Category Archives: being

to everything there is a season…

the weather grows cooler.

children begin a new school year.

leaves change.

crops are harvested.

it has been a year since we moved to this rural city in the northern tier of states. a year of drinking in each season, with all its glory and challenge.

winter, cold and harsh, lasted long into spring. deep snows made shoveling the driveway nearly impossible as the banks rose higher than a shovelful could be thrown. the joy of snow angels and igloo-building, of sledding and snowmen made the short days full of wonder for the littlest in our home. pristine white snow. hoar frost on the trees. peaceful, unparalleled beauty balances the icy grip of winter.

spring came slowly, in fits and starts. late frost, even snow, nearly to May. a short season, and so important for the farmers around us. wet fields. planting delayed. crisp breezes, yet warmer than the winter blast. the lengthening daylight brings hope and coaxes the tree buds into full leaf. although I have witnessed spring many times and anticipate it after the darkness of winter, the seemingly overnight explosion of color and foliage always surprises and delights me. the earth is reborn. and with it, hope and fresh dreams.

summer is a season of delight, relished on a deeper level when winter is remembered. the first fruits are celebrated. strawberries. tomatoes. the first farmer’s market days. lakes thaw and offer new temptations and thrills. swimming. fishing. canoeing. dogs and children alike jump into our many sky-blue waters with abandon, a chaos all its own, wet and noisy.

much like spring, autumn suddenly appears on the air. the crisp temperatures return, this time bringing cold. the harvest is ripe, ready for the vast machinery that will help bring it in. and while the earth prepares for a season of rest and closing the calendar, it is also a season of beginning as schools reopen. for our little family, it reminds us of an anniversary, of packing and moving, of leaving one chapter behind and opening another. endings and beginnings. fitting for the season!

after living in a relatively static and temperate climate for nearly a decade, changes of season have become an observance of God’s wildly creative artistry. all senses seem engaged in new ways, drinking in the variety of smell and sight, reveling in the vast texture and symphony of creation. maybe the absence of large-city distraction has heightened this awareness. regardless, I am grateful for it. and I am grateful to Him for dreaming big, for creating with abandon and order, for taking care of the details within creation. His glory shines with each turn of the weather. and a new celebration of His provision, love, mercy, and grace commence.

what is your favorite season? how does God speak to you especially in it?

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doxology…

our church, like many across America, blends tradition and modern styles in various ways. perhaps one of the most notable is in the choice of Sunday’s worship music.

we sang the Doxology in church the other day. and it was beautiful!

there was a defined rise in volume throughout the room.

we do not have an organ, although it would have added to the emotive volume.

as much as I love the theology and praise of the Doxology, I believe it was the familiar tune and well-known words that brought such response. much the same happens when a hymn begins. something changes in the room.

it was not always this way. there was a day, not that long ago, these hymns were the only music we sang. and they felt a bit dusty, a little worn.

contemporary music changed that. and it seemed the hymn went away overnight, replaced by the worship chorus.

it has been an interesting journey to watch over the years, and now, as the pendulum swings again, there is hopefully some middle ground being discovered and explored.

having grown up with debates about music in church happening around me, I now find my thoughts and concerns are more about what the message of the songs than the melody. is the song about God? or me? does it proclaim truth? or offer a repetitive stanza about what “I” want from a relationship with Him? is there true worship in the song, an awe of God, or are we, as His creation, the centerpiece of the tune? is it edifying or full of hype? is the theology solid and biblical?

music can be powerful. or empty. it can encourage, convict, bless, confront, distract. it can be in the background or foreground of worship and life. bring us into worship or pull away from it. the hymns I once thought dusty are instead gems of life-lessons, of Christian formation, and often, of truths about God, His character, and love, mercy, and grace toward us. what once felt worn is, in fact, familiar and comforting.

how does music affect your worship? do you have favorite, go-to songs that draw you to the Father? do some songs simply distract you? or do you prefer silence and leave the music for a different time and place?

