A bit about our Christmas and why we’re okay with however it turns out.

photo 6

Outwardly, there’s no right way to do Christmas.  Can we just clear that up straight away?

I contend that the right way is opening gifts on Christmas morning but my husband tried to argue in the early years of our marriage, that it was Christmas Eve when everything was supposed to be torn open.  I won early on, not because I’m right but because I have a stubborn streak and I tend to think that my ways are best.

We’ve talked at length around here about having idols of our own opinions so I won’t go into that again.  I just thank the Lord that He is patient. (as is my husband!)

My son asked last night why there were no commercials on TV about worshipping Jesus at Christmas.

Bless him.

He was completely confused by the fact that it’s all about toys and wrapping and this made my mama heart swoon because he’s getting something.  He’s seeing that we celebrate different.

But come into my house and you’ll see a tree all decorated up.  You’ll see twinkly lights and sparkly ornaments.  You’ll see stockings hung and presents galore under the tree.  Much like anyone else’s house this time of year, I suspect.

So how is what we do different?

photo 3

Trade Secret: See that computer and bible through the fireplace. That’s where I sit on the floor and write my blogs. Cause: WARMTH!

We bake all the treats and play all the carols and attend all the functions just like everyone else.

I hate the word balance because it’s an elusive little snake.  I long for it in all facets of life but I’m much more swayed from radical end to radical end than ever finding that sweet little spot in the middle.  In fact, I’ve stopped striving for it because I’m not sure it even exists.

But early this season it crept in for a second.  The question of how we keep it all in balance at Christmas.  Because there’s nothing wrong with all the cookies and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to gift big and there’s nothing wrong with gorgeous ornaments.  There’s not.

We can be dillusional about it if we want, thinking that simple is better or more right or even more holy.  But its not.

We can think that having more nativities around the house than Santas makes us more spiritual, but it doesn’t.

We can shine up the outside of the cup, decking our halls with homemade trinkets, spending little to seem more righteous and more “I’m not getting caught up in it all”.  We can give to all of the charities and stand and ring that bell beside the kettle hoping people will give to our worthy cause.

But these things don’t make us bigger God lovers.  We learned long ago that it’s all about the heart, right?  We know that our actions are like filthy rags.  (Isaiah 64:6)  We learned that Jesus had words for the Pharisees that were of the “woe to you” variety.  (Read Matthew 23, if you dare) And can we just remember that they did EVERYTHING right.  We’re talking tithing and praying and ‘caring’ for the poor.  Except that heart bit.  That’s the part they lacked.

There is one little verse in 1 Peter that I’m holding close this Christmas.  Just a simple sentence.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. (1 Peter 1:8a)

That.  That makes my heart swoon.  It makes me feel all the feelings and if I’m perfectly honest sort of takes my breath away.  The first time I read it a few days ago I had to stop.   I had to just sit there, under those 9 words and let them penetrate ever fiber of my being.  And then I smiled the goofy smile because, yes!  That.

This is my verse this Christmas.  No, I have not seen him but oh my goodness do I ever love him.  And if everything that happens this season flows from there?  Well, somehow I think it’ll all turn out alright.

photo 7

Even if we give too many gifts, or eat too many cookies or get a bit stressed about all of the food making it to the table on time.  Even if we snap at our kids or they cheek at us or we feel some sort of disappointment about how it all shakes down. Holidays are hard and movies have shaped us to think that miracles happen at Christmas.  That somehow family comes around the table and there is nothing but joy, though much of the year has been heartache.  That somehow children tear open presents and have nothing but thankfulness in their heart, when greed is what controls the rest of the year.  We convince ourselves that things are different at Christmas.

And they can be, yes.  But more likely it’ll be just another day.  Just another day living on this earth as a broken human surrounded by other broken humans and we all seem to be in close quarters for a few days which means we just have a whole lot more opportunity to hurt each other.  Or let each other down.  Or expect more from each other.

This Christmas I’m holding on to only one truth.  I’m letting down the veil that tells me it all needs to be perfect.  I’m reminding myself that smiley happy grins painted on hurting  faces isn’t better.  I’m opting for real.  To remember that we live in a tragically hurting world full of broken people, me being one of them.  So this day will be filled with broken but it’s okay because though I haven’t seen him, man I love him.

