Just A Little Lack, Please!

I said at the very beginning of this year that this was going to be the year of reading, and that is proving to be true. This has been a year of reading more than of writing, and that has been a good thing. A year of listening more than of speaking.

 

I have things stirring within that I want to talk about, and yet I feel the need to let them simmer. The need to keep them close and not to expose them yet. The need to allow them the space for pondering and being stored up rather than for for rapid exposure.

 

This is unlike me.

 

I like to get my thoughts out there quickly. I tend to jump around. A lot. I tend to not follow through on thoughts to their finality.

 

I am not very patient.

 

This is not the best trait in a home school parent.

 

We have begun our third year of homeschool and I find myself with those mornings of agitation; those mornings of not having all my ideas in order and all the plans completely in place. The agitation that the kids are two steps ahead of me and will be asking what is next before I can tell them.

 

The agitation of being unprepared.

 

I hate that.  Kind of the opposite of patience.

 

Part of my lack of preparation is because I am trying to keep up with reading for my own sanity…reading to fulfill my own refreshment and deepening as well as for educating the chi’dren.  I am still finding the balance.

 

This morning, our third Monday into our third year of home school, something truly wonderful happened. There was just that moment of “Ahhh…..yes.”

 

It was not a brilliant moment of insight or of imagination or of grasping a deep truth. It was not a moment of the boys hanging on truths of history. No, it was laughter during prayer and prayer that rambled and was sincere in its humor and transparency.

 

Prayer that ended with “I pray that Mom doesn’t ground me for this prayer.”

 

A morning of lingering breakfast, of reading a novel out loud over cereal and chocolate milks,  leading into prayer and Bible reading without rush. An awareness that patience is growing in myself even when I am not completely prepared, and even more importantly, that friendship is growing among three young men. Awareness that home school is right for this moment, and that history is being learned, along with math and science and English…but that they are in this moment not the most important.

 

See…the thing is, I cannot force these three boys to enjoy each other and to grow in affection toward one another. I cannot force the atmosphere that happened this morning. When I rush the day and have all the plans worked out to the minute, often what I want the most is simply impossible.

 

Sometimes what I need is my lack.

 

This morning was that glimpse I needed.  The awareness that my insufficiency will not overwhelm this endeavor.  The awareness that I do not have to lay everything out all at once. I can hold back and ponder and be patient. I do not have to rush. There are moments which call for some lingering.

 

Did you hear that? Our insufficiency will not overwhelm the endeavor called life. In our weaknesses….God’s power is made perfect.

 

Everything moves so incredibly fast, it seems.

 

Lingering and pondering…these seem like old-fashioned ideas. And yet….they are so vital. It is hard to be agitated when you are lingering and pondering.  Sometimes it is good to sit with our insufficiency a little, sometimes it gives us the space to ponder and to linger and to find that God has done something we could not do ourselves.

 

The rest of the day we turned our attention to our tasks with a diligence that was engaged with humor and friendship.

 

So, I tuck my thoughts back in close and let them simmer a little longer. I’m thankful for those of you who keep popping in to read. I’m thankful to have a place to write…and I know there are more things stirring….

 

 

 

 

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Take a Name. Pray

photo

 

Anyone who has read here for more than a day or two is familiar with this face. Miss Maddie. She truly has brought joy and delight to our home. She has expanded our hearts, all of us.

 

I cannot imagine what would happen to our home if she was taken from us. I don’t know how I would breathe, how I would function. I cannot imagine the terror…and I do not want to even attempt.

 

And yet…

 

 

These women know this terror. They know it too well, and they have raised their voices and they have caught our attention. I don’t have to say anything more. I only have to show that one image and you already know.

 

Young girls, kidnapped. Stolen to prove a point, to be used and to be sold…to protest against Western education. Brutally tearing apart families, and terrorizing these young girls to change the culture back to oppression.

 

We have all seen many of the images. We have heard the cries of the women, and hopefully we are following the story and raising our voices as we can. Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly how we “help” in these situations.

 

This morning I came across something I could get my arms, and my prayers, around.  I came across this article with the names of 180 of the 276 missing girls, calling for us to pray for them by name.  I thought I would add one further step…pray for one by name, and one who is nameless.

