Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wasn't It Easier | Post 19

"Wasn't it easier in your lunchbox days?
Always a bigger bed to crawl into?
Wasn't it beautiful when you believed in everything?

Wasn't it easier in your firefly-catchin' days?
When everything out of reach,
someone bigger brought down to you?
Wasn't it beautiful runnin' wild 'til you fell asleep
Before the monsters caught up to you?"
t.swizzle // innocent
who can be sad when they see a snowman made out of salad?
I distinctly remember specific conversations with either my parents or other adults where they said "Don't be in a hurry to grow up.  It happens too fast.  Being an adult is hard."   It didn't seem like being an adult could be that hard.  I mean, sure, I knew adults had to make decisions and "deal with money" and make dinner.  But to be honest, I hungered to make my own decisions.  Maybe that's part of why I was fond of constantly playing Barbies/dolls.  I could make the rules and plans for them and I could make them "obey" my rules and "do" my plans.  Being an adult seemed like Big Real Dollhouse.  You get to choose what to spend money on!  And you have more than $2.51 in change in a little glass jar!  You get to go where you want!  And eat extra dessert! AND.  If you don't like mushrooms, you can choose not to make them with dinner!  And don't get me started on the jewelry and make-up and beautiful shoes adults get to wear.  Bras seem weird, but then again, talking on the phone whenever you'd like sounds divine.

Though I was "tried" (moved often, had people close to me die, watch my mom suffer through cancer, had much responsibility, etc) I "became an adult" when I was 19.  I had hurt before that, and I had cried and struggled before that.  But even babies hurt and cry and struggle.  I graduated - no, not highschool... I did that when I was 17 - I moved from one "life grade level" to another.  Innocent by Taylor Swift was playing while straightening up this afternoon.   I love all the lines I posted up top.   "Wasn't it easier when there was a bigger bed to crawl into?"  

When I was 14 my parents announced "Mom is very sick.  She has breast cancer."  I cried all day.  I felt tired at bedtime, but laying in my room all by myself I couldn't sleep.  I became increasingly forlorn the longer I was awake.  Before long I was shaking and weeping into my pillows.  Instincts kicked in.  When you're alone and afraid at night, go get mom and dad.  I ran up to their room.  They were sleeping.  I crawled into the foot of the bed and they stirred.  They didn't tell me to move.  They didn't ask if I was okay.  They knew how I was.  Mom patted my arm and said "Good night."  And all of a sudden, it was a good night.  And I could sleep now.  I felt better.

But when I was 19 and my world was rocked like it never had been before or has been since, and I had a similar night.  I, dressed head to toe in shoes, socks, jacket, scarf, jewelry, bobby pins... eveything, lay in bed with my mom.  She held her arm around me.  And it didn't make it feel better.  I still couldn't sleep.  It didn't "help."  I didn' feel any better - at all.  It was not a good night.  It was a bad night.  And it was the beginning of the end of "believing in everything!"  All of a sudden - now that I knew what even a teaspoon dose of real pain could feel like - I saw pain everywhere.  I didn't see wonder everywhere.   This was a first for me.   And I shuddered and tried to block out the stories I was now aware of - babies shockingly dying in their sleep, bodies screaming in broken pain (and there was nothing I could do to help), friends turning on friends, parents hurting their own children, car accidents, waves that eat nations.   Does everyone hurt?  Can I back to being a kid?  When will this be over?  Are we there yet? Wait, some people realize all I'm realizing when they are 12? Nine? Four years old?  How cruel!  Even the wonder years are robbed from some?  Man.

That was (is?) the hardest part of growing up for me.  Not just that I had to endure pain, but that I was aware of pain in a way children just are not.  Being an adult is not Big Real Dollhouse.  Doll's don't get hurt - even when their heads pop off.  And they don't have hearts.   

I, at times, wish I could "speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child."  I'd be the first to announce "God intends for us to rest in Him, our Father!  We are His children!  Come to His arms!"   I believe in the beauty and eagerness a child sees.  I love how easily children laugh.  Play.  Share thoughts.  But today is one of those days where I especially realize that I am not four and a half.   Painful marriages.  Sudden tragedies.  Disappointing news... again.   Cancer tests... again.  Sick people, everywhere.  The flu.  Mental illness.  Emotional illness.  Brain illness.  Miscarriages.  Anniversaries of death.  Comas.  Human betrayal.  Reality.  And it's not my own pain or story today, but I love these people and it's their pain, and I can't help but hurt too.  In a little way, even.

I read the end of Job.  We know the tale.  God allowed him to lose all his "wordly good."  His children, his wealth, his career, his health.  His friends turned on him, his wife was anything but comforting, he wanted to die himself.  What was the point?  It would have been better to never have been born than have to LIVE and LOSE!  I would have rather never experienced the joys if that meant that I could have never felt this pain! WHY GOD!  Why would you do this to me? ANSWER ME! WHY?

