Monday, December 31, 2012

Devotional Classics, you've forever impacted my life.

It's hard to believe nigh on four years ago I started this journey into the depths of riches and community found at  What a life-changing experience this has been and continues to be as I complete the final assignment for my Certificate in Worship Leadership Studies.  Thanks, Dan, for dreaming and birthing such an incredible learning community.  I am forever grateful.

Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, the revised and expanded edition edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, is a compilation of devotional readings selected from the writings of the saints across the ages.  These writings "aim at the transformation of the human personality.  They seek to touch the heart, to address the will, to mold the mind.  They call for radical character formation.  They instill holy habits" [1].

These classic writings are divided into seven sections. Each section lays out a feast of the richest of foods for the soul, gleaned from men and women whose writings give us "perspective and balance" [2] and reveal the need and desire to be formed in our own lives by the love and goodness of God as manifested through the lives of the authors.  

In Preparing for the Spiritual Life, I am challenged to create space for intentional spiritual formation in my life.  While costly, it is far more prudent than the alternative. C.S. Lewis wakens me to awareness that demands are always being made on me and I must choose from where those demands will be met.  He teaches me how to come out of the wind, so to speak, and into the peace where I can be directed by the Voice of the One.  This quote from Dallas Willard I’ve written on a note card I carry with me to commit to memory:
Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10) [3].

The Prayer-Filled Life uncovers a gold-mine of thoughts on how to live a life of prayer.  I struggle to find moments of solitude and silence, but when I read Henri J. M. Nouwen’s piece on “Bringing Solitude into Our Lives,” I found a nugget of wisdom that had yet to occur to me: “But we do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to him.  We may have to write it in black and white in our daily calendar so that nobody else can take away this period of time [emphasis mine]” [4].  I realized that whatever appointment I wrote in my calendar I tended to keep, so I tried it out, penciling in at 6:00 a.m.  “Solitude and Silence,” and wouldn’t you know, I kept that appointment fairly consistently from then on!  And while I’m no longer regularly waking at 6:00 a.m. (different season requiring different schedule), the discipline wore a groove in me to rise, light a candle, and spend time in prayer and meditation as a way to center my day on the One from whom all life flows.

The Virtuous Life encourages me to develop holy habits that keep me in a lifestyle of dying to self and becoming increasingly alive in Christ.  These habits include obedience, perseverance in the race, goodness, love and know God, denial of self, sobriety, resisting and learning from temptation, devotion to God, temperance, communion with the Trinity, etc.  Richard Rolle’s “The Spiritual Flame” inspired the poem here, and I am quickened to develop these holy habits by this quote from Thomas a Kempis: “The beginning of all evil temptations is an unstable mind and a small trust in God” [5].

The Spirit-Empowered Life creates desire to connect more deeply with the Spirit of God who is alive and active in me so that, in the words of Thomas Kelly, I might conduct my “inward life so that [I am] perpetually bowed in worship while [I am] also very busy in the world of daily affairs” [6].  This discipline calls me to an inward life that is in perpetual peace being centered on the Spirit rather than on the tumult without. “For God himself works in our souls, in their deepest depths, taking increasing control as we are progressively willing to be prepared for his wonder” [7].

The Compassionate Life calls me to commit to a life of being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around me, not by imposing my thoughts and beliefs on others; rather, I do it through understanding and compassion and doing the good I can.  John Woolman puts it like this: “…where people are sincerely devoted to follow Christ and dwell under the influence of his Holy Spirit, their stability and firmness through a divine blessing is at times like dew on the tender plants around them, and the weightiness of their spirits secretly works on the minds of others [8]. Hannah Whithall Smith cautions against the constant burden of a life of compassion when it is lived out of obligation rather than love.  The solution to this is the complete giving over of self to Him in complete trust so that He can “work in you to will as to bring your whole wishes and affections into conformity with His own sweet, and lovable, and most lovely will” [9].

In The Word-Centered Life emphasis is placed on the Scriptures and the sharing of the Gospel. I love how E. Stanley Jones brings it down to three habits that Jesus demonstrated: read the Word, pray, and teach.  He also encourages me to “Enlarge the area of [my] conversion, taking in fresh territory every day” [10], challenging me to make sure I am intentional about adding to my basic faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.  Madame Guyon takes the ordinary reading of the Bible and teaches me to slow down and take each word one-by-one and allow the truth and the meaning to sink into the very fibers of my being.

The authors of the Sacramental Life section remind me that all of life is sacred; there is no such division of secular life.  Chesterton introduces me to the joy found in monotony.  Repetition is worked into the fabric of creation by the Creator Himself who delights in the “do it again” of the sun rising and setting bringing purpose to the everyday tasks and guards against them becoming mundane. Staying mindful of the One for whom these tasks are being done keeps me in an attitude of worship instead of drudgery (thanks, Brother Lawrence!). I love how Annie Dillard describes her experience of truly seeing past the “mind’s muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash” [11] to the beauty of the Presence:

So I blurred my eyes and gazed towards the brim of my hat and saw a new world.  I saw the pale white circles roll up, roll up, like the world’s turning, mute and perfect, and I saw the linear flashes, gleaming silver, like stars being born at random down a rolling scroll of time.  Something broke and something opened.  I filled up like a new wineskin.  I breathed an air like light;  I saw a light like water.  I was the lip of a fountain the creek filled forever; I was ether, the leaf in the zephyr; I was flesh-flake, feather, bone [12].

Oh the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God these wonderful saints of God reflect!  I am richer.  I am wiser.  I am more in love with the God of the universe having read the writings of these fellow travelers into the heart of God.  And I have only merely scratched, no brushed, the surface of all that is contained within this book.  So while the assignment is to write a summary of Devotional Classics (a task I find impossible to do), it is more like a small drop of the nectar that Richard Foster and James Smith saw fit to include within.

I am so thankful to have read and re-read and will read again.

1 Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, revised and expanded, edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith (New York: HarperCollins Publisher, 2005), 1
2 ibid, 1
3 ibid, 16
4 ibid, 82
5 ibid, 151
6 ibid, 174
7 ibid, 177
8 ibid, 231
9 ibid, 240
10 ibid, 285
11 ibid, 347
12 ibid, 346

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Blue Hole, so named for its deep, spring-fed waters, takes my breath away as I leap from burning rock of summer heat and plunge into its chilly depths.  Popping up above the surface, an invigorating contrast in temperatures creates a tug-of-war within my body that longs to repeat the adventure while at the same time insisting on avoiding it.

Dripping wet, I emerge from the river to do it again.


Because something happens to enliven this heart as I crawl up the rocky slope to "towering" cliff.  Something breaks when I step across the chicken line and with a "1-2-3" jump off and hold my nose.  