 

I apologize in advance that I will be quoting a fair bit of Chesterton in the coming weeks as I make my way through a few books on him, as well as many of his writings. This was in my reading this morning, and it struck me deeply as I thought of these girls:

 

“The world is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more….Love is not blind. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.”

G. K. Chesterton – Orthodoxy

We are not blind, even if we cannot and would not wish to imagine the terror these girls are facing. And now we have their names. To pray. To speak their names and to pray. As was suggested in the post I read this morning, take a name and share it…you can share here in the comments or on your FaceBook or Twitter…but take a name. Pray.

Lord…have mercy on these girls. Protect them. Shield them. Guard them. Guide them home.

I am praying for Docus Yakubu. And the nameless one with her.

Who will you pray for?

 

 

 

 

Deborah Abge, Awa Abge, Hauwa Yirma, Asabe Manu, Mwa Malam Pogu, Patiant Dzakwa, Saraya Mal Stover, Mary Dauda, Gloria Mainta, Hanatu Ishaku Gloria Dama, Tabitha Pogu, Maifa Dama, Ruth Kollo, Esther Usman, Awa James, Anthonia Yahonna, Kume Mutah, Aisha Ezekial, Nguba Buba, Kwanta Simon, Kummai Aboku, Esther Markus, Hana Stephen, Rifkatu Amos, Rebecca Mallum, Blessing Abana, Ladi Wadai, Tabitha Hyelampa, Ruth Ngladar, Safiya Abdu, Na’omi Yahonna, Solomi Titus, Rhoda John, Rebecca Kabu, Christy Yahi, Rebecca Luka, Laraba John, Saratu Markus, Mary Usman, Debora Yahonna, Naomi Zakaria, Hanatu Musa, Hauwa Tella, Juliana Yakubu, Suzana Yakubu, Saraya Paul, Jummai Paul, Mary Sule, Jummai John, Yanke Shittima, Muli Waligam, Fatima Tabji, Eli Joseph, Saratu Emmanuel, Deborah Peter, Rahila Bitrus, Luggwa Sanda, Kauna Lalai, Lydia Emmar, Laraba Maman, Hauwa Isuwa, Confort Habila, Hauwa Abdu, Hauwa Balti, Yana Joshua, Laraba Paul, Saraya Amos, Glory Yaga, Na’omi Bitrus, Godiya Bitrus, Awa Bitrus, Na’omi Luka, Maryamu Lawan, Tabitha Silas, Mary Yahona, Ladi Joel, Rejoice Sanki, Luggwa Samuel, Comfort Amos, Saraya Samuel, Sicker Abdul, Talata Daniel.Rejoice Musa, Deborah Abari, Salomi Pogu, Mary Amor, Ruth Joshua, Esther John, Esther Ayuba, Maryamu Yakubu, Zara Ishaku, Maryamu Wavi, Lydia Habila, Laraba Yahonna, Na’omi Bitrus, Rahila Yahanna, Ruth Lawan, Ladi Paul, Mary Paul, Esther Joshua, Helen Musa, Margret Watsai, Deborah Jafaru, Filo Dauda, Febi Haruna, Ruth Ishaku, Racheal Nkeki, Rifkatu Soloman, Mairama Yahaya, Saratu Dauda, Jinkai Yama, Margret Shettima, Yana Yidau, Grace Paul, Amina Ali, Palmata Musa, Awagana Musa, Pindar Nuhu, Yana Pogu, Saraya Musa, Hauwa Joseph, Hauwa Kwakwi, Hauwa Musa, Maryamu Musa, Maimuna Usman, Rebeca Joseph, Liyatu Habitu, Rifkatu Yakubu, Naomi Philimon, Deborah Abbas, Ladi Ibrahim, Asabe Ali, Maryamu Bulama, Ruth Amos, Mary Ali, Abigail Bukar, Deborah Amos, Saraya Yanga, Kauna Luka, Christiana Bitrus, Yana Bukar, Hauwa Peter, Hadiza Yakubu, Lydia Simon, Ruth Bitrus, Mary Yakubu, Lugwa Mutah, Muwa Daniel, Hanatu Nuhu, Monica Enoch, Margret Yama, Docas Yakubu, Rhoda Peter, Rifkatu Galang, Saratu Ayuba, Naomi Adamu, Hauwa Ishaya, Rahap Ibrahim, Deborah Soloman, Hauwa Mutah, Hauwa Takai, Serah Samuel, Aishatu Musa, Aishatu Grema, Hauwa Nkeki, Hamsatu Abubakar, Mairama Abubakar, Hauwa Wule, Ihyi Abdu, Hasana Adamu, Rakiya Kwamtah, Halima Gamba, Aisha Lawan, Kabu Malla, Yayi Abana, Falta Lawan, and Kwadugu Manu.

