Friday, August 30, 2013

From Conservative Christian to Extravagant Christian

con·ser·va·tive adjective \kən-ˈsər-və-tiv\
1: preservative
2a : of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism b capitalized : of or constituting a political party professing the principles of conservatism: as (1) : of or constituting a party of the United Kingdom advocating support of established institutions (2) : progressive conservative
3a : tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : traditional b : marked by moderation or caution : marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners
4: of, relating to, or practicing Conservative Judaism

ex·trav·a·gant adjective \ik-ˈstra-vi-gənt\
1a obsolete : strange, curious b archaic : wandering
2a : exceeding the limits of reason or necessity b : lacking in moderation, balance, and restraint c : extremely or excessively elaborate 3a : spending much more than necessary b : profuse, lavish
4: extremely or unreasonably high in price

For quite awhile I've been frustrated with the Christian community and the battles they choose to fight.  I remember as a teen ager hearing a speaker say that if we get busy doing all the things the Bible tells us to do we don't have time to worry about the don'ts.  Those things that are prohibited to us will fall by the wayside. 
What would happen if as a community Christians began to live the top two and that's all?  Just in case you need a reminder of the top two you can find them in Matthew 22:36-40.

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

That's it.  Love God.  Love others.  What kind of craziness would it be if I began to just do these?  If I merely did, said, thought, acted in love?  How extravagant!

Of course, I can immediately forget about loving and get into theological discussions of what  loving means and who is my neighbor and how can I love yet still take a stand on the issues I hold near and dear to my heart.  That would be the sensible thing.  I can't possibly follow the simple instructions I am given.  There must be more to it than that.  I must make more of it than that because loving is truly too difficult for me to manage.  I'm much better at judging, rationalizing and justifying.  I've got the skills for that.  Loving, not so much. 

Today, I'm going to begin (or perhaps I'm really continuing) to do something extravagant.  I am going to spend my day loving God and loving others.  That's all.  It's going to be difficult.  I'm going to fail, repeatedly.  That's fine.  I can keep trying because the truth is that where Christ is concerned I am not conservative.  I am extravagant.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pray Continually

In words, this verse has the same number as the shortest verse in the Bible.  I would argue, that for our day to day lives, it packs a bigger punch.  It's found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  I would also say that a person could spend a life trying to follow 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and live beautifully.  For today,  I just want to talk about the center of this life lesson sandwich.

In my not so distant past the instruction to pray continually called to mind images of holy people (nuns, priests, prophets). Always uncomfortably dressed.  Always angst ridden. Praying 24/7. Praying with eyes closed, mouths moving, deep in concentration. Praying with all they had, all the time.

At some point it occurred to me that this isn't what the verse had in mind.  I'm sure for some, those called to a life of prayer specifically, my picture may be accurate.  To the rest of us, those called to a life of continual prayer the picture looks much different.

Let's think of Christ's life for a moment.  First, he was always in communication with God because (duh!) He was God.  Second, as a Jewish man, he had the habit of prayer.  Finally, there were times when Jesus took extra time and effort to step up that communication.  This is the example I finally realized that I am to follow.

My first point about Jesus begin God is evident to me.  If you aren't with me on that point you probably aren't interested in what I have to say. As I thought about that oneness that Christ has, father & son, I realized that part of what the pray continually means in my life is that I also am to be in constant communication.  Prayer isn't just at a certain time, in a certain position, within a certain building.  Prayer is the consistent and continuous dwelling with God that God desires.  Prayer is living life in such a way that all the great gifts God sends your way are recognized and you immediately say thanks.  Prayer is sharing all those sticky moments, fleeting concerns, feelings of wonder or joy, as they happen.  Jesus was able to do that because he was/is truly one with God.  We are able to do that because through Christ and the Holy Spirit we are one with God.

Secondly, for  Jesus, since he was a young child, prayer was habit.  As a Jew prayer was part of the lifestyle.  Three times a day.  Every day.  With added prayer on the Sabbath.  If you want to read more about Jewish prayer this is a good place to start.  I believe Christians threw the baby out with the bathwater on this point.  In our desire to demonstrate our freedom through grace we forgot that there are things necessary, not for our salvation, but for our life.  If we want to have life and have it more abundantly we must spend time with God.  The difference between this point and my first is that God is always available to us.  We, being limited, are not always available to God in a deep and meaningful way.  It's the difference between running errands with a friend and sitting down for a cup of coffee.  In order to maintain a friendship busy times and being times are both important.  God is the same.  God desires all of us, busy and being.  God wants us to desire all of God.  Developing the habit of prayer, pulling up a chair and being with God, is an essential part of praying continually.

