Posted in Living this Life

Ant wars

OK – it’s time to get really real.

Confessions of a restless heart: Something happens to a spirit that is raised on the other side of the world. It isn’t just the soil of Africa that got embedded in my soul, but the question of what else lies out there. When your normal has always been red clay soil and friends with dark hair and different skin, speaking with dialect so different from your own that you learn to read eyes and body language. You learn to feel more at home in a bustling airport than your own small town ambience. Embedded in you is the curiosity for the unexplored.

They call it wanderlust. And familiar though it is, it can become a dangerous siren call. A source of ill defined pride. A lack of contentment in what is, the beauty that is around you. There is much I can say on this, but for my own protection, my God has planted my feet firmly on American soil for many years. And every time my heart starts to wander away, He gently woos me back to this place – whatever that looks like at the moment. It is always a beautiful place – even if it just my own backyard.

You can imagine what this season filled with words like “quarantine” and “stay at home” – though productive and rich in it’s own unique opportunities – has brought out in me. If there is anything that stirs up wanderlust in a heart, it is being told you can’t.

And in this place, right here, is where I found this scene: my boys, in my backyard.

IMG_6822Watching in awe at the sight of a dead worm. It wasn’t the dead worm that fascinated them, but the lone ant trying in vain to lift the worm and carry it off. Other ants came along to help (or steal), and then left. I don’t know how long they sat and watched this display of heroic strength, but it helped my  heart rest. Because there’s this quote that has rattled around in my head for a while and it came to the surface at the sight of my boys today. It’s by the author and director of one of my favorite nature documentaries (https://riotandthedance.com/), and it helps keep me grounded when my heart tries to run away with me.

“So, we can marvel at our Creator’s abilities and worship Him for what we see, but we can also see these broken things and know that creation groans for the Resurrection… When you’re able to sit in awe of an ant war on the sidewalk in front of your own house, then the awe that you experience looking at God’s creation near you, where he has placed you, will lead you outward. It will give you a desire to see more of His work, to walk through the rest of His museum. But if you sit in your corner of His museum and say, “I’m super bored, maybe there’s something more interesting over there”—well, that’s not a healthy approach. We should not explore because we resent where we live or where we’ve been placed in the world. We should not explore out of boredom or out of numbness, but out of gratitude and excitement and wonder.  – N. D. Wilson

So that’s it. That’s all I have today. A renewed focus on finding the wonder in my backyard because it’s there. I just miss it too often, gazing over the fence into the “vast beyond”. Maybe we’ll get to explore His great museum again someday soon, but until then, let’s all find a great ant war to cheer on (and feel free to add some sports commentary to it, for those missing their favorite teams right now).

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

 

Posted in Living this Life

Prince of Peace

I was probably 13 years old. I heard them talking, and something about the way she spoke caught my attention. So I continued eavesdropping as she and my mom worked on dinner in the kitchen of her home in Duluth, MN. I didn’t know her well, she had no idea I was listening, and I’m sure as the conversation moved on to other topics, they quickly forgot what was said.

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But I didn’t. I can’t tell you all that was said that day, but it planted an idea in my heart that I have pursued throughout my life. As I listened in on that conversation, I heard her talking about peace, and it made my young heart hungry. Before that day, I had always thought of peace as something you stumble across. When the weather is perfect and your heart is unbothered. When circumstances align and everything is magically “right” – you feel peace.

But she talked about it as something you could plan for. An atmosphere you could set boundaries for and pursue. The boldness of that concept fascinated me. To not be subject to the ups and downs of happenstance – to be able to choose my way into a peaceful existence was mind blowing to my young 13 year old heart… and I desperately wanted that.

 

Fast forward more years than I will put in writing … here I sit with a world spinning in chaos. An amazing husband and 3 kids later, and her words still ring in my ears. A peaceful home is a concept we have built our marriage and family on – foundational in so many decisions we make along the way.  Yet the reality can so often feel elusive and many days it can feel like a fairy tale. That happily ever after promise that never comes true.

Kids bicker, frustrations flare, and selfishness takes over. Maybe I’ll feel peace when I get my way. Maybe if my husband would just agree with me all the time and the kids play happily and quietly in the corner. Maybe when I finally get all my projects done and can rest happily in a clean and organized home with perfectly manicured flowerbeds outside. Maybe when the world settles down and we get answers to so many questions plaguing us right now. Maybe when we get clarity on the big decisions that seem impossible to make in present circumstances. Why does the Bible talk about peace so consistently when everything around us screams the opposite?

