Thursday, May 31, 2012

When God's People Testify

“The church has been planted as a paradise in this world.” -Irenaeus of Lyons

“God is telling me to pursue priesthood. It doesn’t make sense, but I can’t get away from it,” she said.

Then she added, “I’m sorry if those words hurt you. I’m sorry if it’s hard to hear what God is doing in my life right now when you feel so lost.”

“Not at all,” I responded. “In fact, it’s encouraging.”

In the last few years, there’s been a lot of talk about sharing our stories. When I was growing up, it was all about giving a “testimony.” No matter what we call it, it’s important to send our expressions into the world. Anyway we want and need to share what God is doing or what we wonder or what we question, we must be true to each of those pieces of our existence as human beings.

Quite honestly, I don’t know what God is doing in my life. I feel as if I’ve been flung into a foreign land for no good reason. I have no beautiful pictures of the church to paint for you right now. I refrain from spilling all I feel about church in this moment because I know she is the Bride. Blameless in the sight of God, even when she does not act according to her call.

With the coming of Pentecost last Sunday, we began the celebration of when the church was established. I love Acts 2. I love what the Holy Spirit did through Peter, who once denied Jesus. I love how Peter testifies of God’s plan since the beginning. It gives me hope.

Hope in a world desperate for the church to act according to its intended purpose to bring life and light in this world. I need to hear the words of my friend who can’t run from God’s call because her story helps me to remember that God is still working and calling his children to step out and be what He created them to be.

I don’t know why God placed a dream that seems impossible now into our own hearts several years ago. But I know I need to hear your story right now, if you are in a place that you can share it. Because maybe a year from now I won’t be able to shut up about what God is doing in and through us, and you will need to hear the story of a girl who loaded a truck, and then a separate trailer behind it because we misjudged the size of the truck we needed, and headed away from the mountains when she heard the words “go” and “gift.”

Maybe we just need to pass around the microphone for a while and share if we are able and listen if that is what we need to do in this season. I’m listening, and even though the same voice that sent me to the middle of America seems to be silent, I think I hear Him somewhere in your words. I hear Him saying He hasn’t given up when I read Peter stating, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Monday, May 28, 2012

From Eden to Egypt

I’m in Genesis again. Always in Genesis, it seems.

From Eden to Egypt. I get it. I think. Maybe a little bit.

For I started in Eden. Some of my toughest days involved a serpent as I stared and wrote and deleted and stared at a screen again. What was it I heard? What did God say? What is the difference between a whisper and a hiss? I don’t think I know.

God worked then, as He does, in the beginning of things. That’s where He starts as the Beginning of all things. And now I am in Egypt. Famine. Seeking food. For my soul and my heart so empty right now.

I need to talk with Joseph. Maybe he knows what God’s been up to. Maybe he can help me see what I do not understand as I sit and shake my head full of regret. Do I know anything about prayer? Do I really know anything about listening?

I fear I do not. I fear that my time in Egypt is a waste.

Prison to Palace? Can it be true? Did it really happen that way?

“Do not be afraid…You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”

Good. Always good. In Eden and in Egypt. For in between He gives dreams. Small glimpses, even when we don’t understand the part about the stars in the night sky when we first wake.

What is it they say? It’s always darkest before the dawn? The sun must set to rise? Paradise in the breaking of a new day. A Genesis.

And God said, “Let there be light.”

Is there an Exodus on the next page? 

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Depth: A Mystery

I walked down the aisle ten years ago in that black cap and gown.

I smiled in that in-between time. I posed with my parents and my grandparents and brother and the man who is now all mine.

Half-packed boxes sat in my apartment. I wasn’t sure if I should stay or go.

So, I took a trip to the ocean. That place that has always held so much mystery for me. Probably because I’m a Colorado girl and I only know of the mysteries that point up to the sky, not the ones that birth the sun in the morning and tuck it in under a shimmering blanket at night.

We found our hotel, my college roommate and I. We opened the window in the morning. Water, as far as we could see.

I don’t know what possessed us to walk into the ocean. But start walking we did. Eventually, we would have to stop and turn around, right? We didn’t. We discovered a sandbar instead.

And there we sat. Water all around us. Up to our necks in mystery. Laughing and talking and dreaming. Hours went by.

When, oh when, was the last time I let hours go by?

