Thursday, March 28, 2013

Redeemed - Psalm 49

Stepping back from the online world a bit these past couple weeks has been a lesson in discerning what is really important to me. It's been a gift. 

A wonderful writer and an encouraging friend, Stephanie has a series, Walking Through the Psalms. Each week I hope I will be able to link up, but I never find the time to get an entire post written. Today is no different. But this is something that is important to me, so let me at least share a thought or two.

As I spent some quiet time this morning, I read and re-read Psalm 49. One verse stood out to me.....


No one can redeem the life of another 
or give to God a ransom for them-

the ransom for a life is too costly,
no payment is ever enough-
so that they shall live on forever and not see decay.

And I thought of Lent, and Good Friday, and Easter and I scribbled one little thought in my journal.









"Grateful, so grateful, the ransom has been paid. It is not too costly for the One who holds the world in His mighty hands."






We have been redeemed. Thank you, Jesus.

May your week be filled with the wonder that is Easter.



******

P.S. Did you know I now have a Facebook page for my blog? It's true! Come check it out, I'd be so grateful if you do.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Walking on Water

It's been a time to reset. 
To remember. 
To discover. 
To make room for others. 
To watch candle sticks burn down to the end throughout an evening.  
To play games. 
To sit in stillness. 
To watch movies together. 
To read books side by side. 
To drink tea slowly. 
To have breakfast with friends. 
To open up your home to others.

All these things that have always been a part of who I am but have been buried deep within over the past few years. The chance to rediscover myself. To face the parts of me I don't like. To bring the darkness into the light.

To remember what faith is. To believe again.

I am reading Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water, and I am allowing myself to become lost in it. As I allow myself to write, to type out words that I think, wonder, and believe, I realize that this is my spiritual discipline. That my writing and my faith are so intertwined that I don't think I could separate them anymore, even if I wanted to. As I find my voice and believe in myself as a writer, it is only because I am listening to His voice and believing in Him.



Isaiah knew himself to be mortal and flawed, but he had the child's courage to say to the Lord, "Here I am. Send me." And he understood the freedom which the Spirit can give us from ordinary restrictions when he wrote, "When you pass through deep waters I am with you; when you pass through rivers, they will not sweep you away; walk through fire and you will not be scorched, through flames and they will not burn you." He may not have had this understanding before he wrote those words, for such understanding is a gift which come when we let go and listen. I think I looked up this passage because I dreamed that a friend reached into the fireplace and drew out a living coal and held it in his hand, looking at its radiance, and I wondered at him because he was not burned.

It may be that we have lost our ability to hold a blazing coal, to move unfettered through time, to walk on water, because we have been taught that such things have to be earned; we should deserve them; we must be qualified. We are suspicious of grace. We are afraid of the very lavishness of the gift (76-77).

I am that one, suspicious of grace. I believe it for others but step away from it for myself. 



And I am so tired of doing that. Of expecting less for myself than for others. It's been a hard season, and I don't want my default to believe it to be a punishment or curse. It's too hard to live that way. 

I'm starting to remember what faith is. To believe and hope and trust. To see the rubbish all around, but to still see my God as beautiful and holy. To recognize the pain, but feel His love.  To realize that sometimes, things don't work out the way you expected them to, but to see the whole bloody thing as beautiful, even if you have to kick away the debris to see it. 

So tonight, I'll put my sick little kiddos to bed. I'll drink some tea. I'll curl up on the couch next to my husband. And I'll light some candlesticks and let them burn all the way down until they extinguish themselves. And I'll reread those words that Isaiah wrote down, so long ago. And as we crawl through Holy Week, I'll soak it all up deep into the marrow.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43:2






Tuesday, March 19, 2013

He Finished.

So, Sunday night my wonderful and talented husband turned in his FINAL final exam. He is now able to graduate in May with his MBA after working tirelessly for 31/2 years.

Glory be.

So yesterday I took the kids to school, ran some errands, took them to lunch, took them on a field trip, and then took them to the gym.

Phew.




And when I got home I realized something. I'm exhausted. 

I know, I'm not the one who stayed up late studying and writing and going to class on top of a grueling and demanding job. But I'm the mom. And I'm tired nonetheless.