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wise words…

remember those “thought a day” calendars? a kind friend gifted me with one that fits on many levels. the following quote from William Penn strikes me every year as it comes around on the little calendar. he said:

“I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow human being, let me do it now, as I shall not pass this way again.”

what an amazing lifestyle!

how Christ-like and gracious!

I love his acknowledgement that each day is its own. there is no assumption on tomorrow, no guarantees. today holds itself and will not be repeated. and in light of that, do good and do it today! do not hesitate or second-guess the path ahead. be kind. do good. be as Christ to another.

a no-regrets life. a heart after Christ. a truly worthy life goal.

it is not big and flashy, but quiet and discreet. as Jesus taught so often.

the state of your heart.

serving another

with joy and goodwill.

not begrudging the good deed,

but living as a servant, continually on the lookout for someone needing a grace-gift in their day.

ah, Lord, teach me to be your hands and feet in this way!

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paradigm shift

we all have “a-ha” moments in life. sometimes while reading, often simply in our daily living.

small paradigm shifts that bring clarity, and hopefully deeper understanding of ourselves, others, and God.

I love the “a-ha” moments that bring comfort and encouragement.

indulge me a few minutes to share one of mine:

studying the Bible is nothing new for me. I have studied formally and informally for years. in school. on my own. for a grade, a project. as part of my job and ministry, in writing curriculum, mentoring. for myself, to listen and learn.

through the years, I have read the entire text multiple times. sometimes front to back, slogging through Exodus and Numbers, wincing at the detail of Jael killing her enemy with a tent peg, rejoicing with Esther when her people are saved, sitting with the crowds and listening to Jesus. other times a chronological or book study.

so it surprises me (pleasantly so!) when I find a verse or story I’ve previously missed.

this is one of my favorites:

The Lord your God is in your midst,

   a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

   he will quiet you with his love;

he will exalt over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17)

in applying this to my own relationship with God, I am fully aware this verse is completely out of context. and while the prophet is addressing Jerusalem, the characteristics of God remain true for all His children.

the paradigm shift for me came in a new picture of God the Father. somewhere along the way, I subscribed to a picture of Him that is stern, judgmental, and basically cross. coming across this verse ripped that picture to shreds, leaving me to honestly look at who God the Father is and what our relationship might look like.

He stands in the middle of my life, ready to save.

He rejoices over me–with deep gladness.

He cares enough to help calm my internal world and immerse me in His love.

He sings with great joy over me.

the God of the universe. Creator God. Abba Father. the Mighty Warrior.

loves me.

tenderly

passionately

protectively

with abandon

just writing those words, I am again left speechless.

how do you experience God? has He encouraged you so deeply that you are left speechless?

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the outward charm…

I adore this house!

can’t you just imagine C.S. Lewis writing away, sipping his tea and reading, smoking a cigar, hosting friends, and imagining Narnia?

I picture a place of solace and rest, a retreat for the weary, the character of the house lending itself to the envisioned peace.

given the size of our town and my route to various places, this sweet cottage is a regular sighting, a continual dream running through my head.

they cannot be avoided. the house and the dreaming.

it is for sale. out of reach fiscally.

but daydreams are free.

there was an estate sale the other day, and while I am always up for a bargain, the house itself drew me. I suspect the same was true of most people that day!

stepping through the door, I expected the mustiness. by all appearances the house has been closed up for many months. but the dated decor was unexpected. the overwhelming need for updating screamed louder with each footfall. it started as a whisper, “please, help me…” the house begged. by the time the circuit of all three floors was complete, the cry for restoration was palatable. some features of the original house remained. others have been discarded along the way.

from the outside, images of C.S. Lewis dance. on the inside, the Brady Bunch.

over week later, I am still pondering the differences.

which leads me to Jesus’ words about whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27) and the state of my heart, self, masks we wear, and so much more.

so many analogies. so much conviction. where to start? for that matter, where to end?!