In the repetition of the day-to-day lived life of wake and sleep, eat and clean, wash and dry, teach and correct and repeat, the adventure my heart needs and somewhere longs for gets muffled, even numbed, as the layers of assumed responsibility pile on and the urgent takes a permanent shot-gun seat, nearly silencing the important voice that whispers to me of healing and beauty and simplicity and nurturing and dreaming and living.

Honestly, I prefer warm-to-hot water to bathe or swim in.  There is no shock to my system or need to "get used to" it or blue lips or chattering teeth or shivering limbs. But water comes in all temperatures and sometimes what I want is not necessarily what I most need.

And that is why I jump into Blue Hole every summer.  I need that invigorating wake up in my system that reminds me there is more to life out there than what has become comfortable because sometimes the comfortable is really not functioning very well and needs the uncomfortable to come and shake things up a bit to get me to what's best.

I don't swim it alone.  Families together swim and jump.  My children make the climb with me and in delighted peals and shouts and screams we splash into the Frio River.  Many others go before us.  Still more go after in a perpetual loop of jumps and screams and "do it agains."

There is the intentional connection of togetherness created in this moment that reminds me I am not in the adventure alone.  We prod and encourage each other, reminders that the plunge is indeed worth the shock and the heart-leaping-into-throat.  Community gives me perspective and helps refresh my memory on the important things in life and brings wholeness where I didn't know or remember I needed it.

And so I jump into Blue Hole again, listening to the cheers and laughter of those around me, joining in the calls and shouts to others in need of encouragement to take the plunge yet one more time.

For the Essentials in Spiritual Formation Certificate Studies with Dan Wilt

Friday, December 28, 2012


I yelled it loud, I yelled it long
From deep within
The song went on
Birthed in freedom
The moving Spirit
Flowing through
The Story

Wild adventure
Breathing passion
Ablaze with glory

Strength to draw on
Heart now tended
Burning hot
In singular flame
Trusting the restraint
And purpose

Drawing now
In centered focus
Compelled by love
No longer striving
In His power
Walking forward
Ever onward
In the midst of
Holy Fire

For the Essentials in Spiritual Formation Certificate Studies with Dan Wilt

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blow, Wind, blow

The chaff, take it!  Blow it far away.
It's cluttered my life too long
Hindered my view
Crippled my gait
Kept me in perpetual cycles of guilt

Blow, Wind, blow!
And hold me in the howling waste
Until all is swept away, left clean
Then fill me with Your living voice
Your beauty that awakens breath

Help me remember
Present in this moment
The gifts so freely given

Away, fear, away!
My sails are lifted high
To catch this wind that blows
This boat so small
In sea so wide*
It's love I'm voyaging upon

My heart alive
Inspired to dream
Hope springs anew
As rhythms thrum
His heartbeat strong
Throughout this life reborn

And again and again and again
He never tires of blowing wind
Of chaff released
Of spirits lifted
Of life growing
Catching vision

Blow, wind, blow!

For the Essentials in Spiritual Formation Certificate Studies with Dan Wilt
*song by Garrett Viggers "Brendan {Celtic Saint}"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A little surprise

In this season of being trained to walk by faith, God gave me a little surprise yesterday.

I was shopping with my youngest daughter.  This year we're doing gifts a little differently. To simplify things, we are not buying gifts from big box stores unless it's for supplies to make a gift.  Instead, we are choosing to buy from local stores, thrift stores, artists, and organizations that support fair trade artisans.  Or we're making gifts.

We were in a thrift store and a gift came to mind for my oldest girl.  I walked around awhile until I found the rack it might be on and begin to rummage through the items.  I had a picture in my mind of what I was looking for, and I now know it was a picture from the Holy Spirit because as I got to the item, I knew immediately it had been the voice of the Lord leading me to that store and to that item, specifically.

I took it with me to the check out counter and as I looked down, I noticed that on the inside was written the initials "SH," as if it were hand-picked for my daughter as those are her initials.

I'm thankful for the reminders that He sees and He knows and He cares and He trains me in fun ways to walk His paths by faith.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This season

It's hard for me to understand this season.  It's unlike any I've ever encountered.  Course, probably each new season is that way and if I looked back I might have said the same thing.  But there really is something different, in a harder sort of way.

This one is requiring a different kind of trust, a deeper faith.  Plenty of balls have dropped for me, way more things fallen through the cracks than I care to count, and through it all I fight to believe that God is working and has a plan.

Because a lot of days I feel thwarted on every side to accomplish the tasks that I used to get done with minimal effort.  Even if it took maximum effort, I could get them done.  These days I can't even muster up effort.  It's just not there.

My friend says that it's the undoing of a performance way of life so that I can get to living life.

I waiver back and forth with doubt and doesn't James talk about what that's like?  A man blown and tossed about by the sea.  Yep, that's me.

It's just that everything looks so...different than I anticipated or thought it would...really, thought it should.

Somewhere in all this blowing and tossing and back to re-grounding in trust and faith, I hear a voice whispering that all my undoing is setting the stage for great trailblazing back to an ancient path of peace and faith and trust in the voice of the Holy Spirit saying, "This is the way.  Walk in it."

See, even though I've known Jesus for most of my life and followed His ways and known His voice, I still find myself walking a whole heck-of-a-lot by sight.  And I think He keeps telling me that a day is coming where if we don't know how to walk completely by faith, we will flounder in ways that will have unprecedented repercussions.

But He's so good and kind and gracious that He is relentlessly training me to walk by faith, and He's starting with seemingly inconsequential things like grocery shopping and gift shopping and calendar planning and home schooling.

Gift shopping...occasionally God will highlight a particular gift (usually a book) for someone and I purchase it with the hopes that I have heard correctly, particularly if it's a book I know nothing about.  My aunt has been the recipient of more than one of these books and has always come back to tell me how timely the gift was.  Once I purchased a book for a friend after a nudge from the Holy Spirit but then never gave it to her because I wasn't sure, in the end, if I had really heard correctly.  A year or so later, she was visiting and "randomly" mentioned that she was reading said book and how much it was ministering to her.

So, yesterday, I was looking for gifts and came across a couple of books that I felt a nudge to buy, but then I kept doubting...and not because of the cost because that was minimal...not really sure why I doubted.  And then I came across the title of that book I had bought but never given to my friend and it was as if the Lord was saying, "Remember?  That was a lesson and now I'm bringing it to mind so that you can have peace that this is My Voice.  No need to fear or doubt or worry.  You're hearing Me."

Hearing Him.  That's really what it all boils down to.  Bill Johnson says, "The life is in His voice."