So it may be a bit quiet here for the next couple of weeks. I have some things I've neglected that I need to catch up on. Most importantly, stress-free cuddling. We need a lot of that around here.

And in the spirit of full-disclosure and transparency  my Christmas tree is still up. I should probably take care of that before anything else.



And Adam? You're amazing. We are all so proud of you. So proud.


See you all soon!


(P.S. If you just haven't already, you can come and visit me here. It would brighten my day. Truly.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Freedom Song


Photo Credit: http://asharedlens.smugmug.com/Architecture/Stock-Windows/25066608_S9qM63#!i=1913474598&k=Z6zs7fz

This weekend my husband and I got a sitter, jumped in the car, and drove out of the city. We looked at houses and we dreamed. We talked. We laughed. We ate lunch without having to stop mid-bite or mid-sentence to correct behavior, give bites, or wipe up spills.

We smiled.

I stay at home, so my days are spent taking the girls to preschool and activities, going to the gym, cleaning, playing with the girls, reading to the girls, teaching the girls, cooking, baking, writing, and did I mention cleaning? It's a busy season and our time is so short. And I work so hard and when my husband gets home we rush through dinner and baths for the girls and we collapse on the couch before doing it all the next day. 

These are good things. But I'm tired. And I've been so weary from doing things that benefit our family, that I have forgotten how much I love them. How fun they are. And how when he walks with me and holds my hand my heart flutters and I smile.

We desire to live in an intentional life. We chose to transplant our family to the city. We picked a neighborhood that at one point  boasted the most diverse zip code in the country. We did it all on purpose. We wanted to be used. 

Used by God. 

And now we consider a life lived in the suburbs. It might be the best thing for our family, for our girls (not sure, the jury's still out). But I feel push back, and I think it's from a lifetime of being preached to about the importance of sacrifice. Of being reminded that the harvest is plenty and the workers are few. And I don't want to discount that. Really, I don't. But I am tired. So tired.

I have spent years pushing myself to serve more and more. And I've spent so much time working for God that I have forgotten how much I love Him. How fun being a part of His Kingdom can actually be. And how when He walks with me I experience a deeper peace and purpose and I smile.


******

We talked a lot this weekend about purpose, and what it looks like to serve God, and sacrifice. And as we talked I realized that I don't have anything left to give. That after the years of service somewhere along the way I started doing it in my strength, out of obligation, and that now I have nothing left to give. 

I've come to the end of me.  And I think that's okay.

The other day I read these beautiful words from Sarah Bessey:



And I recently felt a peace wash over me. And the stress that resides in my shoulders and jaw began to leave and it was as if the windows were opened and a sweet spring breeze began to blow right through my house and into my soul. I could feel my spirit begin to soar.


My pastor and friend tells me how the first thing she prays each morning is, "God, show me today what You are doing and let me be a part of it." And those words sound so sweet as I inch toward the hem of His garment. And I don't have to rush rush rush. I get the opportunity to partner with, to be with, to journey with.

This is my freedom song. 

This is my freedom song. This is allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe through me. To give me times of rest and times of action. Not on my schedule but solely on His. To grab the hand of my Creator and follow Him each and every day, wherever that may lead. 

It may be finding a patch of green grass to play on with my girls. It might be marching along with other Christians as we beg a city to stand up against violence. It might be rocking babies in the nursery. It might be writing out words on a computer, telling of my brokenness and His rescue. 


I don't know what It will be, but I know I'll  be singing out my freedom song with a smile on my face.

I hope you are singing along with me. To God be the glory.


******


On Thursdays we gather together at Imperfect Prose to celebrate redemption. I'm so blessed to be a part of this amazing group of writers and artists. Want to join us and write it out?

Link up a post (old or new) that relates to redemption or something "imperfect."
Put the "Imperfect Prose" button at the bottom of your page so others can find their way.
Read and encourage each other along the way!



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

She Had A Name

There isn't a way to prepare yourself for the headline.



Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

And I hold my girls on my lap as I read the article. I feel sick to my stomach. My hands shake.


