Another Saturday, another song. This one speaks to the brokenness we have all felt at one time or another. I just love the honesty and longing the song shares.
What songs move you?
I love yarn. I may in fact love it too much. This past summer I went to a tent sale with some of the women in my family and I came home with two large bagfuls. It was glorious! It was also a lot. One reason I love yarn is the sense of purpose and promise for the future that is found as the yarn weaves through my fingers and onto a hook or needles.
The truth is yarn is expensive so going to the yarn sale was a smart choice financially. The trouble with buying ahead though is there is a tendency to store and forget. Then you buy elsewhere and wind up overtime amassing a huge amount of yarn that will never get used. It’s out of sight and completely forgotten until one day while digging around for that old crockpot you find a box that’s ten years old filled with something you might have wanted to use someday.
This year it’s different. This year I reclaimed some shelves and put the yarn front and centre for me to use over the winter. My husband says it looks like a yarn store downstairs. I say it looks like a winter filled with projects and potential. For the first time ever a yarn stash that might be completely used.
The truth is when we don’t pay attention to things they just sit, undeveloped and unexplored. Faith is a lot like yarn that way. When we don’t pay attention to it, when we don’t study or grow, we sit undeveloped and uninspired. I don’t want my faith to be that way. Everyday when I wake up I set aside time to sit in the Word. I pray. I meditate. I seek out.
You might be thinking ‘but it’s easy for you…’ and I would say some days maybe but often it’s a choice. I choose to drag my tired body from it’s bed. I choose to sink into the text. I choose to try to find the words needed to connect with God. Faith is a gift but what good is a gift if you don’t open it and explore it? What good is a gift if you don’t use it?
Our faith is not unlike the yarn with which I knit. As we weave various parts of our lives together something beautiful can come out of it. The trick is picking up the threads of faith and weaving something out of them. If we do not work on it, it will not grow.
How will you work on your faith this fall? How will you let God work in you?
“Whom have I in heaven by you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever…
But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.”
Psalm 73 vs 25-26, 28 NLT
We should all aspire to love God this much and be refreshed in the Lord. It’s hard though at times, isn’t it? It’s hard to stay on top of everything we have to do and squeeze our faith in there. Truthfully though, much like exercise, faith and the practice of relational faith with God gets easier as you practice and grow into it. What at first takes thoughtful rearrangement of life so you can squeeze it in soon becomes a necessary part of your day as you grow and lean into your faith. If you’re already doing this I think that’s great but remember to keep things fresh. We want to be refreshed in God and engaged in our journey. Sometimes it’s good to mix things up a bit to keep things alive and interesting!
May God be the strength of your heart this day and always.
My son’s therapist asked a valid question this morning. She wondered if we even used the yellow pages that had arrived on our doorstep and kind of laughed at the idea of anyone using them at all. I honestly can’t remember the last time I cracked open the yellow pages. I usually Google the information that I need and the yellow pages languish in my study or get recycled before their time is up. They are an old-fashioned idea. A throwback to the times when things were simpler, when google was much less invasive.
I found myself intrigued after her comments and with the tiny one asleep and the eldest involved in lessons I cracked open the outer plastic and opened the pages to see what was inside. Did you know there is information on how to find a doctor? Besides your usual pizza delivery numbers there are articles and helpful pages. There is stuff inside that people might actually want to know. I don’t know how many read it but this book filled with newsprint pages contains a wealth of information that goes beyond what I had expected of it.
It’s been so long you see that I had forgotten. It’s been so long that I just didn’t know what to expect. Such is the time I guess in which we live. The time where convenience outweighs information and quick answers take precedence over the slowly acquired knowledge which happened over lifetimes. We have access to more information now than we ever have before but do we truly have knowledge? Is our society filled with wise souls who can impart that wisdom on to the next generation or are we merely filled with short clips, news flashes and find ourselves living lives of information overload.
I suspect the second scenario is closer to the truth than we might like. In a world filled with twenty four hour news networks and instant information we don’t take time to read the whole story, we glance at the headlines, read the synopsis and move on with our busy days. I grow weary of living this way. I grow weary of never truly knowing what I heard and not really understanding that which I know. I want to experience life in a deeper way. I want to be rooted in something that matters. I want to feel grounded and strong, secure and confident that my wisdom and growth has happened as a result of exploration and probing, and isn’t just some regurgitation of facts I learned on Google.
