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Finding the Worship in Laundry and Deadlines

I search through New Year quotes looking for my toe-hold of meaning, something I can use to dig into this first month of the year. But instead I see, running rampant through pages of ‘inspiration’, tired reruns, hopeless striving.

So I ask God, where do you want me, and then I try to shift my focus.

So thankful for God-With-Us. So thankful for new beginnings… this year, this month, this week, this day, this hour, this minute, this second… because my life is lived moment to moment and if I am honest, I truly need HIM in each moment.

As I work out what it means to do the dailies of life—laundry, manuscripts, lawn care, deadlines, supper on the table—with Him, I see this isn’t a list of To Do’s but actions of worship and faith.

In caring for myself and others I honor Him. And in being faithful with the ‘little’ and ‘much’ I have been given, from the jar of flour on my counter to job I hold, the work is not in vain. He placed all these things in my path and I am thankful.

I acknowledge my broken humanity. I see what needs to be done in my soul and in my life, but I lay down my To Do’s. I ask Him to come into my moments. This New Year I draw a line between acts of faithfulness and acts of striving.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.

Lamentations 3:22-23

What’s been hovering in your mind as you step into the New Year?

LOVE doesn’t disappear

Love is a vast topic. It’s as epic as the Great One himself. My dad asked me if I would be writing another post on love, and I told him I wasn’t sure I had any more to write. But, God wasn’t done…

I woke up tired. It was a mental/emotional tiredness that started last night. I thought I needed to hide out for twenty-four hours (or more) to get myself back on my feet. But I had a list of things that needed doing. I knew I should spend time with God to reorient my compass. But it’s the last thing I wanted to do. In fact, I had an inkling, scratching at the base of my brain, that God was disgusted with me.

I managed to wrestle myself into a chair with a devotional book. I picked a book I knew would tell me how much God loved me. It was the safest bet. If God didn’t want anything to do with me, at least I could make myself feel as if He still wanted me. I started reading…

“Even if you’ve fallen, even if you’ve failed, even if everyone else has rejected you, Christ will not turn away from you. He came first and foremost to those who have no hope. He goes to those no one else would go to and says, “I’ll give you eternity.””

I’m human. I woke up tired. But intrinsically I felt worthless as the fatigue set in. I hated myself for it and believed God was upset with me too. I play this game, if only I had—scheduled better, worked harder, eaten healthier, exercised—then I wouldn’t be here, feeling overwhelmed and in need. But the devotional by Max Lucado went on, “Only you can surrender your concerns to the Father. No one else can take those away and give them to God. Only you can cast all your anxieties on the one who cares for you.”

Suddenly I knew I had to reach out. My fears and anxieties seem so small and human I thought God would want nothing to do with them. But they had broken me down fully. What if I broke the silence I’d cemented myself into? I’m disgusted with me, I told God. I’ve worked so hard and I’m not done, but I’m too tired to go on. I wanted to do something for You, but here I am, tired and needing Your help. I feel lost without You, but I’ve done nothing to deserve You.

Love doesn’t disappear on the bad days, He said.

Maybe that’s true, but I don’t love other people or myself like that. I don’t tolerate bad days. So I certainly don’t deserve this love.

How will you learn to love if I don’t love you well? I don’t subtract love for each of your faults. 

His words sliced straight through me, cutting deep into the knotted roots of my lies. Those lies have kept so much of my heart deadened for years, but His words are bringing me back to life. Today I’m another step closer to becoming who He created me to be. There’s so much glorious freedom in coming alive. The more He heals me the more I want to be in the business of taking His Love to a dying world.

What’s something God has said or done for you that’s changed how you think or act?

 

love is: “immortal as immaculate Truth”

Part 2…

The seven years are up. My soul feels a little softer, a little worn in that good way that makes things more beautiful. Often I wake up with an aching to process my life, to face the good and the bad. And so I’ve begun a little ritual of sitting out on my porch in the mornings and speaking to God. He is helping me sort it out. As Henry Nouwen says, “in prayer we slowly experience a reorientation of all our thoughts and feeling about ourselves and others.” 

