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?

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Humility Makes Way for God’s Extravagant Love

For years I have been on a journey of downward mobility, trying to create a simple life in the midst of raising four children in Orange County. I had been thinking about these truths for a long time, punctuated each year at Christmas when I began to wonder if my children really celebrated Jesus at all in the midst of celebrating their Christmas wish list.  Everyday life as we know it as an American equates with “consume and be happy”.  Christmas becomes a heightened version of this wrapped up as “buy for others extravagantly to demonstrate extravagant love”.  But are we still buying this?

Don’t miss this! I am all for celebrating and eating and gift giving. But where was Jesus even invited to bring joy to my world? I was trying to do that on my own while Jesus simply became the background music, the joyful carols that played in Toys R Us while I pondered the deep questions of Christmas life: Star Wars Legos or Ninjago? Barbies or Craft Sets?

So this year I asked for God to help me.  How could I create an environment where my children would actually prepare room for Jesus? How could we ignore the pulsing push and pull towards excessive consuming and indulging and instead have a peaceful Christmas season where Christ could come and let us adore Him?

God answered just a week before Christmas by having my husband lose his job. His well paying job. The job that provided just-to-the-penny for our lifestyle.  No severance, no liquid savings. In that moment of fear, came the reminder that I been prepared for this with my dangerous prayer: whatever it takes, whatever You need to do, make room for yourself Jesus.

Over the next 30 days our family center transformed dramatically. We became mindful of the lack of money, of course, but we also became increasingly grateful of the gift of an increase in time together. For 12 years with rare breaks, my husband had come home between 9 and 11 pm each evening.  In 3o days, we had dinner together every single night.  Jesus entered in to this time and reminded us that the gift of being present is a rare and precious gift that means more to our souls than any present we can unwrap. I watched Jesus enter into our marriage through the gift of time and serving one another and simple gratitude. Elaborate meals that I had prepared (remember, I am married to the chef with four foodie children) now made way for simple groceries based on what was on sale.  We had started growing lettuce in our little garden patch and that was the only vegetable at the table some nights. We became aware of how precious each bite of food could be.

This was not the gift I’d imagined unwrapping, but God gifted me with deepest desire of my heart- a season spent pressed into the heart of Jesus, celebrating His birthday in a way felt more loving and aligned with His character and humble birth. Gods sacrificial gift jumped into our humanity and humility, into our shattered dreams, into the lives of our family that was going to experience for the first time, the miracle of Christmas.

But God was generous beyond what we could imagine or ask with His Christmas gifts to us:

  • God provided financial grace with our housing. Shelter is a gift.
  • God provided an immediate job for my husband (at half the pay but brings him home to us every night-unlike his jobs of the last 12 years)…. Employment is a gift.
  • God put on somebody’s heart to anonymously pay one-month’s tuition for my three children!  Who are you, angel of generosity?
  • God provided for our two car payments to be paid on time through another generous gift. Cars are a gift.
  • Our brakes needed to be repaired and everything was under warranty. Brakes are a gift.
  • God allowed us to find unused gift cards and all sorts of creative ways to still give my children and family a few nice gifts for Christmas.
  • Someone offered tp pay our utility bills. Heat and electricity is a gift.
  • While ordering cleaning supplies online I discovered a credit that I never utilized and received a month of free products. Cleaning is now a gift.
  • The same day our water bill was due, I received the exact amount from a check from a friend who lives far away. Water is a gift.
  • A group of long time friends who meet regularly to pray and care for each other allowed us to join them for this tender season of transition. A gift of mercy and compassion with voices, hands, eyes, and their presence.

In this humble humble season of financial scarcity, I treasure these gifts, knowing that all I really wanted for Christmas, and all I want for my family, is Jesus with skin on. Jesus comes in His fullness, in His Spirit, in His word and in His timing.

Just last night people (or angels) anonymously left us a porch full of groceries and thick piles of gift cards for gas and food and cash. So now in this Valentine season where American culture will market to our senses and entice us to show love through jewelry and cupcakes, I am reminded again through a discipline of humility, to simply make room for God to continue to reveal Himself as the essence of true love.

Thank you God. Thank you People of God.

Wise people travel together

In an effort to prepare Him room this Christmas, I had the gift of several hours of silence at an Advent Quiet Day. The theme of this day was “Lessons on Seeking from the Wise Men”.

For me, this lesson came at s time when I am seeking discernment for my next vocational season. Am I to continue focusing all of my time and talent in my home with four children? Am I to continue developing a non-profit that I am passionately committed to? Am I to continue offering spiritual direction in more formal settings? Develop my spiritual writing? Work with pastors to bring the streams of Christian faith more fluidly into various denominations?

So a day watching the wise men travel for almost two years with only stars as their compass, this was an illuminating day for me. I saw these wise men as they really were… SEEKERS. I asked myself: who am I traveling with who is spiritually wise? Who are those in my life who are traveling with me toward the very present reality of Jesus… The reality of generous worship, sacrificial and costly giving, being in the presence of a holy humble King?

