Saturday, December 10, 2011
One of the greatest gifts this friendship affords is the ability to speak words that have never been spoken before. Unlanded thoughts. Things you may need to adjust once voiced. Ideas you may not even really believe but they are floating around in your head. I do not take this lightly. Last week, while over eating at the Chinese buffet with Tim, I made a statement that has been mulling around in my head but I have never said with such assurance before. "Among other things, I think Exodus has provided me with the most important lesson about God that I have learned in forever. God's desire is to dwell among his people." We kicked that around awhile and happened to agree. I can't shake it. I keep thinking about it. It really does change everything.
It forms and informs our belief about:
When we live in the very real belief that God is fully present and can not be summoned and dismissed at will it gives new life and color to this life. Everything really is Spiritual.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
It got me reflecting on some of the core beliefs I hold about the Old Testament:
1.I believe that the point of all scripture is to tell the story of God.
2.In that telling we discover a couple of central themes: God seeks relationship with humanity and desires to live among us; The condition of the heart has always mattered to God; God's presence is the key to spiritual formation; God is both just and merciful
3.The law was given for many reasons, but relationship and justice are two of the biggest reasons.
4.It is difficult for me to understand the ministry of Jesus without knowing the heart of God that has been revealed all the way through Creation, Exodus, Rescue and Restoration.
It is in the seamless reading of God's story and the seamless understanding of Covenant that I believe our eyes are opened to the mystery of a life with God.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Last night I was re-watching scenes from Antwone Fisher - an amazing story on many levels, but specifically in terms of the drive for a place to belong. Home was both elusive, hurtful and dangerous in his experience. And then in one conversation with his Aunt, he found a place to belong. It brings tears to my eyes just writing about it.
In my families time of transition right now from a life of full time paid ministry to a new adventure, and with an upcoming move, I have been challenged to think about where my place of belonging and comfort is. Where is "home" for this Italian-Jewish girl born and raised in South Africa who has lived in Texas for the last 20 years? Where does my heart gravitate to in its quest to find "that place where you exhale and all is right with the world?"
Saturday, July 02, 2011
I have thought a lot about why I have grown to appreciate this genre that for so long irritated me beyond belief. And here it is in a nutshell. There is no pretense. Country music tells our stories. All of us can find a place of entry into the story of life through the lyrics you hear. Heartache, joy, pain, regret, celebration, love, desire, misplaced trust, fear, forbidden love, grief - it's all there. I love the raw, unedited take on what "Joe and Suzy Normal" really experience in life. I love the way the sacred and the secular walk hand in hand. It's what I believe about life - in musical lyrics. I think it took me being more aware of my own humanity and brokenness. In that frame of mind I could hear a song and it would resonate with me. I started to "me too" and "I get that" along with what I was hearing.
I am comforted especially by the holy proximity I hear. You know, the guy sitting at the bar recounting the issues of his heart but also acknowledging God. Instead of painting a picture of life that adds to the segmented regular and spiritual life myth. Country music really says, "everything is spiritual."
So, Billy Currington perhaps you are right. God is great, beer is good and people are crazy!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Last night while David and I were walking around the little lake close to our house, I spotted a pair of very large ears at a distance out in the field. I stopped and stared a minute and realized it was a rabbit. A large one. Very large. Of course, my "take a picture of everything" instinct kicked in and I reached for my phone to snap a picture. I was too far away and the impact of tyrannosaurus-bunny would have been totally lost in my lame attempt at a photograph. I tugged at David and suggested we walk out into the field to get a better shot. He shook his head a little and said, it would be pointless because the creature would run away. I let it go for about 20 more steps but then like a 3 year old who just has to experience their world, I took off. I walked across the field. Part of me wanted to creep all ninja-like but every now and again I try to minimize the embarrassment I bring on my husband. As predicted the beast started running away. And I mean r-u-n-n-i-n-g. That was no bunny-hop! I chased it a little but soon stopped when I realized my laughing was only adding to the desperation of it's fleeing. Capturing the picture was long out of my mind. I was having a blast chasing this thing in a field at the lake.
Life would be simpler and my heart would be more protected if I did not feel the need to venture off the paved walkway to dash across the field. But I'm not planning on trading in my "path pass" anytime soon.
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Today, my mind is chasing thoughts about what it means to be free and what it means to censor our words for the sake of others simply because we follow Jesus.
