Which way do you live?

In her book, A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle tells of her student who wanted to know if she believed in God. Madeleine replied…

There are three ways you can live life… You can live life as though it’s all a cosmic accident; we’re nothing but an irritating skin disease on the face of the earth. Maybe you can live your life as though everything’s a bad joke. I can’t.

Or you can go out at night and look at the stars and think, yes, they were created by a prime mover, and so were you, but he’s aloof perfection, impassible, indifferent to his creation. He doesn’t care, or, if he cares, he only cares about the ultimate end of his creation, and so what happens to any part of it on the way is really a matter of indifference. You don’t matter to him, I don’t matter to him, except possibly as a means to an end. I can’t live that way, either.”

Then there’s a third way: to live as though you believe that the power behind the universe is a power of love, a personal power of love, a love so great that all of us really do matter to him. He loves us so much that every single one of our lives has meaning; he really does know about the fall of every sparrow and the hairs of our head are really counted. That’s the only way I can live.

I want to believe that I’m living the third way. But it’s only true if others–family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, the cashier who checks me out, the drivers with whom I share the road–can testify to it. I am only living in L’Engle’s third way when I affirm that every single one of their lives has meaning to God, and therefore has meaning to me because God has created us to share in his love.

Perhaps you might find some time today to sit in the quiet and ponder these three ways of living. Can you ask God to help you see which way you truly live?

Is there more to the story?

How many times I’ve read Luke’s version of the feeding of the five-thousand (Luke 9:10-17). It is a great story, isn’t it? Imagine feeding five-thousand men–more when we consider the women and children who were likely present, too–with only five loaves and two fish! It’s a BIG miracle, for sure!

And that’s what catches our attention, isn’t it? The magnitude of that miracle. We are prone to look for the big stuff, the flashy show of power, the grandiosity of the moment. This story doesn’t disappoint, either–an incredible feat to feed thousands of people with what would barely feed a family.

But there is more, much more, waiting to be discovered in this story…

Consider this: How did Jesus make himself heard? He spoke to them about the kingdom of God. In other words, he preached…to over 5000 people, more than likely outdoors. How could all those people hear him without a sound system? Did he walk among them as he spoke? Or did he stand still and those closest to him turned to the ones behind them, repeating Jesus’ words to create a sort of echo?

And then there’s the healing… Did Jesus individually heal those in need, one by one? That alone would have taken more than a day! Or did he simply speak a word and all were healed at once? Certainly that would be more efficient, but isn’t the personal attention from Jesus a significant aspect of healing? Did the disciples, having just returned from their own ministry adventure, jump in and help with the healing to expedite the process?

How in the world did the Twelve feed all those people? If we simply consider the 5000 that Luke mentions, sitting in groups of fifty would have meant that there were 100 groups. That’s approximately eight and one-third groups per disciple, or 416 individuals for each disciple to serve. I occasionally help serve a meal to the homeless at a local non-profit. It takes about thirty minutes for eight of us to serve 100 people seated around tables. I can’t imagine serving 416 by myself!

In all, this would have taken hours and hours…teaching, healing, feeding, collecting leftovers. So, did time simply stand still for a while?

Can you see the potential for all sorts of miracles in these seven verses? When we slow down and engage our imagination, we can glimpse all sorts of wonders in these familiar stories, little treasures that we have previously overlooked. And doing so trains us to look for life’s little treasures available to us each day, the ones we might otherwise overlook in our quest for the big stuff.

 

What kind of miracle do you need today?

     Are you hungry for spiritual food?

          Do you long to hear Jesus over the noise in and around you?

               Are you in need of healing? Or is Jesus inviting you to be an agent of his healing?

                    Are you feeling overwhelmed by the needs or tasks before you today?

                         Do you need time to stand still for a bit, that you might have a personal encounter with Jesus today?

Ask…seek…knock…your Savior longs to answer. Just remember that the answer may not come in the big stuff, but in the small treasures awaiting you today.

Do you hear what I hear?

I closed my eyes in the struggle to quiet my thoughts and settle my heart. I was having trouble this morning finding the stillness within to ponder a bit of scripture, to make space for the Spirit to illumine the words before me. My old antique clock–the one that hung in my childhood home and now keeps time in my grownup home–tick-tocked loudly from its place on the wall just above my head, reminding me that I was losing precious time…

When I was younger, I measured time in years. As I grew older, months became the unit of measure. Growing older still, it was measured in weeks, then days. Now sometimes it feels like I measure time by the hour, if not by the minute

A few more minutes passed as I tried to tame my mind, and I gradually became aware that the steady rhythm of the clock’s pendulum had quieted. With a sigh, I realized that I had forgotten once again to fetch the old key and wind her up–a must for antique clocks!

