Monday, June 29, 2009

Preciously Predictable

Since most of my life is marked by the mundane, it has been my quest for some time now to find purpose, joy and even glory in it. Though I fail miserably more often than I would like to admit, I feel that it is vital to pick myself up, refocus my life and try again while leaning continually on God’s forgiving and empowering grace. There is a tendency for people, myself included, to see the ordinary as something to be tolerated at best while they wait in anxious expectation for something better and more fulfilling to come along. I, for one, find this to be a most miserable experience. Even when something exciting and wonderful comes along, it will eventually pass or its newness will grow old and the accompanying excitement will fade.

Take vacation for example: You plan most of the year for it and anticipation arises at it approaches. During travel to the long awaited destination your imagination is busy with the upcoming blissfulness of it all. It comes, it goes and you return home. How do you feel? Pretty down, huh?

Or maybe you’re building your dream home or expecting a new baby. These things bring great and wonderful highs to our lives, but they are also unavoidably followed by lows. Some of the youth at our church are planning for an exciting camp experience and our children just returned from one. The youth are experiencing an increasing emotional high, which has yet to climax, and our children are probably experiencing some level of post camp blues. This is a normal thing. We are not created to live at constant elevated levels of adrenaline and excitement. The lowering process is necessary and can be a good thing as long as it is expected.

The problem arises when, like an addict, you rely on outside sources to feel alive. When we live for the next weekend, relationship, or promotion, for our kids to grow up or for retirement or any other event, then we rob ourselves of the joy of the ordinary. If we say to ourselves, “I will be happy when…” we have a poor existence depending on outward circumstances for satisfaction. Why not break free from such tiring methods?

I am greatly disturbed when I think that most of the precious few moments of my life could be spent waiting for the next in dismal discontent. That is why it is my quest to embrace the mundane as very beautiful and each day as God-given. Every day is given for a great purpose and how shallow it would be for me to waste it away looking beyond it for something more sparkling and inviting. I, like anyone, enjoy the peaks of life and we were meant to, but we should equally enjoy the hidden treasures of the predictable. God is in the mundane as much as he is in the spectacular and he desires for us to acknowledge his existence there.

There was a seventeenth-century monk named Brother Lawrence whose chief desire was to practice God’s presence in everyday life. Gary Thomas, in his devotional, “Sacred Parenting”, gives a little insight into Brother Lawrence’s life:

Over time “[Brother Lawrence] was more united to God in ordinary activities than when he devoted himself to religious activities. Indeed, he found that “the best way of reaching God was by doing ordinary tasks…entirely for the love of God.” In Brother Lawrence’s mind, prayer was not quantifiably different than peeling potatoes.
Such an attitude infuses the mundane with the profound: “We should not weary of doing little things for the love of God who looks not at the grandeur of these actions but rather at the love with which they are performed.”

In this light, changing diapers and trying to keep up with a 3 year old are transformed into highly important tasks. In this light, I do not have to dread day-to-day tasks. Instead I can wake tomorrow to a gloriously normal day if I choose to make the moments contained within it opportunities to love God. Loving God in ordinary ways can make every predictable day profound and precious.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Would You Rather...?

Anyone who knows me knows that I love games. I have this game called “Would You Rather”. It's a game meant to inspire hilarious conversation. It asks some very thought provoking questions beginning with the phrase “would you rather”. A couple of examples just for fun:

“Would you rather age only from the neck up or age only from the neck down?”

“Would you rather have to spend an entire pro basketball game with your face sticking out of the rim or an entire hockey game with your face sticking out into the middle of the goal net?”

I’d have to choose neck down and basketball game. How about you?

Another question posed under the category which challenges a person’s ethics and intellect (and spirituality whether they admit it or not) reads, “Would you rather be someone who lives by what your newspaper horoscope tells you to do every day or what the person on the psychic hotline tells you daily?” The rules state that you cannot say “neither” or “both”. Both of the two evils offer a very bleak and misguided life, but if I had to choose between them, I suppose I would choose the cheaper of the two – newspaper horoscope. However, I am glad that I do not have to depend on such venues for daily living.

