longing for peace. Longing to be restored. And life picked me up and swirled away with me into a sort of busy-ness that withers my soul and leaves me shallow of spirit.

I sought Jesus in brief quiet moments. I found Him in breathtaking beauty – and wonder would beckon. I would ask Him to fill all my moments with His peace. With His glory. But too often I would rush around trying to “fix” it all by myself.

That’s where I found myself as I sat in the quiet of my room that New Year’s Day, I asked Jesus once again to fill my life with peace. To flood my home with wonder. To fix this crazy I had inhabited.

And in the quiet of that place, I felt Him speak to my soul – “what if I don’t?”

What kind of question is that? You are the King of Peace, for crying out loud!

That’s when it hit me. I had been asking for more of Jesus all these months, but looking right past Him at what He offered. I wanted His peace. I wanted Him to “fix” my crazy. But would I be content in all this crazy with just Him?

staring

Is Jesus, just Jesus, truly enough for me?

I know Jesus promises great things to those who trust Him. And I know it is a good thing to rejoice in the healing He brings and the blessings He pours out on us. But what about when life is a mess? And you don’t feel that peace. The loneliness invades your soul until you feel like you can’t breathe. And there don’t seem to be any answers to the hurt you see all around you?

I opened up my Bible last week to these words: “He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Oh how my soul needed that reminder! Because how quickly I forget and fall back into old habits.  Looking for the effects of His peace rather than for Jesus alone to be my peace.

I can identify with Moses, sometimes – Moses, the man who had a tendency to argue with God. Especially on the day that Moses found that instead of an argument on his tongue, all he was left with was a desperate plea. He reminded God of His promises, he asked to understand the ways of His God – and then he simply said “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” And God’s gentle answer?  “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:15-17)

And I have no more words. Isn’t this what it all boils down to? Knowing God and being known by Him?

girl prayingworship

longroad sitting

Is this the secret that kept Joseph true when he was trapped in a hole in the ground – and later in prison for a crime he didn’t commit?

The promise that kept Abraham faithful when God asked the impossible?

The reality that kept Esther grounded when facing the annihilation of her people?

The key to Noah’s obedience when it seemed ridiculous?

The truth that made the disciples bold and unflinching in the face of death?

Maybe God sees peace differently than we do. When it is embodied in the face of Jesus and not in our circumstances, it takes a very different hold of us. And empowers us in ways we cannot quite comprehend.

come to me drawing

I don’t think Jesus means the kind of rest that comes from our circumstances, but the kind of rest that invades your spirit with His presence.

“He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.”            ― C.S. Lewis

I was going to end here – but then this truth! The blazing honesty of Spurgeon plunged into my soul. So here – some meat to chew on, for those who want to dive deeper. Let this truth change you and help bring rest to your soul!

“Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee” – Charles Spurgeon