Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lent Meets Perspective

One of the many beautiful things about God's grace is that it often leads us to unexpected places in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.

Though we are in the season of Lent and perhaps that should be my main focus, I am returning once again to my New Year's Resolution, which I titled Perspective: New Year, New Mindset. Actually, I am connecting the two. Remember, all of my thoughts have multiple sources, along with multiple idiocies. I am wondering tonight if the need to overproduce and please everyone (what I am giving up for Lent) is somehow complexly yet amazingly simply intertwined with my tendency to never be satisfied with where I am in life or what I have and to always desire something else. I am realizing how often I become so convinced that I want something (I'm talking big girl stuff here, like jobs and graduate degrees, not a chocolate cupcake at the mall..that is a given!), then once I have it, there is something else that I want equally as much. And maybe it really isn't all that different from that childlike longing for a chocolate cupcake.

"Not all that glitters is gold," my college President told me once, as I sat in his office crying about a recent breakup. Not all that glitters is gold. That should be posted somewhere on a statue or something.

The beautiful creature has a disgustingly speckled underbelly. There will always be something that leaves room for desire in even the greatest gift from our Father (save Jesus). And perhaps that is because Jesus is the only perfect gift, the gift that is whole and complete, not lacking anything; the gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving; the gift that we may not desire yet will meet our greatest need and fill our deepest longings.

I am a big dreamer. I like to reimagine the world my way, which of course you know is God's way. I love to dream big. I think that is ok; indeed, without big dreams the world will never change. But sometimes when I start worrying about what steps to take to achieve my dreams, I get scared and the world starts crumbling in because it seems impossible. Thus I become depressed and eat rediculous amounts of chocolate to console myself.

The unquenchable, unwavering desire, the dream. The need to overproduce and to please everyone. The need to overproduce is itself a dirty dream, one that keeps biting back. The need to be or at least to appear perfect is itself an unattainable wish; no matter how long the facade lasts, it will eventually fall.

Luke 10:38-42 contains the classic parable of Mary and Martha. You know the story...Martha is busy being a Susy Homemaker and gets mad at her sister, Mary, who is chillin in the living room at Jesus' feet. When Martha tells Jesus to repremand Mary for not helping, Jesus gives Martha one of the most piercing sentences I find in the Bible: "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing" (v. 41b-42a, NRSV). 

The parable is sandwiched between the parable of the Good Samaritan and the Lord's Prayer. Two vital passages of Scripture provide the bookends for this passage. These three parts of the sandwich each reveal very important Christian disciplines: helping those who are hurt (doing), resting at the Lord's feet (listening), and praying rightly (prayer). In the midst of doing justice, loving mercy, and praying rightly, Jesus beckons Martha to walk humbly with her God.

We are all busy, whether we be moms running to and fro, between Cheetos flying and tea spilling in our cars. Whether we be dads picking up kids from school and struggling to know how to nurse sick children back to health. In our busyness, we are fabulous. We care deeply for one another and for the things of God. We deeply want others to know and do the things of God. And as we all are running around making sure things are running as they should, whether in the church or in the home, the Lord beckons us to His side. The Psalmist said it this way, "Be still, and know that I am God." Be still, precious child, be still.

I struggle with sitting still. Just when I am doing well, the song playing on the iPod needs changing because it is just not right, or I have to tell Pandora that I like that song, then I need to check my Twitter, then I need to check if so-and-so responded to my text....and the moment is gone.

After church this past Wednesday night, I realized I needed to put something in my car. As I was finishing up, I turned and looked behind me to see a beautiful full moon resting between trees and homes in the neighborhood. I then looked above me to see a partly cloudy sky through barren trees with a few stars sparkling through breaks in the clouds. I started thinking about where I wanted my life to be, somewhere different than the beautiful place where I am now. Then I stopped myself and prayed, "Lord, help me to be where I am now and to love it."

The moments are fleeting; take them while they are here. Be still, my child; be still. Rest your head on the shoulders of the One who loves you, the One who has come to visit with you and give you His precious attention. Breathe Him in, and know that you are never alone. You are so so so loved, child of God, so so so loved. Rest in that today. Just be still.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lent Post No. 2: Last Night

This one has sat in my inbox for only two days. Moving on up, eh?

