Eastertide. Jesus walks with me.

I’m a couple weeks into new routine of paying attention more regularly to my prayer life. I have been doing this through the discipline of praying the hours. I can’t say that I have hit every time slot, but what has happened to my train of thought has been nothing short of wonderful.

As an extrovert with a husband working mostly from home and four children, I have no shortage of voices to engage my thinking throughout the day. Maybe for you it is work conversations, people you bump into at school, your children’s coaches or ballet teachers. Maybe for you, you have voices that are challenging or exhausting. Maybe as much as you love talking (like me) the sound of your own voice and thought life exhausts you at times.

Fixed hour prayer has been one way to integrate all of my external noise with internal dialogue with Jesus. Our family is in the midst of a few path-altering choices where my husband and I are facing decisions that affect our financial future. We can only talk about these things for so long before we come to a place where we are forced to surrender. We do not control every outcome. We do not hold the responses of others under our influence. We can make predictions, but they are just as likely to not happen as they are to happen. So instead of spinning these thoughts like plates in the air, fixed hour prayer is one way to set all of the plates back in the cupboard and let them rest for awhile. After a momentary pause from spinning, I am finding myself more content with the unknown, more ready to face the next few hours without anxiety.

We have many voices to engage throughout the days and week.  For me it is husband, children, friends, ministry partners, authors, spiritual directees and mentees who cause my own mental noise to become a jumbled mess of ideas and problems to consider.  Having the fixed mark of praying the hours has been one way to regularly deposit the cares and concerns of my day into the capable hands of Jesus Christ.Then, I move on the the next few hours with a much more contented and clear conscience. It’s as if these regular stops are reminding my soul that God is always aware of me in an even greater way than my little mind is aware of Him.

  • Do you find it easy or difficult to pray throughout the day?
  • What are the practices of habits that you engage to bring you back into knowing the presence of God?
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Holy Week. Washing Feet …

I so intended to write yesterday. It was a day that I sought God everywhere in the corners of ordinary and found Him.

After as hour of inspiring conversation with my soul friend, I ended our chat to find out that my little tater tot had been creating the most marvelously large mud puddle in our backyard. I am not prone to freak out over mess. Even though I knew he had pretty much ruined his sleeping shirt, I watched him drag the hose and that white shirt and his little toes through the murky muddy yard. I watched him laugh and sing a song about mud. I though about why I wasn’t mad about mud. And then it came. It was so easy to hose this little guy off.

Then the  gentle voice said “It’s not hard for me to wash your feet”.

Tears.

My little guy in all his mud with wet tee shirt and hair and smiling face. He had no idea that this might be a bad idea. Or he did. It didn’t matter. At that moment of observing my son,  I observed Jesus with a towel, at my feet, with my mud, with the muck and yuck of my everyday flaws and imperfections. “It’s not that hard for me to wash your feet”.

But I want to remind Jesus of how hard the cross was, how hard it was to endure shame He didn’t deserve, how much I still miss the simple instructions while I pursue more relevant ambitions, how I ignore the poor and reach for a place among the religious. Don’t you see what a mess I am, Jesus?

“It’s not that hard for me to wash your feet like it’s not that hard for you to wash your son, because you love him so much. And I love you so much.”

It’s that simple for me right now.

Lent in everyday language. Day Twenty.

i have written a number of posts… all saved in draft form… many unfinished.. over the last several days of my Lenten journey. It has not been difficult for me to find time to become aware of God’s presence in my life, rather it has been extremely difficult for me to protect my practice of writing.

as a mother of four with a toddler still at home, i am reminded of the fight we have to wage in order to carve out sacred time. some of us do this in our practice of exercise and we will not miss a work out that we have scheduled. for others there may be other practices that are completely worth fighting for and take precedence over all other negotiable activities.

what i recognize in this season of my life is that writing is a practice worth fighting for. it is a practice that helps me to peg down some meaning in day to day life and create containers for my wandering thoughts and dreams.

but i will live in the grace and goodness that my days are full of conversations and prayers for others, delighting in and disciplining my children, and sometimes the very thing that i want to do is the last thing that i get to do, for now.

so thank you for wandering along through Lent with me. part of Lent is about reconciliation, and sometimes reconciliation has to begin within us where we tend to be the most critical and unforgiving. live in expectation for great great things to come when Jesus is risen… and with Him our very life will be made new again.. on Easter and in every season of our life that invites renewal.