God answered him.  And came to him.  And was always with him.  God helped him.  And He restored him.  Real friends came back, and they ate together.  They brought with them sympathy and comfort.  The Lord gave.   Safety and hope returned.  Eventually he had children again.  His first daughter was named Jemimah.  What a waterfall of joy she must have been.  Naive, beautiful, needy and full of love for her bruised-but-renewed father.  Wonder returned. Jemimah means "the bird of peace, or the bird of new beginning, bright as day."

So, here's to the "Jemimahs" today.  The content, REAL, hopeful thing that flies in and makes a difference.  The ways God chooses to "deliver" a "Jemimah" for us.  The little Jemimahs and the big Jemimahs.  The bright days that will come.  The promises of good, the assurance of complete, untangled, easy joy.  The reminders of happiness, miracles and even delightful amazement in this thorny place.  The new beginnings.  The things you stopped believing could even happen.  The things you stopped even wishing for.  Tasting again.  Sleeping well again. The mirror is dim and sometimes even broken now, but we will see face-to-face.  Faith, hope and love do live.  Immanuel is with us.  These words are trustworthy and true!  There is comfort in the waste places, deserts turn into gardens, there is a voice of gladness in the song - even if it's a melody sung in the night.  God loves His humans - and God likes us too. Thank you, Lord, for hope.  For adult minds and hearts to "understand" pain and to understand real happiness.  Thank you for time.  Thank you for words.  Thank you for not making us like machines, who can't feel and who only deteriorate, but rather we only become more "alive" and "more real"  ("Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all...and once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”and more perfect with every passing day.  Thank you that we are dynamic.  Thank you for questions.  Thank you for the monsters and the heroes.  Thank you for telling an interesting and good story (and thank you that stories don't end in the middle).   Thank you that it "used to be easier" and for memories.  Thank you for comfort food.  Thank you for comfort truth.  Thank you for new beginnings.  Thank you for Jemimah.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Public Question | Post 18

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now,
 not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, 
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 
for it is God who works in you, 
both to will and to work for his good pleasure."
Philippians 2:12-13
As part of the recent discussion + thinking about "the spiritual discipline: quiet time" I wanted to ask for  your thoughts.  After all, "Dialogue is a neglected spiritual discipline. It should be ranked and relished on equal standing with prayer, Bible study, solitude, meditation, and all such timelessly healthy habits. It is shared meditation - with the bracing benefit of extra minds and a slew of thoughts we would have never thought of by ourselves." EGM

I need the help of your mind and thoughts!  What do you think Philippians 2:12-13 means?  What is it saying/teaching/asking/not-saying?  How is it "applied" or "lived out"?  The context surrounding it obviously matters (like any scripture)... so what do you think or believe?

I genuinely, truly want your dialogue in this! Pwetty pwease?

Friday, January 4, 2013

'Quiet Times' + Bacon | Follow-Up | Post 17

" not set hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, 
who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 

Do good! Be rich in good works! Be generous! Ready to share

And you will store up treasure for yourself. 
And take hold of that which is truly life."
There was, I thought, a very enjoyable response to my last post.  From texts, twitter, conversation and blog comments, I really loved discussing and thinking more about all these ideas and opinions.  This post was actually in the original post, and I took it all out because it was just really (seriously) too long.  But now I'm going to share it as my "follow-up."  I hope - whether you agree or disagree - that it encourages, "sharpens" and excites you to ponder and talk about these sweet things of our sweet God.  

"Being affectionately desirous of you - being crazy about you! loving you just so stinking much! - we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves - our things, and our home, and our time, and our stuff, and our food, and our thoughts, and lives -, because you had become very dear to us - you mattered to us, a lot." 1 Thess 2:8
"Devote yourself to every activity, reflection, or enterprise that expands your vision of God, His grace, His gifts, and His gladness. Abandon every discipline, devotion, or duty that offers the Lord a reason to think well of you or gives you a reason to think better of yourself." (Enjoying Grace Ministries)
It's hard to write and share thoughts that could be misinterpreted.  But I think a better way to say that would be "It's hard to write and share, because thoughts can be misinterpreted."  They often are.  If you tell a story to a group of 100 people, you'll definitely find at least two different take-aways on the story.  Likely more.  I don't think it'd be weird if there were 100 different take-aways.  While some may be offended and outraged, others might be blessed and quickened!  While some might be confused and discouraged, others might be bored and annoyed.  And I think that's okay.  I'm glad we all hear the same things, and then process and analyze and care about them differently.