In my reading this week I was reminded that I serve a God who speaks and is willing and ready to give me the direction and insight that I need. To some, the practice of hearing God is questionable, but I believe it is entirely necessary and should be a very normal and constant Christian experience. The Bible is indeed the flawless word of God, but this is in no way a legitimate argument for a currently silent God; it is actually the greatest argument that he speaks because the bible bursts with accounts of God communicating to ordinary people and plenty of evidence that he still desires to make himself real to us by speaking.
Dr. Klaus Bockmuehl says, “Only the pagan idols are mute, and Christians have been liberated from their service. So we have no reason, unless we mean to defy the teaching of Jesus, to turn the Holy Spirit into another mute idol.”

“But our God is in heaven; he does whatever he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands they have mouths, but do not speak…” Psalm 115 3-5

“See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks” Hebrews 12:25

“Therefore take heed how you listen…” Luke 8:18

“But the anointing that you have received from Him abides in you…the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true and is not a lie…” 1 John 2:27

“…his sheep follow him because they know his voice” John 10:4

Obviously, Scripture holds ultimate authority and the leadings of God’s Spirit are subjective and must be tested, but I believe by properly applying the two the voice of God can become ever increasingly recognizable. This is my desire- to grow in the skill of listening to God and to maintain the ability to hear by obeying.

So, would you rather ignore God and live as though he does not speak or live biblically and seek his input into your life daily? Remember "both" is not an option.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Significant Weakness

A little overwhelmed by and vividly aware of my own inadequacies I write the following to encourage myself:

In Scripture, God purposely exposes the weaknesses of those he used mightily. Through it he teaches us that it is a good thing to be aware of our frailties. We are usually very busy proving to everyone just how competent we are, but since God desires truth in the inner parts we should be careful to gaze into his word and allow him to bring us back from our disillusionment and striving. When we compare ourselves to other people we may or may not measure up, but when we compare ourselves to God we never do. This is the place he desires us to be. When our short comings blind us like one gaping into the sun we tend to cower back until by our own estimation we are approved, but brokenness allows you to judge yourself correctly by what God has revealed and then continue in the grace of God. In the New Testament, Paul encourages us to have this proper view of ourselves:

Romans 12:3
"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."

At the heart of the matter we are afraid that our own weaknesses will make us insignificant so we are in a constant state of trying to convince ourselves and others that we are strong. It is a shame that we are so afraid of our own insignificance. It is really a valuable thing. A statement made by Gary Thomas in his book Sacred Parenting has shaken me to the core. He says, "Our so-called search for significance is often a very dangerous attempt to steal some of God's glory. We may make our lust for recognition sound angelic- wrapping our ambition in kingdom-building terms-but at the root it becomes a demonic exercise to use God's gifting in order to make ourselves seem important."

Jesus showed another way. He made himself "less" and became a humble servant. As Messiah, he never sought to bring glory to himself, but to the Father. But God knows our human condition and this is why he allows us to be broken and to experience our own weaknesses; he knows there is great power in embracing them.

God help me not to cower back when my faults are glaring, but to stare them right in the face and call them what they are...opportunities for humility and openings for grace.

1 Corinthians 1:27
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Most Amazing Thing Just Happened!

Within a period of about 5 hours Chris and I where contacted by 3 people we were formerly mentoring. Two of them called to say "I'm done with the world and I'm ready to live for Christ!" We listened to their stories and rejoiced with them. I love those kinds of phone calls!

This just reminds me that we are simply to be faithful sowers of seeds. None of us have the power to produce righteousness in ourselves, much less in other people. Only God can bring about such a marvelous transformation.

"So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase."
1 Corinthians 3:7

But we do get to share in His joy if we share in His labor!

"For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field..." 1 Corinthians 3:9 (Emphasis added)

So don't be discouraged if the ground appears to be barren where you have planted your seeds. Today may be the day the tender shoots break through the ground!

Monday, May 25, 2009

In Memory of Joe

About this time 5 years ago, my little brother Joe (21 at the time) was spending the day on the beach, swimming in the ocean, working on his tan, boogie-boarding, laughing with friends and simply enjoying life. I'm glad he got to enjoy that day because unfortunately, it was his last. He was killed in a car accident on his way home late that night.