The sun drifted downward, into the other ocean that night. We slept in peace.

We stayed out of the vast waters the next day. I have no idea why. A retired couple joined us in the pool. They had stories to share. Lots of stories about their life.

Then they told us why they were in the pool. Sharks. The day before. Where? They pointed to a place near the sandbar. Are you sure?

He had dragged his lovely wife from the water, not caring about his failing knees.

We didn’t return to that place in the water again. To the spot where we sat unaware.

But I return to it from time to time. When I think of God’s presence around me. Up to my neck in mystery. Remembering the depth of His love and care. And the freedom He gives to just be.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pinterest And Pieces of Me

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Something in me wanted sunshine, so I opened my front door and stepped onto the porch. No shoes on my feet, I could feel each pebble in the cement under my feet. I took a seat on the top step, I turned my face upward, closed my eyes, and breathed.

Sometimes I forget what it’s like to touch and feel, to experience anything beside what happens within the walls of a house or an office. After more than 40 hours behind a computer each week for seven years, I barely know life on the outside. How does one adjust? I find myself still running to my computer for several reasons—familiarity, connection, creativity—even when I don’t need to be working.

Just prior to finishing fulltime work last December, I made a list of things I wanted to do with my freedom from the five-day work week. At the top of the list, I wrote “Pinterest.”

I hadn’t spent much time on Pinterest. Occasionally a link took me there, and I could see boards and pins. The site looked pretty. Pretty like an extended Martha Stewart Living magazine.

When my job ended, I opened the site several times to create an account. With all the recipes and DIY projects I noticed, I began to wonder if it’s for me. I already steer clear of DIY articles online because I know there is about a one percent chance I will actually DIM (Do It Myself).

I left Pinterest alone for a few months, and then decided to spend an evening exploring the boards created by some of my closest friends to see if I could make a decision on launching my own.

It was kind of fun. And pretty. Let’s not forget pretty.

The more I explored the pins that night, the more I realized I already have a Pinterest. It’s in my basement, above my work area:

Yesterday, Her.meneutics hosted a conversation on the topic of Pinterest. One of the thoughts mentioned is the idea that Pinterest can lead us into creating the life we wish we had, rather than living the life in front of us.

When I realized I already had pins of my own, I considered how personal all the items are on my boards. Pictures of me with family members and items I painted with my own hands. I love the quotes and drawings because they were made by people who speak into my life regularly and know me in a way that no one online could.

I had to touch each item, feel it, pin it up there myself. Nothing virtual about it. Me and a plastic push-pin and some cork.

I have nothing against Pinterest. I may even create boards sometime in the future. 

But right now, I want to learn how to live into my own life. The one right in front of me. The one where I feel the sun shining down on my face, where I’m brushing sand off my leg as I teach Kyla to play volleyball in the sandpit. The life where I’m cleaning up playdough messes after Kae makes me another birthday cake because she asks almost every day if tomorrow is my birthday.

I want to touch and see pieces of me, without a screen. Truly lovely. Truly pretty.

Some further thoughts on Pinterest I found interesting:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

When It Isn't Like It Should Be

Sometimes I experience the biggest relevations when I’m yelling at God.

“But this was our dream!” I shouted.

“Sometimes dreams need to die,” He whispered.

And then I caught myself. Our dream. I was hanging on to something that was meant for a season. Something He gave us to spur us on.

But now it's different. 

I have not grieved the loss of the dream. Of the plans that we made and what can never be again. At least not like it was.

As I was calming down, I recalled the article “On The Death of Dreams” by Jenny Schroedel. I read this piece several years ago, when I realized that maybe my ten-year-long dream of being a writer was a mirage. Within days of taking an editing job, my expectations no longer merged with the difficult reality I was living day after day.

I wondered if I had heard God wrong. Or maybe I took a bad turn at some point along the way. Had I been selfish in wanting this dream of being a writer and editor? I wouldn’t have come to this job if I had known it would be this hard and this disappointing. I would have chosen a different major in college, I thought. And on and on.

“Aren’t I bigger than the dream?” He asked as I began down that line of questioning for this latest disappointment. “Aren’t I enough? Isn’t it big enough that I see you and I know every step of the path your family has walked these last few years, through seminary and the loss of two children? Aren’t I sufficient to carry you through the next best thing?”