Finally, no one is able to handle all the world throws at them on their own.  No one.  There are not enough friends, neighbors or family members in the world to help you through every situation that will come your way.  They will help but they are not enough.  Without prayer we will never have enough of God to handle the world around us.  Sometimes the daily and habitual praying is not enough.  Some times require more.  It is so important that we prepare for those times.  Usually we get a warning or we can see or feel those times coming.  The moment we become aware on crisis, spiritual, mental, or physical, we need to begin praying, not on the fly or casually, but earnestly.  Jesus prayed proactively. He didn't wait until he was being arrested to fall to his knees.  He prayed in preparation.  Too often we save the prayer for a moment of panic.  If we pray proactively we can avoid the panic all together.  We may not avoid the crisis but our feelings and actions during challenging times will certainly be impacted by prayer.

So I challenge you, and myself, to pray continually.  Be open and available to God. Constantly in communication like a human i-phone.  Ready to send or receive a call, text, tweet, or instagram at any moment.  Be habitual in your prayer, daily, three time a day, whatever that means for you.  Make prayer a habit.  Finally, be proactive.  Pay attention to the things happening in your world and pray in a way that keeps God in front of crisis.

Hear my prayer, O Lord.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Patience: Not Just A Virtue

Yesterday went better than expected.  Anytime I try to make a change I expect opposition.  Especially if the change is for the betterment of myself or my family.  And that brings me to the second thing I know.  I know patience is a necessity. 

First, I want to be sure that we are operating from the same view of patience.  Here is the Miriam Webster definition of PATIENT:

1: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint

2: manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain

3: not hasty or impetuous

4: steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity

5a : able or willing to bear —used with of  

Patience is not something we pull out for special occasions. We don't get to shrug it on or off. Patience is an integral part of the person we are to be.  Patience is for the long haul.  Patience is a tool we are to use all day, every day.  It is the practice of doing what needs to be done without pitching a fit.  Even if we don't enjoy the job. Patience is the habit of planning well, taking our time, being steady, and thinking before we act. 

Being patient impacts our interactions with others.  It involves behaving in a way that is calming for those around us.  Patience is not superior or snotty.  It is supportive, able, and willing to bear.  It does not complain.  You can't be whiny and patient at the same time.  You can't be dissatisfied and patient.  Patient is pro-active with others.  It leads by doing.  

The other thing that I want to be sure I say about patience is that does not have anything to do with being a doormat, catch-all, or pushover.  Patience is not void of wisdom or boundaries.  Patience does not foolishly create pains, trials, or difficulty.  Patience is steadfast despite those things.  

The practice of patience works perfectly with my slow and steady plan.  My objective here is to do the things that need to be done without complaint or drama.  My desire is to be the same person when provoked as I am when pleased. My plan is to be thoughtful in all that I do.  To make decisions with deliberation.  My hope is that my steadfast behavior will make a difference to my family.  

Monday, August 26, 2013


We kicked off this school year with a field trip.  Ten years ago, Rob and I enjoyed seeing the outdoor drama Tecumseh!  Since that time Rob has wanted to take the family to see the show.  This year was the year and when I began looking at the opportunities for fun learning provided by Tecumseh! I knew it was a perfect first day of school.  It's even more perfect because the kids didn't even realize it was the first day.

In addition to seeing the play, we enjoyed a living history tour where we got to hear some of the more personal stories of pioneers and Indians. 

Macey took a role in the tour by playing the part of an Indian chief being asked to sign a treaty.

We were all given the opportunity to dance an Indian dance.

We also got to take a look backstage learning the dangerous and gory details of the production. 

We now know three different ways to look like you are bleeding to death.  Only one requires special props.  Good information to have in your head.

After the tours, we all enjoyed a buffet dinner including fried chicken, ham, potatoes, salad, corn and lots of chocolate pudding. 

This fun afternoon was the perfect lead in to a thrilling performance.  The amphitheater where Tecumseh! is performed is huge.  It seats 1500-1800 people and the stage holds 40+ actors, horses, cannon, canoes and lots of action.  We all found this event to be really worth the trip.

Slow and Steady

This morning I made French press coffee.  If you like coffee this might mean something to you.  If you just drink coffee it might not.  To me, French press coffee is personal and hands on.  It's something you savor not just something you drink.  The flavor is richer.  The temperature is just right in the mug and in my mouth.  French press coffee deserves a moment to itself. 