But since my last post about quiet-times is dealing with the holy, beautiful, fierce-some and dazzling Word of God, I want to make sure I'm as clear as I can be.  

I'm not against God's Word.  

I'm not against spending time in God's Word - hourly, daily, weekly and... life-ly!
I'm not against knowing, going back to, meditating on, learning more of, reading, hearing, saying and loving God's Word.
I'm not against "alone" time with God, reading plans, or structure for God's Word.
I'm not against knowing God better through His Word, and enjoying Him more because of His Word.

Not only am I not against those things, I am eagerly for them.  

I am against activity around God's Word being more important than personal relationship with God.

I am against spiritual disciplines (reading the Word, praying, corporate worship, etc) being something better, holier, more honoring to God, more meaningful/important/crucial to your life than "normal" life activities.
I am against doing spiritual disciplines resulting in pleasure with yourself, or not doing spiritual disciplines resulting in guilt with yourself.
I am against proving, performing, going through the motions, pretending, or as Jesus put it, "white washed tomb"-ing.  
I am against trying to impress, appease, delight or win God.
I am against the separation of "the spiritual" and "the material/earthly/non-spiritual." (For example, I would not believe that a pastor has a better/higher calling because his career is involved in spiritual matters while a mechanic only deals with cars.  I think being a pastor is a high calling, and involves spiritual matters.  And I think being a mechanic is a high calling, and involves spiritual matters.  I think praying is a gift and good, spiritual thing and I think eating, laughing, playing, etc is a gift and good, spiritual thing.)
I am against Pharisee-like obedience, discipline, prioritizing, maintenance and review check-ups.  I am for obedience, discipline and prioritizing.  I am also for feet-kissing, perfume-pouring, and weeping.  
"The Pharisee's held it as their central commitment to please God + to pursue His word + to permanently plant and grow these passions in their children, from generation to generation. You can only imagine their bewilderment when they were bluntly told by Jesus over and over again that their scrupulous theology and tireless activity could actually be what was exiling them from the fellowship and family of the God that they were pursuing." (Generations of Grace)
I coach middle school girls basketball at a Christian school.  We represent a Christian school and the Christian God when we play. Most of the girls are friends outside of basketball.  They go to class together, they see each other on the weekends, the like each other's instagram pictures, they have crushes on the same boys, they like the same pop bands.  They have braces, and are learning how to wear eye-liner and they are wonderful.  We recently had a team discussion.  "Girls, tell me which of these four things is most important.  Number one: to pray before a game.  Number two: to cheer loudly from the bench.  Number three: to sprint and steal the ball.  Number four: to run Detroit the way I've taught you to."  Their hands shot up.  I called on about six or seven of them.  They all said "To pray! Praying!"  Once the whole team was in agreement that, yes, praying was the most important of those four things I asked them "And you're sure that nothing else on that list is as important as praying?"  One lively, sharp girl said "Well, I think praying AND cheering are the same-important.  Because when you're cheering you're encouraging your team and not complaining about not playing and thinking about other people more than yourself." "Wow," I said, "that sounds really important."  They all started chiming in "Yeah, yeah! Praying and encouraging are tied."  Until another sweet soul said "But! If you're sprinting it means you're working really hard and being diligent! And I think that's important."  At this point they caught on.  Someone else added "And if we run Detroit right, it means we were obeying you and paying attention and being respectful and using our minds."

Right.  I don't want my little girls to think that the way to "play like a Christian" is to pray before games, have team talks about God, and only listen to worship songs on the bus rides.  I want them to know that all that we do, we do "Christian."  I don't want them to think "First we do the Bible/God thing, and then we do the basketball thing."  I want them to know that together we do this life thing, and the Bible-thing and basketbal-thingl is all a part of life.  Sure, we may do good things that other "non-Christian teams" don't do - like pray and discuss the Bible together.  But we'll also do things that many other teams will do - we'll shoot baskets, and learn plays, and have starters, and foul, try to win.  But why we do those things is intrinsically different than why they do them.  It's not one or the other.  It's both.  And it's about the "why."  

To be honest, though I pray with my girls every single event I'm with them, I am personally not comfortable praying with them in public.  We don't gather together at the bench before the game, in front of the other team, in front of the fans and parents, in front of the referees and pray.  I don't want to draw attention to us (and God) by doing "spiritual things."  I don't want the girls to ever feel "better" than other teams, or like they are impressing any pastor/parent/person in the crowd who might be watching.  They should be able to communicate the heart of our team, the love we have for our God, and the difference in "why" we do what we do when they play.  Now, does this mean I would never ever pray in public with my team?  If someone is injured? Or if there is a serious moment where we need to get out of "basketball" and be turned sharply to God?  Of course I would.  But public-praying is not a habit of ours.  And to be honest, it's more important to me at this point that the girls run hard, obey well, encourage loudly and actually treat each other kindly than close their eyes and pray.  It's hard to fake exhausted, determined, work ethic.  Or skilled, tried and excellent execution.  Or squealing, loud, shared joy.  It's easy to fake praying.  (And, again, I LOVE prayer.  It's WONDERFUL! Pray more, everyone! Don't hear what I'm not saying.)