Join me on this journey from sight to faith?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Oh, the chaos

At least that's what it feels like.  Everywhere I turn, there are projects that I need to do.  I had the kids help straighten the house yesterday and they were done in 15 minutes while I was still taking care of something that needed my attention and I still didn't finish it.

The story of my life.

And somehow I tie up into the value of my day and of my worth in what gets accomplish.

I know that is so twisted and I hate that about my perspective.  I think it's slowly changing, though.

One woman who prayed for me had this picture:  God taking my face in His hands and shifting my view from jobs and how well they were/were not getting done to the job do-er and his/her beauty as a person.

It's a hard shift but so very necessary and I've been doing better about seeing my kids in this way but not so much myself.  There's something broken there that needs healing.  The lie says that I'm as valuable as I am productive, which these days is not much.  The truth says that I have value simply because I'm loved by God.

And while my head knows that to be true, I'm still behaving out of the lie and therein lies the chaos, I think.

So, this morning I've lit my candle, had my mug of tea, and cried out for the Shalom peace of God to come bring wholeness and healing to this chaotic thinking that skews worth.  I cry out for you, too.  You who know you can't ever do enough to meet the need and feel the failure day after day.  That's chaos and it's not ours to embrace.

Today, together, let's embrace Shalom that says His peace has come to shatter this darkened way of thinking and to bring life to the broken places.  Let's let Him take our faces in His hands and show us beauty and worth in His us.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Set aside

He set aside His rights and royal robes and kingly crown and came.  Here.  Completely limited Himself to what the human body has to offer and all of the limitations and weakness and frailty.

And I complain when I have to set aside my agenda for a day...when I have to limit myself or experience weakness and frailty.

I can't even imagine what Jesus went from, the contrast from Heaven to earth, from spirit to flesh...

He counted it all joy, marking the path, pointing the way, showing the impossible become set aside, to let it go, and to experience joy not dependent on status or state or that I can today set it aside and count it all joy.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Recently, Ann Voskamp posted about the necessity of writing about our messy lives in order to encourage others with mess...

I confess I haven't written much of late because life has been, well, a mess.

More things drop through the cracks these days because the cracks are wider...the cracks in my memory, in my organization skills, in holding my children accountable, in my calendar, in my general everyday life.

And that makes things messy.  At least they feel very messy.  Piles that I know need to be put away or given away or thrown away or sorted stay in the same places for weeks or months or maybe even a year or more because of all of these cracks.  Projects and cleaning and correspondence and planning go undone while I barely keep up with the immediate and relationship.

But God promised me that He is ok with this mess.  In fact, I'm pretty sure He's orchestrated the whole deal because He wants to get rid of the wax that formerly filled in the cracks.  He's heated things up so that the wax, try as it might, cannot do anything but melt away.

Apparently in days of clay pots, the pots would often come out of the kiln with cracks in them.  The vendors would then cover over the cracks with wax mixed with clay in order to present a pot that looked whole and complete to the buyer.  The new owner of such a pot would not know it's pot had cracks until putting it on the fire and seeing the liquid inside begin to seep out the sides as the cracks were exposed at the melting of the wax.

I was born with cracks.  We all were.  And life and others and ourselves see these cracks and think that in order to make the pot presentable those cracks have to be filled in.

Any crack I fill in of my own accord out of my own strength...well, there are all sorts of problems with that.  Some of the cracks are intended to be there by my Maker.  They make me unique and are part of my giftings.  Some of them come from woundings and from being born into a sinful world.  Those can only be filled in by the Maker.

So I find my focus shifting in this season...from filling in cracks to letting the cracks show.

I'm also realizing that only being able to focus on food and relationship is probably a pretty good thing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

GeeMa, we miss you.

Repost from 2011:

Bonnie Sue Stulken Harbaugh, or GeeMa as the grandkids affectionately call her, was one of the kindest, most loving people I have ever known and I am so blessed to have had her as my mother-in-law.

I know that there are many mother-in-law horror stories, but I have none of those to tell. You see, if Bonnie was anything, she was gracious and hospitable to all who had occasion to cross her doorstep. Whether it was Sunday dinner or a Thanksgiving meal or Christmas Day, she had a knack for making you feel welcomed, loved and part of the family. She wanted everyone to feel included and that most often happened in her kitchen and around her table.

I remember one of the first times I went over for Sunday dinner. She fixed a roast with potatoes and carrots, probably green beans with dill, maybe a jello salad, and some sort of delicious dessert coupled with Blue Bell ice cream…funny, when we were sitting around this week talking about our memories of Bonnie, many of them revolved around the food she would serve: buckeyes, More, Bagel Bites, Pizza, trash, popovers, cornbread dressing…

She loved to have people over. She loved to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and normal days. Even when she worked 12 hour days, she still delighted to host gatherings and knew which foods were must haves and was sure to carve out time to make them from scratch. She always had a yellow notepad with her list of things to do and the timeline carefully noted in her neat handwriting, so that each detail would be taken care of.

Time and time again she demonstrated a life of selfless giving. I watched first as she loved her sons, encouraging them in their interests (well, mostly – I think bull riding as a career stretched her a bit), embracing their friends and welcoming all of us into her home with open arms, welcoming me into her heart as she realized I was the special someone in her son’s life.

I watched her as she made 40+ bows, loop after loop formed by hands already tired from a day of wrapping gifts and making bows for customer’s packages. These bows beautifully adorned the pews on our wedding day.

I watched her as she cared for her sister, quick to be by her side no matter what. I watched her love her father, inviting him to live with them as it became necessary for him to not live alone anymore. 

I watched her love her husband, working side-by-side with him for countless hours, miming turning the volume knob when he was getting a little loud (although the Harbaughs really only know one volume), always respecting, always loving, always kind, always gracious, nary a contrary word between the two.

I watched her faithfully, graciously serve the customers at the mail store, wrapping each gift with great care and artistic flare, carefully typing documents, patiently explaining cost of shipping and time til delivery. I watched her serve the kind ones and the not so kind ones (the ones that came in at closing and wanted their packages wrapped and shipped yesterday) without so much of a complaint or negative word about them. 

I watched her fall in love with each grandchild that came into her world. With each pregnancy of mine, she would exclaim her joy at adding another grandchild and told me she would always welcome more. I never felt criticized or judged, though oftentimes the choices for our family were different from what she knew or grew up with. She embraced me the same way she embraced her own, always treating me as a daughter…not just a daughter-in-law.

She loved carrying on the Friday night pizza tradition with her grandkids. She encouraged each one with words and actions, always seeming to know which little toy from her run to the grocery store would be successful with the grandkids. She understood the importance of every child having a gift to open at birthday parties – not just the birthday child. She would get down on the floor and play with the kids or read to them. She let them take turns spending the night, serving fun snacks like cheezits with marshmallows, putting a little bell by the bed so that she could be summoned if something was needed during the night.

