Soul grateful

It’s no ordinary morning that I find myself back in these simple pages. I’ve had a night, a sleepless night, of wondering and listening to God for His love for me. In seasons like the one I currently reside, loss and transition and disorientation are the expected companions. What I was not prepared for, however, has been the constant presence of hope and even her sister… gratitude.

I care very little this morning for looking around me and noticing all of the ways I might have failed, how others might have failed, how our very human culture seems to fail at the most basic levels of human kindness and care. It is probable that part of my awakened state came as I read a brief report of what we are learning is one of the greatest massacres in American history. Colorado, my heart has been with those mortally and emotionally wounded by the impact of one human who could not creep out of the fear and loss and disorientation of his own soul.

Instead, out of nowhere, my youngest boy giggles in his sleep. Loudly. For several minutes. And suddenly in all of this mess, the fullness of joy breaks in. Right there while I am in the dark, lightness. Right there in a place of fear, total abandon and freedom.

And isn’t that just what God offers? Daily, amazing, sustaining grace in forms both profound and plebeian. Surreal and simple.

So the dark nights make way for dawn
Stars make way for morning birdsongs
Skies transform daily into canvas
Only One knows how to move nature through perfect design.

Shame and fear are silenced when Gratitude sits at the breakfast table.
Counting even the trials as joy, she hands out a cup of remembrance.. God loves.
Hope sings of better things to come like so many early birds perched safely in their nests
She laughs at the days to come and has no fear of what’s ahead
Only One knows how to impart this confidence of heart.

In this exact moment, soul grateful.

Eastertide. The Divine Office &The Office of Midnight.

wow. who knew that there would be such a perfect treasure awaiting me in the the divine office/praying the hours. most moms worth their salt will admit to occasional if not frequent bouts of nightly wake-ups, returning little ones back … Continue reading

Eastertide. Jesus walking around.

Today we went on a looonnnggg car ride to take a look at a possible kitchen space for my husbands biz. I thought about how car rides have changed since I was a kid. Media, in it’s many forms, has made the car less of a family cocoon and more of a place to be individually entertained ( at least in our family these days).

And something about this bothers me so much even while i do very little to change it. It’s like something invisible and powerful presses slightly against my best intentions and I give in like my life depends on it.

Enter the daily office. A simple little practice ( well, in theory) where I am joining the monastic cultures worldwide to pause at regular intervals and enter in to an intentional time of reciting prayer. I have attempted this practice before and failed miserably…. Or did I? Even the attempting to draw closer to my heavenly Father, the Spirit who loves me, and Jesus my savior and friend… Even my worst attempts can bring such intimacy. Even a half read prayer is giving me new language to communicate with and about God.

And just like the way I am raising my kiddos, my absolute number one priority is that my children know they are watched and waited for… No matter what. That we learn each others language and give grace where grace is needed. Car rides are great places to do all of that, even if there is music or movies or iPod touch games or instagram photos or texting or whatever! It’s not my ideal, but we are drawing nearer to one another, observing each other, watching and learning each others language. And any one who has ever travelled in a car with children longer than 4 minutes knows that auto travel is a hotbed for grace awakenings.

So, imperfectly and less than ideal I may go, I purpose myself to journey this path of daily prayer.
Want to join me?

The Refrain for Tuesday Morning Lessons:
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.

Why I am observing Eastertide… the 50 days of Easter.

“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
Richard Rohr

I so appreciate just about everything that Richard Rohr has to say. He is a man that is not only a prolific writer and thinker (which is inspiring) but he is a man who has pursued simplicity and integration as ways to make his faith more real (which is even more inspiring). I’d like to think that is my aim as well.

So in this season of Eastertide (the days beginning Resurrection day until Pentecost) (a season I have never observed in any formal way) I purpose myself into a new way of “thinking by living”. For the next 50 days I will attempt to read through the liturgy of the hours. For those unfamiliar with this practice, I promise to share more as I go. Simply put, it is a practice of praying on the hour about every three hours throughout the day with some specific guidelines to help anchor your time. The best way I have heard liturgy of the hours described is by Phyllis Tickle who writes

“The daily offices are like small chapels or wayside stations within the days courses” (The Divine Hours/Pocket Edition).