I have no problem with Google in general. It’s a necessary tool for me as I write and explore faith and other aspects of living. It has guided me to books and theories, people and promised more wisdom than I could hope for. The problem with Google is a tendency to stop with what it provides. I forget to dig into the books I’m reading reviews about. I don’t research further problems and issues in the world as I’ve already moved on to the next thing. I google Bible verses instead of reading the Bible. It’s just too easy to get what you want in this world. I think perhaps a little work is in order.
It’s too easy is a theme that has run through our days as of late. My husband speaks regularly about his desire to teach the grass to grow deeper roots. To encourage the grass to grow down instead of sideways. He waters less regularly than others, lets the grass get a little scraggly from time to time and provides an organic fertilizer that boosts energy while being kind to the planet. His system has worked. Over the past three years he has healed our lawn from the destruction caused by two over eager college students who fertilized one summer on their break. It has taken time. He has researched and sought out the best strategies for growth and maturation. He knows all there is to know about natural lawn care and this summer you can see the difference. Our lawn is green and strong. It withstands drought and periods of intense heat. Our lawn has managed to become everything my husband hoped it would be because of the time and effort he invested in it. Our lawn is now healthy and strong.
I look at his efforts in lawn care and find myself pondering my own efforts in faith. It is far easier to grow sideways than grow down in faith. When I open Facebook or Twitter I find myself bombarded with images that inspire and encourage. There are short verses meant to sustain and pictures meant to uplift. These things are good, great even in the service they provide but it is too easy to become addicted to short term gain. It’s too easy to find oneself depending on the next verse, the next story that will carry me through the day. These short glimpses are not enough to help me grow deep roots. These short verses and inspirations tend to make me feel good in the moment but don’t inspire deep reflection or questioning. I need questioning and contemplation to grow. We all do. We all need moments of quiet with God to really sink into where it is God is taking us.
Yesterday in Sunday School our class discussed the burning bush. It’s not the first time we’ve talked about Moses but it is the first time we’ve figured out that Moses was special. One of the girls noted that he must be special as God doesn’t talk to us through burning bushes and we started to ask questions about what it was we would actually like to ask God should the opportunity arise. One declared that such things don’t happen any more and thought we should just move on. I found myself wondering, do those things really not happen or is it just that we don’t allow them to? Are there burning bushes in our lives that we just don’t see because we don’t take the time to notice, because we’re too busy looking for a quick fix or an easy way out?
It’s time for me to sink in I think. Time for me to reflect and identify areas where I need to grow my roots and perhaps fertilize them. I need to sink into the Bible not just highlights and really remember where it is we come from as a people of faith. I need to remind myself of God’s love for his people and see how that love plays out in good ways and bad for his people. I need to take time to see bushes that burn and hear whispers in the night. These things are important. These roots we are growing not only sustain ourselves but help maintain the faith community. If we all have roots that grow sideways what happens in times of drought? How will we maintain our faith? How will we move forward when we feel there is no way?
I am beginning with Ephesians. I will dive in and see if I can discover some truths about God’s love in ways I was not previously aware. It is my prayer that as I move forward on this quest to be firmly rooted in my life that God will guide me. I trust that there will be moments of doubt and agony, moments of fear and trembling but that is what makes the journey worthwhile, no? If we do not doubt we cannot rejoice when we find what was lost. If we have no fear we cannot feel the accomplishment of persevering through it and discovering what is on the other side.
“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19 NLT
I think of a boy, the boy named Alan. I think of his family and the great loss that was his life. The desire for freedom, for a chance at life. The desperation they felt and the great risk they felt they had to take. My heart hangs heavy. So many things pass through my mind as I live through this day. I think of this boy as I chop food for dinner, as I play on the floor with my boys, as I move and live and breathe in my taken for granted freedom. I think of the things that need to happen, that must change. I sit down. I write. I write letters to our candidates as they campaign for a seat. Will they do something, anything to help these people? It’s not enough. It’s not enough to write. We as a people of freedom must do something, anything to help in some way.
We must do something, we must remember those who are suffering. In this world we are hit with image after image in a stream of constant updates and entertainments. We must not allow Alan to become yesterday’s news, a faded memory in a stream of consciousness. We must not allow those who suffer to be overlooked and ignored. We must see the world around us. We must see the pain, the despair, the longing for a life that we take for granted.