I watched as her health began to decline and she needed more and more assistance with everyday tasks. I watched as care givers would perform the most private of tasks and she would thank each one for their ministrations. Even when speaking became more difficult, it was rare for her to not express her appreciation for the care given her.

And as I watched, I have learned. I have learned that in the end, a life lived in selfless service to those around me is indeed a life well-lived. I am confident that as Bonnie stepped from this world into the arms of Jesus, He said to her: Well done, my good and faithful servant. You did nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. In humility you valued others above yourself and looked to the interests of others rather than your own. Well done. Well done.

We miss her. We miss her laugh, her “whoohoo”, her songs and her stories…the meals around the table. But I know that she now is healed and whole in the presence of the One she served so faithfully with her whole life. And I encourage each us of to carry on her legacy of loving, giving and serving that we might honor her memory until the day we meet again in Heaven.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Minutes rush
and hours sweep by
as guilt-ridden thoughts rise up

Not enough
and somehow more
must be done in quick sand

The leech's
two daughters cry
incessant as the sun beating down


Did you think I wouldn't catch on
that lie masked by noise
so familiar


I see you trying to blend in
but the surroundings
have changed



Narrow is the path
Wide is the way
Less known



Blocks of stumble
Erected by hands misguided
Thinking this is how to make the way narrow
Barricades built rule upon rule
A little here
A little there
Do and do
exhausted on the floor
but no closer to the door

Gently He picks you up
No confusion
No clamoring noise of
Guilt and condemnation
Rest upon rest
Love built on love
Feet on path
fullness of joy
Kingdom found.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I'm coming to realize that I'm not here to be happy.

I understand that the American way is the pursuit of happiness, but I don't think it's the Kingdom way.

In fact, I'm increasingly convinced that the pursuit of happiness (which very quickly becomes a self-centered search) ultimately leads to tremendous emptiness.

Pursuit of the Kingdom, however, leads to fullness.  And that requires, more often than not, that I lay down my right to feeling happy, or at least my right to what I think will make me happy.

I was talking to my sister the other day about this and she said her perspective had shifted from "I'm going to miss out on so much because of this challenge" to "I'm going to miss out on so much more without this challenge in my life."

Happiness does not arise from a life free of challenges or pain or trouble.  Jesus said we'd have those things, but that we can "take heart"...we can have happiness in our hearts through remembering that He has overcome the world.  And because He has overcome the world, we can have peace.

I don't know your pain.  I don't know your unhappiness.  I can't see the hardships that have led you to this place.  And you can't see mine.  But what I do know is that I can't choose my circumstances, but I can choose my heart attitude.  I can choose to not let my happiness depend on attaining a certain goal.  I can choose to pursue the Kingdom...righteousness, peace, joy in every area of my life.  I can choose to relinquish my "right" to the pursuit of happiness as a citizen of the USA and, instead, I can choose the embrace the inheritance of a child of God.

My inheritance is a peace that passes understanding, a joy that never runs dry, and an abundant life that flows with rivers of living water.

It's not easy.  In fact, it will be the hardest thing ever and there will be pain and tears and grief and moments of despair.  But my King is good.  And He is at work.  And He has said that happiness in His Kingdom is found in servant hood and dying to self and becoming like a child.

And I want that because it's the real deal and leads to fullness not emptiness.

And I will learn as I serve to let every act be worship and every sacrifice be praise and every moment be a gift of gratitude.

And I will enter a pursuit of the Kingdom and I will no longer add Kingdom work to my work but, rather, I will just do Kingdom work, God's work, whatever He is doing...that is what I want to be doing too.

O, God, forgive me for seeking after what will make me happy instead of seeking after Your Kingdom and trusting You to add the rest.  Forgive me for being distracted by good ideals and confusing them with Your principles of abundant life.  Forgive me for trying to add Your work to my work.  Teach me how to fully join in with what You are doing.  Let every movement, every breath, every word and meal and lesson and chore be an act of worship that brings praise and honor and glory to You.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The noise inside my head

Step out of the wind, he says
Easier said
Not so easily done
Words mount like
Uneven book stacks
Ready to topple
At smallest movement

I breathe
Try to remember
His whispered name
From barely woken lips
His whispered name
From barely woken thoughts
His whispered name
From barely woken trust

Each morning the same
More noise
Inside my head
Crowding and jostling
For attention
Like toddlers
With no manners

I breathe
Try to remember
His whispered name
From barely woken lips
His whispered name
From barely woken thoughts
His whispered name
From barely woken trust

Not symphony
These parts don't know their places
Their claims audacious
They wobble
Tipping over
Falling to the floor
Spilling out the door

I breathe
Try to remember
His whispered name
From barely woken lips
His whispered name
From barely woken thoughts
His whispered name
From barely woken trust

For the Essentials in Spiritual Formation Certificate Studies with Dan Wilt

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summary: Introduction to Christian Worship by James F. White

For the Essentials Red in Worship History Certificate with Dan Wilt

Christian worship is a vast field of personalities, colors, and expressions across the world that vary from culture to culture and individual to individual.  What is it that unifies us while allowing for unique and creative expressions to emerge?  What foundational tenets of worship ground us and yet free us at the same time to reveal the image of God in us to those around us?  In Introduction to Christian Worship, James F. White discusses the history behind what we mean by worship, how time and space define our worship, and the ways we communicate our worship through word and sign.

 Christian worship is most easily explained by what it does than by what it is.  “Worship…sums up and confirms ever afresh the process of saving history which has reached its culminating point in the intervention of Christ in human history, and through this summing-up and ever-repeated confirmation Christ pursues His saving work by the operation of the Holy Spirit.” [1] Worship reminds us anew of what God has done, what He is doing, and what we can look for Him to do in the future.  We are reminded that He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” [2], and, thus, we look to His saving acts in the Scriptures and in our lives and remember that as He has done in the past, so He is doing today and will do again.

Worship also reminds us of who we as the body of Christ are.  We are objects of His love, saved and redeemed, that we might bring this same love to those who do not yet know the Source of this love.