the recurring thoughts about this house and my heart have been about what is presented to the world versus the reality of the internal. the outward can easily show such a different picture than what is really happening. I continually ask if my heart is musty and stuck in a rut (or many ruts), if the expense of change is worth it. changes to the internal need exceptional care and a skilled hand. a qualified inspector can make all the difference, finding things the naked eye would miss.

and my heart cries, again and again, to allow only Jesus to be the one who works on my heart, the one to restore it to the original design. He is the architect, contractor, designer, and lover of my soul. with Him there are no mistakes in the blueprints, no unexpected mess.

alas, the final design will not be known in this life. the waiting here will be worth the turmoil and angst. this I know. I have seen the beauty of a soul, albeit the muted beauty of earth, and what He can do when given carte blanche. would that I could be as open to His craftsmanship! would that people see Him instead of me.

there was a grace-gift in being able to enter the house as well. the house itself is out of our reach. could we stretch and make the purchase? maybe. a big maybe. but after seeing the inside, the renovation and restoration needed, and factoring those costs, there is no way, beyond being gifted the house, that we could afford it. and that is good. someone new will move in and (hopefully) do the requisite work. having seen the inside, it remains a dream house for some imaginings. and a renewed sense of thankfulness for our own bungalow washes over me. God does His work in interesting ways, doesn’t He?

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my chief weakness…

I applied for a ministry position this week.

Aside from the usual resume and cover letter, there was also an application to fill out and return. Not a difficult application. But I stumbled through one question, thinking about it for days before putting pen to paper.

What is your chief weakness?

My immediate response startled me and I rebelled against it strongly. And rightly so. It is not a weakness and can actually be a strength for many. It is not a mistake to be corrected or something to apologize for.

I am an introvert.

I like alone. Quiet soothes me. Sometimes I need to talk to process, but mostly I write and think. Retreat is one of the most comfortable disciplines.

Being an introvert in ministry can be difficult. People are not like a business project. They cannot be checked off a to do list. Their lives cannot be contained in regular office hours. There are few neat little boxes to put ministry into and say the “job” is complete. Ministry is relationships, and that means people.Tasks are involved, to be sure. But the heart of ministry is people and their relationship with Christ.

Balance. I struggle to balance the needs of my family, ministry, and self.

Being an introvert is not my weakness. Balance is.

I have been in that place, that lonely place, where the body and heart and soul are worn to nothing. Burnout. It is not alone-ness. It is loneliness on many levels. We often liken burnout to frostbite when describing it. Once the damage has been done, that place is more sensitive. It needs more specialized care. Like a rubber band stretched to the almost-breaking point, there is a fear of being stretched that thin again.There is a remembrance of the pain. A fear of irreparable damage if it happens again.

Balance.

It swings both ways. Run too hard for too long and risk burnout. Or become almost reclusive and miss the ministry, the rich relationships before me, the lessons God wants to teach me and using others to do it.

What helps you maintain balance?

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days on the calendar…

It was one of those days. A date on the calendar. For most, just a date. For me, an anniversary. A painful one.

Dreams shattered.

Life swirling around despite it.

Holding to Jesus. Desperately clinging to Him.

A heart and body wounded, never to be the same.

New questions. A paradigm shift.

A fresh sensitivity inward. Someday to turn outward and hold others in a similar place.

We all have them. Quiet anniversaries. Sacred. Shared with few. Life hurts that remain quietly remembered.

Walking wounded all. Feeling so very alone.

And yet not. Others have tread these familiar paths, so new to us, so unreal.

Death of a loved one. Job loss. Diagnosis. Car accident. Miscarriage. Relationship destroyed. Betrayal. Devastating confession. And so many more.

It is good for me to remember dates like these. They remind me that we all carry heart hurts. And most often we do not know the significant dates on someone else’s calendar. They may need some extra grace, a smile, a kind word. Things that cost me so little time, such small effort. Being  Jesus’ hands and feet. Bringing some Barnabas encouragement.

More than just a date on the calendar…

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