Sitting on my back porch I soak in the richness of morning light coming over my fence. I feel Him with me. Lately He’s been using moments in my days to sharpen my vision. It’s becoming more and more clear that I had no idea what love really is. Up until now I would have told you that I loved and loved with intensity. The kind of intensity that meant I would go through fire for the ones I love. But, I think, love must be more than this.

It’s becoming clear that I don’t give love, nor do I accept it from anyone else. Love would leave me indebted. Love would leave me exposed. I think those are two of my greatest fears. But without love all these years, I find that I am barren. That the wall between me, my God, and the rest of the souls out there is not a wall of safety. It is isolating, soul sucking, creativity killing.

I was reminded recently that love is a verb. We must do love. Love is in the little gestures, remembrances, unheard prayers, difficult decisions, the willingness to stay. Love is a force of nature, just like the One who created it. It is unflagging. It brings hope, healing, kindness, truth. Love is the great romancer. It is radical. Contrary to human nature. Love takes great courage, perhaps the greatest courage.

 

“Is love a fancy, or a feeling? No,

It is immortal as immaculate Truth.

‘Tis not a blossom, shed as soon as youth

Drops from the stem of life— for it will grow,

In barren regions, where no waters flow…”        [ Hartley Coleridge ]

 

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

[ I Corinthians 13:7-8 ]

This post isn’t about how nicely I can write about love. It’s about putting fingers and hearts around the radically different way life is lived with love. Living love is the narrow road. But it is from the Great Love, so it’s by far the best road to walk. Lately I’ve been trying to practice love through the small gestures. My ungraceful attempts remind me of how unpracticed I am, but even my bungling attempts are so much better than nothing. Do you live love? Would you be willing to write some of the ways you love others?

 

the richness of lives undone

This is one part of a mini series about love:

“Love is a choice,” one sage soul said to me before I got married. I was too polite to argue with her but I knew, in the glowing light of my affection for my fiancé, that love wasn’t a choice. It was a magical feeling that would transform my life. How unromantic to choose to love! Love was blossoms and golden sunlight and all kindness. Love made life bearable.

I’ve been married for seven years and that one line of advice is literally the only one I can remember out of hundreds of well meaning words from other people. I never expected to write about love on this blog but God has been pressing his fingers into my heart and love is the topic of the hour.

Seven years. It’s almost ironic that this biblical number has become such a significant mark in the life of my marriage. I am no longer the woman I was on that blue-sky, October day, walking down the stone path in my wedding dress. He is no longer the waiting man in the black tux and tie. Today when our fingers touch there is more in that moment than simple maturing that comes with years. There is a knowing.

We are, and are still becoming, lives undone.

Seven years of being undone, to be precise. Seven hard years to redemption. In that space pain, disillusionment, anger, confusion, hopelessness, squirmed into every crack and cranny. Truthfully, I, the girl who dreamed of romance turned bitter. I stopped reading about love. I stopped watching sweet movies with happy endings. I pasted my lips into a tight line in front of young lovers. And I asked God why he would strap me into a lifelong commitment full of disappointment. I blamed my predicament on my husband, on my brokenness, on God. I saw love, life itself, as a fight. I was the weary soldier. And I was alone.

But God was present. He didn’t speak in shouts. That’s not what I needed. He didn’t cut long, unrelenting lines of truth in my soul. That’s not the way of love. He asked for surrender.

I want your heart, the Great Love whispered to me. He whispered this line over and over through those seven years. What I didn’t understand was that love could not begin until it began with Him.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you believe your heart is central to you and how you live your life or is it more superfluous? Do you trust your heart or believe it’s dangerous? Do you let anyone near your heart or do you hide it away?

Stay tuned for part 2…

what came of the silence?

I am mute. Silent on the things I hate, a whisper about the things I love. I figured it was best. Years ago I came to believe my silence would save me from them and them from me. Silence was safe. Silence became expected.