The worship we give God glorifies Him and in the same motion brings us into a more rightly aligned relationship with Him.  As we attribute worth to God, He reveals to us our true worth to Him.  This takes place as we worship together, otherwise known as common worship, and in private, or personal devotions. [3] It occurs in the classical liturgical families (seven within the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches) and in the Protestant liturgical traditions (Anabaptist, Reformed, Anglican, Lutheran, Quaker, Puritan, Methodist, Frontier, and Pentecostal/Charismatic) “representing the ability of people to preserve expressions and thought forms natural and dear to them.” [4] Worship within each of these families or traditions take on both a constancy found in the various service books associated with each group as well as a spontaneous form which allows for the “using of the various gifts of differing people for the benefit of the whole gathered community.” [5]

Space and time are important components of the Christian community.  God reveals Himself to His people through time, through history.  “Without time there is no knowledge of the Christian God.  For it is through actual events happening in historical time that this God is revealed.” [6] Since the beginning of creation, time has been the structure upon which key events are hung to aid us in remembering who God is and how we are to relate to Him. 

In the Old Testament, God set up feasts that created a rhythm of worship rich with symbolic and prophetic meaning, pointing to the Messiah.  These feasts continued to be celebrated by the early church with the added understanding of the revelation of Jesus in the elements of the celebrations.  By the 4th century, following an edict by the Emperor Constantine, the early church shifted from the traditional Jewish Sabbath as the day of rest to Sunday being both the day of celebration (of the resurrection) and worship as well as rest.  Holy Week also became established as traditions began to form around the biblical dating of the crucifixion and resurrection.

It is interesting to me to note that the forming Christian calendar began to take prominence over the already established feasts upon the popularization of Christianity by Emperor Constantine and the subsequent banning of all Jewish practices. While I am thankful for the creative expressions that have arisen in the centuries since the resurrection, I believe it to be important for believers to rediscover the riches of God revealed through the feasts which the early church most definitely would have celebrated and understood. 
That said, the Christian calendar does provide a structure and a constancy of remembering that facilitate the development of spiritual disciplines that strengthen and ground us in our worship of God.  “These cycles save us from a shallow spirituality, based on ourselves, by pointing us to God’s works instead…The Christian year is a means by which we relive for ourselves all that matters of salvation history.” [7] 

As God reveals Himself through time, He also is present in our space.  In order for us to worship Him together, we must create a space, however large or small, for people to gather.  The space we choose shapes our worship, so we must be intentional in its design.  Liturgical space takes into consideration the functions and expressions of worship as a gathered body, providing both flexibility and intimacy.  It serves the community and creates and fosters beauty through art and music.

Beyond time and space, our worship is expressed through the “spoken word and acted sign.” [8] The spoken word can be found in both public prayer and the service of the word.  “Daily public prayer…is a response not just to word and sacraments but to the totality of daily experience, the sun coming up , the squabbles in the family, the tedium of work. “ [10] We come together to express our thanksgiving, our angst, our praise to God…to pray together and for each other.  

Christian worship through the service of the word is made possible through the Jewish structure of worship.  “Survival, for Israel, meant the ability to remember God’s actions that had made them a distinctive people.” [11] For the Jews, worship “became a way of teaching and transmitting the corporate memories of a people with whom God had covenanted.” [12] Throughout the centuries, the service of the word has taken on many forms - from sparse and direct to elaborate and complex.  Most often it has contained the reading of the Bible, preaching, prayer, and songs with variations of emphasis according to the tradition in which it was being celebrated.

The acted signs of worship are those “sacraments which make God’s love visible.” The word and sign “reinforce each other.  A handshake does not compete with a spoken greeting, each strengthens the warmth and meaning of the other.” [13] Taking objects and combining them with words and actions reveal the ways in which God has made, and continues to make, Himself known.  

James White divides the sacraments into three categories: initiation, the eucharist, and journeys and passages.  Initiation includes such as baptism, laying on of hands, and anointing.  The eucharist is the most common sacrament of all, celebrated daily and weekly in congregations cross the world and is patterned after the Passover supper that Jesus celebrated with His disciples just prior to His death.  Those related to journeys and passages refer to such sacraments as pastoral rites, healing, ordination, reconciliation, etc. 

These are meant to be experienced, embracing the mysterion of God giving of Himself, not creating a precise theology but rather a place for a divine experience.  They “depend upon what use God makes of them, not on human moral character, ability, or intentions.” [14] God gives Himself to us through them enabling us to give ourselves to others in more profound ways. 

James White gives a comprehensive overview of church history that helps open up understanding to the ways of Christian worship today.  I look forward to delving more into areas that peeked my interest and am thankful for the deeper understanding and appreciation I have for all of the church families and traditions as a result of reading this book.

1 James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship, revised edition (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990), 27
2 Hebrews 13:8
3 James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship, revised edition (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990), 34
4 ibid, 42-44
5 ibid, 45
6 ibid, 52
7 ibid, 73
8 ibid, 122
9 ibid, 123
10 ibid, 137
11 ibid, 142
12 ibid, 143
13 ibid, 165
14 ibid, 189

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Today's gifts

It's Mother's Day.  The house is quiet. I've just returned from a bike ride and am now awaiting my family's return from church so we can go celebrate with my husband's family.

This weekend was church for me...having my yearly visit with dear friends who encourage me in my walk with the Lord and in this journey of home schooling and getting to listen to Sally Clarkson's timely messages on faith and trust.  My heart was full, and I knew that this morning what I probably needed most was a quiet morning.

So, my husband kindly switched roles with me and took the kids to church and left me home alone to rest, reflect, and do whatever my heart desires.

I sat in bed reminding myself of God's goodness to me and His faithfulness to see me through the end.  Just before... everyone crowded on and around my bed to shower me with love and cards and gifts carefully chosen to express their love, and I ask myself how I could ever doubt God's faithfulness, how I could ever not trust, not believe.

But I have and I do and just like David I have to say: "Why so downcast, O my soul?  Put your hope in God!"

Because this journey of mothering and teaching and training is daunting and these precious children who I love so intensely...well, I don't want to fail them and I don't want to ruin them.

As if somehow my mistakes and my failures are somehow bigger than God's goodness and faithfulness and power to take all things and work them all for good...

Because they are not.

I know the rest of that verse says that He does that for those who love Him, and while I don't do it perfectly, I do.  I do love Him and so do my children and so does my husband (though his head may not be sure at the moment his life overflows with evidences of it) and if I stop long enough...if I take a step back and wait a moment...if I step back from the hurry and scurry and worry of all that goes on...I can see it.

I can see His fingerprints all over their lives.

Like a "chance" encounter with Dr. J that lodged something deeply in my son's heart about destiny and calling and giftings.

Or the random friend of a friend I happened to meet who has a business that might be a great next step for my oldest daughter.

Or the diligent middle child searching through a sea of books to find that one book they said they didn't have so she can continue to hone the skills of her heart's passion.

And the artwork on my Mother's Day card from another child who struggles with creativity, or so he says, and yet there this card is brimming with art and love and color and untapped talent that will be drawn out when the time is right.

