Merciful Monday.

Maturity is not a patchwork affair assembled out of bits and pieces of disciplines and devotions, doctrines and causes. It is all the operations of the Trinity in the practice of resurrection.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 494-495). Kindle Edition.

Yes, yes, I am still reading Peterson. Yes, I do still intend to write more posts as I work through this book. Nope, I’m not ready this morning.  I am reading and thinking, but not quite ready to write…beyond the above quotation.

The last month has felt like a whirlwind. Sports have been in high gear, school has been on that final push, Maddie has been testing the waters of turning 2. Curriculums for next year needed to be chosen, registration for tutorials had to happen. Add three birthdays within a month of each other and Mother’s Day into the mix…and I’m feeling ready for summer.

On the way to the orthodontist the other day we stopped by the library, I picked up a new book and barely made it past the first few pages. A Measure of My Days is about a young country doctor practicing in Maine. What caught me immediately was his description of his morning routine: waking up at 4:30, turning on music, making coffee and taking two hours to read and write. I breathed that in and realized how desperately I miss that sectioned off and protected time to feed my soul.

I have not done well with carving that time into my schedule in the last month, and my soul is weary and frazzled. I cannot survive just on the blessings of Sunday morning.  I need those moments of reading truth from others and finding their root in the Bible. I need that silence…or that music couched solitude…to grow my soul.

The quotation above from Peterson has held my attention, though, because just carving out that time is not enough. We cannot throw together a recipe of the right disciplines and devotions that will guarantee that we mature in the faith. We cannot expect to just mark the things off our list and feel that we have accomplished our pursuit of God sufficiently.

The working of the Trinity in our lives…the reality of the Resurrection in our souls…the breath of the Spirit in our bones…the imagination of the Creator in our minds.  This is what we need.

What I need.

I am frazzled with momentary things, with things that have their place and their importance, but which need to take their rightful place in the momentary and the mundane. My soul does not need to feed on the gossip of FaceBook and the trivia of television.

My soul needs the reality of the Resurrection. My soul needs the disciplines and the pursuit of God…but my soul needs that couched in the working of the Spirit.

I’m not sure that I can do 4:30. I’m not a morning person. School is done, though, and this morning 6am brought silence and peace and the calling to seek God.

I’m not seeking a patchwork of “right” things…I’m seeking God.

I am thankful that I can start afresh this morning and focus on Peterson’s book, focus on some things I want to think through. I am thankful for the refreshing of habits that have been neglected.

So…Merciful Monday this morning.  I have time to tidy the house and to sit at my table with headphones on and read. Think. Pray. Write. Repeat.

Care to join me?

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Pray. Act.

I was all set to write about Peterson’s book today, yet as things often happen I was struck by something else and need to think it through.

I have participated in a friend’s blog for about 7 years. This blog has been a place of debate, argument, discussion, deep prayer, friendship, controversy. His comments tend to number in the hundreds. People have engaged there…and we’ve formed a bit of community. The blog has focused on those who have been abused in the church. That is a hurting and sometimes volatile audience. There is reason for those feelings.  We’ve had one person who has been through tremendous suffering and has now tried to bring to light an abusive leader…and has been frustrated by the lack of support. He is a strong personality and a passionate person, and we’ve been frustrated often that he has taken over the dialog. There were some pretty harsh words shared in a thread yesterday…a thread with over 300 comments. I read through them all last night and this morning…and kept wanting to have the words to interject that would ease the tension and bring some peace.

I didn’t have the words.

Through this journey the person has been frustrated by Christians and has found allies in those who do not believe. He has been frustrated with God.

There are a lot of people who have felt that way, a lot of people who have been frustrated by God. A lot of people who have wondered why God has not stepped in to a given situation and changed things. Why can’t He make a miraculous release and why can’t the king be eaten by worms? Immediately.

I can understand that thinking. Why didn’t God stop Gosnell? 40 years of that horror. I think often of the children being abused. Right now. Why doesn’t God step in?