And love can cover a multitude of sins.  (1 Peter 4:8) And love shapes the way we do everything.  And love means that we forgive.  And love focuses on the good and encourages and is patient.  And love is extravagant. And radical.  And what we’re here for.

I love him.

It’s the only thing that makes the tree different and the presents different and the turkey different.  It’s the only thing that will make our day different.  It’s the only thing that makes me different.

photo 4

So it doesn’t matter how we deck or undeck our halls.  It doesn’t matter if we celebrate Christmas Day or Christmas Eve or rather observe all the Jewish Festivals because that’s what Jesus would have done.  It doesn’t matter if our tree is gigantic and expensively adorned, or teeny and kind of sagging to one side.  It doesn’t matter if you slaved over everything from scratch or popped those cranberries straight out of the can.

The real and only pressing question this season is this, do you love Him?

He takes all forms: snake, angel of light, comfortable sofa

photo copy 3

We started early this year with the preparations of the season.  For I know my heart and I know our ways are flawed and while family devotions every night is our goal, we know we won’t reach that lofty place.  We get that 5 out of 7 is more our reality.  As much as we long for perfection, we know it is not ours to have.

Our souls become weary and we slip into me-mode and we forget that in an upside down kingdom things are opposite to everything we naturally want.  So we curl up on the couch, the fire roaring behind us and we lose ourselves in its comfort.  We tuck a blanket up under our feet and we nestle down so our head rests just slightly on the pillow and we sigh.  This is what we need.

Someone grabs that remote and we stay in the spirit of the season by clicking play on a Christmas movie instead of some random sitcom.  We taste the pepperminty sticks on our lips and sip the warm drinks and we exhale.  This is what we deserve.

At the end of the bustle of our days, the picking up and dropping off of children, the watching of sports games, the feeding of hungry boys looking at me with pleading in their eyes of what’s for dinner.  At the end of the laundry and the floors tidied and the little teeth all brushed and the stress of the work day we just need a few minutes.  As the sky turns black and the lights from neighbouring houses shine around, glittering up the night, we tell ourselves lies.

I tell myself that I just need a few moments to myself.  Me and Instagram.  I tell myself that we all just need to unwind and so we flick on the screen.  I tell myself that I just need a few seconds of quiet and handing them their iPads will so quickly lull them into a silence that makes me smile.

The biggest threat to our families spiritual well being just now is not persecution.  It’s not suffering.  It’s not doubts based on heavy circumstances or weighty life challenges.  It’s not fear of death for having a copy of the Holy Scripture or lacking time to open it up.

The biggest challenge in our life of following God is our excess.

Our couch.  The remote.  All the free App’s in the iTunes store.  It’s the fire place right there in the living room and the blankets too many to number that keep us all cozy.  It’s cupboards filled with too much food and closets with all the warmth we could ever need and sickeningly more.

The biggest challenge for us right now is to follow God when we’re just so comfortable.

We would say with our mouths that we don’t value that comfort above our Lord and Saviour but the nights that we slide onto that couch and we flip through our screens because it’s so much easier than opening up the Word of God is telling, no?

Having the couch we always wanted to have could be our biggest downfall.  The couch that woos us to come.  The couch that nestles us in and says, don’t get up.  The couch that tell us not to work anymore.  No more hard for today.  You’ve done enough.

Could the temptation of Satan in our lives come in the form of a sofa?  Could it come in the form of a handheld device vying for our time and us, repeatedly, giving it more attention than the one who tells us He died because He loves us?  I contend it could.

The angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she had found favour with God.  We don’t know why, at this point.  We don’t know the particulars of her life, how she spent her days or the mode of her very heart.  But we get to see a bit of her character in her response after being told she will bear a child who will be called Son of the Most High.

Her words are beautiful and offer us a glimpse into her heart, into her very soul.

I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)

In other words, Yes.

Yes, Lord,  I will.

Yes, Lord, whatever you have planned.

Yes, Lord, may it be as you say.

Yes, Lord, this is not going to be easy and I will have to suffer the looks of those who don’t believe and I will have to endure the stares of the scoffers and I will have to let them talk of me and say that I’m a liar and I must be sexually promiscuous and have been unfaithful to my betrothed.

Yes, Lord, I will give up my body and the comforts of it being my own for You.

