Saturday, October 31, 2015

Day 31: Scripture for the Weekend

"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
-John 11:25-26

Friday, October 30, 2015

Day 30: Nouwen on the Inner Life

“The man who articulate the movements of his inner life, who can give names to his varied experiences, need no longer be a victim of himself, but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering. He is able to create space for Him who heart is greater than his, whose eyes see more than his, and whose hands can heal more than his.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen,
"The Wounded Healer"

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Day 29: What's Next?

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course. I have kept the faith."
-2 Timothy 4:7

In a few short days, my 31 day series on my spiritual journey will be over.

Unlike, Paul, I have not arrived at my destination.  I am still fighting, I am still running the course, and I am still struggling to stay faithful every day.

What strikes me the most about this is that the spiritual life is an ongoing process.  And like a fight and a race, it's a messy, hard, endurance-building process.  Sometimes I will take two steps backwards after one step forward.

But like Paul, at the end of my life I want to be able to say that I kept my faith.

So what's next in my journey?  In November, I'm planning on reading through One Thousand Gifts and starting my own list of gifts, posting it on my other blog by the end of the year.  I'll be updating this blog hopefully at least once a week, but I can't make any promises with the craziness of the holidays coming.

Thank you, readers, for sticking with me through this challenge.  I hope in some ways my imperfect journey has encouraged you and inspired you to pursue God.  He may meet you in unexpected, but always sweet ways.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Day 28: Good vs. Evil

"For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
-Romans 7:18-25


I'm beginning to see a pattern here.

Even early on in my writing this month, I found myself thinking and blogging about issues I've already wrote about before-anxiety, my to-do list obsessions, learning to trust God when things don't go the way I planned.

I remember telling some friends early on in the process that I felt like I was banging my head against the wall.  I was backtracking again to things I should already know!  Does this mean I'm not moving forward in my walk with Christ?

If you're anything like me, you feel like this spiritual life shouldn't be so messy.  So full of mistakes.  It can lead you towards despair- "What a wretched man I am!"

But God doesn't end with us there.  If we believe in Him and trust Him, He is not waiting to condemn us or for us to get it right the first time.  He knows we have good and evil warring inside of us every day.

So what is our duty?  We chose Jesus.  We chose to live as delivered ones for now, waiting for the perfection that is to come.

In my conversation that day about the lessons I'm relearning, I found the grace to laugh and say that the Lord honors us in the midst of our struggles.  He is patient with us, always waiting to deliver us, no matter how many times we stumble into that same pile of worries again.  He is the one who will "rescue me from this body that is subject to death." 

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Day 27: Life

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
-John 10:10


In these final days of posting thoughts along the way in my spiritual journey, I'll be reflecting on what the Lord has been teaching me through this time of writing.  These posts may be a bit convoluted and shorter, because not only am I blogging here, but I also am finishing up a paper on the legal and social issues involving child advocacy for my online class.  I've got 2-4 more pages to go based on how much more I want to talk about.

So.  Much. Writing.  My carpal tunnel has me cursing my hands by the end of the day.  I really need to go buy those splints my doctor told me about last year!

Anyway, writing here every day has been great at helping me stay more in tune with the daily ways God is speaking to me.  I would often wake up in the morning and be worried about what I was going to type here, only to be surprised by something I read or experienced and thought, "Oh!  I can blog about that!"

Seeing the ways He has been faithful to speak this past month has reminded me of the fullness of life that He gives, if we are willing to listen.

And for me, listening often involves a quiet space and writing.  This can be hard to get consistently with two little ones, but I want to be more conscious of my need for connecting with God in this way.

Do you have ways you connect with the Source of Life that you've neglected for a season?  Whether it's through music, writing, dance or just sitting quietly with a cup of coffee and staring out the window, why not take back that precious time the thief would like to destroy?