I do not have an answer that satisfies.

I am not surprised that this person on the blog is persistent to the point of obnoxious. He lived in a survival mode for a long time, I would guess…and I can imagine the need to have others pay attention. I think, from interactions with those who have faced abuse or neglect that there is almost an insatiable need for affirmation. The need to know that they are no longer that abused one or that neglected one…that they matter and that their cause matters.  I get that.

Those are often the people who will get things done because they are tenacious and they are focused and passionate.

The flip side is that sometimes they can turn others off because they demand so much.

I remember when I spent a summer in Chicago with Jesus People, USA. I expected when I arrived that we would help every homeless person we encountered. I expected them to be Mother Teresa-ish. When we walked to the shelter my first day, I was shocked that they literally ignored people. Yes, literally. They would just keep on walking as homeless people asked for their help. When I asked about this, they explained that if they stopped and helped each person on the way they would never make it to the shelter. The shelter where they watched children of homeless women so the women could get jobs, and then get apartments…and get off the streets and find a new life. The shelter where they ministered to physical and spiritual and emotional needs.

None of that would happen if they stopped at each need.

They had to stay focused on where they were called and able to impact deeply a few people’s lives. This did not make them callous. It did not make the people they had to walk by unimportant or unnecessary. This made them wise.
The fact is we simply cannot help every single need we are faced with. We cannot.

We can pray. We can be compassionate and we can be kind (they never spoke a harsh word).

Maybe…maybe…if we are able to encounter those in our path with compassion and with grace we can ease some of the insatiable needs.

Maybe our gifting and our calling is to listen and to pray. That is not weak or unnecessary.

Maybe God is working in ways we simply cannot see. Maybe He is doing something that couldn’t be affected by eating the king with worms.  That doesn’t mean we don’t still wish for immediate justice…except when we are the sinner.

There is another side, and this is the balance.

There are those who see a need and find a creative solution and do so with humility and grace that expands to joy and healing. Beating people into helping just makes people reluctant recruits. Doing something creative and healing…people long to be part of that. They long to see God work, and I think this is where we often find Him.

A friend posted this this morning and it fed my soul:

Maybe it is because I am often moved by music. Maybe it is because God so often moves through music. He unleashes our emotions in ways that does not happen through words alone.

More than that though. This one person that leads the music therapy at the hospital paid attention. She gave these children not only a voice, but also a means to express themselves.

She listened. And then God expanded.

I cannot help this person on the blog in the way he would hope. I do not have the finances to contribute, and I do not live where I can be a vocal and physical presence. I cannot go knock on the door of the abuser and say that he is wrong.

I can, however, listen and I can pray. Sometimes challenge needs to be spoken when those in need become more bully than advocate. Maybe if someone had listened and acted years ago that wouldn’t have happened, I don’t know.

I know…I’m rambling.

Here’s the thing, though. I do believe that God continues to work in miraculous ways in our midst. Often they are not the ways I would like. I wish that every child who was facing abuse would have a warring angel that would enter their home in that moment and defend them. I would rejoice in that.
God would rejoice in the abuser and the victim being healed.

Oh…there is so much here, and it is hard to be concise.

Today, though….we are faced with those who need to know they are not forgotten or unworthy or unnecessary. Today, in our midst, in our reach and in the path of our calling are those we can impact. We can listen…and we can act in some way. It starts with paying attention. Hearing the songs that could be sung. Acting in a way that inspires those around us to become involved when their talents match the needs.

The result is healing, hope and joy. Rejoicing as God works in the midst…in a quiet and mundane way, possibly, but working.

I’m not sure how this fleshes out for you, or even for me all the time. I know I fail at being aware so often.

Praying is not vanity, though. We begin by seeking God…pressing in and listening to His voice. Allowing Him to open our eyes to our gifting and our calling and the needs around us. Then acting with Spirit empowered actions. There is more that needs to be said….but sometimes it comes down to simplicity.

