September 28, 2011

The Dreaded Question Mark?

My life is one big question mark. My husband's job is changing and we are not sure where God is calling us to change. Is He calling us to stay put and embrace the new adventure of a new job, or is He calling us to relocate and embrace the new adventure of a new community? Both are scary. Both are sad. Both are titillating. But for all the things they both are, only one thing is clear, neither of them are clear!

I don't do well with question marks. It saps my energy, and makes me moody. The house doesn't get clean, the dinners don't get planned. I don't send back the paperwork sent home, or give the kids baths. Work is ignored, and even time with friends is avoided. I just can't find the energy to live energetically when my future is out of focus.

But honestly, it's not out of focus. God just has not given me the lens to see yet. God knows where He is calling us. God knows where our kids will thrive and our marriage deepen. God knows where Joshua will be the biggest blessing to foster kids. And God knows where I need to be to be pressed and pulled into fuller relationship with him. There are no question marks to God. There are no fuzzy outcomes.

All of life is a gift (as I'm trying to learn). Even these question marks and all the ones that will come after these. He holds back clarity not to frustrate but to care and prune. He keeps things fuzzy to develop character and dependance.

So today I can press into the questions marks and be glad...well gladness at this stage might be asking too much, but I can at least be thankful. Thankful that nothing is a question mark to the Lord and that nothing (not even a bad choice) can separate me from His love or provision.

So what is my task in these days of decision? I think it is to fling my questions marks about the future onto the Lord and run with energy in the present, to live fully in today.

Maybe leaving the ?'s to the Lord will lead to a clean kitchen and bread made...sigh. We shall see.

September 26, 2011

Mind-Binding Quote of the Day-OUCH!

Pondering this today:

"We have the blessed Holy Spirit present, and we are treating Him as if He were not present at all. We resist Him, disobey Him, quench Him and compromise with our hearts. We hear a sermon about Him and determine to learn more and do something about it. Our conviction wears off, and soon we go back to the same old dead level we were in before. We resist the blessed Comforter. He has come to comfort. He has come to teach. He is the Spirit of instruction. He has come to bring light for He is the Spirit of light. He comes to bring purity for He is the Spirit of holiness. He comes to bring power for He is the Spirit of power...We would like to be full of the Spirit and yet go on and do as we please. The Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures will expect obedience to the Scriptures, and if we do not obey the Scriptures, we will quench Him. This Spirit will have obedience—but people do not want to obey the Lord. Everyone is as full as he wants to be. Everyone has as much of God as he desires to have. There is a fugitive impulse that comes to us, in spite of what we ask for when we pray in public, or even in private. We want the thrill of being full, but we don’t want to meet the conditions. We just don’t want to be filled badly enough to be filled...If there is anything in your life more demanding than your longing after God, then you will never be a Spirit-filled Christian. I have met Christians who have been wanting to be filled, in a vague sort of way, for many years. The reason they have not been filled with the Spirit is because they have other things they want more. God does not come rushing into a human heart unless He knows that He is the answer and fulfillment to the greatest, most overpowering desire of that life."

A.W Tozer

Ouch Ouch Ouch Ouch Ouch Ouch Ouch

What do I want more than I want the Lord? Many things. Am I guilty of wanting the fullness of the Spirit for my own vain purposes? Sadly, yes. 

Spirit of the Living Holy God, win this rocky, weak, dumb heart.

June 7, 2011

Mind-Binding Quote of the Day-A Storm is Coming

I've been feeling like I'm in the middle of a few storms right now.

A Storm in my funding (I'm in a deficit)
A Storm in conversations around the philosophy and ideology of Small Groups and their purpose.
A Storm in the parenting of a three year old who only seems to know how to yell and scream in response to all parenting strategies. And in the parenting of a four year old who dissolves into tears at the smallest thing. And in the parenting of a seven year old who sometimes has the attitude of a 15 year old with a romantic sensibility to match.

Storms make me angry. They make me weary, and eventually they make me despair.

But in the book, "Under the Unpredictable Plant" by Eugene Peterson, I find a different perspective on storms, and a different perspective on myself. Peterson is unpacking the story of Jonah in the book and using Jonah's story to help ministers understand their own story.

Jonah faced a big storm (Jonah 1), one that got him thrown overboard by his ship mates. Peterson compares Jonah's reaction to his storm with Paul's reaction to a similar storm in Acts 27. One of the biggest differences between the two ministers is that one faces his storm with prayer, and one does not. Peterson concludes the chapter by saying this about prayer:
Prayer is the connecting thread binding these sea storm stories; prayer is the articulation of human response to the word of God, the word that creates and saves. The sea storms that call into question our vocations turn out to be the means of vocational recovery. They expose us to what we cannot manage. We are returned to primordial chaos...where we submit our lives to the world-making word of God. These storms are not simply bad weather; they are the exposure of our lives to the brooding, hovering wind/spirit of God. In the storm we are reduced to what is elemental, and the ultimate elemental is God. And so prayer emerges as the single act that has to do with God. Our vocations are God-called, God-shaped lifework. The moment we drift away from dealing with God primarily (and not merely peripherally), we are no longer living vocationally, no longer living in conscious, willing participatory relation with the vast reality that constitutes our lives and the entire world around us. The storm either exposes the futility of our work (as in Jonah) or confirms it (as in Paul). In either case, the storm forces the awareness that God constitutes our work, and it disabuses us of any suggestion that in our work we can avoid or manipulate God. Once that is established we are ready to learn the spirituality that is adequate to our vocation, working truly, easily, fearlessly, without ambition or anxiety, without denial or sloth.
These storms, all storms actually, are good for me. They remind me that I am not God-no matter how hard I try- and storms make me STOP and acknowledge that I'm acting god-like. Storms hopefully press me to pray because there is only one Being in my world who can calm the storm. And that is the real and Living God.