Yes, Lord, I will bring forth this baby with the great pains of child birth because it’s what you’ve asked.

Yes, Lord, I will raise this child up in the fear and discipline of You.

Yes, Lord, I will watch as You take Him away from me, this child that you gave, and be there as he suffers a most heinous death.

Yes, Lord.  Yes.

Yes.

Because it’s not comfort I seek or unwinding that I crave or the indulgences of this world that I need.  It’s you.

It’s not accolades from my townspeople that I want or the kingdom that you’d think would come from raising a King that I desire or the promise of an easy life because I’ve agreed to take on this task that you should give.

It’s what you’ve asked and so I will.

It’s never easy, what God calls us to.  It doesn’t ever promise that, rather sacrifice.  It rarely allows for comfort.  It doesn’t mean exaltation from those looking in.  It doesn’t mean a couch and a roaring fire and blankets and netflix.

It means selflessness and servanthood.  It means others might think we’re weird.  It takes effort and work and toil and sweat and sometimes even blood.  It means dying to all of the things our culture tells us we need and instead praying for our enemies and those who curse.  It means if we have two we give one away.

Oh, that I might have the heart and character of Mary.

I don’t, with my iPhone and my sofa.  But I want to.  I want to be able to say like she did, no matter what I’m called to, I am the servant of the Lord.

 

And, my biggest fear is…..!

photo copy

I have a fear.

And in the words of one of my closest friends, “It’s a whopper!”

She didn’t say that.  But she would, if I told her.

I’ve decided to tell you instead.  Because I think maybe some of you can relate.  I hope you can’t.  I hope you don’t have the silly complex that I do but maybe.

We sat around a campfire in the cool evenings of summer and we talked one night about fears.  We all listed our greatest ones and were astounded by how lame the other peoples fears seemed but how really big ours did.

It’s the way it is with fear.  It seems big.  To you.  When it’s yours.  Everyone else can see that it’s kinda silly.  Because fear doesn’t come from a place of wisdom or logic.  Fear is simply emotion.  Dare I say, warped emotion?  I mean, there really is little to fear about mice but I will jump up on the highest surface and squeal should I see one!  It’s never because one has harmed me.  Or because I should fear it.  It’s because something (movies, culture, lies) has told me that they are to be feared.

Fear rarely comes from a place of rational thought though, and rather from a mind overthinking or allowing an overthinker to breathe into us.  He’s rotten that one certain over thinker.  He shows up in the form of a serpent and he has to disguise himself to trick people into thinking he’s an angel of light.  Christ, however, leaves very little wiggle room for fear in our life.  He clearly tells us not to have them.  (except for the fear of Him which is a different ball game altogether!)

He tells his people time and time again not to fear.  Why?  Because he’s with them.  (Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 10:41, Psalm 56:11, I could go on all day.)

And yet, it could be the dark or the spider or that our husband might leave us or that we may lose our job or that our kids would stray or be born with something we weren’t expecting.  It could be moving to the unknown or losing a parent or getting up in front of a crowd.

OR, if you’re like me, it could be that you fear becoming too churchy lady like.  *cue crickets*

Its true people.  It’s a thing.

Churchy ladies, to me, were those ones who were always dressed just right in church.  They wore suits even sometimes.  Their childen sat impeccably beside them the whole service and they wouldn’t wiggle during prayer or get the giggles during communion.  They were the ones who went to the sides to pray for people who needed that and they knew all the scripture verses to write in cards for anyone on any given occasion.  They thanked Jesus for everything and knew all was His and held very little in their hands.  They went to bible study to learn more about the Jesus they love (though they already knew EVERYthing) and they made meals for sick people and volunteered to bring food to the hungry.

You know, churchy ladies.

So, I sat in bible study last week (no comments, please) and I was learning deeper what the parables Jesus told were actually talking about and I was wearing a dress thingie that two people commented on (in a good way!) and I had my bible opened and I nodded in agreement with the prayer being offered up thanking Jesus that we could be there and learn more about Him.  Afterwards I picked up my kids and we talked about what sort of extra thing we could do to help someone in need this Christmas season.  Something above and beyond in this season of giving.  Then on Sunday my kids all sat beside us in the row.  (but they giggled and had cough attacks and had to go get water a million times and then had to go to the bathroom the same amount)

The picture from the outside looking in started to scare me though.  Because it’s awfully churchy lady like.  And churchy lady was not who I was am!