In it, you may discover the life Jesus has already been offering to you when you are willing to slow down and listen.  I know I have.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Day 26: Drink

"On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”   By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified."
-John 7:37-39


Some days my life just feels dry,
Everything I touch turns to dust.
I walk through a desert in my heart.
I feel confused,
How is Jesus working in my life?
Then I read the Scriptures and I see Him crying out,
Crying out in the midst of a festival,
In chaos, confusion, arguments,
And He shouts,
"Come to me and drink."
It's a simple invitation.
In the Scriptures people continue to argue about who He is,
But I'm done with that.
I just want to come.
I want to drink from the fountain of life,
And know that as I kneel there,
The river of life He gives to me,
will flow out to all around me,
And because of Him there will be springs in the desert.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Day 25: Nouwen on God Loving Us

“For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Day 24: Scripture for the Weekend

"Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
-John 6:35

Friday, October 23, 2015

Day 23: Weakness

"But instead I choose to place these trembling feet on a foundation and an understanding of the character of a God who makes no mistakes."
-Casey Trask, "When You Stare"

"I noticed you walk a little bit differently," she said.  "Can you tell me about that?"

I was preparing to pay for a car repair when faced with that question from the shop owner's wife.  It was rather unexpected.  I answered honestly, and we had a great conversation about acknowledging God in our weaknesses,  experiencing pregnancy with a disability and aging.  She was genuinely interested and as I left I said, "I always enjoy talking with you."

What I really wanted to say was, "Thank you for seeing my weakness with dignity and affirming my humanness."

Many people are able to hide their all of their flaws on the inside.  My sister and I don't have that option.  We've had a lot of discussions about our physical weaknesses.  We've laughed about them, we've been frustrated with them, we've cried about them.

In the midst of it all, we've been able to see God's grace in them.

The above quote is a line from a blog post my sister wrote after fielding many questions about the way she walks from the preschoolers she teaches.  It's beautiful, and I encourage you to pop over to her blog and read it there. 

My interaction this morning reminded me of that post, and I hope it speaks to you of the imperfect dignity God gives all of us.  Acknowledge weakness in your own life with that gentleness as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Day 22: Live

"Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. "
-John 5:25

 While reading John 5 this morning, I was struck by how many times Jesus mentioned the Resurrection.  He was constantly telling the Jewish leaders about the power of God to give life, juxtaposing it to the power of death producing legalism.  He points to himself as the conduit to God's love and life giving power.

Sometimes I forget about that power.  I do as the Pharisees did, "You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.  These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life" (John 5:39-40.)

I find it easier to accumulate knowledge of the Scripture rather than have a relationship with the One who inspired them.  Then He can ask nothing of me, there is no messy work that comes from addressing my heart issues, and I have less of a risk of being hurt by stepping out in communication with Him or the Church.

But is that really living?  No.  Not taking the risk means I lose out on so much more in life.  Not only do I lose the chance to be blessed by a relationship with Jesus in the good times, but I have nothing to cling to in the bad times.

I want to hear the voice of Jesus and live.  So I simply ask every morning when I open the Bible for Him to speak to me.  Throughout this month, He has been so faithful to do so.

My heart is changing and blazing with life because of that.  He has given me so much more joy, even in adverse circumstances.  I encourage you in your walk to approach the Scriptures in this life giving way.  Just ask Him to speak, and He will.  The Counselor of the Holy Spirit that lives within you will begin to do His work.

And that dead place in your heart?  It will come to life.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Day 21: Rest

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
-Matthew 11:28


I've been either fighting a cold or fall allergies these past few days.  Anyone knows that with a cold it can be almost impossible to sleep depending on your symptoms.  Last night was no exception, and I ended up taking half a dose of nighttime cold medicine.  I told Hubs that he might be better off sleeping downstairs last night and apologized.  He said, "Don't say you're sorry for being sick."

This morning I felt like the walking dead.  I prepared myself for the day, made breakfast and helped the kids get dressed successfully, but was wiped out with the effort.  Hubs took the kids to the bus stop while I lay on the couch wrapped in a blanket.  I vaguely remember him coming back and turning on the TV for my son.  The last two hours have been me waking up to my toddler saying, "Want to watch another one," then being fully awakened by him coming over to the couch and demanding more cereal.

I finally felt a little more human at that point, so I rose and had a snack of my own as well.  At this point I could have been beating myself up for all I hadn't done that morning.  But God is being gracious to me in reminding me in sickness and weakness that I need to rest.  The world will not collapse if I take a much needed break, and I will recover faster if I listen to my body and give it the break it needs.

So I'm choosing to see today as a gift of rest.  I'm choosing to not feel guilty about the amount of TV my son has watched this morning, because he sees it as a rare treat.  I'm choosing not to worry about the fact that he's had three bowls of cereal, because that means he is full.  This day of rest is a gift for the both of us, and will lead to recovery and the routine fast enough.