I would encourage you to check out this book-if you are a minister, a parent or a human. We all have a calling in the kingdom-we all have a vocation. Every page so far has deeply blessed my understanding of my own vocation.

June 3, 2011

The Brat Returns: When Prayer is Hard

I have been spending time in the Psalms lately. There is a blog I check in on called MamaMonk. And she has a post about how she stays connected to God. I was challenged by her thoughts and have been trying out her connection plan.

This plan ran me right into Psalm 21 and right into a pocket of my heart that stays shoved out of sight-hidden from others, myself, and I like to pretend, God.

This Psalm is a happy one. Full of celebration and praise to the God who provides. Here is how it starts:
O Lord, the king rejoices in your strength.
How great is his joy in the victories you give!
You have granted him the desire of his heart 
and have not withheld the request of his lips.

As I continued to read about all God had done in the life of this king my heart became increasingly sad, and this part of myself that I ignore and stuff out of sight, started to surface and overwhelm me. 

There are two things that I've asked for over the past 10 years. Two things that God has seemingly ignored. I know this is bad theology, I know that I might not be asking for good stuff, or more correctly, the right stuff. But in the area of prayer and relationship this is a hard thing for me. I feel abandoned. I read these verses and scoff. This may be true for some, but not for me. 

This hidden saddness sucks the power and energy out of my prayer life. When I'm praying for others, this part of me is detached and distant from their needs. When I'm praying bold prayers, this pocket fears and sweats. When I'm pressing toward God with a full trust, there is this part of me that leans away,  a part that says, "What's the point of praying...He is just going to do what He wants."

I stayed here a few days-Annoyed, saddened and tired of ignoring this part of myself. 

Then I revisited Psalm 21, and things were different. I was still sad, but God showed up and as I read the verses (that days before had highlighted my unanswered need) this time through, God used them to remind me of all the prayers He has answered. He pressed close into this distant part of my heart and comforted my sadness in the areas still left unanswered. And He guided me to a verse I had overlooked days before-verse 6.
Surely You have granted him eternal blessings
and made him glad with the joy of Your Presence.

God has not answered all my prayers, and I will keep praying for these two things and more until He responses, but God has granted me the desire of my heart. He has given me Himself. He has made Himself fully present to me, and has clothed me with the righteousness of His Son so that I can be fully present to Him (hidden junk and all). And that fuels my prayers. That He is here, always here, close to me. And He is paying attention.

April 24, 2011

Creation, Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection-His Love Endures Forever

Psalm 136
By Allison King

His love endures forever.

His love endures forever.

To him alone
breathed me, breathed you:
His love endures forever

Sin brings death
God now flesh*:
His love endures forever.

Perfection walks among,
Illustrates Anointed One:
His love endures forever.

Skin breaks
Thin steaks
force their way through flesh:
His love endures forever.

His love endures forever.

His love endures forever.

Days change
Spirit flames
He renames
His love endures forever.

 *In more current versions of this poem this line is changed to "God in Flesh" based on the poet's own theological understanding of incarnation developing. However I first heard and fell in love with this poem in it's first "draft" and that is the one I'm posting. Thanks Ace for letting me use it.

April 22, 2011

In Honor of Good Friday, & the Few Faithful at the Cross

Funeral Blues
by W.H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum 
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public dove,

Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest, 
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever : I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now : put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; 
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

April 19, 2011

Lent, Suffering and The Tortures of Taking Sabbath

I've been reflecting on the parent stylings of Mary, Mother of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

Reflecting on her experience at the foot of the cross.

Challenged by her ability to watch her son accused and tortured, staying silent, trusting Jesus to God.

And then, after all this is done. After Jesus is dead. Mary doesn't stay and watch over his body-like I would. She doesn't linger in her grief. She leaves Jesus' body to a religious leader,  whose name  happens to be Joseph, and goes home to get ready for the Sabbath.

Mary's relationship with her God is so strong and grounded that even the death of her son does not throw the rhythm of her faith. It doesn't takes precedent over her following the good and whole discipline of taking rest, as her God commanded her to.

Too often my kids become my little gods. Too often I put my love for them, my hopes for them, my passion for their happiness and success over my love, hope and passion for God and His kingdom. Too often I bow to the demons of materialism, selfish ambition, and pride in order to give them the life they ask for or that I am convinced they need. And I have to be honest that I would struggle with the Lord if one of my kids got sick or worse. My relationship with Him would become much more "complicated."

But as a mommy of little ones I wonder how Mary pressed into God the Father while Jesus was young. I wonder about her life and her faith when Jesus is just born and shepherds come and tell about the angels. When she takes Him to the temple to be circumcised and Simeon tells her that Jesus will cause the thoughts of many hearts to be revealed and that a sword will pierce her soul. I wonder how she moves toward God when the wise men come and offer the gifts. When she and Joseph and Jesus are refugees in Egypt. When they lose Jesus, only to find Him at the temple. I wonder how she took each of these moments and cultivated a faith life that was not centered on her son, but was centered on her God.

I wonder about those things and I ask God to cultivate a Mary heart in me.

I pray that the Father, Son, Spirit God would be my one consuming passion, and that He would teach me now, in the littleness of my mommy life, to put my relationship with Him above my relationship with my kids. And that no matter what comes in their lives or in mine, that at the end of the day, the end of the week, the end of my life, I'll be able to leave my Cecilia, my Gareth and my little Audrey in the hands of their True Parent, and take my rest.