I have dabbled in this topic a little before but left it quickly because it is complicated. But, today as I sat on my patio baking in the sun, I found myself back here and so it triggered this blog post. I do not believe that we are ever free. Ever. As long as we are in relationship with other people. Sheesh, I know it is not the American way or even the Freedom in Christ way. But, at least for me, and I'm responsible for me, I think its true.
Here is what I mean. If I was free I could express my thoughts as I think them. I could say what I think and feel whenever the situation arises. I could act on how I feel as I desire. I could put my wants, desires and needs ahead of others. I could rant and offend with no consequences.
However, I don't get to act that way. I don't get to act that way because of relationship. Relationship with Jesus and relationship with the people I love and frankly those that I just tolerate, too. I do not get to say whatever I like because words have power and the consequences are way bigger than my need to vent or rant. I do not get to act on every feeling I have, even the ones that at times feel like they are going to overwhelm me. I just don't get to do it because other people's lives are at stake.
Yesterday a friend and I were talking about allowing people to express how they feel in a public forum and we were weighing how open a given site should be. It raised an issue that is connected to this. We are not even free to stand by and let others get hurt. Again, because of relationship we have to stand on the side of those being marginalized.
And so, freedom takes on a different meaning inside of relationship. We are free to lay down our lives for the sake of others. Free to censor our words. Free to limit our anger. Free to behave our way to holiness. Free to deny our desires and wants.
I believe this with all my heart. Today, I don't like the cost.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
But here is the thing. I had fun yesterday, too. I had several other conversations, texted back and forth with other friends, taught my class and did my regular life thing. Unless I told you what was on my heart, you would not have known. I was not trying to hide anything. I just felt the need to share my grief with the ones who i knew were grieving, too. And to live out my life in the other areas like I would any other day.
That tension struck me last night. And hence this post. Living life in the midst of pain and grief but not being shut down by it. Is that possible? Does it appear disrespectful? Does it rub up against social norms? Is it okay that my heart was aching in one spot yet I was being silly and lighthearted in other spots?
And I think I have an answer for me at least. I think it is possible, in fact, I think it is necessary. Does this align with commonly held cultural views on how we respond to death, probably not. But that's okay with me. I think we all find our way of being in the world and we live it as fully as we can.
And so, Phil...let me say. I thought of you a whole bunch yesterday. I saw your lovely face and inviting smile. I heard your giggle and could picture your bright eyes. The clean shaved head, that made me happy, flashed through my mind. I heard your gentle voice with words that you picked carefully. And I heard you sing. Oh, did I hear you sing. Your voice that sounded like the most beautiful music played over and over in my mind. The way you loved Debby and Raychel and Zachary felt so comforting to me yesterday. Which makes me think of Miss Raychel. See Ray, I spelled your name with the "y" -- sweet girl, I got to say everything I could dream of saying as I spoke at your memorial service. Let me just say, I miss you and your quick smile, your hearty laugh, the white sunglasses perched on your head and your off the wall humor.
But guys know this. I also drank tea, cooked dinner, did the Mom thing and hung out with David. I taught school and went to the bank. I laughed with other friends and played Apples to Apples. And in the living of life as normal, while my heart ached for you, I felt like you were right there. I hope that I never get used to you being gone.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
And so my thoughts today are turned to HOW DO YOU MEASURE A LIFE? Well actually not how do you measure as much as what matters in your life. A lovely thing to think about really. I think I am going to spend some time with my kids talking about this tonight. As Easter approaches and we reflect on life, recreation and the power to live changed lives, what matters seems to really matter.
And so in my random ponderings today while I have done other things, the following things have come to mind. These are things that matter to me. A way of being in the world that I value. On my best days in my best moments I hit on a few, and then sometimes they are just another "want to." I hope you make your own list.
The quality of the relationship I am cultivating with my God. I want it to be Exodus 33-ish.
A good cup of tea
Conversation that is challenging and shaping
Friends who make me better
Passion - in everything
The ability to feel deeply
The desire to learn
Loving without concern for reciprocity
Delighting in the gift of mutuality
Laughing - a lot and with conviction
Tears - for hard things and for joys
Peace to live in the midst of a world that does not make sense sometimes
Memories and history
Seeking understanding before being understood
Allowing the active work of the Holy Spirit in me to lead me into places of ministry that I would not know otherwise
Speaking words of life
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
And so a journey began for me. A way of looking at life and living it that does not compartmentalize "our spiritual life" from the real world. It required me to intentionally check my language and to live my whole life with a sense of sacred intentionality, also. Just think about how ludicrous it is to think that we can somehow segment the spiritual into a portion of life that we manage that is other to the rest of life. Really? As if we could tell God to remain in His portion of this thing called My Life.