We will not be able to help every need. We will, however, be able to impact some…and God will expand our efforts.

Pray. Act.

Delighting in the Littles….

I am not sure how many times lately I have mentioned that it is a rainy Monday. Beginning to feel a little like when we lived in Vancouver! Still, I enjoy a rainy Monday; it seems to let me settle in slowly. This is our last full week of school, which means a busy time, but also an exciting time.

This is also, for us, the season of birthdays. Our youngest boy turned 7 a couple weeks ago and we had his party with friends this weekend. Again, it was raining, so the party was indoors…filling the house with rambunctious and giggly boys. It was wonderful!

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We have two more birthdays coming in May…our oldest and our youngest.  More celebrations and balloons and parties.

More delighting in our kids.

I have found myself doing that a lot lately. We’ve had our moments where they’ve been frustrating and where we’ve had to discipline, but I have found myself truly enjoying them lately.

And I noticed something this weekend: in my delighting in my kids I had a deep sorrow and awareness of all the babies who were greeted with terror at the hands of Gosnell.  Each baby I have seen in the last few weeks has brought the horrors of his story to mind, and great sorrow.

I have read some about him, and I have been absolutely sickened. I have a friend who survived an abortion, and each time I read about these innocents who were painfully murdered…I think of my friend, Gianna. I think of her fiery life and I think of the joy and delight she brings into my life and many others.

I think of the light she brings into the world.

And I think, and wonder, what we have lost with all these who have been killed. Gosnell is the horrific extreme. I cannot imagine the callousness of the soul that is able to kill babies who are crying and struggling to live…again, and again. I am struck, however, by the reality that this is the same thing that happens in the sterile clinics and when the abortion is done ‘correctly’. I have many friends who are in support of a woman’s choice, and I understand their decision and their thinking.

I understand, but I do not agree.  I am so deeply grieved, and angered, by Gosnell…but he is just the story that has been highlighted. The same choice to end life happens so continuously…and I wonder what grief it bears on the Creator. I wonder what these littles would have been…I wonder what we have missed. What laughter and delight, what joy and light, what imagination and what brilliance we have lost.

My mother and dad were faced with the choice. The doctor encouraged my mother to abort me; she had had several miscarriages and there was concern for her life. There was legitimate reason in the medical mind to terminate my life.

My folks said no. And here I am.

And I know that there is so much tied up in this discussion. So many issues…and so many failings on all our parts. As a church we have not excelled at caring for those who were terrified by the reality of a life for which they would be responsible. Some who have simply chosen freedom rather than responsibility, and done so callously. And some who have been so broken by the decision…and they need to be cared for and loved and extended grace. So many issues. But Gosnell….oh, my soul.

So, on a rainy Monday as I listen to my littles waking I am wearied by this brokenness around us. This pain and this loss, and this horror. In the midst of that…I continue to hold for hope and know that God still is working. That there are still stories of the redeemed and the made whole.

I look at my littles and I rejoice that they are filled with life and with imagination and with hope….and I delight in them and whisper a prayer of thanks that they are here. That I am here. I whisper a prayer for those who are tormented by a decision and those who are facing a decision with great fear and confusion. Lord, have mercy.

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A Word that Calls us…

“Paul’s letter to the Ephesians joins together what has been torn apart in our sin-wrecked world. He begins with an exuberant exploration of what Christians believe about God, and then, like a surgeon skillfully setting a compound fracture, `sets’ this belief in God into our behavior before God so that the bones – belief and behavior – knit together and heal.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 370-372). Kindle Edition.

The last few weeks have felt hectic. I have not had the chance to read and process and post some thoughts on this second chapter in Peterson’s book. I have not been able to cook regular meals; fast food has dominated, and that is not like us. The schedule has not changed dramatically, but the busy-ness of healthy, active kids has seemed, well, more busy.