 

 

 

 

Inspired by….Monday?!

So today is the first Monday attempting to dig in a little more, to think a little more deeply and to avoid distractions. I had FaceBook off most off last week, but I think I did so in the middle of the week, and Mondays are just different. So today, not logging on and spending my time with my cup of coffee looking at the latest on FB just feels, well, different.

Mondays get our attention. They make us wake up earlier and sit a little straighter and have to be a little more responsible.

Mondays are frustrating.

They mean real life is back upon us…the weekend is over. Ugh.

My boys are not fans of Mondays.  I never really have been either, but actually…don’t tell anyone…I am beginning to like them.

I cannot believe I am saying that.

I am beginning to rely on the rhythm that Monday calls me to. Monday tells me it is okay to sleep in a little sometimes, but now it is time to get back to work. Today, that means it is time to listen. That is what this whole paying attention business is about.

Time to listen to the voices who have listened themselves…time to listen to those who have something to say. Sometimes it is work to listen. Sometimes it is work just to quiet myself long enough to listen, long enough to really hear.

The goal is not just to listen, but to have something to give as well.

I am listening to learn, to be changed and to be filled so that I have something for my boys as I teach them.

Because I know just in myself I don’t have a lot.

There is more though…I want to listen to my kids as well.

Monday reminds me that another week has gone by.

Time to sit up straight and pay attention…time keeps on marching on and these little ones will not be so little for long.

In fact, my oldest grew over an inch since June. He needs to stop that. Maddie is speaking in sentences. She seriously needs to stop that. All of them are changing so quickly, and all of them have so much they want me to see. I need to pay attention.

I need to listen and I need to hear. I need to hear and I need to think about what I’ve heard, and then I need to give that back to the kids.  Reading books feeds my soul. I know that doesn’t happen for everyone. For some people listening to music has the same impact, and for some it is the interaction with others. We have to find what it is that feeds our soul in a way that brings life.

We have to find what it is that feeds our soul and in a way that makes us sit up on Monday with a hint of inspiration and an inclination that we are ready for another week to pay attention to life that week.

Part of it for me is reading, a large part is also fellowship on Sundays and worshiping together with others. There is great encouragement there and inspiration. Usually a healthy dose of thinking and challenge.

So…on this Monday….what inspires us? What feeds our souls in a way that brings life. Not just a chuckle and a diversion, but life. What pours into our souls in a way that gives us the patience and strength to pour back into the lives of those God has placed around us for us to care for, for us to inspire, for us to love?

Me?  Reading. Music. Fellowship. These things are my focus right now…with a little sprinkling of diversion.

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?

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.

A morning walk of thoughts and … squirrel!

I love mornings that start well. Sets the tone for the whole day…and maybe it is also that extra spring in the step of a Friday.

I was up early, the sun is shining (again…after a day of storms). Yes, the birds are chirping. I was able to get my mile walk in this morning before the kids were up (I walk around our cul-de-sac so they can find me if they need me. Don’t call social services).

As I was walking I was struck by something, as usually happens. This is my time to pray, and I realized that in the space of one lap, 1/3 of a mile, I went through the following topics:

Thanking God for the gorgeous morning.

My health…good.

My kids…which led to thoughts and prayers and out their spiritual life and about homeschool. Which led to thoughts and prayers about curriculum and tutorial choices for next year.
Those thoughts were interrupted by thoughts about the one boy yesterday who just.could.not.finish.his.work.

Refocus, and prayers for my dad and mom as they continue in the journey and tedium of dementia.

Which led to thoughts about family. Trip this summer.