So many really significant things begin to form and shape when we choose to live in this truth. Every conversation and human interaction is in someway sacred ground - incarnational ministry. After conversations with friends in Starbucks or on the couch in the living room, on FaceTime on my iphone or on skype on my computer screen I find myself thinking "we just did church." I also land up seeing God in new and inspiring places. He shows up with regularity in the things we sometimes foolishly call "secular." Sermons are preached and lessons taught outside of church structures. The story of God becomes something that we can all connect to and enter because it permeates all places, not just the ones of steeples and dresses, ties and choirs, sacraments and pews. Insights can come from the words of Moses and the impassioned cries of Bono. Poetry, Art, Music, Movies, Books, Human lives all testify with creation to a God that is worthy of all my attention.
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Besides the few contemplative pieces tucked in my stack, most of them are about missionality and the missional conversation. But I got tired of reading about Missional church. Tired of reading about it and not living it. Tired of wanting it but not being prepared to do what it takes. Then we did. We stepped out and made some huge shifts in our life and I couldn't read about it anymore. But, I'm ready to read again. Ready to enter the conversation again trying to sink my teeth into what this looks like lived out. Ready to see where our disciple making ways seem counter to the life of Jesus. Ready to reflect on what it looks like in community.
Of course I read a few pages and my mind races. Questions. What if's. Doubts. More Questions. Definitions. You know how that goes. And in the midst of all of it, it struck me today that I had blogged a definition of Missional Discipleship back in Sept. 2006 - yes almost 5 years ago. I dug it out and got convicted all over again.
It starts with Missio Dei - the very nature of God is that He calls and sends. He forms us into distinctive communities that reflect the redemptive reign of God through justice, mercy and reconciliation (Kingdom) in the coming of Christ and in the becoming like Christ (Incarnation). Together we journey(Community), maturing into Christ formed followers (Spiritual Formation) who in the power of the Spirit begin shaping others into Christ formed followers (Equipping).
Yay for reading and the waters it stirs.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Monday, March 07, 2011
Monday, February 28, 2011
And besides the church chatter, have you talked to many average members lately? After years of pouring themselves into accountability groups and life groups and every other kind of group we have offered, many are just disappointed. They just haven’t had the experience they were hoping for.
This is not true for everyone for all times. I have been in groups that have changed my life in significant ways. I know you have too. I am talking in generalities that I am observing and hearing about.
Just observing the situation is one thing. Thinking through the why’s and looking for the what if’s and what’s next is tricky. But I have some thoughts roaming around in my head that I am still trying to land. I am hoping to explore a few more thoughts on this in different blog posts. I am thinking through the following thoughts:
1.Control: In community we still control how confessional we are. We are the gatekeepers of how much we put out there regardless of the community we find ourselves in.
2.Woundedness: Should our starting place shift in our desire for confessional community. Instead of assuming confession is going to flow in groups, should we focus on equipping individuals in self awareness so they know their wounds, know their behaviors that flow out of their wounds and can then begin the healing process.
3.Truth Asking: One hears a lot about Truth Telling. Usually defined something like this: I see behavior in your life and because of our covenant in community I get to share truth with you about your attitudes and behaviors. What if we transition to Truth Asking? Asking each other about the traps and triggers in our lives and not fearing the messiness of the answer. Truth Asking assumes one will walk the road of struggle with another without fear or judgment. It also assumes that we all in our brokenness have a road to walk.
4.What Are the Barriers to Confessional Community: I am struggling with an idea that I am still thinking through. In our attempt to Christianize our lives we have taken parenting, marriage, and finances and made them into indicators of our spirituality or maturity. An entire culture has developed around the family that has deified it to something I am not sure God ever intended. Perfection in parenting, marriage and financial management has solidified the “appear as all is great” mentality that permeates many Christian communities. What happens when you are not doing so well? Who is brave enough to stand up and say it? How can we grow confessional communities in the midst of the pseudo-perfection we seem to value. Does it really matter that you have no debt if you are bitter and not compassionate to the alien. Somewhere along the road, we have gotten distracted.