Because that’s what we’ve got now. The next best thing. And while the dream seemed radical, maybe the most radical thing to do now is live into the pain of losing the way it was, so we can pick ourselves up and move on with what God has for us now. In the present.

The dream was there for a purpose. For a time. Through it, God led us to a place we would never have dared to go on our own. Along the way, He showed us who we are.

We are those people now, with or without the dream. He is our God. Even when it isn’t like we think it should be.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Danger of Hiding in Closets

"You cannot run away from weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish. And if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?" -Robert Louis Stevenson

I hate conflict.

In fact, I have been known to hide in closets, bathroom stalls, and my own car in order to avoid conflict.

Unfortunately, we are a broken people. Violent toward another with our words and actions. Conflict is never far away from any of us.

To make good come out of conflict, especially when the disagreement is with other believers, I’m tempted to reduce bad experiences into an opportunity to work out who I’m becoming, who God is forming me to be. I want to forget we are His people and concentrate on just being His child in those moments.

Forget everyone else, I think. They hurt me! Now I will take my Bible with me so I can read Psalms and my journal so that I can write angry things about my enemies. I will feel better and never talk to those people again!

But I am reminded each week, as I step forward to partake in the bread and the cup with my fellow brothers and sisters, that we are all one in Him. That means that every conflict and instance where we were hurt that week is swallowed up in His love and His work on the cross.

I even think it’s possible in those minutes to remember what can happen through conflict. That perhaps He uses it to work His good for all of us, His people. That when we are in conflict with one another, we come face to face with our sin and that is when healing can begin.

Hiding in closets doesn’t allow for this. Hiding in closets is the ultimate act of selfishness, pride, and cowardice. We are saying we don’t think God can work. We are stating we don’t think He’s bigger than our sin.

(As a side note, this is the danger of church hopping or just plain leaving the local church. Running from “hypocrites” will get us nowhere. They are not the enemy.)

As much as I hate conflict, I think it’s time to come out of my hiding places. It’s time to sit in tension. To allow God’s greater work to unfold in relationships that seem unhealthy on the surface.

It’s not really about me. It’s about His forming us, all of us, into the likeness of His Son.

I’m not going to lie. The process is painful and uncomfortable. I don’t like to be in the same room as someone who hurt me. I don’t even like to remember that God cares for them and sees them as much as He sees me.

However, I will step forward with hand held out to receive the broken bread, to drink from the cup of salvation that is larger than the cup of adversity. I want to be where God is moving, where He is bringing healing, forgiveness, and love. A love greater than all our sin combined.

That is the real work of the cross. That is the real victory.

“… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” –Philippians 2:12b-13

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

All Things Bright and Beautiful

With watercolor pencils, 4/29/12

“Mommy, what do butterflies eat?”

“I don’t know,” I answered my youngest daughter. “But we can try to find out.”

Kaelyn and Kyla are obsessed with butterflies these days. When they see one they have to chase it. And I let them. Isn’t that what childhood is all about?

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to notice butterflies myself. Even when I was a kid. But perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe I just forgot what it’s like to chase beauty. To see.

Thanks to these little girls in my life, I’m seeing butterflies everywhere. Bright and beautiful creatures in the fields by the school, perched on our back fence, and flying by when we’re out walking. I even saw one dead on our sidewalk. Kae told me she thought we should leave it alone because it’s “sleeping.” I agreed.

A couple of weekends ago, we trekked a few blocks to visit a tree nursery. Just before entering the nursery gate, we stopped at a patch of puffy purple flowers. An orange monarch butterfly perched on top, drinking nectar without any concerns that we were watching. In fact, it didn’t seem concerned about anything at all. It was simply receiving. Living.

I am jaded by the world. Running from here to there. Frantic. Tired. I’m learning to pay attention to my little girls' squeals. Those are the things of our Father. I’m learning to stop and stare at the butterflies on purple flowers. All things Wise and Wonderful.

I never got a chance to look up Kaelyn’s question. Kyla already knew the answer—butterflies drink nectar with their probiscus. I’m actually glad I didn’t have an opportunity to find this information. It was so much more fun to hear it from my eight-year-old and then see it for myself.

Slowly I am learning to stop, look, listen, and be. Step by step I am discovering.

Wisdom in the giggles of girls. Beauty in a pair of wings.