This morning I woke in the first days of a new month. A new month blaring questions without answers and uncertainty about so many constants in my life. And I read these words – some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples, as their worlds were about to be turned upside down:  “MY PEACE I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. LET NOT your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” John 14:27

Not as the world gives? Is this where I get so off track? Despite what I know, what I tell myself and others, why do I continue to look for peace from outside circumstances?   This is all backwards.  So today I make my confession and prayer.

I have tried to manufacture peace with control. I have interpreted peace as “everyone getting along with each other”. I have been frustrated when reality doesn’t match my expectations and have let it erode the peace in my own spirit. So you will understand when I read this and get spun a bit sideways.

“the fruit of the Spirit is peace…” Galatians 5:22

Fruit … fruit is a product, not an effect. You don’t start with the apple, you start with the tree. You prune, you water, you care for it if you want the best fruit. Isaiah says, The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.“(Isaiah 32:16) Fruit of righteousness? What does that even mean? That big word that sounds so alien at times. It simply means being in a right place before a holy and perfect God. Walking straight when the path feels so crooked.

And since we can’t pull it off on our own – we surrender ourselves. And let Jesus who truly did live perfectly carry our mistakes and be our righteousness – our “right-ness”. Is it enough? Can this be real? That His right-ness, can cover me and I get to experience the peace – the fruit of what only He could do? Come, get to know Him if you don’t. Really know Him – you will find Him more real than the most tangible thing you can touch.

Talk to Him and let Him carry it all for you. Let His right-ness bring you peace! And the rest of this promise – it sounds like it was written for today. I think it was…

“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places… though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, how blessed you will be…” (Is 32:19-20)

How many of us feel like our “normal” has been leveled? Do we feel blessed in the midst of all the unknowns? This disruption in our lives shows us where our true treasure lies, where we plant our hopes and find our peace. I find myself coming up short some days – still defaulting to myself and the fleeting quicksand of the blaring news cycles and circumstances surrounding me and not the true Source. I want to dig my toes into the firm foundation of our true Source of Peace.

They call you the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Come on in…

 

 

 

 

Posted in Living this Life

Becoming real

I went for a walk the other day. I saw my shadow, and a million thoughts flooded my mind. I thought of my calendar pre-March. Filled with all the sports, all the appointments, all the music lessons, all the lunches with friends … filled with good stuff. And yet part of me felt thin, a bit frayed.

“Every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain…” Ps 39:6.

I haven’t looked at my calendar in a couple weeks … it feels strange to be living this day by day existence. Strangely unfettered. I’m struggling to find the word – maybe more real?

I know we’ll all return to a new “normal” someday – but I hope we don’t lose what God is showing us in these days. May we lose our shadow existence and walk with our feet grounded in truth and our hearts wrapped around Jesus, not things and doings, for our joy.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength… in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore”

Posted in Living this Life

The God who thought up noses…

I don’t know if it’s happened to you, but sometimes something as simple as a word can come to you and turn your whole life upside down.

Or maybe it makes everything somehow more “right”.

It’s the moment you discover that the strange ache you’ve carried with you all your life has a word, and that word somehow gives it context, and allows you to breathe in a fresh way.

It was 1996, I believe. I was sitting in Jerry Root’s class at Wheaton College and he said the word. It was used often by Lewis and oozes through his writings – and it describes something I had innately sensed my whole life, but never had a way to describe it. This started a life long fascination with how to fold this perspective into my daily life.

I know – I’m taking forever to get to it. I feel a little vulnerable here – kind of like that kid on the baseball field who is chasing a butterfly when a fly ball is coming her way.

Quiddity.

