Category Archives: spiritual formation

of young and old…

I am trained to listen for themes in the lives of others, places God may be working, pockets of the heart they may be unaware of.

when themes start occurring in my own life, I try to pay attention, to ask God if He is doing a work, teaching a lesson, preparing my heart for something.

so when a number of conversations lately have included a Titus 2 thread, I have been listening and pondering. several friends from different parts of life and not known to each other, have been processing lessons learned from the older women in their lives. some lessons good and godly. some showing a lack of biblical response to life. others reflecting on lives well-lived for Christ, providing inspiration and encouragement to those coming behind. a few wistful for what they’d hoped would be a Christ-like attitude and example, only to have that hope dashed and the opposite be reality.

come, let us walk together as we walk with Jesus…

is this not to what Paul aspired?

put away anger

wrath

malice

gossip

speculation

roots of bitterness

and instead walk in compassion

kindness

patience

humility

forgiveness

when we walk this way, Christ is honored and allowed to do His work in our lives.

as we learn to walk in these new attitudes, looking at the example of others is only natural. there are innate questions of how to work out a new life while still living in our sin-bound bodies of earth.

there is an assumption, an expectation, really, that those older than us should be that example. it is a biblical idea and ideal. but it is not always reality.

those older than us may not necessarily be “older” in faith. each of us have our own faith walk, a journey and relationship with Christ that is uniquely our own. that others might learn anything from us is sobering and an amazing testimony to God’s great grace. calendar age may have little to do with faith age. some people get stuck somewhere in life have a texture of immaturity to them. those of older faith age might be younger than us, the rare spiritual “old soul” who lives in deep relationship with Christ. we can learn from all walks, learn about the working out of Christlikeness, and what is does not look like, of what is an attractive faith and what is not.

these thoughts, as they run through my head and seek expression, turn me again, as so often happens, to the Breastplate of St. Patrick, the prayer of St. Francis, and essentially to the root of Christianity: let me be in such deep relationship with Christ that when others see me, they see Him.

we are all older than another. and we are all younger. brought full circle, this begs that we never stop learning and learn to live in harmony with Christ, aware of the footprints we leave. that awareness should not be a burden, but instead a mirror to our lives and hearts. are we pointing others to Him? do they see Him when they look at us?

let us walk together and live in community centered around Him.

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Filed under abiding, being, John 15, life lesson, spiritual formation

of saints and vegetables…

(photo credit: the St. Nicholas Center)

she is three years old, this daughter-gift of ours.

old enough to start understanding what is going on around her, the bits and pieces of Christmas and Advent and all the hype and even the character set.

Jesus. Santa. Mary. Joseph. Frosty. wisemen and shepherds. elves. bell-ringers.

all mix together in a tapestry of fact and fiction, of reality and story.

sorting it is difficult. being a parent sorting it and shaping your child’s understanding of a most important day and season can be daunting. allow some childhood fantasy? or burst the bubble from the beginning, telling her there is no Santa Claus, knowing that her honest little heart will inadvertently burst another child’s fantasy?

the Christ-child is real, of that there is no question. bringing the season together, sifting the spiritual and commercial, was overwhelming.

until we stumbled on a simple tale told by vegetables. it is no unusual thing to find a Veggie Tales show or movie playing any given day in our home. but I was not expecting this particular tale to grab my attention and heart, shifting the focus of Christmas squarely back to Christ.

Nicholas was a Christian man of some means, orphaned early, and raised by his uncle. he shared his wealth and resources with others in Christ’s name, resting firmly in the knowledge that all he had came from, and subsequently was, God’s. along the way he became the Bishop of Myra, and eventually a saint and pop culture icon.

cuddling our daughter-gift through this story, Christ began a new, or refreshed an old, work in my heart. what if my own giving was influenced by an overflow of gratitude for what God has given? what if I gave because He had?

the shift was almost palpable. the frenetic schedule of the season slowed. the pressure released. what if?

the gift lists changed. the reasoning was different. additional gifts were added. others removed. where might encouragement lie? where might He be asking me to give, to give beyond my list on paper?

a handmade gift or two found its way under the tree, bits that would be treasured for memories evoked and new ones made.

the grace of Christ, His compassion and mercy, to me and each person I come into contact with, was overwhelming.