Photo Credit: DNA Info/Sam Cholke
There is no reason why this needs to happen. And I wait to hear an outcry from my "side" of the city and I don't hear one. It doesn't matter that she lived on the southside and I live on the northside. And it doesn't matter that we both call Chicago home. It matters because we were both created by the same God. We are both loved equally by our Heavenly Father. And the grief I feel as I hear of this doesn't compare to the grief of our Father.

And I sit at my dining room table, typing these words, hoping someone will read. I'm crying out into the darkness, into the silence. I'm calling on my brothers and sisters in Christ to be outraged. To decide that human life is more important than political ideologies. To claim as our banner Prince of Peace, not the Second Amendment. 

Don't tell me "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

Don't tell me that this is just part of a gang culture.

Don't tell me this is isolated.

Don't tell me anything unless you are weeping. Unless your heart is breaking. Unless you are grieving.


Photo Credit: http://asharedlens.smugmug.com/Other/Stock-Metal/25063983_bCBD3f#!i=1944077749&k=9359RMk&lb=1&s=A

She had a name. Jonylah Watkins.

Tonight I get to rock my babies to sleep. Jonylah's mother doesn't get to.

I've come to the point where I can't fight for everything. I can either fight for my political rights or for the Kingdom. And my Jesus didn't fight for his political rights - He ushered in the Kingdom. He showed us a new way to live. 

I want to be part of what God is doing RIGHT NOW. And he is not picketing, and yelling, and fighting, and feuding. He is not name calling. He is not assigning blame. He is not victim blaming. He is holding a grieving family and crying over the loss of His daughter.

My God is calling us to be part of His Kingdom. To follow the Prince of Peace. To be a part of bringing His Kingdom here on earth. To proclaim freedom for the captives. To turn our swords into ploughshares. To do things radically different. To give up our rights.

To give up our rights.

She had a name. Jonylah Watkins.



Come, Lord Jesus.


Update: For a way to show your support, check out the 500 Campaign. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Falling Back In Love

I started watching the History Channel's Bible last night. I don't know what I was expecting. I really don't. Somewhere in the back of my mind were memories of watching the Passion in a movie theater in London. It was so powerful. Brought up so many emotions.

But last night I sat there, watching somewhat detached. And I watched the story of Sodom and the crazy ninja angels as my husband chuckled at them and all I said was, "I see they chose to leave out the part where he offered his daughters up to the mob."


Image Source: http://www.history.com/shows/the-bible/pictures/the-bible-photo-gallery/the-bible-6


And I spent the rest of the night and this morning wondering if I would have thought of that if I had watched it ten years ago. 


******

I grew up reading the Bible from a very young age. The alphabet cards in my Kindergarten class were all Bible based. 


A: All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

B: Believe ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.

C: Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.

My first Bible was KJV all the way, cause that's how we rolled.


******

To find myself in this place....it's hard. I've been following Jesus for 35 years. That's a long time. I haven't fallen out of love with Jesus. But the Bible? I sometimes wonder.

So reading Peter Enn's Inspiration and Incarnation as part of Kelley Nikondeha's Transit Book Club was so much more than a theological study. It was an invitation to fall back in love with the Bible, the first book I ever really read.


These smiles were very distracting this month as I attempted to read :)


Enns states: (emphasis mine)
As Christians we must remember that we believe not only that the Bible is the word of God, but that Christ himself is the word. What exactly does it mean to refer to Jesus as "the word" (as John does in 1:1-2 of his Gospel)? This could be answered in many ways, but I want to pick up on just one dimension: The Bible is God's word in written form; Christ is God's word in human form. This may sound like so much theological double-talk, but it is in fact a fundamental confession of the historic Christian church, and there is payoff for our topic here. The written word bears witness to the incarnate word, Christ. And what gives the written word its unity is not simply the words on the page, but the incarnate word who is more than simply the sum of the biblical parts. He is the one through whom heaven and earth - including the Bible itself - were created, and he is the one in whom Israel's story reaches its climax. The Bible bears witness to Christ by Christ's design. He is over the Bible, beyond it, separate from it, even though the Bible is his word and thus bears witness to him. 