I wish I could have been there that day to see him laugh and have a good time. He was always so much fun. But I have other good memories of my brother that I hold dear: Christmases (one Christmas in particular those darn reindeer on the roof kept waking him up), our special picnics (we had to have strawberry Kool-Aid), Disney World (it's just wasn't fair that he got a Mickey hat and I got stinking silverware!), fishing trips in the pond, and when him and his friend Chad would join us at the lake, to mention a few. My fondest memory though and the most important was when he accepted Christ. Upon returning from the altar, he put his head on my shoulder and just cried. In this I take comfort. I will see him again.

This Memorial Day weekend there are many who are grieving over the loss of military loved ones. When people grieve over their loved ones the last thing they want is a lot of empty words in an attempt to talk them out of their heartache. Most people want to experience occasional sorrow at the memory of a passed loved one. Talking them out of it is selfish. It only shows that you are uncomfortable with their emotion and you would rather not deal with it. It's understandable that people are uncomfortable with death, but they shouldn't shun the grieving because they "just don't know what to say". A little advice from scripture: "...mourn with those who mourn. "(Romans 12:15)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Don't Be Cruel!

Her piercing glare said it all. It was like time stood still for a moment as my 3 year old daughter starred at her 3 month old baby sister in my arms. As is expected, there had been many times since we brought the baby home that Autumn vied for my attention, whether through extreme hyperactivity or all out tantrums, but this time was different. This time I saw resentment in her eyes. It was enough to break my heart.

After she spent some time trying to convince me that she was a baby like her sister Addison, we had a talk(as good of a talk as can expected with a 3 year old attention span--hers, not mine). I asked her if she feels angry inside when I hold Addison. She shook her head yes. I told her that I understand that it is difficult to share mommy and I reassured her of my love for her. I also explained that I am able to love her and her sister just as she is able to love me and her daddy. There's room for both. Then I sent her off to play hoping she understood.

"Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" Proverbs 27:4 NLT
"...jealousy is cruel as the grave..." Song of Solomon 8:6 NKJ

Scripture is true, jealousy is a cruel thing. It will make you want to be something you are not in order to preserve your soul from the dreadful fear of being rejected or replaced. And where jealousy is, anger is not far behind. Just look at Cain and Abel (Genesis 4), Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37), and the older brother of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-32).

No parent wants to have to deal with sibling rivalry even at its earliest stages. I would love for my daughter to be confident enough in my love for her that she never has to experience the cruelty of jealousy or its sidekick anger. I believe God desires the same for us a thousand times over.

So, what about you? Perhaps you're angry and don't know why? Is it possible that you are a little uneasy because you fear being replaced? Don't be cruel. Andy Stanley says that one way to overcome jealousy is to publicly commend the very person(s) that you feel "threatened" by. But that alone will not suffice. You must also sit regularly in the father's lap and allow him to reassure you of his love.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What's the Point?

I confess as a stay-at-home mother of two, I tend to get somewhat of an Ecclesiastes 1 attitude:

"Meaningless! Meaningless!...Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!"

Inspiring isn't it? Can anyone sympathize?

I mop the floor only to have milk spilled all over it, play dough stuck to it and dirty feet trample on it. I change a wet diaper only to make room for a poopy one. (Speaking of poop, I managed to find a pile of it in the hallway one day...and on the walls... and all over my daughter who was happily singing and washing her hands in the bathroom. Ugh!) I wash a sink load of dirty dishes and BAM! it's full again. I rejoice over an empty clothes hamper in the morning and by evening it's overflowing again. Even writing about all this seems a little meaningless, but it's not.

One of my favorite quotes is by G.K. Chesterton who wrote of a God who "is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them."

Not only stay-at-home moms suffer from the mundane. The search for significance plagues every soul. This is why the above excerpt serves as a constant encouragement to me. I envision the Lord softly speaking to me every morning, "Terra, do it again"; and if he says this to me I know it is for a purpose, if only to teach me perseverance. Perseverance is the main ingredient of godly character. How essential!

I believe Ecclesiastes 1 was meant to be treated as a car wash; you just pull in there from time to time to wash off all the worldly attachments and then drive out clean, with a new outlook. To park your car there would be, well...meaningless.

You see, I am blogging now because it will help me find meaning in the mundane. I don't expect to inspire many, mainly me. Keeping a journal of my thoughts is therapeutic and it gives the ramblings of my soul an outlet. So enjoy...or not, it makes no difference. :)