Try wrapping your tongue around that one. It’s kinda delicious, dontcha think? Makes a great scrabble word – although I have yet to find an opportunity to use it. And don’t try to google it … there’s not a whole lot out there besides a sterile and boring dictionary definition about the essence of a thing. I’m going to lean on Lewis to explain this a bit better:

…”Jenkins seemed to be able to enjoy everything, even ugliness. I learned from him that we should attempt a total surrender to whatever atmosphere was offering itself at the moment; in a squalid town, seek out those very places where its squalor rose to grimness and almost grandeur, on a dismal day to find the most dismal and dripping wood, on a windy day to seek the windiest ridge. There was not Betjemannic irony about it; only a serious, yet gleeful, determination to rub one’s nose in the very quiddity of each thing, to rejoice in its being (so magnificently) what it was.” (Surprised by Joy)

This comes alive every time you stop to admire the beautiful intricacy of a spiderweb – before removing it from the corner of the living room… again. Or tilt your face up as you walk to the car during an unexpected rain storm – letting yourself feel the cool wetness running down your cheeks. When the option is hide your face while you get wet or throw out your arms and glory in it, what will you do?

Every time a firefly makes you catch your breath with wonder. (I mean, it’s a bug… with a toosh… that glows! Come on!!) This would also be an good time to take a little rabbit trail and listen to the song “Fireflies” by Owl City. https://youtu.be/psuRGfAaju4

Piper puts it like this: “Lewis gave me an intense sense of the “realness” of things. The preciousness of this is hard to communicate. To wake up in the morning and be aware of the firmness of the mattress, the warmth of the sun’s rays, the sound of the clock ticking, the sheer being of things (“quiddity” as he calls it). He helped me become alive to life. He helped me see what is there in the world—things that, if we didn’t have, we would pay a million dollars to have, but having them, ignore. He made me more alive to beauty. He put my soul on notice that there are daily wonders that will waken worship if I open my eyes. (Don’t Waste Your Life)

I don’t know what your personal world looks like right now. But I’m guessing it looks different. Some of you are stuck home, getting bored and restless. Some of you are on the front lines, working those long shifts at the hospital, stocking grocery shelves, or trouble- shooting for your employees who need to keep getting paid, perhaps. I know there’s a lot of different feelings. And I know I can’t fix it – and that’s the hardest part of it all. That helpless feeling.

So we do all we can … but when the room gets quiet and the anxiety tries to creep in – the fears about what next week or next month might look like. What the bank account will look like. That haunting loneliness that sets in – the racing thoughts that hit when it’s too quiet around you. What do we do then?

We live this moment fully. That’s really all we have, isn’t it? That cup of coffee – the warm blanket. The sound of your kids laughing – or the sound of your kids fighting. It’s the sound of your kids – let the smile flicker across your face. The rain that won’t stop – watch the way it trickles down the window – wonder at the beauty reflected in that fleeting moment. See if you can find the many layers of grey that pile up in the sky on the gloomiest day of the week. The pile of laundry to fold – again… let the warm smell of clean clothes envelop you. Just for a moment.

Let the adventure wrap itself around you – even if it stays mainly in your living room. Find the fingerprints of God all around you – He’s showing Himself in all the little places, and it’s breathtaking. Let’s curl our toes in the warm mud of this different place we’re all in and find out what God’s up to.

“”We must smell and, as Chesterton said, marvel at the God who thought up noses. Feel the texture-filled world and let sun, wind, and rain wash our faces.”  – Jon Bloom

Stay tuned – there’s more to come on this in the days ahead!

“Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of Your house; You give them to drink from Your river of delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light, we see light” Psalm 35:7-10

 

 

Additional reading:

Every Moment Holy – Doug McKelvey

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life – Tish Harrison Warren

Posted in Living this Life

Hope

I was going to bed the other night and noticed my “hope” sign was still on.
Not much more to say – let’s keep remembering that hope is not based on headlines or numbers, but on the deep, reassuring promises of a God who promises to walk through the fire with us!


“… tribulation (suffering) brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us”! Romans 5

Posted in Living this Life

The heavens declare

I got to take a drive today. It felt good …

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It’s easy to feel “trapped” these days. We feel like we need a reason to go somewhere – but how about just stepping out on your porch? Take a drive around the block? Let’s be creative, let’s be smart, but let’s keep breathing!

“The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of His hands!” Psalm 19:1

“Step outside your front door and look at today’s stage. Speak. God will reply.

He will speak to you.

He gave you senses. Use them. He will parade His art. He will give you a scene, a setting for the day. He will give you conflict to overcome, opportunities for your character to grow or fail. But do not expect Him to speak in English. And do not expect Him to stay on whatever topic you may choose… You are on your porch. Look at the blue sky…” ND Wilson

“Fear not. Peace be to you. Be strong, yes, be strong! So when He spoke to me, I was strengthened…” Daniel 10:19