Examen

1. Where did I notice God’s power today?

Our church is going through a journey through Scripture for about 6 months covering a time line of the history of God’s people. We took time Sunday to discuss the place in history where the Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus. I share with you not from an intellectual but from an experiential position. We experienced something new. We experienced an invitation by God to surrender to the Holy Spirit. So many people came forward to pray and to worship God and to be healed. In a new way, our church said yes. All weekend I had been expectant that something would happen. I called friends to pray, I spent time worshiping at home with my  children, and even wrote down some of the things I felt God was showing me. I was so expectant that God’s power would show up at church on Sunday in ways that might be truly transforming. Have you ever had that sense that God wants to do something immeasurably more? That kind of power is like a tsunami building (thank you Georgia for the analogy) and will at once come crashing into our ordinary lives. That is the power I started to see… the building at least.. and some of the waves beginning to form.

2. Where do I need to notice God’s power?

All day I contemplated the idea of walking in authority. I wondered what it would look like for me to walk through my days if I had already received all that God wanted to give me in terms of authority, organization, conversation, prayer, faith. I am so hungry for more of God and I am missing something.. some critical piece that causes me to give up my truest sense of God and give over to the ideas of others. It comes when people around me don’t have faith and I think “Do I really want to go there?”. It happens when I am ignored and I think “Do I really want to keep putting myself out there?”  It happens when I have a dream over and over again and someone might offer me a dose of disbelief and I take it in and convince myself that the dream is unrealistic. What is more real? God’s power to give me a dream and bring it to pass or fellow humans along the road of formation who themselves have lost their own ability to dream? I need God’s power to simply grab hold of that which He put in front of me.Give me your power to do Your will

Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

 

How do these questions help you notice God today?

Lent in everyday language. Day Ten

Broken. Disorganized. Misplaced. Messy. Tired. Teary. Thoughtful.

Let’s begin here.

I start this day (early)  wondering how I can push through this heavy feeling of being so behind. Little laundry hills in every bedroom. Beds unmade, dishes unwashed, floors un-vacuumed. I have a friend who compares motherhood to the movie Groundhogs Day. It is somewhere on her blog with a hilarious yet painful tribute to the daily grind of mothering and homemaking starting over at the same way every single morning.  Yesterday I made all sorts of “unproductive” choices in terms of managing my home life:

  1. talking to my husband for two hours after the kids were dropped off from school
  2. watching my husband play with my son (40 minutes)
  3. going to eat lunch with my husband (60 minutes)
  4. going to the craft store with my husband to buy 5 sheets of specialty paper for my daughters project (30 minutes)
  5. talking with a dear dear family friend on our porch. well, mostly just listened to him share his heart. (50 minutes)
  6. listened and encouraged a friend on the phone to believe the dreams God is giving her (34 minutes)
  7. wrote prayers online and via text to people that I love who needed prayer (??? minutes)
  8. walked with my eldest and youngest to the beach and watched them chase birds for an hour
  9. went to a friends house and helped her clean, prep, and pray for a journey she will be taking away from her children for the first time in a long long time
  10. stayed up late late late reading Angela Robinsons blog, my best friend who is now dancing in heaven with Jesus

Jesus, I need you every hour.These are the activities that bring me the greatest joy and sense of fulfilling the plans for Your Kingdom, where relationships matter more than material goods. Where people are not INTERRUPTIONS to our goals and ambitions, people are the goals and ambitions. Where I will have less to manage and distract me from the people that I love so much and want to bless so much and be with so much. Where Heaven and Earth will meet and all will be restored to dancing and chasing birds and long talks with loved ones and the ocean brings a smile and prayer is our natural language and beauty absolutely matters.

But today it is laundry and bills and sticky floors and a late assignment and disordered thinking and hoping that the noise in the car will just go away.

Sigh.

Where do I notice God today?

Today I notice God in people and their pain.  God seems to be stirring up in people I know a Holy discontent for the staus quo and foolishness that popular culture (in and out of the church) has been feeding them. I had lunch earlier this week with two people who just speak the Truth and the way God intended His creation to operate. I agree with them that for the most part, we are not living in any kind of Eden. But for me, when I am in conversations with these “discontent” ones, it is not a complaining and bitterness that they are pouring out. It is a deep deep desire to see life being lived as close to God as possible… in marriages, in friendships, in community life, in church life, in functioning better as a family, in vocational pursuits.  I consider it an absolute God appointed conversation whenever the people I am talking with have such high expectations for what life could be like if we could simply operate in the authority and gifting and purpose and joy that God meant for us.