Take time to rest today and be present, especially if you're not sick!  Rest is a gift from God.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Day 20: The Woman's Testimony

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.”
-John 4:39

 I find so much grace in Jesus' interactions with women in the Scriptures.  In a culture where women were viewed as property, Jesus consistently took the opportunity to speak to them and cement their place in His kingdom.  The Samaritan woman is no different, and she can be seen as an even more extreme example of Jesus' love for all people.  Not only was the Samaritan woman a female, but she was also a Samaritan.  Many Jews held prejudicial views towards Samaritans, so I'm sure when the disciples came back to the well near Samaria, they were doubly surprised to see Jesus speaking with her.

After her interaction with Jesus, in which he discloses his identity as the Messiah, the woman returns to Samaria with a simple testimony declaring Jesus as the Christ, and many believe because of her story.

In some traditions of the Church, a few things could be learned from this interaction, the first being that Jesus didn't see the woman as a second-class citizen.  He chose to speak to her, and He also chose to reveal Himself as the Messiah-something his disciples were still struggling to understand.

Second, Jesus allowed her to testify to the entire town, and I'm sure both men and women were included in that category.  Jesus didn't ask her to stay silent.  Women in the church should be encouraged by this example and find creative ways to testify of Jesus' work in their lives to anyone who will listen.

Finally, we need to remember that the Gospel story in the New Testament begins with a woman and ends at the Resurrection with women.  Women were the first to see and proclaim the risen Christ.  What other proof do we need of Christ asking both genders to be witnesses and mouthpieces for the Gospel?

The Church could learn much from these stories of Jesus' love and affirmation of women as partners in His Kingdom.  We are not meant to be silent members of the body.  We are "all one in Christ Jesus," and women should be acknowledged as such in our testimony and walk with Christ.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Day 19: Struggle

"And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.  Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”  Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”  Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.  So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 
-Genesis 32:24-30

I pressed the snooze button a few too many times and as I stumbled down the hall in the dark this morning, I couldn't shake the dream I had last night.  In it I was walking with an acquaintance in the woods, and there was some confusion about the level of vulnerability in our relationship.  I wanted them to know I was willing to listen and empathize with their current level of suffering, but I couldn't put that into words that seemed appropriate.  I woke with a feeling of unease and frustration.

As I prepared myself for the day, I started thinking about life and how we all struggle at some point.  We can't keep moving along without bumps in the road or the rug suddenly pulled out from under us.

We feel lost, confused, like our identity is stolen.  We think, "Wouldn't a loving God want to make us happy?"  "Why is this happening?"

It was then that the story of Jacob wrestling with God came to mind.  When I look at the story, it is easy for me just to skip to the blessing part without thinking about the context.  Jacob was constantly running away from something.  In this instance, he was about to meet his brother, from whom he stole his entire inheritance.  Alone, in the dark, Jacob meets a mysterious man and they wrestle.  In the midst of the battle, Jacob becomes permanently lame.  But notice that he persists in the struggle, knowing and verbalizing that in the end God will bless him.  And what does he receive?

A new name.  A new identity.  A new, more vulnerable, painful way of walking and living, but he has changed and understands he has been delivered through seeing God face to face in the struggle.

Does Jacob's life continue smoothly from there?  Nope.  But I think he walked with a better understanding of who God is in adversity.

I prayed that for my acquaintance in my dream this morning.  I've prayed it today for various other friends walking through hard times.  I pray that we would all persist in our sufferings, be able to see God face to face in them, and walk through them towards our new identity in Him.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Day 18: Listen

"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry."
-James 1:19 


Tonight, out of a surge of goodwill and a babysitting offer from our neighbors, I did something a bit out of the ordinary: I volunteered at the Compassion table during an event at Hub's workplace.  He was going to take pictures and the theme for the night was marriage, so we made it into a pseudo-date.  Working and experiencing the same event together was a fun change of pace.


When I got there I discovered there were quite a few volunteers for the table, so for most of the event I ended up talking with the volunteer coordinator for Compassion.  He was an older gentleman, and since the event was for married couples, naturally talk of our respective husband and/or wife came up.  He told me his wife had passed away in January from cancer.

