The End [of the 31 days] Has Come and What I’ve Learned

A funny thing happened on day 18 of this blog thing. I was on a roll with this 31 Day blog thing. The ideas were flowing. I had even worked ahead, days 12-18 were prescheduled.

I went on a retreat that included a day of silence with God. I cannot tell you how welcome silence is during this season with a two year old and four year old. Spending a whole day with God out in nature or resting or reading was a dream.

But throughout the weekend of experiencing the beauty of God, I had thoughts similar to those of Isaiah when he said, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Now, of course I didn’t have quite the experience that Isaiah did. But sometimes even small encounters with God are enough to make us come completely undone.

I got back home, back to real life, and my brain kind of froze up here.

I asked myself hard questions about this space. What am I doing here? Is this about me or God? Day 26’s post about self-aggrandizement came out of my wrestlings with these things.

I entered into my time with this topic because I had more questions than answers. I still have questions. But I am more comfortable with the tension I feel. I am grateful for it. Because I think for the rest of my life I want to be listening and waiting on the Lord for how to best follow him. Seasons will change.

In this season, the majority of my home is spent at home with the kids. Caring for the details of our lives (cooking/cleaning/cleaning again/feeding the kids again/re-cleaning what I just cleaned up five minutes ago…) takes up most of my time. In the off hours, I seek God. I try to find small ways I can be faithful to living out my portion of the Kingdom.

When the kids are off in school in a few years, things will change completely. When they move out of the house after high school, everything will shift again. When I grow old, if my body begins to fail me, and I require more help than I will be able to give,  that will be a whole new process of living God’s kingdom.

So I’ve grown patient with not having the answers, with living moment to moment trying to practice living the presence of God. I try to carry His love to others in small, practical ways without worrying so much about having a “huge” impact. I live in the grace that I screw this thing up all of the time and will continue to do so. That grace reminds me of the patience of God who is slow to anger and rich in love.

Advertisements

Does the Kingdom of Heaven Promote Self-Aggrandizement?

kingdom come

“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:15)

There is a tendency within the church to adopt values of the culture it lives in.

As church simmers in the stew of country and culture it is inevitable some of the flavor will seep in.

Not all of that is bad by any means. I’m not for promoting fear of common culture. 

However, there are times to prayerfully consider and question whether our faith or church looks more like our roots in Christ or the current stream of thinking. And the same with our personal goals and life.

I can think of many instances in the history of the church that such a prayerful stepping back could have prevented some blights in our heritage.

A while back, a phrase I kept hearing in online Christian circles was the idea of having a “God-sized dream.” And it raised questions in me, because I heard very little about these God-sized dreams being about simply pursuing things that God was passionate about: living in peace with our neighbors, loving selflessly, having less and giving more. Very little about simple, unglamorous lives. Nothing about striving to “lead a quiet life and work with our hands” (1 Thess. 4:11).

Instead I kept hearing these dreams and stories about what “I” was going to do. How “I” had a big purpose or dream. They were visions of book publishing, public speaking, huge blog platforms, starting heroic non-profits. . . I began to wonder if these “God sized dreams” were really more about making “me” god-sized, instead of just playing our small part in God’s big beautiful story.

And as I sat in my own “dreams,”, I feltself-promotion and self-importance sticking to me. It felt a little like individualism taking root. (Hello. I currently own a website with my name as the title).

There has been much buzz about what individuals are going to do for God.

It didn’t sound much like Moses who was called by God in a burning bush and said, “No thanks” several times before God audibly convinced him to go.

Or Deborah who didn’t propose to go and lead Israel’s army, but conceded to Barak saying he was going to lose notoriety by bringing her as a good luck charm.

Or David who didn’t assume he was made to be something big and important and just remained faithful to his job as a shepherd.

Or Jesus, who, knowing that the people wanted to force him to be king (even though he was already King) got the heck out of there.

I heard so much encouragement to get bigger, and very little encouragement like James gave “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

Sometimes, as I read about the prominent figures in the Bible, I think about how for every prominent person mentioned there were thousands and thousands of  nameless people in that same generation. I have a strong affection towards those nameless multitudes that collectively kept messing up in the history of the Old Testament, because I keep messing up too. I have a strong affection towards the nameless multitudes because more than likely, when the history of this generation is written, my name won’t be in it.