I tell myself that I’m real and to the point and raw.  I tell myself that I’m different because sometimes I wear ripped jeans and Converse to church.  I tell myself that I’m cooler than a churchy lady because I have a ring in my nose and a tattoo wrapping around my arm.  In fact, I’ve so aligned myself as anti-churchy lady that I probably have/do most of these things just so I can say things like, “No, I’m not! Look!  I have a tattoo!”  Leaving out the fact that it’s a cross.  And my husbands name.  My two covenants.  Lord, help me.

And then I scream and want to cry because I am the new version of churchy lady!!

My identity doesn’t want to be.  I want to kick and scream against it but when you line the blocks all up it only adds up to one thing.

I love Jesus.

Like, LOVE Him.

And when you do, well, it changes you.

It changes you into a crazy bible studier because you simply can’t get enough of Him and you want more and more and so you read and dig in and study the history so that it makes more sense.

And it changes you into a prayer who stops people in parking lots and says ridiculous things like, “Can I just pray for you before you go?” and then right there you close your eyes and pray out loud even when people could be walking by and hear!  But you do it because you know your Jesus hears you and answers prayer and why wait until later when you can just right here and now put your hand on their arm and they can hear you and join in with you as you approach your Heavenly Father.

And it changes you into a Thank-You Jesuser.  Like, all the time with the Thank-You Jesus’!  Because you see that everything around you is from Him and you can’t not look at the sun rising over the mountains or see the clouds painted as though on the great canvas that is the sky and not whisper thanks.  You can’t go into the hospital room and simply congratulate the mama and pop’s on a job well done without knowing that this little life wouldn’t be here without the Giver of Life.  And you can’t even get out of bed in the morning without recognizing that the very beating of your heart and breath in your lungs are from Him and so you thank him.

Like a churchy lady would.

And like that you type it out and process the fact that you are who you are because Christ is in you.  You are who you are because you are continually trying to throw off the things that entangle and clothe yourself in Him.  You are who you are because He’s shown His grace to you though you don’t deserve an ounce of it and when someone gives their life for yours?  It changes you.

I admit the fear may come back and I may have to swear or smoke a cigarette to feel badass again.  (kidding mom!)  But I see now that those women I judged from afar were simply becoming more like Jesus.  And now I see that I want to be like them because I want to be like Him.  And He did some churchy lady things like going off into the wilderness to pray and teaching in the temple and feeding the poor and stopping the adulterer right there in the open to tell her to change her ways.  Of course, he also tipped over some tables and cursed a fig tree and called the Pharisees a brood of vipers, which makes me love Him and want to be like Him even more!

 

**Stayed tuned next week as I dive into the fine-line between being a churchy lady and a Pharisee.  You won’t wanna miss it!

Impossible.

photo

I admit there are times when I give up.  I’m not proud of this or saying you should follow suit, just being truthful.

I give up on things that seem impossible.  Because, well – THEY SEEM IMPOSSIBLE!

I give up on things like the homeless having a home, broken marriages getting back together, rehabilitation of convicts.  Mid-November I give up on the sun ever shining again and that peace and calm can ever be the general tone of now until Christmas.  I give up on my boys ever realizing that video games are not the greatest thing in the world, I give up on North America in general as we buy and buy and buy while people die from lack of clean water and I give up on the very fact that God is as mighty as He says He is, as evidenced by the fact that I give up on things.

In our family devotions the other night we were asked a simple question after the scripture reading and it went something like this, “What impossible thing are you longing for?”

It wasn’t until sitting under this question for awhile that I realized that I didn’t have a sense of longing for the impossible because, quite simply,  I give up on the impossible.  It wasn’t until muddling this around in my mind that I realized that I like possibles.  I like things that I can make happen.  I like action and involvement and changing the outcomes of the day.  I like tangibles and accomplishment and checking things off of lists.

The problem with all of that?  I don’t have to lean into God for the possible.  I don’t have to plead and pray for things that I can accomplish on my own strength.  I don’t have to cry out and persist and endure when I can simply check it off the list on my own.  I don’t have to offer things into Jesus hands when I can simply take charge and control.