That led to thoughts about finances. Which was interrupted by thoughts about things I’d like to do.

That was interrupted by the fact that I was out of breath for the moment…financial thoughts always make me walk faster.

Then I thought about friends I would like to connect with soon…and prayers for them.

All…in the span of 1/3 of a mile.

My thoughts jump. They interrupt themselves and distract my focus.
Squirrel!

We’ve all been there. It was still a good morning and time of prayer…but I had to fight for that focus. Back to the boy who couldn’t finish his work yesterday. He was distracted, he was fidgety and he just couldn’t get it done. Mostly his reading.  We are such a fragmented people, and so inundated with competing demands for our attention.

We have just one more month of school and we will have completed our first year. There have been some great things and some areas where I know we need work, but there is one area that keeps coming back to me….

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still.

Focus.

Taking every thought captive to obedience in Christ

This is not something that simply happens to us. Without discipline, my thoughts are all over the place. Without discipline the school work does not get done. Without discipline…it is difficult (impossible?) to contemplate and meditate and focus on God. To be still and know that He is.

That is the area that underlies everything for me in the homeschool venture. To provide the space and the atmosphere and the encouragement…and the requirement…that my kids learn to be still, to silence the distractions, to take their thoughts captive. Maybe only for five minutes, maybe for an hour…but to learn this discipline. They need it to progress in their studies, but they need it vitally in their spiritual life.

I remember reading Thomas Merton responding to a letter where someone said it must be easier to be quiet and spend time in contemplation when you are a hermit. They were desiring that space for solitude and contemplation, and Merton responded that if we cannot find silence and solitude in the room with the television and the distractions we will go crazy in the cabin in the woods. Our thoughts will weigh down on us and distract us and frustrate us. We have to learn the discipline of being still right here…in the midst of all the noise.

I have to admit it took a lap or two before I settled in to prayers that were focused and not jumbled. Thoughts that were held longer than a fleeting moment. Now as we sit down to start school…the reminder is there. Learn to focus. Hold this thought in your mind…don’t be distracted.

Discipline.

Capture your thoughts and do not let them capture you.

Practicing Resurrection…Chapter One

Resurrection Life.  Living with an understanding and transformation caused by the reality that our God not only came as a human, died…but rose from the dead. All of that is staggering. I know that I do not know this deeply enough in my soul. I’m not sure if any of us ever will completely…but we catch glimpses, don’t we.

We have those moments when the reality of eternity sneaks up on us, or grabs our attention…those moments when the reality of following Jesus overwhelms our inadequate minds and souls and we become enlivened in ways we can never manufacture ourselves.

Continuing in Chapter One from Eugene Peterson’s Practice Resurrection.  I need to make sure to highlight the subtitle:

Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ.

This is not just some formula to set ourselves up to encounter the Resurrection. This is about a life that encounters God and is transformed…into maturity. And for Peterson, this happens only in one way…in the midst of Church.

Ugh.

Seriously, I know there are so many who are immediately thinking either that this is going to be boring, or that there is no way this will translate to our actual congregational situation. Some have been bored by the church, some have been annoyed, some have been frustrate, some have been abused.

But this, argues, Peterson, is right where we encounter Resurrection Life. Not because of accident…this is God’s design.

Maybe the church as we have it provides the very conditions and proper company congenial for growing up in Christ, for becoming mature, for arriving at the measure of the stature of Christ. Maybe God knows what he is doing, giving us church, this church.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 180-182). Kindle Edition.

This Church. Named people in a specific place, in specific congregations. This Church.

Peterson challenges us to look at the similarity between the coming of our Savior (Luke 1-2) and the coming of our salvation community (Acts 1-2). There are great similarities.

In the same way that God could have chosen to come in glory, to come doing miracles that drew enormous crowds and swayed the nations to follow him…he could also have chosen to establish a Church where there was success and where there was power and where the world would want to come.

He didn’t.

We talk a lot about Christ killed on a cross as a scandal, “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23). I want to talk about church, this actual congregation that I attend, as stumbling block, as scandal, as absurd. The Holy Spirit could have formed congregations out of an elite group of talented men and women who hungered for the “beauty of holiness,” congregations as stunning as the curvaceous Tirzah and as terrifying to the forces of evil as the army with banners. Why didn’t he? Because that is not the way the Holy Spirit works. We know that is not the way the Savior was brought into our lives. Why would the Spirit change strategies in bringing the salvation community, the church, the congregation, into our lives?