There are many tutorials on how to make the best pot of French press coffee so I won't bore you with another.  I will say that, in my opinion, the key to a good pot of  French press coffee has to do with the pace.  French press is not instant.  Slow and steady is the pace of a French press.  It requires numerous steps.  It requires attention to detail.  It requires waiting.  There is not rushing or panic or hurry.  Making a pot of French press is not something you do in a distracted, hap hazard manner.  My prayer today is that I can find order, comfort and joy in the rest of my life as I do in my French press coffee.

I know it's in there.  The steady pace, the sure results, the order and the outcome.  Those are all a part of life.  They just aren't the part that are given the most attention.  Those aren't the parts that our society considers to be valuable.  Those parts are considered drudgery, boring, mundane.  Those are the parts we try to avoid and in our avoidance we create the stress and chaos we pretend we don't enjoy.  It's safe to sa there is a certain amount of satisfaction in complaining about house work or being snowed under with errands or undone jobs or too many commitments.  It's affirming to have a friend or spouse tell you that you take on too much or you are amazing for doing all you do.  The drama of stress and panic is much more exciting than a cleanly swept floor or an orderly day.  That drama is so enticing that we've become addicted to it.  If we aren't stressing we don't feel alive.  We don't feel purposeful.  We don't feel engaged.

One of my plans this season (and hopefully, in an habitual manner for the rest of my life) is to do things with intention and purpose.  Slow and steady.  First this, then this, with the end result being a life filled to the brim with peace.    As with all things, this won't start with me.  This transformation will start with prayer.  In Psalm 26:3 the Bible tells us;  You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  So there is my prayer;  Lord, give my your peace.  Keep my mind steadfast as I trust in you.

The other part of my plan is to approach the important activites in my day as I do making a pot of coffee.  I know the steps I need to take.  When I skip what needs to be done the results turn out muddled and bitter.  No one is happy, least of all me.  Too often I'm lazy or undisciplined thinking that it's a quicker or easier way to the results I desire.  I know better but I don't always do better.

There are three big areas where I plan to change my approach: waking my children, household chores and putting my children to bed.   I feel that changing these areas will make the biggest impact.  Over the next few months we will see.  Slow and steady.

At my house we don't have French press coffee on a daily basis.  My husband prefers his coffee by the gallon.  There is no savoring involved.  The first cup is just a means to the next.   Sometimes life requires this of  us.  Sometimes things must be done in a timely manner or at a moments notice.  Sometimes one activity leads into the next.  I'm aware that life can move quickly and that, to a certain degree, we must keep pace.  I am anticipating by promoting a steadfast peace in my home the times of hurry will result in fewer times of panic or chaos.   I am anticipating that we will learn in deeper ways to trust God, to trust each other and to trust ourselves.  Slow and steady.

Beginning With What You Know

This morning marks the beginning of a new season for this household.  I am settled in with the first pot of French press coffee that I've made in years. It's as wonderful as I remember. I am trying to find a sweet spot for the coming months and to stay in it.  In order to find that sweet spot I am slowing down and thinking hard about what works and what doesn't.  I have 24 years of experience as a wife and almost 17 as a mother.  I know a lot about a lot. So, this morning I am going to begin with what I know.

I know slow and steady is the best way to move forward.

I know patience is a necessity.

I know prayer precedes everything.

I know one job at a time is enough.

I know many hands make light work.

I know stress and panic do not bring good results.

I know praise will enrich any effort.

I know procrastination is a form of rebellion.

I know how important it is to have clear goals in mind.

I know that celebration is more than just the icing on the cake.  It's the purpose of the cake.

I know I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me. 

I know a lot of other stuff too.  As a result, I'll probably be adding to this list.  My goal here is to give myself some writing prompts.  For too long I've been checking in sporadically and updating at random.  My original intention with the blog was to write regularly.  And, here I go.  Like I said, it's a new season.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

First Day Senior Year

You are absolutely right. This is not a picture of Kady on the first day of  her senior year.  This is a picture of her first day of kindergarten.  I am feeling a lot little nostalgic.  I love seeing how much she still looks the same just teen size.  It makes me feel as if the entire world isn't changing too quickly for my liking.
 This is Kady on her first day of her senior year. 

Please notice the Disney princess backpack.  This lets me know that she is still totally a little girl.  I don't care what the outer packaging might indicate.