He spoke for a while about her disease, about the helplessness they felt as she struggled with both the cancer and failing kidneys, about her adventurous spirit, about the displacement he felt after moving from a village in the Pittsburgh area to a rural New York property with his brother that needed a lot of renovation after her death.

And yet in the midst of all the pain, he kept saying "God blessed me with it," and how each difficulty brought him both self-realization and a sense of God working through adversity.

I learned a lot tonight about this man's life, and was struck with the gift of listening I was able to give to him.  Ironically, it became a gift to me as well, as I was shown a picture of a hard life in which God's hand was present.

I sat next to the volunteer coordinator for part of the event, but when it became clear that there were going to be couple-focused exercises, he leaned over to me and asked, "Is your husband the one taking pictures?"

"Yes," I replied.

"You should go find him."

I did, and spent the rest of the event with Hubs when I wasn't at the Compassion table  As the coordinator and I said a final "God bless you," my heart felt thankful to be able to see a glimpse into his life because I was willing to listen.  I pray God will continue to help me open my ears so I can sense how He is working in the lives of those around me.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Day 17: Scripture for the Weekend

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
-John 3:16-17

Friday, October 16, 2015

Day 16: Nouwen on Prayer

"For a man of prayer is, in the final analysis, the man who is able to recognize in others the face of the Messiah and  make visible what was hidden, make touchable what was unreachable.  The man of prayer is a leader precisely because through his articulation of God's work within himself he can lead others out of confusion to clarification; through his compassion he can guide them out of the closed circuits of their in-groups to the wide world of humanity; and through his critical contemplation he can convert their convulsive destructiveness into creative work for the new world to come."
-Henri Nouwen, "The Wounded Healer"  






Thursday, October 15, 2015

Day 15: Grace Upon Grace

"From his fullness we all have received, grace upon grace."
-John 1:16


I've been using The C.S. Lewis Bible for my daily Bible readings and chose The Navigator's 5 x 5 x 5 Bible reading plan to finish out the year.  I was using the YouVersion Bible app on my phone for reading plans.  I found myself missing the physicality of holding a Bible, feeling and (this is going to sound weird) smelling the pages.  Almost every Bible I've owned smells great to me.  Digging out my physical Bible and leaving my phone downstairs for the night has helped me focus better during my prayer and reading time.

In the The C.S. Lewis Bible, there are quotes from his various works along with the Scripture that have given me pause to worship, think and pray.  I give you the quote that came with the above verse from my reading in John 1 this morning and hope that it encourages you today-

"The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him.  It is precisely one great miracle.  If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left."
-C.S. Lewis, from "The Grand Miracle", God in the Dock.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Day 14: Compassion

"For a compassionate man nothing human is alien: no joy and no sorrow, no way of living and no way of dying.  This compassion is authority because it does not tolerate the pressures of the in-group, but breaks through the boundaries between languages and countries, rich and poor, educated and illiterate.  This compassion pulls people away from the fearful clique into the large world where they can see that every human face is the face of a neighbor."
-Henri Nouwen, "The Wounded Healer"


My brain and my heart hurt.

I just finished reading a lengthy, very technical article on how trauma in childhood can lead to inflammation, early disease and death among affected adults.  Halfway through the article, I found myself taking a heavy blanket off of the couch and wrapping myself in it, not because I was cold, but because I needed the physical barrier of warmth wrapped around me to quell the growing horror in my heart.

This happens frequently during my afternoon readings.  I text Hubs and tell him I want to hug all of the children.

While talking with a friend last week about my study of child advocacy, I told her that most of the time I interact with the material in a sense of dread and passion.  Part of my heart doesn't want to read about all the horrible things that happen to children when they are neglected or abused.  I don't want to know the imperfections of our systems for attempting to help these children.  I don't want to know about the many that slip through the cracks and the long term effects of trauma.

"But," I said to my friend, "Now that I know, I have to do something."

In this educational season of my life, I feel that the Lord is preparing me for a compassionate role towards the downtrodden.  I have no idea what that will look like in the future, but in the midst of this certificate program I am sensing the importance of seeing these hurt children as image bearers of Christ and my neighbors.