Seeing is hard. Seeing feels at times so painful that we long to shut our eyes, we wish we could turn away. We must not do this, cannot do this if we are to be people of the light. We must move into the world in action. We must find ways to be a people who act. We are called to be a people who act by one who was himself forced to flee an oppressive regime. We are a people who from the beginning were encouraged to protect the stranger and accept those from far away.
“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:34 NIV
How do we do this? How do we love the strangers who are so far away? How do we help them, protect them, guard them?
I do not know the answers to these questions but I suspect we must begin by raising our voice. By opening our hearts, churches and homes in hospitality and saying the suffering people that they are welcome here, they will find a home among us. We are called to do this. We are called to “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need…” (Romans 12:13 NIV), practicing hospitality. We must raise our voices and encourage our leaders to offer assistance, provide sanctuary and support to people who are suffering.
As we fight it is important to remember we do not do fight this alone. At times it may feel lonely and overwhelming but there are others who cry out alongside us and fight for justice in a world which at times may seem dark. We also have God who sends us his peace, his strength and his grace. This grace, this gift of relentless love is one we must cling to. God is relentless in his desire to reach his people and he will go with us. As Frederick Buechner says “The grace of God means something like:”…Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.” God is indeed with us and as we go forth, he goes with us. Let us take God into this world where beautiful and terrible things happen and work to create more beautiful things. Let us work together relentlessly fighting for others as God fights for us.
My son broke the baby gate this morning. He stood on it, leaned back and the whole thing came crashing down. The baby gate is not designed for a nearly six year old to stand on it. It’s meant to deter tiny ones from attempting death defying feats as they navigate through the house. It wasn’t a crisis though, as I had the tools to fix the problem.
We’ve been talking a lot about tools around here lately as I try to explain how things work in our lives to my son. We’re covering hard topics involving laundry machines and their use, microwave ovens and what they do and how utensils can be harmful as well as helpful. As I’ve been teaching him about tools and their uses I realized today that I’ve overlooked one important tool that I use regularly, my Bible. The Bible is a tool for me, a navigation map of sorts to help me figure out who I am in this faith that I live. Each morning I strive to open this tool and dig into the story of those who went before me. Each morning I hope to glean a piece of information which will help me on my day. This tool is essential for living a light filled life for me. This tool is perhaps the most important tool I use.
As I continue my discussions with my son I think I will introduce the Bible as a tool to him. I will encourage him to continue reading his own and help him when he stumbles across something that’s confusing. When you think about it, that’s another tool we have in faith. In faith we have each other. This community, the collective, the engaged if you will are another tool we can use if we recognize it as such. Together we can learn and grow, be healed and transformed in our faith if we access the tools we’ve been given, if we band together as one and serve one another on the journey.
Tools are important in our lives for many reasons. We build houses, cook food, keep clean and move forward all with the help of tools and the things they create. All things in our lives need tending, tuning and maintenance. It’s important for us to remember it’s not just the physical, but the spiritual as well. How are you using your tools? Are you maintaining and repairing your life and faith as needed?
Can I lock my kids up forever? Ok maybe not forever, perhaps just until 30ish? I’ve been doing some preparations for the coming year. We are homeschooling my son while he continues therapy so I have to get everything ready for Grade 1. The curriculum has arrived and we are in the process of seeing what he knows, what he needs to know and trying to determine the best schedule for him. It’s going well I think and I’m excited to see what and how he learns over the coming year. It’s been wonderful to watch him grow and learn, expand and discover.
Why would I want to lock him up then? He and his brother truthfully? It might have something to do with the fact that in the last 48 hours I’ve learned more about people than I wanted to know. I’ve heard from mainstream media sources that Ashley Madison was hacked. You know the site I’m talking about, the one where married people go to find others to have an affair with. Yes, that one. I found out via Facebook that Josh Duggar allegedly has an account there. Too much information for me and so devastating for his wife and family. Then this morning I happened upon an article from Vanity Fair exposing Tinder and the Hookup-Culture of today. It’s all too much for me.