And I think the same goes for my life.  I don't want to come before The Father with a tender, listening heart during Bible/God time, and then go off and do my work time.  I want a tender, listening heart wherever I am.  I want to enjoy reading my Bible, and running a basketball practice, and making beautiful pictures, and eating frozen yogurt.  All those things can be done with great gratitude and joy in God, and all of them can be very stingy and hallow.  The way to true growth and joy is through beholding God, knowing Him and enjoying all He is and has.  The Bible + spiritual disciplines are an excellent way to know Him.  There are some other excellent ways to know Him, too.

"There is nothing better for a person than that you... eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do! Let your garments be always white! Let not oil be lacking on your head!  Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life... because that is your portion in life!"  "The Lord is my portion and my cup."
"My childhood was indisputably marked with predictable (even if abnormal) 'devotional' activities. Warm prayers that sent us off to school, lingering meals with missionaries or friends or neighbors, non-formulaic prayers of gratitude that opened most meals, hymn-sings that spontaneously erupted on the majority of car-rides of a half hour or more, and such things were a 'predictable' part of life - so predictable that they weren't programmed. They were life.There was no 'time of day' when we would reference Scripture, engage prayer, sing songs, or dialogue through our Christian world-view - because...well...there were no times of day when these were odd or out of place.This is not a critique of thoughtful devotional methods that faithful believers engage to build truth and faith into their  lives. My heart aches to share what can be the heart of family faith, not to declare what shouldn't be or must be the habits of family worship or personal devotions.At it's root this is not a discussion about family or personal devotions or worship. It's a discussion about devotion and worship. Above all we are asking what honors our Lord and magnifies our joy in Him (which is what honors Him).Linger with Him because He's amazing. Do nothing to pay the Lord what you owe or make Him happy with you. Pure absurdity. Live everyday because the Lord immeasurably loves you and loudly sings over you with joy." 
(Enjoying Grace Ministries)
I was shocked when I heard this passage unwrapped for the very first time this past March.  You know how rigidly strict and intense the Old Testament law is?  How it was common for fellows to be struck dead when breaking the law?  How there was law after law, rule after rule, seemingly random requirement after seemingly random requirement?  When God gave instruction about tithe, He did so very thoroughly.  And do you know what He said to do if the place to leave your tithe was too far away and you couldn't get it there?  Think about it for a minute.  Do you know what the Old Testament law instructed people who were too far away to "give their money to God" were told to do?  Give their first-fruits to the poor?  Sacrifice it in a fire or altar?  Give it away to someone else? Keep it in a storehouse until you can get it to the Tithe Dropoff?  Trade the offering for money and then bring the money in later?
"And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household!" Dt. 14:24-26
How beautiful.  Take My money, and go pick out whatever you want.  And gather your loved ones around and feast and rejoice.  We would typically consider money we tithe money we give to do God's work.  It allows our churches to practically do the things God gives them to do.  Doesn't that tell so much about the heart of God? That His work is to do us good, for our joy.  To give us gifts and treasures and feasts. 
"Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads [pokes that propel you to action], and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. But, my son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness to the flesh." Ecc 12:12
If the carefully chosen words of delight become more of a study guide for the test you're cramming for, they will lose it's savor.  The wise words should poke, urge and stimulate to action in our life.  We shouldn't just read "there is nothing better for you than to enjoy your meal and be merry with your wine," we should go enjoy our meal and be merry with our wine!  We should realize that the finals have been canceled and summer-break has begun!  It's time to celebrate!  

"... he seemed more united to God in his outward employments and activities, than even when he left them for devotion in private retirement.  His set times of prayer were not different from other times... because his greatest busyness did not divert him from God; for his only business was to love and delight himself in God, *wherever* he might find himself.

He noted that many did not advance in the Christian progress, because they were stuck in penances, and particular exercises. He saw that our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works.  It was lamentable to see how many people mistook the means for the end, addicting themselves to certain works, which they performed very imperfectly!

No, no, the most excellent method he had found of going to God, was that of doing our common life.  It was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times; that we should savor and enjoy God's presence more in prayer and than in any sort of business? Woe!

After prayer and devotion,  he still continued with God, praising, enjoying and blessing Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual joy.

We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed... which will naturally produce its habit in us, to the delight of God, and - yes! - to our exceedingly great delight as well." Brother Lawrence

The end.  For now ;)