I am learning much that is breaking through my own prejudices and assumptions.  I pray that the sort of compassion that sees every human face as the face of a neighbor continues to grow in my heart through this, and even though the knowledge is hard, I can trust God to help me find a way to use it to make a difference.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Day 13: The To-Do List

"This is not an easy identity to claim because to deserve being loved our society requires us to be successful, popular, or powerful.  But God does not require our success, popularity, or power in order to love us.  Once we discern our identity and accept God's unconditional love, we are free to live in the world without being owned by the world."
-Henri Nouwen, "Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life"

I haven't vacuumed yet today.

I let my toddler watch some TV while I cleaned up breakfast, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, made the bed and started some laundry this morning.  After his TV show was over, I was planning on vacuuming upstairs, but the toddler would not let me out of his sight.

Then I noticed it wasn't raining anymore and decided we should take a walk.

We both put on our rain boots and coats and had a fun hour jumping in puddles, walking through leaf piles waiting for disposal on the sides of the road, and throwing rocks down the sewer grates.

I have to confess that I found myself pushing the toddler so we could get back home and I could finish the to-do list present in my head.  Instead of savoring the time I had with him, I was finding my worth in what I finished for the day before I had the fun of taking a walk.

I don't struggle with wanting to be popular.  I know I am not powerful.  But every day I wrestle with my to-do list as a measure of my success.  Completing it means I'm a good person and I can love myself that day.

Walking with my boy, I realized with a jolt that he will probably be in preschool by this time next year.  I can felt this season of staying at home slipping away.

I don't want my kids to just remember mom being busy all the time with tasks and never taking a walk with them.

I want to rest in God's unconditional love for me, and in turn love my kids and those around me for who they are, not what they do.

I haven't vacuumed today, but I'm to going to let that task define me.  I will rest in being the Beloved, and let the remainder of my day flow from that knowledge.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Day 12: Casting My Cares

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
-1 Peter 5:7

I forgot how hard it was to take two small children along with me while grocery shopping.

They weren't bad, per say. but they were whiny, hungry little wanderers and by the end of the trip to the second store I slammed the car door after strapping them safely into their car seats and hightailed it to the nearby Dunkin Doughnuts for a "yay, you got through this" pumpkin spice latte and an old-fashioned doughnut for the kids to split, because I heard "I'm hungry!" about 5,0000 times in a span of a half hour.

Driving home basking in the fall sunshine and bright colors, I thought about how I needed to blog today.  I thought about how writing every day has forced me to see what is going on inside my heart in the midst of all my anxious thoughts and movements.  I thought about how I wanted to be more intentional about listening to my heart and the hearts of those I care about instead of toiling to finish all of my daily tasks.

I prayed the above verse I had read just this morning and was struck by the language of casting my anxieties on God.  Casting is not tossing.  It's not daintily handing over our worries to God in a neat little bundle.  It's throwing, and throwing forcibly.

In that moment I was reassured God could handle my crazy morning shopping with the kiddos.  He can handle my prayers that all too frequently come to Him in the form of "I can't do this,"  "How long?" or "What if I'm messing up this whole parenting thing?"  He can handle me hurling that messy ball of anxiety towards him every morning when my alarm rings or every night when I craw into bed and think about everything I did wrong.

Why?

Because He cares for me.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Day 11: Nouwen on Community

"At the same time, we practice our discernment not alone but in community.  The question is not simply, "Where does God lead me as an individual person who tries to do his will?"  More basic and more significant is the question, "Where does God lead us as a people?"  This question requires that we pay careful attention to God's guidance in our life together, and that together we search for a creative response to the way we have heard God's voice in our midst."
-Henri Nouwen, Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Day 10: Hospitality

"Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
-Romans 12:13

Today my parents, grandmother and aunt are coming for a visit and tomorrow we are having some friends over for dessert and games. 

If you're anything like me and the Hubs, this can cause a frenzy of cleaning, organizing and "why-don't-I-maintain-this-level-of-cleanliness" condemnation in our minds.  Never mind that Hubs has had a busy work week, a wedding video to edit, we live with two small children and we dealt with a bout of sickness this week in our household.  I'm not ashamed to say that our kids watched TV for most of the morning so we could make the house a bit more presentable.  I'm also happy that Hubs and I were able to acknowledge the perfectionist and condemning thoughts we both were feeling about what we haven't done around the house.  We both agreed today to do our best to have it be a welcoming place without being accusing or going nuts at each other.