Christ is supreme, and it is in him, the embodied word, that the written word ultimately finds its unity. Christ is the final destiny of Israel's story, and it is to him that the Bible as a whole bears witness. As Christians, this is our theoretical starting point (110).

The Bible is full of messy stories about messy people. And throughout the Bible God keeps stepping in, showing mercy and pointing toward the Incarnate Word that is coming to save this messy woman in her messy life. If that's not good news, I don't know what is.

God is breaking in. Breaking through. I want to be a part of that. I want that to be what I see when I read His Word.

So I am going to do the things you do when you are rekindling a relationship. I'm going to spend more time with my Bible. I'll give my Bible the benefit of the doubt. I'll keep it close to me. And I'll start to fall back in love.





On Thursdays we gather together to celebrate redemption. I'm so excited to be a part of this team! Want to join and write it out?


  • Link up a post (old or new) that relates to redemption or something "imperfect."
  • Put the "Imperfect Prose" button at the bottom of your page, so others can find their way there.
  • Read each others' posts and encourage them!





I'm also linking up (late) at Kelley's for our monthly book club reaction. This month was Peter Enns' Inspiration and Incarnation. Join us each month as we dig in and discover together!


Transit Reading

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What I'm Into - February Edition


What I'm Into - February

Can I be honest with you? This month was a blur. I had a lot of life things happening all at once. I did not take very good notes or keep track of things. At all. My word for the year is soar. And I did not feel like I was soaring. It felt as if the universe was conspiring to keep my on the ground. Everything was difficult. And I know life is like that. I know I should expect resistance. I just wasn't expecting so much all at once.

What I'm Reading - Books:  

So, last month I actually completed books. This month? Not so much. I am just about done with Peter Enns' Inspiration and Incarnation, part of Kelley's brilliant Transit Book Club




But I started and read parts of When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams , An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor, Shauna Neiquist's soon to be released Bread & Wine, and read a bit more out of dear Luci Shaw. Remember, this month was crazy. Seriously.


What I'm Watching - Movies:
I watched movies this month! Can I remember any of them? Not right now. And that's a shame. Because I really made an effort. Oh, well.....

What I'm Watching - TV:
The end of 30 Rock. Was it February or January? I don't know. TV has been a blur since then. At least I had the wonderful wedding on Parks and Rec to get me through. I may still be in mourning. (Love you Tina Fey!)

What I'm Listening To:

Finally downloaded the new (er, now is it old?) Mumford & Sons.

What I'm Cooking:

Nothing. Ugh. I am just now done with a two week detox that left me unable to eat: gluten, dairy, eggs, sugar, caffeine, salt, and alcohol. I couldn't even eat oranges or bananas. I feel great. I really do. So glad I did this. I realized that I am quite gluten intolerant. Turns out your stomach isn't supposed to feel that way. I am really missing fresh bread. Now for a new adventure of finding other ways to bring bread to our home.

What I'm Proud Of:
I decided that as part of my attempts to SOAR and live out my One Word, that I needed to be brave and a little more transparent than I normally am. So I did two things outside of my comfort zone.


The first thing I did was to sign up for Elora's amazing Story course through The Story Unfolding. I am learning a lot and I love being in community with these amazing women.


The second thing I did was to finally start a blog page on FB. Notice I didn't say writer page or fan page. That's just weird. But a page dedicated to my blog and other writings I love? That I decided I could do. If you haven't checked it out, hop on over here!


What I'm Looking Forward To:
My fabulous and hardworking husband is just weeks away from completing his MBA. Glory, Hallelujah! Amen.

What I'm Writing:
I wrote two little blog posts in February, without much expectation, and they turned into my two most viewed posts. EVER.

"Why I Love Beyonce" was a quick post that I didn't expect anyone to read. I guess people like reading about Beyonce!

"Stealing My Joy" was from my heart and I was so encouraged to see that it resonated with a lot of people.

"Do It Till You Bleed" was one that I was super proud of, but fell a bit under the radar. Probably one of my all time favorites. If you haven't read it yet, feel free to take a peek.


What I'm Loving:








Linking up (very late) with the lovely Leigh Kramer for her monthly round up!






*This also serves as a sad little One Word update. I promise, next month will be much better!*