So.....I am asking God to help me discern through this muddle of thoughts.
Community. What a loaded word in church conversation. It has been for a while. However it has taken on a whole new slant in the Missional church conversation. As we struggle with what it means to grow disciples versus just church attendees, community crops up with predictable regularity. In Missional communities we are trying to move from consumers of church goods and services to being outposts of the
It has me pondering. Are we asking “community” to bear a weight it was never intended to bear? It seems to have become the panacea to all our ills. A spiritual band-aid that is quickly applied in hopes of it healing the buried wound. I am having my doubts.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am all about intimate relationships, community, and accountability. I treasure my friendships and take them seriously. I pursue and I respond and I value what happens in spiritual friendship. So, hear these musings, as simply musings, from one who is feeling the push and pull tension of community.
Over the last 25 years, churches have been enamored with small groups of differing stripes. We have embraced the Family Life Group, the Accountability Group, Triads, Men’s Groups, Women’s Groups, Fellowship Groups, Prayer Groups, Study Groups, and Recovery Groups. And the list goes on. Yet still, we are struggling with solutions to isolation, individualism, sin, luke-warmness and we keep going back to Community as our solution. All of our groups are somehow still not meeting the need we see. It is almost like the solution we have come up with, while a good solution is for a question or a struggle we are not asking or facing. An authentic struggle and authentic answers, just not to the same question.
I have heard more than my fair share of ministry staff church chatter that poses the question: “why are we still not hearing about people’s crisis until it is too late. Why is divorce the next step when we first hear about the marriage struggle?” “Why is a return to addiction the behavior we hear about when we never knew there was a struggle to start with.” “How do we create community so that our members will become confessional?” You get the idea. We are still desperately looking for a way to form community to do what we think it needs to do. 25 years into intentional church structuring to provide it and we are still struggling. Big time.
It’s not due to a lack of resources. Go to any bookstore, peruse the internet, and look at church conferences. There are theologies, strategies, concepts and formulations to create community in every form you could desire. I’ve read more books on groups than I can even count.
When Willow Creeks study, Reveal, first hit the blogosphere and media, many church leaders were gob smacked. If
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Friday, February 04, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Tonight I am sitting here thinking about my Mom. Tomorrow is the 8th anniversary of her death. Each year it hits me in a different way. There was initial relief after being her care taker for so long and it being so hard. Then there was the loneliness. Anger came and went. The feeling of abandonment visited one year. Then sadness - just good old fashioned sadness. And longing, a different kind of missing and sadness. Oh, the emotions have been varied and deep. But tonight as I sit here and think about things, I am struck with my struggle for identity. Phew, there I said it.
I know all the faith talk about true identity. I say those words to others. I believe them. I teach them. But honestly, they do not bring comfort right now, tonight. Sometimes the ache of pain is so deep and real that you can feel it in your body. That's where I sit tonight. And I long for identity tied to parents. I had to grieve my Dad's death at 11, all my grandparents before that and then my Mom when I was 35. It feels strange to not have parents. It sometimes makes me wonder who I am. And that is the version of grief that showed up this year.
Like all hard things, this one will allow me to ask the very important questions: what did I learn about myself in this and where are the places that God needs to reign more fully.
And, I take great comfort in knowing there are new mercies every morning.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
His writing is significant in Christian Spiritual Formation, but really it is the fact that he lived life well that matters most. He made choices in favor of people, for the sake of the Kingdom in spite of personal gain. And God has been glorified.
These words of his are incubating in my mind right now: "the friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief or bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing....not healing...not curing...that is a friend who cares." Currently, my heart is aching for several friends who are going through VERY tough things and I am a fixer by nature. I work to not be. Did you catch that? And while I absolutely value "presence" and just being able to "be" with people in their hardest moments, my brain goes into overdrive and begins searching for ways to "help." Unless I told you that is what was happening in my mind, you might never guess, but it's happening in every moment of crisis.
I love Nouwen's call to put down the flawed idea of savior and pick up the beautiful role of present friend. This kind of presence can only come out of the overflow of a heart so turned to God that His peace defines, His comfort is tangible and His character is trusted. And so my heart is convicted that as we walk alongside the ones we love, being attentive to God on their behalf, the real job is making oneself available to hear what it is that God is whispering in intimate hushed tones. It is less about what we can do for people and way more about who we are for people because of who God is.