Before you think I’m naive, or a prude or judgemental I’d like to say I’m not. Oh I guess we’re all a little judgemental but that’s not what my reaction was to any of this. My initial reaction was relief and horror at the thought of a society built around easy hookups and no true connection. I kept imagining myself in this kind of dating world and breathing a sigh of relief that my husband and I are friends and partners. I know these things happen in our world but I don’t want to participate in them. I question a culture that values the needs of the individual at the expense of the other. I wonder where love, service, devotion and faith fit into a world that tells us we can have what we want, when we want it with no expectation of connection, relationship or true knowledge of the other. It’s terrifying to me that my boys may grow up in a world where relationships aren’t valued, where there is no desire to know another, where everything is about the self and how you can please that ‘self’.
I’m old fashioned I know but these attitudes about sexuality are not just about sexuality, they have permeated more aspects of our lives than we care to admit. It’s becoming acceptable to be selfish. It’s normal to proclaim that we deserve happiness or money or whatever the flavour of the month is. Selfishness is acceptable now. In fact I think it’s almost expected. This concerns me. I see it permeating every aspect of life and find myself fighting it. I fight back against the idea that I should not serve others. I fight back against the idea that I should always come first. I fight back agains the idea that I deserve anything and I try to remember that what I have is a gift from God to be used in service to him.
As a follower of Jesus I find myself turning to him as an example for how to live life. He placed others ahead of himself, shared stories of grace and love and taught his followers to go out into the world living as he himself lived. He didn’t say go out and take care of yourself before others. He said get out there and share this great thing that you know. Get out there and give what you’ve received to others.
That’s what’s missing in this world today. The give what you’ve got to others mentality. We’ve built a society around the idea that we can acquire, accumulate and control what is on this earth. We must let that go. In order for us to be healthy, for our Churches to thrive, for our people to be cared for we need to let go of what we want and move forward with what God wants. Our selfish ambitions and desire for success, for comfort and control are preventing us from truly living the light sharing, Gospel spreading life that we are called into.
We need to fight back. We need to fight against the notion that we serve ourselves over others. We need to remember who we serve and live as Jesus lived. It’s a fight, no doubt. It’s a constant struggle against what we hear but when we do it, when we live this way we see great things happen through God. Are we ready to surrender our desires and expectations for God’s vision and purpose? Are we ready to serve God or will we serve ourselves?
Yesterday I handed out mustard seeds at church. Have you seen a mustard seed? No? You’re obviously not a fan of grainy mustard. Mustard seeds are many things. They are delicious and spicy, small and fully of promise. The mustard seed is more than meets the eye. Obviously I preached on Mark and the mustard seed and all manner of good things that can come from small packages. I love worshipping with this congregation and it was a wonderful day but something happened at the end of it that made me realize just how important small things can be.
The minister of that congregation (I withhold his name only because I don’t know if he wants to be an internet celebrity – ha ha) had just returned from a pilgrimage to Iona. He gifted me with a rock from the beach where Saint Columba landed and said to me “who knows, maybe he walked on this rock”. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t but this rock and I have bonded over the past 24 hours. I turned the rock over and over in my hand as we drove home from church marvelling at it’s smooth surface and the pristine qualities of it. I found myself telling Alvin stories of Iona and my longing to go there. We spoke of travelling there together and weren’t hindered by road blocks but instead spoke positively as if it could happen. I thought about ways I could get more involved in the church again and began thinking that perhaps it was time to think beyond the present. This rock, this small white rock was a gift filled with possibilities for me. When it arrived in my midst it became more than just that rock, it was a seed. A seed that if planted will grow in it’s own time, in it’s own way.
Each day we are presented with seeds in our lives that if planted will grow and become something bigger than ourselves. The key thing we often miss is the actual planting of them. When ideas strike, opportunities happen or something just seeks to work out we often hesitate and prevent things from beginning. I find myself thinking of the farmer from yesterday’s passage who just scattered the seeds and things grew. If only we as God’s people took what we had and scattered it far and wide. Imagine what would grow then. Imagine the possibilities that might be realized.
I walked out into the hall carefully shutting the door behind me. Only 10 minutes since I’d gone to bed but there was something (or rather someone) nudging me to go try and be alone in the dark for a while. “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that saved my life over and over again, so there really is only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.” She said. That she being Barbara Brown Taylor who wrote the book I was reading Learning to walk in the dark.