I lament the loss of some of these daily traveling companions. First of all, my dearest and best companion Angela R. Her life with us has ended here and she now takes up residence in the very present reality of Jesus Christ… In eternity. While I have parts of her life deeply embedded in the inner workings of my soul, what I miss the most is the daily ability to have here companionship. Her traveling companionship. Some friendships are for particular places and seasons of life, but this friendship was as close to what I imagine these wisemen shared. All from different places but with a similar passionate pursuit of the present reality of Jesus. Angela, I praise God that you have entered into your rest and peace and the fullness of joy. I sense you beckoning me onward towards this reality even though we don’t share the same lonely road any longer. It is a sweet consolation, even as I miss you so deeply today, that I have had your companionship for over 12 years… Companionship that demonstrated to me a life led by wisdom. So as I write this list of what I saw in the wise magi from the east, I see your face instead of theirs. You, my dear friend, are the wise one that I will miss until I too come face to face with our holy King Jesus.

For my wise friend Angela who has found Jesus…. A tribute to the journey of the three wise kings

Wise people travel together
Wise people leave the comfortable and go
Wise people stay focussed on what God reveals to them
Wise people listen
Wise people see
Wise people fall on their knees
Wise people worship
Wise people give their best to the most treasured part if their life
Wise people seek with with their whole being
Wise people search
Wise people journey
Wise people wonder
Wise wise people are not afraid to travel in the dark
Wise people live in the questions
Wise people pay attention to their dreams
Wise people have stored up treasures to give
Wise people speak Gods truth- always
Wise people pay attention to Gods voice and guidance
Wise people think, act, and behave differently than foolish people
Wise people keep their attention upwards, towards heaven
Wise people pay attention to messages in Gods creation
Wise people are prepared for the long road ahead
Wise people are attractional… People want to know where they are going and often follow
Wise people are transporters of untold treasures and riches
Wise people are generous with their time and treasures with those they love

Prepare Him Room

“The soul needs meaning the way the body needs food. Lack of meaning leads to an addictive consumer society in which people try to stuff the hole in their soul with things”.
Bruce Tallman

At a time when frenzied shopping and eating become a national hobby, we read words like these and we might stop to ask ourselves: are we trying to fill peoples wish lists or stuff the hole in their soul with things? Or is the act of purchasing things for others our way of stuffing the holes in our broken relationships? This Christmas I was compelled from the very beginning of the Christmas season to clean house, purge unnecessary clothing and books, and even box some things up to put them away in my garage for future use. The thought came to me simply: prepare Him room.

It never says this in the Christmas stories that I read, but isnt interesting to think that even when Jesus weighed less than 10 pounds, our world had no room for Him? I picture Mary and Joseph, pregnant with the possibility that they were holding the world’s redeemer within them. I picture the paradox of a town, pregnant with fear and blind obedience, following through on the whimsical orders of a jealous and insecure king. These two worlds will never be in sync, for who can really live with two distinct mindsets? Who can work for two bosses? Who can worship an idol made of wood and stone and also give honor to the God whose name means I AM… THAT I AM!

Prepare.
Him.
Room.

What would it look like for you to prepare space and time in your Christmas schedule for Jesus? Perhaps you can have an honest conversation with yourself about your Christmas motives. Do you find deep meaning in celebrating Jesus entrance into our world, or do you settle for momentary highs of shopping and excessive gift giving. I admit, as a mother of four children, I do not always have the discernment to know what is given out of love and what is given to prove my love to my children.

Maybe you don’t have enough to do this Christmas and the idea of being lonely again for the holidays brings a certain fear. Perhaps this is a place to allow Jesus, not stuff and not people, to fill up the hole in your sole with His presence. One Christmas I had moved to a new town and had just delivered my third baby and first son. I was not anywhere near settled into where we had moved. No friends to bring me a meal or visit me at home. No familiar faces at church or in the neighborhood. On top of that, the Midwestern winter was brutal compared to the sunny southern California winters of my previous life. I had so much time on my hands that I took up crocheting. Stitch after stitch I would sit in contemplation of my old life and it’s fullness, until one day I realized… I was RELAXED. Snow and new baby kept us home bound where we read and crafted and crocheted to our hearts content. No entertaining to do, no obligations to meet. I saw this as A place where God forced me to prepare room in my life for space and rest and breathing and slowing down the pace of my overstuffed life.

Prepare
Him
Room

simple swim

Growing up as a native California beach girl has its simple advantages. Many wonderful childhood memories were built around lazy impromptu beach days where chips and cheese could sustain us all day and my siblings and I could play at the waters’ edge for an entire afternoon without fighting. On sunny days, I fill our wagon and take my own four children to the same beach that my own mother took me. We are engulfed with simple sandy beauty. God’s fingers stir the waves that crash along the shore and every shell is treasured like an unearthed jewel. It is the backdrop for a lovely day where I am able to be entirely present with my children and with God’s enticing creation

It is the ocean that draws us, that literally engulfs us in salt and mist and current and tide. The ocean seems too cold for me, but never for my children. They respond to every invitation to leap over waves and plunge their little bodies into the powerful surf that carries them back to the shore. Today I will show them how much I love to be a part of their world, so I will join them for a swim in this ocean. I am at once contained in a buoyant embrace where I feel the joy of youth and the thrill of knowing that this embrace is keeping us all together. Holding hands with my children, we float over waves together, sharing a unified experience that I hope they will pass to their own children. In this ocean, we are equal in our dependency on this powerful presence to hold us together and keep us moving in the same direction. If I go under, so will they. If I stay afloat, so will they.

My experience with the Holy Spirit is like this simple swim in the ocean. When I realize how present and all encompassing the Holy Spirit is, I am compelled by worship to run and jump into the presence of this unending love. It is this unifying experience with the full expression of God that keeps us together.