So it’s easier to just give up on the things I can’t do on my own.  It’s easier to chalk those things up to never-gonna-happens and move on to things that actually might.  Things that show results.  Things that make me feel like I’ve been productive and my time has been well spent.

The other problem with all of that?  The entirety of scripture!  Time and time again we see God do the impossible.  Over and over we see Him do things that we can never ever do!  (Like, ever)  We see him topple city walls and part seas, we see him demolish armies and protect His people through incredible situations.  We see him heal the leper and make the blind see and turn the tax collectors to Himself.  We see Him use simple fisherman to accomplish His purposes and we see Him use the very words of His mouth to create all things.

Bottom line?  He is a God of the impossible.

I’ve even seen it.  I’ve seen Him reveal things through dreams and I’ve seen Him provide when there was nothing and I’ve seen Him restore marriages that seemed unfixable.  I’ve seen Him heal and I’ve seen Him use the weak and I’ve seen Him bring the most unlikely to Himself.  (hello, me!)

I’ve seen these things with my own eyes.  Like, actually seen them.  We are literally that family that had anonymous grocery gift cards arrive in the mail in a season where we just didn’t know how the budget was going to allow for food.  We are that family that has had exactly the amount of money gifted to us on the same day that we were given a repair bill for our truck and my husband was still seeking work.  We have watched marriages that were so far gone come back together.  We have watched as couples have laid their sin on the table and sought repentance and forgiveness before God and have come back together to live as one.

We’ve seen it!  With our eyes!

And yet, like the Israelites wandering in the desert, I give up.  Like they forgot that God had just parted the freaking sea for them to walk across and they grumble about how they’re going to eat, I forget the things I’ve seen Him do in our lives and the lives of people around us and I think, “Impossible!”

I’m so quick to forget.  I’m so quick to give up.  I’m so quick to assume that there is no hope.

The question in our devotion time snapped me back to see this in myself and it made me sad.  Because if I’m not longing for the impossible then it means that I’m not praying for it.  And if I’m not praying for it, it means I’m not modeling for my children that we believe in a God of impossibilities.  I’m teaching my very lack of faith to my kids by not longing for that which is so beyond our very own fingertips.

This advent season we’ve decided to change that.  We’ve decided that God, in His mercy, has shown us just how little faith we have and we have decided that we want more.  We are going to ask Him for more and we’re going to start longing for the impossible.

And so?  We’re praying for it.  We’re praying for orphaned babies to all have homes and for those who have nothing to eat to have bread for today.  We’re praying for marriages that are so far apart to be reconciled.  We’re praying for homes for the homeless and rest for the weary and extravagant love to be shown to the unloveable.  We’re praying for healing for the sick and we’re praying that those who are so far from Him would see His glorious face and kneel before Him.

This advent we’re focusing on a God of miracles.  A God of hope.  A God who can do all that which seems so impossible.  And we’ve decided that we’re not giving up.  He’s proved Himself faithful time and time again and we know that He will continue to do so!

We’re invigorated.  We’re passionate.  Know what else?  Our prayers have reflected it.  They are more earnest and more necessary than ever because we want things that we can’t do on our own.  We are relying on His strength and mercy and nothing of our own to accomplish things we never can.

What impossible thing are you longing for?  Don’t give up.  Keep longing and know that with Christ the impossible becomes possible and there is hope for all.

May the God of hope show you the impossible this advent, the impossible in a virgin being with child, the impossible of God come in the form of a babe, the impossible of angels appearing to man, the impossible of the escape of slaughter for the Christ babe, the impossible of a perfect lamb being slain for us, the impossible of the resurrection and the impossible of us, weary sojourners, sinners who deserve nothing, being shown grace.

We serve a God of the impossible made possible.  As such, let’s remember that there is hope and stop giving up.  Let’s continue to ask him for the impossible and marvel at His work.