All of this reminded me of a post I wrote a while back on hospitality, so I thought I'd share it here today.  I'm glad the Lord is continuing to remind me of the lesson present in that post-things don't have to be perfect to be welcoming.

 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Day 9: Scripture for the Weekend

"So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.  Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good."
-1 Peter 2:1-3

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day 8: Remember Whose You Are

"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.   As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,  but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
-1 Peter 1:13-16

I'm caring for a sick toddler and don't feel well myself today, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet:

Remember whose you are.  Following Christ is not about conforming to a bunch of rules, but obeying based out of the hope He has promised to us.  Let's set our minds on those promises today and who Christ is, and our imperfect obedience will be that much more richer and joyful.



Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Day 7: Servanthood


"The key to success is to see ourselves as servants of God and to each other."
-Henri Nouwen, "Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life.

"I am your servant, O God, grant me discernment that I may understand your ways."
-Psalm 119:125


Servanthood is not a welcome trait in my heart.
Most of what I do is not seen and could be put into servant status.
Every day I do the dishes, wash clothes, clean the house, cook the meals.
Some days I do it joyfully, remembering I am equipping and serving my family in relationship and preparing them to face the world.
Some days I grumble and wish for recognition.
On those days I need to remember this psalm and Jesus' definition of success.
To empty myself of all but love as He did in His earthly life,
And to understand that when my tasks of service go unnoticed to the masses.
He sees me and is pleased when I have a servant's heart.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Day 6: Entropy



"In all truth I tell you.  When you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go."
-John 21:18

The world says, "When you were young, you were dependent and could not go where you wanted, but when you grow old, you will be able to make your own decisions, go your own way, and control your own destiny."  But Jesus has a different version of maturity: it is the ability and willingness to be led where you would rather not go."
-Henri Nouwen, "Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life


The older I get, the more entropy I see in my life.

I'm tired more easily.  Sometimes I think my cerebral palsy has made my body weary faster than other people my age.  Even a year ago I could lift weights and take a walk in one day and be fine.  Now I do yoga for ten to twenty minute spurts sporadically throughout the week so I can keep up with my kids until their bedtime.  I have grays and the start of wrinkles on my forehead.

Our house is in on the action too.  Just this last week my oven stopped working again, our front door came off its hinges and my Keurig won't brew coffee (thank God for French presses, which make better coffee anyway!)

So much in our culture would call me to resist this erosion.  I should work out every day so I look and feel younger.  I need to buy a night moisturizer to diminish those wrinkles because the regular one I use isn't cutting it.  I should dye my hair (Hubs wants me to become his "silver fox" and I'm ok with that!)

This is supposed to be the prime of my life, my "best years."  In some ways they are.  I am more gentle with myself and like myself more than I ever did in my late teens and early twenties.  I have everything I ever wanted: A family and the chance to stay at home with my small children.

Yet some days I wonder, "Is this all there is?  What if I am missing something?"

Nouwen's thoughts on spiritual maturity have made me see these nagging feelings in a different light.  When I am tempted to chase after the fleeting youth that the world prizes so much, Jesus and Nouwen point us to a different definition of success and maturity: the ability to be present in the unpleasant situations of life.  Nouwen even goes so far as to preach obedience to commands and places we'd rather not go.

It sounds radical, but I think if we're really honest with ourselves, life has a way of taking you to these places we'd "rather not go" more often than we care to admit.  What if, instead of grasping for control and being bitter when life doesn't go as planned, we trust Jesus and how He is leading us?  Could that be our road to maturity?  Is the entropy of unforeseen circumstances meant to be fought?

In all things, we can trust Jesus.  After all, He has promised to work everything out for our good.  I'd say that's a pretty good reason for us to let go of some of those youthful ideals we hold so tightly to if Jesus is leading us on a different path.

Here's to entropy for our maturity.  And to using the back door to the house in the near future.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Day 5: A Prayer to do Good

"Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good."
-3 John, verse 11.

Jesus,

Help me to remember my Belovedness today.  Let my rest in your eternal, unconditional delight in me cause me to do good.  It's so easy for me to look to the world and see how I don't measure up.  Then I am tempted to do evil: to look for unconditional love outside of You, to look to others for approval, to find my worth in what I do rather than who I am.  But you remind me that I am loved.  Secure in that love, I can do good, no matter what is happening around me.  Help me to imitate good from that peaceful place.

