Lent in everyday language. Day (WHAT???) Thirty-nine.

Let’s pretend for a moment that I have been writing meaningful posts everyday for the entire Lenten season. Today I would be on the eve of my last post since tomorrow is day 40 and then we being Holy Week. Wow. That would have been something to write home about.

So where have I noticed God most?Where am I having a hard time noticing God?

I can say this. Being mindful of the days proceeding Holy Week was something that I have always intended to do but have not typically done very well. Over the last @40 days-ish, I have absolutely seen a difference in the ways in which I notice God in everyday happenings. I am expectant. I’ve watched people for signs of the God-life in them, I’ve listened for stories that scream out “GOD IS HERE” and I’ve sat more and rested in the presence of the One who is constantly asking me to be still and simply KNOW that He is God. I’ve listened to my children and their lovely view of the world and their place in it. I have enjoyed my husband and enjoyed being a bigger part of our shared dream to feed people.  I have been overwhelmed by ordinary graces of new and not so new friends who make time for me in their compacted and crazy lives.  In all of this, I see the power of God still working to break through this chaotic world and remind of us the peaceful way we were designed to live.

But I have also missed God. I have missed God in a culture where materialism and want want have have spend spend have want are constant companion in our would-be contented existence. I have missed God in the stories of girls in 13 different foster homes before the age of 11 and girls who have seen one parent shoot the other right in front of them. I have missed God in marriages of people who should have joy and peace and trust and mutual respect for each other but it eludes them like trying to hold onto slippery soap in the bathtub. I have missed God in the movies our co-dependent culture rushes to see by the millions, movies that are violent and sexy and trendy and somehow “important”. I have missed God in the places where prayers are no longer prayed with true faith. Places like church, where I believe that once there were people following Christ who really believed that their Father God would answer every.single.prayer. I miss God in the places where I feel most tired.. where I spin endless plates that other people toss at me instead of trusting that God may be calling me to something simpler, with less plates to juggle.

Looking back over the last 40 days, how did you notice God differently? How are you still needing to see or hear or experience more of God in your everyday language?

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 Two

Welcome to Lent! If you have no idea what that means, the simple explanation can be found over here.

Our family is collectively fasting from entertainment media (no movies, no hanging out online).

Each week during Lent we are pursuing new habits and hobbies.  Since the ages of my children range from 2-12, our list of new pursuits is pretty simple:

  • play cards
  • paint
  • exercise
  • go to the library
  • play board games
  • go to bed earlier (that’s mine)
  • go to a new museum
  • go on a hike
  • fly kites at the beach
  • have people over for dinner more often
  • learn how to cook some new things together
  • read stories to one another
  • get our homework done earlier
  • serve people in new ways
  • enjoy our neighbors
  • go for walks around the neighborhood

Confession: I broke the fast DAY ONE when I got a phone call from the director of my masters program and I didn’t want my 2 year old interrupting my call.

So what this has shown me is that I need to be prepared and mindful of new activities that I can have on hand to move my busybusybusy toddler through his mornings without using the famous media-as-babysitter tactic. Or maybe this is an invitation to simply slow and be more present with him during the day and not take important phone calls until he is zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, I am spending a little time every morning with a spiritual discipline called the examen.

Daily Examen

  1. Where did I notice God answering my prayers today?Today was a day where  I noticed that many of the long roads I’ve been traveling (writing, spiritual formation leadership, academia, family unity, church collaboration) all convened together like the final pieces in a frustrating jigsaw puzzle. The sort of puzzle where you are sure near the end that you have lost some of the pieces or they were never in the box to begin with.   It was as if God was pouring new courage into my spirit to remind me that He is the One who has put all of these pieces into the box of my life and these pieces will work together to serve a greater purpose.  In a brainstorming meeting, we were reading through the very very last chapters of the Bible and I was struck by God’s description of what our home will be with Him.  In particular, I noticed that God is telling us even now that He is making all things new. Even when all I notice is the scrambled up pieces, He is making my life new.
  2. Where did I need to God answer my prayers today? Our family is at a place of extreme financial lack.  While my husband is diligently pursuing a new chef business and working a bit for a former boss, we have nothing near what we need to take care of our monthly expenses. I have seen God provide miracle after daily miracle for food, shelter, transportation. Yet, I don’t know individually what I am supposed to be doing to contribute to this ever growing debt. Do I return to full time work? Do I continue to pursue other free lance job opportunities? Do I take in children and do babysitting at home? Do I work alongside my husband in his new business? I can’t even find space or time to listen properly to what the best path will be for the future and as the days and weeks pass by, I need God to speak and invite and confirm His best plan for me in this season. Today I have little idea about what that could be.

How do these questions help you notice God today?