Why Advent?

photo 5

When I was a kid I didn’t really understand what the lighting of the candles was each week leading up until Christmas.  I only saw it in much the same way that I saw my waxy chocolate calendar – as a countdown to presents!  Those little numbered cardboard doors opened each day just meant we were one day closer.  You could taste the anticipation!  (If only it tasted like actual chocolate…)

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized the purpose of advent.  Advent, which is a term meaning ‘coming’ is a time to anticipate the coming of our Lord to this earth.   I learned that it was a time of preparing  and a time of contemplation.  I learned that it’s a  time of readying our heart before the Lord for the celebration of the arrival of His Son, Jesus, to this earth.  It’s a time to refocus and live out our faith in a time where culture teaches that it’s often about glitz and glitter and stuff and more.  It’s a time to set apart, to clear away all that entangles, and open a space in our heart for what this season is really all about.

What I have loved most about practicing advent is the intentionality of it.  When you take time each day to read scripture, to study the events leading up to Jesus birth, to pray and yes, even to light the candles it changes the whole dynamic of the season.

For us, it becomes less about a count down to presents and more about a slow building of joy in our hearts to celebrate  the miraculous birth.  It becomes less a time of stress and performance and having all of the baked things baked, and reminds us every single day (because we need reminding every. single. day) that it’s not about all of that, but about a child born to die.  For us.  And when that becomes the focus?  Well, let’s just say it changes things more than a little.

photo 1

I’ve also realized not to overcomplicate things that are meant to uncomplicate.

We can worry about getting just the right advent readings or just the right devotional.  We can feel like the one with poetry and pretty pictures is better than the one that’s just scripture.  We can get caught up in having the right candles to light and the prettiest display of what is so important to us.

But that kind of goes against the whole dealio.

If we take our cue from a young mama and her betrothed, who birthed the Son of God in a barn?  Well, we’d realize we could probably worry less about how we do it and just get on with the doing of it!

Not sure how to start?  Here’s what we do.  Go online and find some readings for each day.  There are about a gazillion options and you can’t go wrong with any of them that include scripture.

photo 2

Find 5 candles and plunk ‘em somewhere you’ll remember to light them.

And then do it!

Read.  Pray.  Light.

It’s really that easy and I just know it will only be good.

My kids are a bit bigger this year so I’ve added a devotional only because they can sit still for longer.  It has discussion questions to lead us in conversation following dinner, which I love because I don’t have to think of them.  And I plunked my candles in jars I already have.   That’s how fancy we’ve gotten.  It doesn’t take a lot.  Mostly time and a desire in your heart and home to focus this season on the birth of a King.

How do you do advent?  If you do?  I’d love to know.

Where are you?

IMG_0287

I sat in a too small chair at a desk this morning with three adults peering across at me.  The walls surrounding were like every single classroom I have ever been in.  A certain beige dullness covered up with calendars and posters of fractions and word problems written on the board.

This is the place my child spends hours upon hours each day.  It’s very sterile and orderly.  Kind of cold, even.  I suddenly understand more why home is designed to be cozy and warm.  Safe and comforting.  Because this room doesn’t put that forth, though the faces staring at me do.

I start to wish that classrooms had flowy curtains and throw pillows.  Maybe some ambient music and a bit dimmer lighting.  Something to make it feel just a tad bit less like a hospital, this place where our children are each day.  Yes, I’m sitting in parent/teacher interviews and in my mind I’m decorating the room.  I will not apologize for it.  (A fireplace in the corner, perhaps?  Just a thought…)

I admit I went in a bit upset.  I was less than thrilled with the particular report card I’d just received and I wanted clarity and answers as to why my never-had-these-kinds-of-grades-before child suddenly had THESE kinds of grades.

I expected, somehow in my warped thinking, that this was their fault.  It had to be.  My son had always done well until now and so it must be something this new set of teachers was doing wrong that had altered his life in a negative way.  That it had to be their lack of care that made his shining happy history into a big black X of a report card.

In my mind I had all the questions ready.  Why aren’t you teaching him so he understands?  Why aren’t you spending more time with him?  Why can’t he come and get extra help when it’s hard?  Why are there not more things he could be doing to improve?  Why do you not care?  Why aren’t you with him?  Don’t you love him?

Of course none of these questions even made it off of my lips because what met me across that small desk was a different tone, a different look in their eye.  What came out of their mouth was so different then what I had perceived would come.  They were warm and soft and phrases like, “We’re here to help,” and “We want to see him successful,” came from their hearts.  They talked of how lovely my boy is and how he always has a smile on his face and a heart full of kindness.  They talked of how helpful he is to his peers and teachers and what a pleasure he is to have around.  And then they got real and told it like it is.  “But,”  they said, “he has to want it.”