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And then the Great Creator spoke:

I formed you. You are warm like the patch of light coming through the trees. Hair the dark color of earth. Eyes like the douglas fir. A heart beat bold like mountain peaks. A scent like pines and soft petals. 

I see you. I see the earth. I see the hearts that need. Down to the last detail I created you to be the one in the gap. There is a job only you can do. Like a puzzle piece you are fitted into life, fitted into the Great Story of Love. You are written into this epic.

I felt a rush of sound within my soul. My cold skin warmed with the grace of His words. And in deep gratitude I placed my fingers over my lips, a hand over my heart, and closed my eyes. You make me feel hope, I said. You make me feel alive every time you speak the truth back into my life. I love feeling your pulse. It sets mine back in rhythm. I believe. Help me go, help me speak. Help me be Love.

What is God calling you out of??
.

…while flat on my back

It came one blow at a time—like the seven deadly plagues—until I was driven into complete reliance on the people around me. I was flat on my back, looking up at the ceiling. Basically, last week was bad. Underscored. I wasn’t able to post last week but the time off got me thinking…

Do the words I write have heart? Do they hold raw human qualities? Do they change the pulse of the reader? Because if not, I’m doing everyone a disservice. One of my main tasks as a writer (as it is for everyone) is to keep my eyes riveted on God and let everything else I do flow out of that.

Those words, that come from a place of communion with God will be worth reading. I recently heard someone say that words can change the world. That almost sounds trite. But then I started thinking about books that changed my life. I’ve got a list, one of which is the Bible. It’s constantly changing me for the better.

So my challenge: to ask God to renew my passion for my calling. I want what I do to be deliberate and full of Him. I don’t have time to waste.

What’s your calling? Do you need fresh inspiration? Don’t waste time. Be deliberate with God and your work.

thrum, thrumming heart

IMG_0404The steady thrum of my heart has suddenly gained greater importance. It does more than just keeping my toes warm and my brain humming. It’s a reminder that my spiritual heart (the core of my soul) is vitally important in my ability to connect to God, live out my calling, and show others the way to great freedom and the Freedom Giver.

Understand, I am not defining ‘heart’ as the emotional roller coaster that culture portrays it to be. I’m using the word heart to define the core of who I am. “My heart is me. The real me. Your heart is you. The deepest, truest you. That is why the heart is central, for what shall we do if we dismiss our self?” John Eldridge, Waking the Dead.

I’ve noticed the more in touch I am with my core, the more I come to know God for who He truly is, and the emotions that used to rule me, are now more like indicators of where I need God to come in and shed light.

I’ve been fighting to get back in touch with my heart. It’s there where God and I do the most work, where I feel most alive, and paradoxically most safe. But it’s also where I hold the deepest hurts and where I am fighting the darkest lies.

“It is simply diabolical, despicable, downright evil that the heart should be so misunderstood, maligned, feared, and dismissed. But there is our clue again. The war we are in would explain so great a loss. This is the last thing the Enemy wants you to know. His plan from the beginning was to assault the heart, just as the Wicked Witch did to the Tin Woodman. Make them so busy, they ignore the heart. Wound them so deeply, they don’t want a heart. Twist their theology, so they despise the heart. Take away their courage. Destroy their creativity. Make intimacy with God impossible for them.”

“Of course your heart would be the object of a great and fierce battle. It is your most precious possession. Without your heart you cannot have God. Without your heart you cannot have love. Without your heart you cannot have faith. Without your heart you cannot find the work that you were meant to do. In other words, without your heart you cannot have life.” John Eldridge, Waking the Dead.

Do you shy away from the word heart? Does it sound hokey, simple, silly, too intimate, weak, scary? I’ve felt that way for a long time. Still do more times than not.

I’d love to hear your thoughts… do you try to silence your heart, why? Are you trying to get in touch with your heart, why?