Nicholas gave because he could not ignore the source of his resource. He gave out of gratitude and love.

the grip of commercialism slipped a bit this year. and I am glad. praying it continues, really.

as for our daughter-gift, there is no longer a discussion of allowing a few years of childhood fantasy with Santa Claus. that also shifted as we watched the vegetable telling of this biography. her earliest teachings about Santa are steeped in reality. and they are taking hold in beautiful ways.

she asks for money to drop into red kettles. toy boxes are culled for bits others might enjoy. a goose figure for a friend with a farm set. a teapot for daddy because he has none of his own. an elf doll for me, its silly smile meant to bring cheer and make me laugh. simple gifts, given from her own bounty. because Jesus and mommy and daddy love her.

there are smiles and waves as she spies the mall Santa or a yard decoration. it makes sense in her world that Baby Jesus and Santa reside on the same lawn. and in a way, she is right. strip the commercial Santa away and Nicholas remains, a man who continually pointed others to the Christ-child and His ultimate Gift.

may we do the same.

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Filed under abiding, being, daughter-gift, gratitude, John 15, life lesson, simple, spiritual formation

listening to the soul…

it ended with molasses.

first came a week-and-a-half of stress on stress. work (both ministries, no less). family. a sick daughter-gift. more questions and paperwork on our house closing. one thing after another. it felt like each day added to the day before.

then came a day of running around, getting ready for Thanksgiving. the to-do list seemed reasonable at the start. a trip to the grocery store. make a salad for Thanksgiving dinner. pack for the mini-retreat/vacation we had planned for the weekend. make the pepparkakor cookie dough so we can make and decorate cookies on said retreat/vacation. a full day, but not unreasonable. but I could the soul-zapping pressures of the last weeks draining me further away from the spirit of Thanksgiving and into the vortex of commercialism and priorities of the world.

an email invitation came, reminding me of a community Thanksgiving service. shared desire to attend as a family, but the reality of two days gone awry.

progress was being made on the to-do list. cookie dough, laundry, and packing remained.

despite the careful grocery run earlier, the molasses was missed. the anticipated vacation highlight of Christmas cookie baking together could not happen without it.

back to the store. a moment alone in the car with my heart and soul. the clock ticking down to the Thanksgiving service. and much still to accomplish before days end.

as I exited one store with its Christmas craziness already in full swing, it hit me that an hour of sleep was less important than thanking God for His bounty. before entering the second store in search of the elusive molasses, I called home, saying my soul needed the service and could survive without the sacrificed sleep.

a terribly hurried run through the grocery store (and an exit with the molasses!), a quick dinner, and we were off.

we’ve not been to this church before. tradition washed over us before we even reached the building and continued for the next hour. the booming pipe organ. stained glass windows. a joyous choir. hymns of gratitude to the Father. familiar and not. healing to a weary and stressed soul. reminders of how deeply thankful every day can and should be.

the troubles and worries of the last few weeks melted as we soaked in the words of hymn and prayer. His goodness pervades our lives in so many seen and unseen ways. in the middle of tough decisions. among the myriad details each day brings. in quiet moments and loud clash of the season. woven throughout are His graces and provisions. painted across our days are His fingerprints, often the mark of which we cannot trace until later. the gentle and heart-wrenching lessons run together in the tapestry of our faith journey. and our souls are better for the time spent acknowledging His hand.

the forgotten molasses afforded me the quiet moment to hear the cry of my soul to rest and intentionally join with others in thanks. what seemed another stress became a beautiful evening together with our little family and the community. the cookie dough was accomplished. the bags and car were packed. the Thanksgiving holiday enjoyed.

and after all was said and done, the cookie dough was left behind!

(sugar cookies to the rescue! the pepparkakor will wait for us to get home…)

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Filed under abiding, being, gratitude, spiritual formation