Hmm.  Right.

So, it turns out when you sit across a table and look them in the eye and get the real story it changes things a little.  This boy that’s struggling just now?  Well, it’s not because he’s got bad teachers, it’s because he doesn’t ask for help.  He doesn’t redo quizzes he’s done poorly on.  He doesn’t seek clarification when things have gone wrong.  He doesn’t spend the time to go slowly and do it right but rather rushes through to simply get the task done in a manner that appeases.

I say this not to belittle my son or his work ethic to all the land, we’ve decided to chalk this term up to a glitch in the system and move on.  I say it because it reminded me so clearly of our life before our heavenly Father and I was so thankful for the picture it created in my mind.

For years my son has skipped along through school and for years of my life I, too, have skipped along.  Maybe you have too.  But then a time comes, a season, a year, a decade where it’s all going wrong.  The report card isn’t reading like it ought.  Life isn’t going as it should.  This is not how it’s supposed to be and this is not what we signed up for.

In these times, it becomes easy to speak to God exactly how I was ready to speak to my boys teachers.  We ask all the questions about, “Where are you?” and “Why aren’t you helping me?”  We throw out accusations about why He doesn’t care and we question whether He really loves us.

But this is what I know, when you don’t simply turn your back and you actually sit across the desk from The Great Teacher and you look Him in the eye, His response is much more like my boys teachers were than what we expect.

He says, I’m here.

He says, I’ve always been here.

He says, why haven’t you come to me.

He says, I want to help.

He says, I want to refine.

He says, I’m right here and I always have been.

He turns the question back on us, where are you?

And the truth of it is, sometimes we rush through our homework and we fail to sit before God and really take in what He has for us.  We read through that feel-good God book that someone wrote and we’re encouraged but we aren’t taking the time to sit under THE book that He gave us as a window to who He is.

We, in all our controlling nature, begin to solve the problems with our minds or our abilities or our pocketbook instead of taking them to Him and asking for help.

We may think we know the answers and think we get it and so we feel we no longer need to go in for tutoring sessions or show up for class at all!

And then when things go wrong we turn and we make it His fault and we wonder where He could possibly be.

When all along, like my boys teachers, He’s sitting there saying,

“I’m here.  Where are you?”

“I want your good, do you?”

“I want to help, but in order to receive it you have to come.”

We have a God who loves and cares and desires our good.  Are we seeking Him?  Are we turning to Him?  Are we sitting under the authority He gives us on how we ought to live?

Or are we, like my boy, whipping through life, handling it on our own, squeaking by with the least amount of effort to appease?  Are we not asking for help and not going to the source of life,  and then, in all our arrogance, are shocked at what comes and shake our fists at the One who has been sitting there waiting all this time for us to just show up?

He’s there.  He’s waiting.  He wants to help.  He wants our good.  Go to Him.  You will be met with kind and loving eyes that say, “Welcome, i’m so glad you’re here.” 

 

 

 

People Aren’t Projects

I use to want to fix people now I just want to be with them.  ~Bob Goff

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 8.49.25 AM

At the risk of sounding too up on the things of culture and the rapid changes upon us just now (I’m not) I’d like to put forth a theory that goes something like this.

We are a project oriented society.

Maybe we always have been, I can’t really say as this is the only era I’ve lived in.  Maybe when the Wright’s were so busy coming up with ways to fly their grandma’s sat back and said things like, “They’re just so project oriented.”  I contend it could be true.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with projects.  I love a good session of candle making or closet cleaning or cookie baking.  Truth be told, I’ve always been a project oriented person.

As a young’un I didn’t grasp the ways of the Barbie.  I just didn’t understand what to do with her.  Hop-walk her over to her fancy car, sit her in it and then what?  Dress her and place her at a table with her friends?  Why?  For the love, why??  None of it made sense to me.

I tried to engage with my friends in their Barbie playing ways but truly I just wanted to get on my bike and go somewhere or put some tunes on and make up a dance routine or write a song or rearrange my bedroom.  Again.

I liked things that ended with an accomplishment.  A final product.  A, see what I just did with my last 3 hours, manifest.  With Barbie she was just there, nothing accomplished, nothing gained.