Then the one who grabbed the book to read to the family with passion and fervor and life and abundance that is always brimming and spilling over into all of the house and beyond.

And the youngest who dances and does so with excellence and leads at her young age.

Of course, us, the parents, are not without His touch too.   It's there and it's obvious and not so obvious.

Thankfulness brims too for my mom who loves me and cherishes me and has always done her best to facilitate God's work in my life.  She deserves a whole post (at the least!), not just a line or two, so look for one soon.

The house is about to get loud again, and my heart has rested and has been reminded that I am His and so are they and since that's true I can rest and I can trust because He who is faithful will do it, will complete it, will perfect it, will make it all good for His glory.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Stir the stagnant waters of my soul
Sounds like a safe line of a song to sing
But it's not

Stirring stirs the heart
Displacing calm waters
To a churning muck and mess

Doesn't feel right
Doesn't smell right
Better when it was on the bottom

Out of sight
Out of mind
Didn't even know it was there

But time and days
And things get thrown in
And if not tossed out
They sink
And stagnate
And putrify
There on the bottom

Stir the stagnant waters of my soul
Merge me with Your living stream
Keep it flowing
In and out
Pure and clear

Hurry, please

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Blowing in the Wind

For the Essentials in Spiritual Formation Certificate Course with Dan Wilt at

Wind: An Inspired Life ~ Beauty, Heroes and Dreams

“Wind speaks of our need to lift our sails into the wind, to learn the arts of riding the winds that are sent to us, and working with God to manipulate our sails so that we can get to where God has invited us to go.” [1]

A relief to know it’s not all up to me…relief to know that I can lift up my sail to the wind of the Spirit and allow Him to blow and direct my life.

Doing that doesn’t come easily, however. My desire to control, to know, and to understand often overrides my desire to flow, to rest, and to sail by the Spirit.

It is through the spiritual discipline of quiet and rest that I find strength to live the inspired life, a life full of passion, full of love, full of a sense of mission that goes beyond myself and reaches into the depths of the love of Christ that I might join in His mission of seeing “humanity restored, new creation coming in people and in the cosmos and deliverance coming to Israel.”[2] Spiritual discipline exposes the deep places of my heart to beauty, heroes and dreams.

Intentionally building moments of beauty into my life for inspiration opens up space for God to refresh and refill me with His Spirit, so I feel as if I’ve been “’lifted and struck’ like a bell,” [3] my life ringing with purpose and promise.

I need to find heroes whose lives are an inspiration to me, those who help me remember that “God has placed greatness in [me], by reflecting that greatness in themselves.” [4] I must purpose to spend time learning from them, seeing Jesus in them.

Dreaming with God reminds me I am part of something bigger and that He has not left me alone; rather, He longs to fill my life with His strength so that every moment of every day might be lived from a strong center, confident that He has woven treasures of inspiration throughout my day. These golden threads can be found no matter how mundane or routine the task, and learning to “be inspired in the midst of…duties” keeps me childlike, doing the same thing over and over again “through excess, not absence of life.” [5]

G.K. Chesterton says, “…grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony…It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.” [6]

May I grow in my ability to lean into the wind, finding inspiration in beauty, heroes, and dreams. May I never tire of loving in the midst of duty. May I always find beauty in my surroundings and be inspired to live fully present, reflecting the greatness of God in the ordinary and extraordinary of every-day life.

1 Dan Wilt, Essentials in Spiritual Formation digital book, 15

2 ibid, 19

3 ibid, 17

4 ibid, 17

5 ibid, 18

6 ibid, 18

Friday, April 27, 2012

Wind: An Inspired Life

Beauty, Heroes and Dreams

“Wind speaks of our need to lift our sails into the wind, to learn the arts of riding the winds that are sent to us, and working with God to manipulate our sails so that we can get to where God has invited us to go.” [1]

A relief to know it’s not all up to me…relief to know that I can lift up my sail to the wind of the Spirit and allow Him to blow and direct my life.

Doing that doesn’t come easily, however.  My desire to control, to know, and to understand often overrides my desire to flow, to rest, and to sail by the Spirit.

It is through the spiritual discipline of quiet and rest that I find strength to live the inspired life, a life full of passion, full of love, full of a sense of mission that goes beyond myself and reaches into the depths of the love of Christ that I might join in His mission of seeing “humanity restored, new creation coming in people and in the cosmos and deliverance coming to Israel.”[2] Spiritual discipline exposes the deep places of my heart to beauty, heroes and dreams.

Intentionally building moments of beauty into my life for inspiration opens up space for God to refresh and refill me with His Spirit, so I feel as if I’ve been “’lifted and struck’ like a bell,” [3] my life ringing with purpose and promise.

I need to find heroes whose lives are an inspiration to me, those who help me remember that “God has placed greatness in [me], by reflecting that greatness in themselves.” [4]  I must purpose to spend time learning from them, seeing Jesus in them.

Dreaming with God reminds me I am part of something bigger and that He has not left me alone; rather, He longs to fill my life with His strength so that every moment of every day might be lived from a strong center, confident that He has woven treasures of inspiration throughout my day.  These golden threads can be found no matter how mundane or routine the task, and learning to “be inspired in the midst of…duties” keeps me childlike, doing the same thing over and over again “through excess, not absence of life.” [5]

G.K. Chesterton says, “…grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.  But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony…It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.” [6]

May I grow in my ability to lean into the wind, finding inspiration in beauty, heroes, and dreams.  May I never tire of loving in the midst of duty.  May I always find beauty in my surroundings and be inspired to live fully present, reflecting the greatness of God in the ordinary and extraordinary of every-day life.

1 Dan Wilt, Essentials in Spiritual Formation digital book, 15
2 ibid, 19
3 ibid, 17
4 ibid, 17
5 ibid, 18
6 ibid, 18

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

If you were a better mom, you would...

Ever hear that one pop through your head?  Or some version of it.  To make it more universal, you fill in your own blank:

If you were a better ____________, you would...

Just now I was sitting at the table reading through my daughter's written assignments as I ate my breakfast.  I was minding my own business.  Doing what a good homeschool mom ought to be doing: multitasking while sitting down and eating.

Out of nowhere, I think: "If you were a better mom, you would have been more creative with those bandannas you gave as party favors over the years at your children's birthday parties.  You would have had every party attender sign one for your children at each party.  You would have collected them for your children and made them into a quilt for them."


Talk about an imagination.  While I might like to think that if I would've thought of that back then and started said collection that I would someday make them into a quilt, the reality is, the collected bandannas would've sat in a bag somewhere reminding me of yet another project that hasn't gotten done.