Friday, August 16, 2013

From Strength to Strength

They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
-Psalm 84:7

This verse was part of the psalm in our Bible study this morning.  It spoke to me for a variety of reasons. First, it reminded me that God is my strength.  Nehemiah 8:10 has long been one of the verses that I rely on for reassurance and encouragement. 

Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks,
and send some to those who have nothing prepared. 
This day is sacred to our Lord.  Do not grieve,
for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

To me, this verse is one to live by.  Enjoy what you've been given, share with others, honor God, be glad and rely on Him.  If only I could manage to do this every single day, all day long.  Whether I succeed for fail I have the reassurance that the joy of the Lord is my strength.  Not my own joy.  God's.  The really great part is that God's joy is never ending.  It is eternal.  God's joy will never ebb.  It will never be exhausted.  This means that when I choose to pay attention and allow God's joy to fill me, my strength is more than enough for the tasks God has set before me.  

 The second thing that the Psalm 84:7 reminded me of is that God doesn't just set us to wander through life.  He has a plan.  He has prepared our way, right down the rest stops.  The psalm is talking about taking a trip, a pilgrimage, and how the travelers move from one good resting spot to the next, strength to strength.  They aren't left to sleep in a valley inhabited by thieves.  They don't spend their nights in want.  They move from strength to strength.  Not only is God my strength but he will provide places of strength.  I equate strength to strength with church on Sunday, my daily Bible study, conversations with family and friends, beautiful views, delicious food, moments of grace.  God has designed our world to refresh and renew us.  He puts people, places, circumstances, and opportunities in our world that serve as a strength for us.  A place to stop and enjoy and give thanks.  A place to rest and renew and leave refreshed and ready to continue the journey.  Recently, I've had so many strengths.  A talk with a new friend at a picnic table as the sky grew dark.  Laughter and heart sharing with old friends.  Prayer and connection with Rob in the morning quiet.  Breakfast with my parents. Walks and swim time with my children.  Conversation with a room full of mothers as they face the challenge transitioning their precious children into dynamic adults.  Sunday morning worship.  Strength to strength.

Finally, I am so thankful that this verse reminds me of the goal.  I am on a journey.  These stopping points, wonderful blessings that they are, are just places to rest.  The journey is long but I will be traveling from strength to strength.  I am certain I will be able to complete the journey.  I pray that along the way I will be God's place of rest and renewal for others.  The thought that I find astounding is that as precious as each of these strengths is my destination out shines them all.  It's hard to get my head around.  But then so is God and God is my destination.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Shift of Focus

My sister is a very gifted photographer.  One of the striking things about her photos is how changing the focus of her photo changes everything.  Sometimes she brings a close object into sharp focus, letting the background go fuzzy.  Other times she selects a far object around which to center her photo.  Even if every single thing in the photo stays the same, other than her focus, the image seems brand new.

Lately, my focus is undergoing a shift.  Perhaps the shift has been happening for some time now.  However, I feel now my focus is becoming clear.  My parenting journey began over sixteen years ago.  The first ten years of parenting were clearly focused on safety and survival.  Each day brought challenges but the skills required to deal with those challenges were clearly on the bottom half of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  On a good day we totally fulfill the third level needs.  I feel that at this time all four of my children find their basic physical and safety needs met.  I also believe that they are all secure in their feelings of belonging and love.  Now we are moving on up.

My life no longer revolves around diapers, car seats, basic nutrition, sleep schedules, and the like.  I am done training toddlers.  My life is now about the business of creating worthwhile adults.  Clarifying that shift in focus has been life changing for me.  The children before me seem brand new.

Over the next years my focus will be centered around esteem and self-actualization.  As a Christian I know that my worth comes from Christ and on my relationship with Christ.  My value comes from glorifying God.  My role as a parent centers on supporting and loving my children as they explore the world and their function in it.  My role as a teacher is to provide my children the opportunities and education to move them forward in the world in such  way that they can be successful in the challenges they pursue.  The end results that I desire are four adults who are faith filled, life long learners who move through this world with confidence, generosity of spirit and grace. 

Just like that, the picture looks totally different and as a result I feel differently about it.  My role seems much more valuable.  The urgency of my job feels greater.  I feel less prepared.  Thankfully, the tools that I've developed in dealing with the lower level needs will be helpful as I face these new needs.  Prayer, preparation, time and energy are in my favor.  I am being intentional about finding resources to support our goals.  Our journey continues and can't wait to see where we go from here.