My challenge to you and myself—investigate the role God designed the heart to play in  life. I may reread Waking the Dead again. But I also believe, the simple pursuit of God, however He decides to take us (through books, counseling, friends, ect), will inevitably lead to an awakening of the heart.

we have seen a great light

lightIn the swirls of life, pulling me quick and fast—spin, rinse, dry, repeat—who am I when I come stumbling out into the sunshine. I can barely keep my legs under me. But the ground is softer on my knees than I expected. Dark, loamy earth that I feel, strangely, is kin and kindness. He says it is kindness and I believe him because he also rose the warm sun kneading into my back.

Spin, rinse, dry, repeat. I want You, is the first thought in my mind this time when the machine spits me out again and my legs wobble. I am a new creation. The old is washing away, not like feeble ebbing tide. It’s out with a roar.

I’m subversively standing out in the sun today, reminding my cells to revolt alongside me. We are free, we are free, we won’t go back. Stand stock-still in the sun and when the cold dark comes rushing in. Don’t flinch at its evil.

Stand and be. Be with me then and now. Stay with me as the tide rushes out. Discover your solid legs. Press your ear to my heartbeat. Cultivate life.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…” Isaiah 9:2

do you dare believe?

IMG_0360“Now Job hears and experiences God for himself. After that encounter, his perspective recalibrates from a focus on the why to the who, all of his questions scuttle off, replaced by the knowledge that God graced him with his presence.

The enormity of God is revealed.

Everything becomes right-sized in Job’s world.

Still covered in soot and scabs, Job confesses something he has known all along deep down inside: God can do anything and everything, and no one and nothing can upset the plans of God.”

[Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg]

I’ve tried to fit my wrong-sized thoughts into a God-sized calling. I’ve tried fit bloated lies into God’s construction by shaving them down with my human explanations. And I’ve tried to make myself so less than that God, and everyone else, could become right-sized. But all my efforts have just atrophied my world, my mind, my calling, my heart. Until He spoke:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,

when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,

when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,

when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?

Job 38:4-11

I hear his rumbling answer, raging, capable, and I feel a strange peace. Do I dare believe in this wild, untamed God? But His words bring a feeling up from deep within me. My world suddenly feels right sized, and I feel a curious strength in my reliance on Him. And I say to Him, I will trust in you Great Creator.

Has your world taken gone terribly misshapen? Do you believe you can feel right-side up even in the midst of hard or tragic circumstances?

There’s a good chance quite a few of the next few weeks of posts will be inspired by Wonderstruck, so be prepared to want to buy the book!

what if…

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I dream of green places—wild woods, cold creeks, salty beaches, breathtaking mountains. I dream of quiet happy gardens full of chirping birds and the smell of basil and tomato vines.

I dream of pushing paint across grained surfaces, of sweating over nails and wood, of stretching and tying fabric into form. I dream of ink and words and far away places.

In my dreams I know I don’t want to be known simply as a ‘good’ person, too kind to dismiss and yet too bland for real words. I want my name to bring up dreams and hopes and a fight for more—but more than that I want my name and all that I’ve lived to be inexorably tied to my lifelong pursuit of the One Great Love.

I’ve spent hours cutting dreams out of my heart that don’t make sense, that don’t fit into a reasonable time frame. I’ve cut out the dreams that are too hard or that will take more than I think I possess.

But what if…my love of nature will help me sooth a friends soul today. What if my painting will inspire new hope for a loved one. What if my garden’s produce will feed a hungry soul. What if my inked words give a blistered heart a ledge to hang onto.

It’s time to step into the wild, and reclaim passion. It’s time to drop my fear of becoming colorful, my fear of life. It’s time to believe that God created me and all my dreams for a purpose. That God can use it ALL for the good.

I’m starting to see that cutting out dreams is a brazen lie from the Enemy; this notion that me, my heart, my passions, were just too much and all wrong. I’ve believed for too long that I must become small to make myself less of a burden on the world around me.

It’s time to grow large and wild and give out of the abundance of that beauty.

What is the deep dream you are afraid to pursue? Do you think it’s time to go after it?

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