In recent years I have fallen in love with the practices of churches that have pentecostal theology. Somehow in my formative faith, I missed the emphasis of the Holy Spirit and it’s power for transformation in much of my life as a Christian. Just a few years ago, I was fortunate to have a time span of two years where I was weekly attending church services where the gifts of the Holy Spirit were part of the teaching. Concurrently I was engaged in a Masters in Spiritual Formation program that included several courses and experiences that reconnected for me the link between healing and Christian spirituality. It was as if God woke me up into the reality that the Holy Spirit was more than a fuzzy feeling, but a Person coming to bring me the fullness of the Kingdom Jesus kept talking about to me in Scriptures.

Why do I bring this up here?

Eastertide, which begins on Easter Sunday, is the 40 day journey between Jesus resurrection and His ascension and then 10 days later, the Holy Spirit arrives. (Easter+40=ascension. Easter+50=Holy Spirit arrives).

When I think back to my own Christian life, most of it could be summarized as an Eastertide Christian. I had a deep relationship with Jesus and was well acquainted with God through His Word, but I had not ever really recognized or received the Holy Spirit as a person to have a relationship with. As long as Jesus was in the picture, the Holy Spirit could remain an ambiguous force . But an encounter with the Holy Spirit changed that for me. And that is something I wish to commemorate by acknowledging that as real as the historical appearance of the Holy Spirit was at Pentecost, I have had my own pentecostal experience. So in this season, another one of expectation and mystery, I lean in through a new spiritual path of regular intervals to pause and pray and watch for the movement of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So perhaps in this season of Easter, you can be expectant about the ways in which the Living Jesus will encounter you? Perhaps there is a way to pray or notice Jesus that you would like to observe for this period of time?

Perhaps you would like to share some of those ideas and observations here?

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 Thirty-two.

It’s official.

I am free from one of my own worst enemies: my tendency to be mad when I don’t finish something the way I wanted to. Like this blog where I purposed myself to write everyday during the days of Lent. 40 days to be exact that would mark my devotion to the deeper spiritual practices of daily examen. I even offered to share these daily nuggets with my faith community on their homepage. I started strong, was hit mid-stream with a writers dilemma (how much to share and how much not to share), and sort of petered off in my resolve to write everyday.

Usually these starts and stops are quickly followed by some self-debasing language that seems to scold me like some highly critical parent “See. You never finish what you start. See. You always stop before you finish. See. You’re late.”  During this highly introspective and contemplative season of my life, I have not had the time or space to spend with these voices of criticism and control. Instead, other voices have beckoned me onward and forward.

Like one voice from the editor of the company I am doing free-lance work for right now. She said (paraphrased) “Amy, you are a writer. You have the heart of a writer, and that can’t be taught. The other stuff like structure and grammar is easy to work on once you have the heart for writing” Another voice came from my husband who noticed I hadn’t been posting. He said “I miss getting your daily emails. I really like what you write.”  So these two very important people who matter so much in terms of what I am writing were the voices that trumped the other ones who play with my insecurity and fear that I am somehow not allowed to fail. Or to write honestly. Or to fail. Or to pause. Or to write about something controversial.

These are my words, downloaded from a mind full of stories and dreams and poems for a world where I believe authentic living is possible. Where I believe that the God created us to live is in simplicity and unity with God. Where I believe that Jesus is our model for a perfectly authentic spirituality. Where I believe that Jesus left His Spirit to be Our Holy Counselor and Present help to live this life well.

Where I believe that the language we speak and the words we choose can invite healing into a world is too codependent on popular culture to choose for them how they will think and what they will care about.

These words matter. Your words matter. Our words matter.