As it is, apparently they sit in my head as a figment of my imagination and are a project never even started that the enemy just devised right now for me to get anxious and distraught over.

Because what mom in her right mind doesn't create amazing bandanna quilts for her children as a souvenir of umpteen capture-the-flag birthday parties?

Well, this one doesn't and hasn't.  And that doesn't make me better or worse mother.

And since that "imagination" was so far out in left field (as they are progressively getting to be...the enemy is really overplaying this hand...), I caught it pretty quickly and didn't go down the path of "geeze-what a rotten mom I am for not doing that..."  I demolished it with divine power and am making my thoughts obedient to Christ.

Now back to grading papers...


Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth: the grounded life

for the Essentials In Spiritual Formation Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

Embrace a grounded life.  A firm foundation beneath our feet will enable us to act lovingly, passionately and substantially in the world - and will lead us increasingly to be conformed to the person and likeness of Christ.
~Dan Wilt in elemental*life: The Formation of the Creative Soul

Lately, it seems I feel anything but grounded.

I desire to embrace and pursue a grounded life, yet today emotions blow this way and that as uncertainty and doubt creep in, and I am feeling untethered and tossed about by waves and wind.

Momentarily, I find my footing, reminded to demolish every imagination that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, but sometimes the imagination appear so stealthily that I have spent a good deal of time interacting with it before I recognize it for what it is.  By that time, the erosion is felt, that gradual rubbing away of destiny and identity and confidence and grace.

Questions surge and bellow and roar.  Accusations, condemnations, and angst fill my heart; squeezing the love, joy, and peace to one side.

It's not always this loud and boisterous.  Mostly they ride below the surface, a quiet murmur in the back of my mind, muffled by calm waters and clear skies.  I can almost forget they're there.


But then something happens and the veneer wears thin and the background noise catapults to the forefront.

"Are you sure you're doing the right thing?"

"Maybe they'd be better off in school."

"You're not preparing them well."

"You call this academic excellence?"

"Are you sure this is important?  Well, are you?"

"What if they're not getting all they need?"

"What if you're failing them?"

"What if your not teaching them everything they need to know?"

Ad nauseam.  And these are just the ones that correspond to homeschooling.  I haven't even begun to list the others that flit or slide or saunter or inch through, each waiting to see if I'll take notice, if I'll bite.

I must admit I've bitten more than once recently.  Sunk my teeth deep into the delectable, decadent, donut of self recrimination.

Imaginations.  All of them.  And not the creative kind.

Casting them down, though, feels like so. much. work.  And I'm tired, tired of the battle, tired of the external voices that reinforce the internal parade, tired of not being more grounded.

Vicious cycle this.  Time to get grounded again.  Time to get back to the discipline of early rising and early manna and early drink.  I can't do without, even for a short time (and it's not been that long ago that the pattern of wake and sunrise and Word and journal was broken).  Sure I can survive on less, but this living on less is not really living at all when the first fruits of the day are eaten up by imaginations that are vapors of nothingness that suck life.

So I'm filling my kettle with water, readying my candle on the table, setting out Bible and journal and favorite pen.

Tomorrow is a fresh day.

from 2 Corinthians 10 in the Message:
The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

and from the King James Version
4(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
 5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ

Saturday, April 7, 2012

To minister before the Lord

My friends held a "night watch" last night, a time to play and sing and drum and dance and create and just be in the Presence of the Lord and minister to Him.

I wanted to go, wanted to go to the last one, but due to schedules and what is on my plate, I've missed both.

And this morning as I woke up early and contemplated driving over there for the last bit, I felt like I heard the Lord say to me,

"That's what you do every day for Me."

It's just that directing children to do chores, helping with school work, cooking meals, making phone calls, answering emails, straightening papers, washing towels, packing, refereeing, cleaning, sleeping doesn't feel much like ministering before the Lord.

But when He said it, I knew that it was true.

Granted, it's my attitude in the midst of those things that make them seem less holy and spiritual and often causes me to miss the opportunity to minister to Him.

Though I am learning, albeit a bit slowly, I am seeing the small things and the big things and choosing thanksgiving more and more often.

My heart still bends towards negativity more frequently than I'd like, but I am, with the gentle reminding of Holy Spirit, carving in the groove through repeated acts of thanksgiving.

And it is going deeper.

This morning I sit and look out eastern window and see the sky crisscrossed by airplane trails and a light brushing of airy clouds.  At first the trails and clouds are tinged pink with blue sky behind.  Then as the light position changes, they lighten, taking on a more creamy hue with the brightening of the day. 

I take note.  I allow the beauty of the vastness of this watercolor piece brushed before me, this once in a life-time experience, to soak into my soul.  Quite literally, the sky will never look like this again.

Kodak didn't capture it, but my heart did and in it thankfulness rose and all seemed to quiet within.

The clouds and airplane trails just are.  They're shaped by the wind currents, painted by the sun, and somehow this morning they represent to me what it is to minister before the Lord.

Sometimes it will be in a set-aside time in a set-apart place with instruments and voices and an environment less cluttered than mine.

But most days, it's here where I get to be shaped by the Wind and painted by the Son and enjoyed by the One who set me here with these gifts to be discovered each day, these treasures He's hidden just for me to find.

And my thankful response...that is what ministers to Him.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Upturned tables

You walk right in
Your face chagrined
You wonder how...

Your head bows

Then deep breath in
Amidst the din
Out comes the roar

My house is not a store

Measured steps
Face set
To table one
You flip and run
To table two
Upended view

'Til all are turned
All bridges burned
With fiery eyes
Your voice rises

This house is mine
Bought with my life
You have no right
I paid the price

This shrine
I must align
To my design

In prayer

The chaos errupts
My upturned life
The mess

I catch your eye
You smile
I cringe
You come
I cower
You lift my head
Pick up a broom
I take it from your hand

I look
I watch
I wait
For blows
So deserved

Instead you go for dustpan and mop
Having chased out trespassers
You say, how can I help?

Oh no
My mess
My mistakes
My bad
I let them set up shop
My job

Hand outstretched
You wait
Eyes gentle
Smile tender
You say again

This house is mine
Bought with my life
You have no right
I paid the price

This shrine
I must align
To my design

In prayer

I hand You the broom.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My house was clean last week, er year...

It's a mess right now.  My house, that is.  A mess according to me.  Maybe a disaster according to you or maybe I'm doing pretty good.

At any rate, a purpose of this post is to put everyone's minds at ease:  I don't live in a magazine house.  You can see our school room picture below.  Yes, I do have organized shelves and a blue wall behind those shelves thanks to some down time during Christmas break and my friends Linda and Shelby who helped me paint. 

Thankful and hopeful.

Notice the empty laundry basket on the school table along w/ whatever art project and school work some child left behind.