I love those thousands of nameless people that sat before Jesus just to hear his words because I sit before Him and treasure His words as well.

Though we don’t know who they are, they were not nameless to God. Every moment of their lives is recorded in His memory, as much as every moment of our lives He has been beside us. We are neither as important nor as obscure as we think we are.

And those real, flesh and blood people that Paul wrote his letters to? Who couldn’t figure out how to do this new thing of church and kept messing up and bringing the parts of culture into it that didn’t belong? They are our brothers and sisters of faith, and our great cloud of witnesses. I’m sure they empathize lovingly with us as we continue to do the same.

Longing for Kingdom Come

kingdom come

For Longing

(by John O’Donohue in his beautiful book of blessings To Bless the Space Between Us)

Blessed be the longing that brought t you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants to take.

May the forms of your belonging– in love, creativity, and friendship–
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.

May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.

May your mind inhabit your life with sureness with which your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost structures of old damage.

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.

May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.

Music for the Weary Soul

Coming back from a retreat last weekend, I have had a hard time getting back into the routine of writing. That and I’m a million years behind on housework, meal planning, and it turned into a busy week quickly. So, I’m just posting this today.

One of the things that the retreat reminded me of is the beauty of worship.

So, here are a few songs of worship I keep returning to in this wild week.

 

A Life of Faithfulness

kingdom come

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.”
(Proverbs 3:3)

Following God moves us past glamour and trend and into the trenches of long-suffering.

I was in a yoga class recently and we were holding poses for longer periods of time. The instructor said that if there was a sharp pain, than we needed to move out of the position. But if it was a dull ache, then we were doing the right thing and we needed to just be present to that. That there was work being done there.

Life has a tendency to carry a dull ache sometimes. And leaning into that ache requires an uncommon faithfulness.

We are blessed with mobility. We can move anywhere in the world, and then move again. There are many church options within most of our communities. We are taught from a young age that we can “be anything” or “do anything.” And then when we tire of those options, we can move on in search of something else.

I am so grateful for the opportunities that we have today that people seventy five years ago wouldn’t have dreamed of.

But we also have a tendency to let our gift mobility get in the way of letting us really put roots down. Faithfulness is hard, and we have so many opportunities to get away.

When I think of faithfulness, I think of my friend Heather and the work she does through at Treehouse.

391702_10102484968210720_1360250316_n

Treehouse is an organization that works with “at-risk” youth, but as Heather says: “Really every teenager is at-risk. I hate putting that label on them. They are struggling with one or more of issues like depression, anxiety, suicidal, or oppression. But they are also normal teens.”

Heather and I started working at Treehouse as interns the 2007. We shared an office and debriefed together on the roughest of days.

dressup heather

(We also dressed really classy when invited to fancy dinners).

It was a wild year full of full schedules, long hours, and walking alongside kids carrying heavy emotional loads.

At the end of the year, I moved on to an organization that was more focused on elementary children.

But Heather has stayed on at Treehouse for the past seven and a half years. I know that in the grand scheme of a life that might stretch near one hundred years, seven years doesn’t sound that long. But knowing the work that is done and what is required of Heather, that’s seven and half years of an intense ministry and pace of life.

When I asked her what it was that kept her going strong.

“Well, the easy answer is Jesus. That this is a call on my life, and I have accepted it. But really, I feel like I couldn’t not be here. After knowing the kids and going through life with them for 7 years, and after seeing how their lives have changed. I know I’m where I need to be.”retreat and outdoors-13

Heather’s daily work gives the gift of showing up: “one-to-ones” (which is an opportunity to take one of the teens out for a snack or coffee and really talk about what’s going on in their lives), support groups, trips, and other structured parts of her schedule.

But she also shows up for emergencies, suicide attempts, families falling apart, and when pieces of life shatter for the youth.

“One thing I have learned of God from the kids is to see the greatness of God’s love, mercy, grace. That it covers everything. It’s not boxed in, it’s not too small. God’s love still extends to this kid who is a prostitute. And this kid who is socially awkward. If I could teach these kids just one thing, I would want them to know, first and foremost, their identity comes from God, from Christ. I think a lot of their problems stem from not knowing where their identity comes. And of course, as we always teach them they are each Lovable, capable and worthwhile, they are loved without strings, and they are never alone.”

retreat and outdoors-14

Small Things Grow

mustard seed

 

Matthew 13:

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”