Now that I’m well into my adult years the world around me seems to have the same thoughts.  Rarely do you see a Pin that tells you to just sit and do nothing for awhile.  Rest your soul.  Engage with humans.  It’s all very do this and do that.  Bake that thing or compile those leaves into a mobile or make your own soap or cook this amazing dish or chop the sleeves off of that old sweater and make them into ear muffs!  (Okay, I’ve never actually seen that but I’m assuming it could be a thing?!)

At work I have goals for the day.  Certain tasks to accomplish or trajectories to meet.  At school my kids are told what pages of their math text book to complete and when the glass etching they’ve been working on needs to be in.  They’re taught to sew things and to play a tune on the piano and how to write a paper or speak another language.  It’s amazing the things they learn, really.  But they’re all projects.  They all have an end.  Something to show for all the time they put in.

The problem I’m seeing with this project-oriented thing (can we call it a thing?) and the very accomplishment seeking nature of myself is that if we view all of the things in life as something to do and something to work on and something to complete then it begins to taint how we think about people, too.

When our world view becomes finished product, mission accomplished, goal achieved, it’s very difficult to not let this spill over into how we view our relationships or treat the people around us.  It’s very easy to see that friend going through a trial as a project.  It becomes simple to view that new, perhaps needy, person in your life as your new mission.  The one you will convert, fix, change.  It becomes normal to view the people around us as something we need to take on, manage, finish, be able to say, “ta-da!  There they are,” about.

Like, if I just meet them for coffee a few more times and they hear the glorious things I have to say then they’ll get it and change and all will be well.

Or, perhaps if I just teach them the things I know about how to better manage their money then they’ll get it and their life will be better and their problems will go away and they’ll be fixed.

Or, if they would just listen to me I could help, but they don’t.  I talk and talk and talk and they don’t do any of the things I say so what more can I do?

We rub our hands together in delight of a new task, we clap them together when we accomplish said task or we brush them off when we feel like our task is unaccomplishable. (totally a word)

The problem I see with this sort of thinking is Jesus, plain and simple.

Because Jesus doesn’t treat us as projects.  We aren’t His hobby that He works on from time to time and then gets bored with.  We aren’t His painting that He finishes and then hangs on the wall and never gets close to again but just shows off for all to see.  We aren’t His finicky sauce that He tries over and over to make right and then gives up on after numerous failed attempts.

He doesn’t Pin us and then hope to get to us eventually but then sort of forgets or decides He, in fact, is eating grains now so doesn’t need us anymore.  He doesn’t post our lives all over social media as His pinterest fail.  He doesn’t spend hours on us and beam with excitement and a feeling of accomplishment which He documents on Instagram to show off His very adept skills when he’s done.

Why?  Because He’s never done. He isn’t finished with us when we fail.  He doesn’t give up on us.  He doesn’t forget about us.  He doesn’t change his mind on whether we’re worth His time.  He doesn’t use us as a means to feel important.  He doesn’t call us His mission so as to get a check on some religious score card.  He doesn’t invest in us only to the point of what’s easy and then bail when it takes a little more effort.  He doesn’t pass us over to someone else when He feels unskilled.  He doesn’t brush us off like the dust on His hands when we just. aren’t. getting it.

Jesus relationship with his disciples shows me that we aren’t just projects He’s hoping to finish up before the weather turns.  Instead, He taught them over and over and over the very same things.  They saw miraculous events and still didn’t understand and He continued to be patient.  Continued to call them to follow Him.  Continued to invest His time, His teaching and His very life into them. (see Matthew 14 for examples)

People aren’t projects to be completed.  Jesus showed us that.  Bob Goff, in his book Love Does, says,

“I learned that faith isn’t about knowing all of the right stuff or obeying a list of rules.  It’s something more, something more costly because it involves being present and making a sacrifice.  Perhaps that’s why Jesus is sometimes called Immanuel – “God with us.”  I think that’s what God had in mind, for Jesus to be present, to just be with us.  It’s also what He has in mind for us when it comes to other people…..the brand of love Jesus offers is that’s it’s more about presence than undertaking a project.”  

In our very project-minded society, our very accomplish oriented ways, it’s important to remember that people aren’t something to complete but rather, made in the very image of God, something to be close to, present with, live alongside and in relationship with.

You can pin that if you want.