Daily Examen

1. How do you see God’s provision today?

Today I see the way God is providing time for me to have carved out time to be one on one with my kids. This is a result of the role my husband has been able to play in our family lately since our job transition back in December. My 8 year old son asked me on Monday if we could have a date looked forward to it all week. It took all day for us to finally get out of the house and when we did, I think we held hands for about three hours straight. We He talked about everything. He told me the movies he wanted to see, the girl he liked at school, the way he wanted to learn phonics better because “school isn’t just about grades, Mom. I want to really learn some stuff!” He didn’t ask me any questions. I watched him and noticed things that escape my attention when I am busy wrangling 4 at a time.  I imagine that is the way God wants me to be present with my children more often.

2. How do you need to see God’s provision today?

One of the parts of our date was to head to the Lego store at one of the biggest and nicest malls in Orange County. I am not a mall person. Never have been. It always makes me feel instantly like I am wearing the wrong shoes or my jeans aren’t new enough or that I want to run into the Baby Gap and buy all of my children matching outfits. I also am amazed at the number of messages stores send with their marketing promises of sexy-skinny-rich. It just doesn’t fit me on a normal everyday, let alone in a season where I really can’t afford to buy myself a new pair of jeans. In the mall, we went straight to the Lego store to play and look at Legos. But even there I felt that pull to have more, to have something, to buy something, to validate my love for my son (WHO LOVES LEGOS) by purchasing something for him before we left. My purchase was SMALL. But my need for God in this struggle against stuff is BIG. I need to see God in these little wars against stuff. I need to see how God wants to provide and how to feel less guilty when I do want things.  Do I always have to say no? Am I never allowed to want things? Will I ever be able to buy a new pair of jeans? Will this season of scarcity be the way I will live normally or will there be some balance? God, provide your peace as you provide for every other need in my life.

How do these questions help you notice God in your everyday life?

Lent in everyday language. Day Twenty-nine.

I was sharing with a friend today that I hadn’t been very faithful to my daily posts. The reason is due in large part to the fact that I have been laser focused on a new venture with my chef husband where we hope to provide meals to families. Many, many, families.

My friend commented “It sounds like you are in a season within a season!” How true.

How true always.

Seasons that seem to present us with something specific, like winter for example, often erupt into the most brilliant days of sunshine and people immediately want to throw their boots into the basement (that’s what I did when I lived in Michigan anyway). Winter plus sunshine. A season within a season.

I have shared so much about our financial situation here, calling it L.A.C.K. yet in this season of financial questions, we have lived on less and learned to launch. Forgive the poor alliterations, but Lack and Launch are presenting themselves in a magnificent display of season within season. How is it even possible that we could carry both around with us each day? How do you carry the spiritual and natural polarities around with you each day?

So with that I invite you to embrace whatever season of life is apparent, and the mysterious appearances of diverging sub-seasons that spring up everywhere.

My Examen- My Poem of Noticing

Where do you notice God today?

sunlight through back doors spilling onto kitchen tiles while my husband cooks and cooks and cooks. miracles showing up underfoot. God, give me the ability to let myself look down in unlikely places to see You showing up.

son running in circles with dirty, wet grassy feet and falling into piles of his own laughter and hiccups. the fullness of joy encapsulated in the freedom of a two year old. God, give me the freedom to be that full of joy.

red and yellow and orange peppers eaten raw from a bowl. sweet. crunchy. perfect vegetables grown from seeds that I mostly taste drowned in false flavors and sauces and preservatives. God, help me to learn how to eat from and to enjoy from the Garden again.

Where do I need to notice God today?

broken little bird in the form of a ten-year old girl. a daughter of nobody knows exactly. left behind to fall through cracks of beauracracy and democracy and inefficiency. we watch with our “hands tied”. God, untie our hands to we can untie her abuse.

broken dreams in the form of mental illness on a man who leads the country in a compassionate cry for Uganda. media feasts. citizens speculate. God, grant us the wisdom to know the difference between truth and lies and media spun drama.

hungry people camping outside of grocery stores where there is enough food for everyone. I hand them something simple, but it isn’t enough to feed them their identity.  God. let the last be the first as You let Your Kingdom come.

How are these questions prompting you to see God with new eyes today?