John Piper says it this way “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him”

Frederick Buechner has written that “vocation is where our greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need”

Where do I need to notice God today?

In these myriad relationships, I need God to speak through me. Therefore, I need to be a quiet listener. I know that in moments God will be able to break through my mini-sermons or speeches, but at the end of the day I am wondering how much God was really able to use me with all of my talking. Or are my words only able to come out of my mouth the way that they do because God has given me the abilities of discernment and leadership and prayer? I am not sure and I know that I can’t ask around about this. My nice friends will tell me I am helpful and my mean friends (oxymoron? I think not) that I do talk too much. SO there is only time and space to ask the God of all creation and communication to show me Himself in my speech. I am far less concerned these days with what other people think of me than what other people think of God when they are with me.

How do these questions help you notice God today?

Lent in everyday language. Day Nine

I cannot put too fine a point on this.

Spiritual disciples require something of us.

Whether it is a new intention or carving out a new place in our day or giving up something we desire for the God we desire more…. Spiritual disciplines are meant to cause a bit of tension.

I noticed this yesterday when I woke up early and noticed that my husband was also awake and getting ready for work. He left before the kids were even awake and so my morning for examen was neglected. After dropping three kids at school with their lunches and backpacks and gear and homework, I had to grab a few things from the store and take something to my husband’s work. Time is passing by and now the morning is halfway over. The more I engage with people and problems and conversations and plans, it is harder and harder for me to remember the gifts from the last 24 hours. I try to formulate my examen as I am driving but the interruptions of my toddler and all the stops I have to make are too distracting. I can’t get to a quiet mind space in order to review the last 24 hours.

I cannot put too fine a point on this.

Spiritual Disciplines give back to us more than they require from us.

So the question I am asking here is, am I willing to be disciplined in the little things in order to receive to everything from God? Or will I allow the tyranny of distractions and demands and even responsibilities become what masters me?

This is my Lenten journey.

Questions of Examen

1. Where am I trusting God today?
A simple trip through the grocery store is a whole new experience now that our groceries are being purchased mostly through gift cards that generous friends have put into our hands. I feel a deeper responsibility as I am making choices to purchase items that I never would have questioned in the past. Is syrup a luxury or necessity? What about cleaning products? Tea? I stood in the syrup section for a long long time until I finally chose a middle range priced syrup bottle and put it in my cart. Mindfulness, I heard God say. Just. Be. Mindful. Somewhere in this store, simple shopping became a conversation, a place where I saw that God was telling me we could trust each other, that I could be honest with God about how much it meant to me that my kids could open up the pantry and have syrup on their waffles. That is was hard for me to have to ask for help for food. That I never imagined myself landing here. I am trusting Gods provision, certainly, but more than that I am trusting that God will provide a place for me to be honest.

2. Where do I need to trust God today?
Today I walked through some awkward financial conversations with my husband. Awkward is my nice way of saying tense. We were not mad at each other, rather frustrated with our present situation regarding finances. As carefully as we are living and planning for each dollar to be spent, things fall through the cracks. How easy it is for me to see these shortcomings in us and feel such condemnation! It is as if Satan himself is writing down a list of financial failures and handing a copy to my husband and I. I must trust God in this process of transforming our identity. There is nothing we can do in this moment to erase our past shortcomings. Nothing. And during this season of Lent, I wonder if I can see that the cross was for this day, the day that I would need Jesus to go to His Father and intercede for me. I need to see this picture today. I need to see that my identity in Christ is one of a highly favored daughter, not the daughter who can’t get it right.

How do these questions about trusting God help you enter into a different relationship with God?

Lent in everyday language. Day Seven.

God Save Us

Someone asked me a very good question about Lent. I realize that in an effort to keep things very simple over here, I may have been too vague about how I am setting up this Lent Examen. Here are some simple guidelines that are in no way meant to control or stifle you, but perhaps will be helpful:

  1. the examen has been likened to rummaging through the contents of the last 24 hours like you would through a messy drawer. notice what is inside, what emotions and responses come about for you.
  2. if you were to attempt this practice at night in review of the day that was just before you, you would miss that opportunity to see how your dreams might speak to you, how the space between the actual event and your response to it has helped you to be a bit more objective. there is something about reviewing the previous 24 hours in the morning that seems to work
  3. the idea of examen is to look back SO THAT we can look forward. i have not included this step formally, but some suggest bringing out your calendar planner after the prayers of examen in order to make some suggestions to your future self.
  4. for more in depth and helpful resources, I recommend the Ignatian Spirituality site for a truly informative and enjoyable read on just about every spiritual topic you desire (including a little video about Lent and the Examen just posted today. perfect)