As I have begun my Lenten journey of giving up the need to overproduce and the need to please everyone, I have already learned a great deal. I find myself enjoying sweet moments with my Savior that otherwise I may have, but perhaps they would not have the meaning that they now have. I will take last night as an example.
I got off work at 5:00 and needed to be back at 6:45 for a lecture series our church is hosting. Typically, when I have to be working all day long, it is easier to not take a break so that I cannot think about being tired, or so that I can stay "in the zone." But yesterday, I decided time would be better spent seeking where the Lord may be found. I decided that though I would be keeping children rather than attending the lecture, it would not hurt for my heart and mind to be tuned into spiritual things, that I too may learn something from the event. So before leaving work, I nestled myself into my corner office (off the clock, mind you) and enjoyed a fabulous devotion about vulnerability. The devotion discussed Jesus' vulnerability in becoming human and in His journey to the cross. I was reminded of my constant need to overproduce, to have everything so-so. While I do not think vulnerability should be used as an excuse to be lazy and half-do a job, I think there could be a level of vulnerability in work. Perhaps it is ok to not know everything or to have to ask for help sometimes. Perhaps it is ok if one loose end gets left out by accident every now-and-then.
After enjoying my devotional time, I went home, washed some dishes I had left from visitors the previous day, and cooked some pizza. What a relaxing time it was. As I ate my dinner in my dining room, which has a big bay window with a gorgeous view, I watched the colorful sunset stretch ever-changingly across the sky. How beautiful and breathtaking it was. And the pictures I took did not do it justice. The Lord speaks ever so quietly through the Lord's Creation. And sometimes, how loud is that quiet speaking.
After praying and enjoying the view, I saw a bird flying high across the sunset. I took it to be another God moment, an action through which God was speaking through Creation. I heard the words of God, "You have to move, you have to try, in order to fly." A nice rhyme, huh? But really. In order to enjoy the beautiful sunset from way above the trees, to leave behind the worries of today and to find a new experience with the Savior, you might just have to move. Move away from the desk, move away from the pile of laundry that is ever-increasing, move away from the computer screen...move. Move toward others. Move toward God working in the inner city or out in the boondocks away from the hustle and bustle. Wherever it may be that God is leading you, move. And put forth an effort into your spiritual growth. Try.

And then you will be amazed at how far and how high you can fly.

My First Celebration of the Lenten Season

So I know this is late, as it has sat in my personal email for about a week, but forgive me. I've been busy and trying not to overproduce. :)

You may be surprised to know that I have never before celebrated Lent. It was not a part of my church tradition growing up, nor did my family really care about intentionally giving up anything. As I have grown older, I have begun to see the importance and beauty of pumping the brakes on an area or two of life and seeing where ceasing gets me.

For my first Lent, I am giving up the need to overproduce and the need to please everyone. Many people give up chocolate or coffee or facebook...for me, those are all essential to life and work. I would rather not spend the Lenten season struggling to get through a day because I cannot have coffee. I would rather create an experience with my Savior that brings me closer to His heart. So I began thinking, "What is something that is practical to give up yet that is necessary, as it holds me back from being more like my God?" I began to think about a day just this week when I allowed myself to take an hour lunch break rather than 30 minutes. I drove to the city's Bridge Club, where I parked and sat in my car, gazing out past raindrops on my windshield to the beautiful evergreen grass of a soccer practice field. As I sat there that day, I realized how far I had gone past simplicity. I had worked and struggled all week long to make up hours I had missed from being sick last week and from other previous days I had missed. I had labored and strove to work as hard as I could, and though I was accomplishing a lot, a part of me felt completely exhausted and like I was getting nowhere. I needed to rest; I needed to find simplicity. I needed solitude; I needed moments, quiet moments, with my Savior.
This experience led me today to think of the possibility that if I give up the need to be ever productive, the need to always be on top, the need to have everything perfect and in its place, then maybe, just maybe, I might find the joy of the silent presence of my Lord. Maybe I would find myself resting, as Mary did, at the very feet of Jesus my Lord, and there I would find the things that cannot be taken from me. Maybe.
We will see how far pumping the brakes gets me...