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 327-331). Kindle Edition.

So, this church with all its inadequacies and all of, well, us. This is the place we are to grow into maturity and to know what it is to walk in Resurrection life.

That is, possibly, a little disappointing. I have been involved in fellowships where there just seemed to be a lot of people there because they felt obligated. Or a lot of people who were pretty messed up. Like me. This is the place? Really?

Yes, really. Because it is not all about us.  Our salvation was not about what we could do or work or accomplish. Our growing up in Christ, being the Church…is not about our abilities. The power of the Church comes from God.

but the essence that is behind the appearances: God’s will, Christ’s presence, the Holy Spirit’s work. This, not what we do or do not do in belief and doubt, in faithfulness or betrayal, in obedience or disobedience, is what we simply must get through our heads if we are going to understand and participate rightly in any church that we are part of.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 191-193). Kindle Edition.

Resurrection life is to be found in the local congregation. With all our insufficiencies and all our problems…even there….and Peterson uses the letter to the Ephesian church to help us “get” this. He explains that this was the congregation Paul was with for 3 years, and this is the only letter to a church that is not addressing a problem. Not that there weren’t problems there…but this letter is more about the true identity of the church, and in it we find a vocabulary we need:

But the dominant concern in this Ephesian letter is not to deal with the human problems that inevitably develop in church – no church is exempt – but to explore God’s glory that gives the church its unique identity. The letter also gives us an adequate vocabulary and large enough imagination for living in the fullness of God’s glory, living to “the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:14).

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 206-208). Kindle Edition.

We are a little handicapped, though…we have actual faces looking at us, and voices talking to us…and people who annoy us or who delight us. People who form our understanding of Church, and it is sometimes hard to separate our marred congregation from the intention of God to use this place to establish His kingdom.

When we who follow Jesus enter a church and participate in its life, our understanding of the place and company we are in is strongly conditioned by what we observe and experience in this congregation and its local history, these people with their personal and collective virtues and faults. That means that none of us ever sees the church whole and complete. We have access only to something partial, sometimes distorted, always incomplete.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 213-216). Kindle Edition.

Some, as I have come to know through my friend Michael’s blog, have been deeply wounded by their church. Wounding, abuse, disillusionment…these stack up against our seeing the church as something where God is establishing His glory. Sometimes it is hard to think with imagination and wonder when we pull into the parking lot.

We have the Ephesian letter before us so that even though we are surrounded with immature and deficient and incomplete churches, we can acquire a feel for what maturity is, what growing up in Christ consists of. By means of Ephesians we get an accurate account of what God is doing and the way the Spirit is working at the heart of every congregation.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 217-219). Kindle Edition.

Resurrection life. In the Body. In the Church…in my congregation. Growing up to maturity in Christ…right there, with my rear in a seat and the person next to me bumping into me and the other person hugging me and the other person singing behind me. Those actual people.

We are in this together. We are the Body….and we cannot fathom Resurrection life or maturity in Christ apart from these other travelers.

I have to admit…I was hoping for something more. I was hoping Peterson was going to wow me with some truth that would suddenly bring me to a new understanding of the Resurrection…something that would fix this longing I have.

He doesn’t. He points us to what God is doing in our midst…and just like the surprise and mystery of the Crucifixion and Resurrection redeeming us….there is mystery in how the Church will be the place we will encounter God and be transformed.

It doesn’t usually happen in a flash and in some spectacular way. God works in subtle ways and with patience.

Still…the Spirit is stirring something within me. I love my fellowship…I love worshipping together and I love interacting. Still, I do not know that I have fully grasped the reality that this is the place…this is the structure…for my maturity to establish. How about you? Does this spark your imagination for Church, or does it just irritate you because the expectation is too high? Does it ring true that God would work in a Church in the same way He came in the Incarnation…surprisingly humble and not in great power and show?

What does this mean for us when we gather together next? How do we internalize these truths in a way that impacts our approach to being part of the Church?