We have practices for two kids Tuesday nights and Thursday nights and Friday nights. We have games, usually two, every Saturday.

We have Biblestudy on Wednesday nights.

Church on Sundays.

Busy.  Oh, and we had a birthday in there, with another party this weekend. The oldest boy turns 12 in just a couple weeks, and he had braces put on this past week.

I have had that feeling of running from place to place. This is the time for registering for tutorials and picking out curriculum for next year, so that has added to the hectic feel. The push of the urgency.

There are times for the urgent, but the urgent has to stop dominating. I feel tired and harried. Then I read the above paragraph from Peterson and my whole soul leaned in and there was that whisper of, “Yes…this is what I need to think on today.”  Chapter two for Peterson is focused on how God is calling us…not directing or informing, but calling us, and the response is a walk. Not a pursuit of the urgent…a walk.

The items balanced in the Ephesians scales are God’s calling and human living: “I beg you,” writes Paul, “to walk (peripateo) worthy of the calling to which you have been called (kaleo).” When our walking and God’s calling are in balance, we are whole; we are living maturely, living responsively to God’s calling, living congruent with the way God calls us into being. Axios, worthy – mature, healthy, robust.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 387-390). Kindle Edition.

We can understand neither God nor ourselves in any living, adequate, and mature way that is an impersonal, non-relational way. When God’s calling and our walking fit, we are growing up in Christ. God calls; we walk.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 392-393). Kindle Edition.

We cannot ‘do’ this Christianity in a static or analytical way…we are called into a relationship and a journey. I needed to hear that this morning. In the midst of the busy-ness of life, I…and you…are called by the Living God to walk with Him.  We are called through His Word…through the conversation with Him in the Bible and through the Holy Spirit. This is not some dead creed or some dead language…God speaks to us.

God speaks the decisive word that puts us on the way, the road, the path of life. The Hebrew word for Bible is Miqra, a noun formed from the verb “to call,” qara. The Bible is not a book to carry around and read for information on God, but a voice to listen to. I like that. This word of God that we name Bible, book, is not at root a word to be read and looked at and discussed. It is a word to be listened to and obeyed, a word that gets us going. Fundamentally, it is a call: God calls us.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 407-410). Kindle Edition.

God’s word stirs us. There are other books which do that as well…I have been stirred reading Madeleine L’Engle, reading Frederick Buechner, reading…countless authors.  Many times I am stirred by their writings because they are echoing the words of the Word. The Truth is the same and my Spirit attests to that. There is something different about the Bible, though. That Spirit-infested Word that conveys to us God’s call. Not only does it call us, but it identifies us…it gives us the understanding of our true identity. God’s children. God’s people. God’s called ones…

A call is not an impersonal cause that makes something happen in a mechanical way in obedience to the laws of physics, like a baseball that is launched by a swung bat knocking it out of the ballpark. Call comes into our ears, beckoning us into the future, bringing us into a way of life that has never been experienced in just this way before: a promise, a new thing, a blessing, our place in the new creation, a resurrection life.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 413-416). Kindle Edition.

The call comes in the middle of the mediocrity, or the mundane, or the muck, or the mire….the middle of wherever we are.  The call comes and changes everything…brings hope. Brings Resurrection life.

Life that is no longer dominated by the urgency of the mundane. Life instead that is infested by the Spirit of the Living God. Life that is informed by eternity and by the reality of the truly important and informed…not just an existence of jumping from one activity to another.

I needed to hear that this morning. As my little one is standing and waiting for me to come out and jump on the trampoline and my others are doing school work. Life is happening, but it is not just the marking off of our to-do list. Life is listening for that Call for today…to understand what that Resurrection life means in the midst of the busy-ness. How that call changes the mundane into something different. Something hopeful and life-filled.

There is more to this chapter, but for now that is enough for me to chew on for awhile. I need to let the reality of that call sink deeply into this frazzled soul.