Go out and experience it, she urges. Meet yourself in the dark and discover what you find.
I crept into the hall quietly, determined not to wake my husband or the baby. Closing the door I found myself looking at nothing. Not a haze of outlines or even shadows of grey. There was nothing in the darkness. Nothing ahead or behind. It’s a cavernous hallway of nothing.
Nothingness as most of us know it is not so bad. I’ve never been afraid to be alone with myself. I love to read and have spent many an afternoon tucked away with a good book. I have often slept in the sun like a cat on the love seat in my living room on Sunday afternoons away from the world and it’s distractions. There can be nothing happening in the house and I am happy to putter and move around completely content to be alone and quiet. This nothingness as we know it in our culture is different from the nothingness that comes from being in the dark. This nothingness is chosen. Darkness just comes, each night to meet you if you let it.
When vision is no longer an option you’re left relying on other senses, other ways of experiencing the world and that can be challenging when one is used to seeing. Those of us who have vision rely heavily on sight. I hadn’t really thought about how heavily until I started reading Rev. Taylor’s book. What we see often pulls us away. We see dinky cars and lego scattered on the floor that needs to be dealt with. We see piles of dishes and stacks of paper that need to be put away. We notice things that must be done and find ways to entertain and distract ourselves. In the dark I see none of those things. I just exist in this moment and space. Any distractions are of my own making. I have to control my thoughts and surrender to the nothingness. I started to get a sense for why she encouraged this exploration. The darkness offers something completely different to the light. Did I want to accept what it offered? Was I ready for what it could give me?
I come face to face with myself in the dark. In the quiet stillness I can hear more of what is being whispered to me. With no distractions I am able to commune with God on a different level if I allow it. The question remains, do I want to hear it? The darkness brings with it a forced time of reflection and contemplation. If I turn off the lights and embrace what darkness offers I have chosen to exist in a way that was long ago forgotten. This is the age of street lights and night lights, of monitors and digital alarm clocks. Darkness in this age is hard to find. I wonder if the extension of day into night in our age of progress and productivity is merely a reflection of our fear of being alone with our thoughts and our God. I wonder what would happen if we consciously embraced the darkness and all it offers.
This morning started out like any other day. I got up and brewed myself a decaf Keurig coffee. I drank it pretending it was fully caffeinated and then set about making breakfast. The boys then went their way while I went mine and as I was making the bed before my shower I walked into a large puddle of water. I wondered if I had walked through the room with water and spilled it. Then realizing that I had not in fact done this I started searching for the source. It was water from the dishwasher seeping into the bedroom.
We live in a bungalow which is great except in cases of emergency. This will be the second time in 8 years that my bedroom has been completely ripped apart due to water damage. This time I’m quite pregnant and not at all looking forward to sleeping on the couch. At least I won’t have to move out. They can contain the dust and mess by shutting the door and opening windows. There won’t be cutting and stripping and fumes which would run me out of the house. I’m pleased with that but I am not really looking forward to putting everything back together.
Just when you start to feel sorry for yourself, life has a way of putting everything into perspective as it did this afternoon. The insurance adjuster showed up and told me his next call after ours was a fatality due to fire. I realized in that moment that our problem isn’t that big a deal. So our life is a little messy for a little while, who cares? We are lucky to have one another. We have not lost a loved one. We are blessed to have a God who cares and is invested in us. We are fortunate to be covered by insurance. We are able to replace the appliance that caused us trouble in the first place. Things could be a lot worse.
I’ve never been one who believes that ‘everything happens for a reason’. I find that poor theology. It takes away from the choices that we make in life and doesn’t account for the truly horrible things that happen seemingly just because. What I have always believed is that things happen and we can deal with them through strength we find in God, in one another and in ourselves. God goes with us in our lives and supports us as we live them but things happen and not always for a reason. How we deal with those things makes us who we are.
While the cleanup is happening and we are moderately inconvenienced I shall endeavour to remain positive. I will remind myself it could be worse and I will not waste time wallowing in self pity or despair. After all Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians,“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT)
If everything we do is to be done for the glory of God than people should see the light and glory in everything we do. Our actions and reactions should reflect the grace and peace that we are offered. Over the coming week I will try to shine light in this world and with as messy as our house is going to be I anticipate being in the world a lot more than usual for the next little while.