Examen

1. Where do you notice God saving you today?

Our faith community engaged in the topic of salvation on Sunday. It was another look at a word that we can tend to gloss over in our Christian circles and ignore if we haven’t made the decision to let God save us. I have been trying to formulate what about this message was really affecting me and it came to me clearly at last. God has saved me from my need to live life on my own terms. Specifically, Jesus Christ stands ready to be the Lord and Leader and Guide for my life if I will agree with Him.  Even as I reflect on the day, God is saving me from having to figure out the whole of my financial future with His promise to never leave me or forget about my needs.  In the daily question “How will we pay for this?” God has shown our family a better way, a wiser way, a more peaceful way… because I have given God the full authority to be in charge of how He will distribute our finances to us. Only in a truly surrendered state of being like this one will we see how much we need Jesus to save us from the messes we have made.

2. Where do you need God to save you today?

Instead of thinking of salvation as a one-time event where we are magically transported from a state of imperfection into a state of perfection, we engaged on Sunday with the idea that salvation has to do with our orientation- where we are focusing our attention. I notice that my attention with my daughters lately has been to offer friendship suggestions based on my experience or what I observe in girl friendships in their life.  I need God to save me from my desire to protect them and offer these young girls into the all-knowing, all-comforting arms of God. When I try to protect them, it is messy and emotional. I don’t listen to them because I think I already have the answers.  I need God to save me from trying to control them and instead point them to the only One who can- Jesus!

How do you need God to save you today? How do these questions help you notice your need for God?

Lent in everyday language. Day Six.

Motherhood is not a full-time job. Please do not let anyone fool you.

Motherhood is overtime, all holidays, and weekends.

During the last few nights my 2 year old has been experiencing what I would dramatically call “night terrors”. Screaming out, night sweats, unable to be awakened. Several times a night. Poor buddy. So in the darkness of the morning when God was kind enough to rouse me, I was still holding my small little son in in just-the-right-way so that he would not wake up again. I laid there for what felt like hours… just holding him and wondering why he was so troubled during his sleeping hours. And I prayed quietly over his soul, that it would be well with his soul, that God would help him to lie down in green pastures, that he would have a sound mind.

It occurred to me in those moments how grateful I was for God’s words in me to pray over my small little son. I don’t have words all the time for what I need, for what my children need, for what other people need. I have words, but not for what people need. Make sense?

So an hour later when my (still) heartbroken middle daughter lamented again about her friendship woes… I had another word for her… from God.  I told her that she was the light of the world, she was a peacemaker and she would be blessed, that she was the apple of God’s eye and God was aware of her trouble.  God’s words for her needs, through me.

So in this way, we become for people what they need from God.. we become for people what we can never be without God’s great power to heal and bring reconciliation. This is our Lenten journey… to move our own desires aside for bits of days and weeks and to be for others what they cannot be for themselves. In Christ alone we have access to this.

Daily Examen

1. Where do you notice God’s grace through others? At church today I was aware of how many people in our congregation have become part of our life in the last few months. So many people have prayed, offered support and care, been amazing to our children, and invited us to share in a meal. We have also watched people get baptized, had people in our house for a meal, prayed for others, met them one-on-one for counseling, prayed for healing in marriages and invited neighbors to church. Our family has been the blessed recipients of heaps and heaps of gracious and generous gifts of time and resources and prayer from others. None of this would be possible if God had not designed His church this way… to care for one another like a good family should.

2. Where do you notice that you need God’s grace from others? In relationships with friends, misunderstanding can lead me to build protective walls around myself to keep those people from hurting me again. I know I am not alone in this. Some of these relationships can be avoided and the pain will diminish, but the walls of protection stay firmly built inside of me. I realize that I am unable to break these walls down by myself. I realize that they may be there for a good reason or a very bad one, but they are walls none the less. Walls keep out pain, sure, but they keep out light and can even lock us into a part of ourselves.  That is where I sit with past hurts from the recent ending of two important friendships.  I need God’s grace here… for myself… for others… for the human condition of imperfection.  I need God’s grace to build a bridge, a ladder, a wrecking ball against these protective walls that keep me from fully forgiving and moving out again in grace in these relationships.  I don’t know how, or I am unwilling. Either way, I need fresh grace in these season of reconciliation.

How do these questions help you to notice God today?