Then you have the entryway w/ a couple of random laundry baskets and a chair that really belongs at the school table, but for some reason has sat here in the entry way for a couple of days (as have the baskets) because all of us have forgotten how to put something away as we walk past it.  Or we think it's the latest sculpture of the week.

Regardless, there they sit.  And yes, I'm going to go ahead and call them art: "ode to laundry."

And random car seat and dog clearly not disturbed by the things out of place along w/ some coats my friend gave us over a month ago.  They like it on the top of the antique trunk.

And here we have my office, which I took a picture of from the messiest angle.  There's no after picture...yet.  You can't really tell, but my desk is only clear where the keyboard and mouse are.

Why these pictures?

Well, because the other day I was on one of my favorite blogs that I find great inspiration from.  She always posts beautiful photos of whatever has caught her eye that day, including her family and her house.  She has 6 kids, like me.  She homeschools, like me.  Her house is clean, not like me.  At least in her photos.

I want to ask her to post a picture every now and then when there's mess on the table and paper on the floor and laundry still in the laundry basket.

I'm sure those days happen for her too...she writes about them.  The pictures of them just don't wind up on her blog which is just struck me I needed to post a picture of my mess without apology or any promise that I'm working to get it cleaned up.

I'm obviously not since I'm blogging almost daily, keeping up with facebook, emailing, fixing meals, taking kids here and there, doctoring dog, managing, teaching, walking, working out, folding the occasional basket of clean laundry, studying, napping, refereeing, celebrating birthdays, planning, playing music, thinking...anything I can find to do EXCEPT straighten the house.

But that's ok.  It's day will come.  At least I hope so.  It really does bother me to have so much visual clutter about.  My brain, like it or not, registers every thing that is out of place or without a place and logs it in a registry of "this needs to get done."

There may be a problem (hesitate to tackle messes due to constant interruptions, feeling overwhelmed, etc.) and perhaps there really is something that God is working in the midst of these messes that cannot get cleaned up quite yet because it would prematurely interrupt what He is doing.  I find a measure of comfort in least it's not because I'm (gasp) lazy.

He is working.  I know it.  In spite of dusty surfaces and moldy caulking around bathtubs and unvacuumed floors and unchecked school work, He is working.  He is taking every mess and using it for my good, conforming me into His image.

This candle symphony sitting in the midst of misplaced items on coffee table is what we are using to countdown to Easter.  It's here that all the messes of the body and mind and heart collide. 

We take turns lighting a candle, moving the cross, ever nearing the center.  The light increases with each subsequent candle that we light, and so does the peace.  With each candle lit I am reminded to pause and take note of the little (or big) hand that lights it, of the many blessings I have all around me, of the greatest blessing of all which is that these messes of body, mind and heart are not too big for God.

Jesus bore them all.

And last I checked, He didn't ask me to take any of them back.

So this long and messy post is also about me handing my visible and not-so-visible messes back to Him. 

Here you go (again), Jesus.  My mess and my need to understand and my dreams/goals/wants/needs...I'm handing them back to you.  Thank You for coming as my Prince of Peace, for dethroning the tyrant of perfectionism in my life, for reestablishing Your peace and Your order according to Your plan for my life.

I choose to trust You in the process, no matter what it looks like.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

You are about to fly!

for the Essentials In Spiritual Formation Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

"We want transformation, but without cost.
We want to become who we were designed to be, but without long processes and enduring hardship.
We want the dream of being formed into Christ's likeness yesterday,
And that dream to be mingled with tangible successes in other spheres of life today."
~Dan Wilt [1]

I remember being an exchange student, longing to instantly speak Spanish so I could communicate.  I wanted the gift of tongues and I wanted it stat. 

It wasn't that I hadn't studied Spanish or that I wasn't trying.  I had studied, for three years, and I was trying, desperately.  But God chose to not subvert the process of language learning for me, and I went through not a few grueling weeks and months struggling to learn to understand and speak a foreign language.

I always look back to that experience as an exchange student as the hardest and most life-transforming things I have ever experienced in a year.  I've lived quite a bit since then, but that year served to set some pivotal things in motion in my life that forever changed me.

Spiritual formation is a lot like that. 

I want it yesterday, to be like Christ, to speak the language of the Kingdom effortlessly...I've been at if for nigh on 35 years, now.

But there is this process...

Bill Johnson says, "God is looking for a people willing to embrace the process."

Am I?

Most of the time.

There are days, though when I wonder if this process isn't about over.  Dan says it this way:
"Your dream is an ache inside you, demanding that you stay still and present long enough for the wings to fully form and the colors to become vibrant like a fine wine becomes mature...You consider 'self-sabotage,' putting your dream on pause and taking the easy way out..."

How often have I longed to take the easy way out by turning away from my dreams, abandoning the process?  Too many.  The wait seems long, the pain too great, the dream dims and I wonder what I was thinking anyway.

But Dan says, "You are about to fly, my friend.  Don't give up now!" [2]

This thing called spiritual formation is costly, but the alternative, I've come to believe, is far more costly still.  You see, I've been uniquely given something to do that shows who God is [3], that reveals an aspect of His character to the world around me, impacting it for eternity.

I must fly because it is who I am.  To not fly is to not live.  And to not live is not an option, not since I've chosen, and been chosen, to walk in the Kingdom of light.  Already there are too many of us out there who have forgotten who we are, Whose we are.  We've lost sight of the fact that submitting, even embracing, the process of spiritual formation, while costly, is so totally and completely worth it.

To do otherwise means to live a dull life, with muted color and lack-luster hues and dissonant notes.

And I don't know how long this process is or when my dream will come to fruition or even if I'm dreaming the right dream, but that's ok because the Dream-Maker has my dream in His hand and He values me and loves me and is even now working in this process, to make me more like Him.

And you, what dreams is He forming you for?  Have you lost sight of them?  Has the pain become too great, the road too long, the fire too hot, the flames too cold?  We need you to remember them.  We need you to re-engage with the process.  You, my friend, are about to fly!

"Your life is a gift to the rest of us.  You were designed to live in your element, in that unique way that only you can live in this world.

When you live in your element, the rest of us are impacted - we're grounded, we're inspired, we're empowered, and we're connected to one another.  We are the richer for you allowing yourself to be spiritually formed by God into the amazing creature he gave you to us to be; but we are all poorer when you withhold your permission for God to conform your life to the life of His Son." [4]

Will you give Him permission?  We need you to fly.  You need you to fly.  God needs you to fly.

1 Dan Wilt, elemental*life: The Formation of the Creative Soul, digital book, 3
2 ibid, 6
3 ibid, 8
4 ibid, 7