Amen.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Day 4: Henri Nouwen on Patience

"Patience-an active dwelling in the present moment-is the mother of expectation.  A way to rephrase "waiting patiently in expectation " is "standing vulnerable in the presence of our loving God."  This is the core of all prayer.  It has been helpful to me to realize that, when I pray, I am living my life before God, doing what I know to do, offering my thoughts and actions to the Holy One in expectation that I am being led where I need to go and will be given the courage to do what I need to do because I know who I am in God."
-Henri Nouwen, "Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life."

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Day 3: Scripture for the Weekend


"This is love for God: to obey his commands.  And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone who is born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."
-1 John 5:3-5

Friday, October 2, 2015

Day 2: God is Greater Than Our Hearts



"Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.  This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.  If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."
- 1 John 3:16-20


I don't think it is by chance that I am reading through 1 John while also studying Henri Nouwen's book Discernment.  Through both sets of readings, I am constantly reminded of God's love for me in Christ.

The passage above has stuck with me for a few days, especially the phrase "God is greater than our hearts."  Most days I chose to trust my emotions, my circumstances, etc. to tell me who I am.  When I do that, I always fall short.  My heart condemns me for my efforts or lack thereof.

This passage puts our worth in a totally different light.  God's love for us is greater than any critical voice that is present in our hearts, any wound that is in our hearts, any anger and bitterness.  God knows everything, so in our circumstances where we feel condemned, hurt or angry we can turn to Him and trust that He is greater than what we feel or our eyes can see.

And did you notice?  God is not the one condemning us.  He knows everything about us-we can't hide our hearts from him.  Yet He loves us anyway and is willing to come to that inner hurt and speak the truth of our worth in Him to our fickle, critical hearts.

Thinking about that last night made my heart overflow with happiness.  The knowledge of being unconditionally loved and wanted will do that to you.



Thursday, October 1, 2015

31 Days: A Spiritual Journey



"The more we reflect on this, the clearer it becomes that we cannot really understand God's providential work in us.  In the final analysis, all we have are signs that lead us to suspect something unspeakably great.  As it is written 'What no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him'" (1 Cor. 2:9).  Though we see as through a dark glass, we do see something.  We have the freedom and responsibility to look at our lives with the eyes of faith and a heart of trust, believing that God cares and is active in our lives."
-Henri Nouwen, "Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life."


This is tough to admit, but lately I'd been feeling pretty dry in my spiritual life.  God seemed distant and the church seemed irrelevant.  I just wasn't sure what He was doing in my life and sometimes in the lives of those around me.  At points, He seemed almost cruel.

 I could blame His distance on a number of things.  I stopped journaling.  I stopped praying.  I read the Bible every morning, but it was usually just a short devotional on my phone, and it was too easy to start surfing Facebook or roll over and go back to sleep after my "required reading."

God just wasn't there.  To be honest, I didn't really want Him to be there.  I didn't like what I thought He was doing, the doors He was closing.  I knew He was still there and He was still working, but I just wanted Him to leave me alone.

Then I remembered something someone has told me numerous times-"God is a gentleman He won't interfere in your life until you invite Him in."

Honestly, that thought was scary.  Yet, I didn't like the way my life was going, how I was feeling: distant, aimlessly drifting, coasting through it all.

So I decided to return to certain practices that I knew helped my faith grow while I was in college.  I leave my phone downstairs when I go to bed now.  I started reading a "real", book version of the Bible in the mornings.

And yet the biggest change has been reading something by Henri Nouwen every night before I go to bed.  Being a Catholic priest, I don't always agree with his theology, but the man wrote some beautiful things about being God's beloved and how we can walk that out in our lives.

So here I am.  I want to share some of this journey back into relationship with God with you.  That's why for the next 31 days I want to post something on this blog about what I've been reading, praying, thinking and feeling.  It may be a reflection from the morning's lectio divina I'm trying out, it may be a quote that resonated with me from Nouwen's books, it may be a simple Scripture.  I want to share it all with the hope of processing them more deeply for myself, to encourage others, and to know I'm not the only one who has struggled in my spiritual life in this way.

I hope you'll join me.