For a moment or two, the silence seemed deafening.

But in the absence of that noisy tick-tocking reminder of time marching by, I became aware of other sounds, the sweeter sounds of a new day…

…a mourning dove’s gentle coo

…the sweet song of the windchimes outside my window

…a cardinal’s joyful trill.

My mind quieted and my heart settled as I simply listened. The Spirit was indeed illumining me, tuning my heart to the heart of Creator God. I was being invited to let time stand still while I communed with God, sharing his delight in his beloved creation. In those quiet moments I also sensed his whispered reminder that I, too, am his beloved creation.

My prayer for you today is that you would allow time to stand still for a bit, inviting the Holy Spirit to quiet your noisy world…and in that silence and solitude you would experience God’s joy in all his creation…especially in you.

A New Thing

It’s been such a long time since I’ve written a post. You may be confused by the name…the blog you were used to seeing was An Equipper’s Perspective. Don’t worry, I’m still an equipper! But God has been doing a new thing in my life over the past couple of years. (He’s known for doing that upon occasion, just to keep life interesting!)

After years of writing about volunteer ministry, I found that I was running out of things to say. I don’t think everything has been said that needs to be said or could be said about the subject. It’s just that I didn’t have anything more to say! I continue to believe that equipping the saints for the work of ministry is vital to God’s Church and the coming kingdom, and I cheer on those who labor faithfully in this particular area of ministry.

But God has been shifting my focus–my heart’s desire–to helping those who know him to know him better. I believe that God is continually stirring up a hunger in his children for more of him. I believe he is inviting us to plumb the depths of his never-ending, unfailing love. That’s not really anything new, of course. God has always wanted his people to know him, Jesus being the prime example of just how deep that desire is!

But our world is so noisy, isn’t it? And we are a people consumed with busyness, whether we want to be or not. It’s hard to find time to chase after a God we can’t see or hear or touch. At least, that’s been my experience.

More than a decade ago, I met a spiritual director who, when asked what that meant, said that she thought of herself as a “doorknob polisher.” Heaven knows, she did polish the doorknob to the throne room of God for me again and again as we met over the years. In 2015 I followed her footsteps and began training to become a spiritual director. Since completing that program, I have been blessed to come alongside a few people in their pursuit of a more intimate experience of God’s love. What I’ve found is that the joy in the journey comes through sharing it.

So, I hope we can journey together for awhile, and that I will be able to polish the doorknob of God’s throne room for you from time to time. If that sounds good to you, then look for me to show up in your email inbox again…with my usual irregularity! (Some things don’t change!)

However, if you tuned in over the years primarily for encouragement for your volunteer equipping ministry, I’ll understand if you unfollow this blog. Go with my blessing and my deep appreciation for the privilege of speaking into your ministry.

Here’s to a new adventure!

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? -Isaiah 43:19

Looking back… What’s your motivation?

looking backAs I pondered today’s reading from Genesis 19, verse 26 settled quite firmly into my thoughts, particularly as I remembered Jesus’ exhortation:

But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
-Genesis 19:26 [ESV]

“Remember Lot’s wife.” -Luke 17:32 [ESV]

What did Lot’s wife do that was so bad that she would become a pillar of salt? (Can’t you just picture her turning into little particles, scattering in the wind?) Scripture doesn’t tell us why she looked back, saying only that she did so as she fled Sodom with her husband, Lot, and their two daughters. We do know that it took some serious persuading for them to flee, and that Lot pleaded not to go too far.

The angel said to Lot that he could do nothing until Lot was safely in Zoar, the plain city that was to be spared at Lot’s request. As Lot arrived in Zoar, the Lord rained down sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. But Lot’s wife was behind him, and she looked back. Did she intentionally lag behind, reluctant to leave her home? Or did she stop short of the safety of Zoar and turn to watch triumphantly as the Lord destroyed Sodom?

Only God knows what was in her heart when she turned to look back but, whatever motivated her action, it certainly caused her destruction.

Looking back… The beginning of a new year often is the impetus for me to look back on the previous year. Perhaps this is an annual practice for you, too. It’s not a bad one–in fact, it can be quite instructive. But there are two emotions that can really trip me up:

  • Pride. I can look back and be quite pleased with my accomplishments, allowing my ego to get puffed up. This can cause me to hold on to success as though it defines me, giving my life purpose. But what happens when God wants to lead me to something new? Am I willing to release that success, those accomplishments, and venture into uncharted territory?
  • Regret. I can look back and regret what I left behind or what I feel was lost. Perhaps I did allow God to lead me into something new, but it required leaving other things behind. Finding that I am in a place of uncertainty, am I longing for what was safe and familiar, not quite trusting that God will be faithful?

“On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”  -Luke 17:31-33 [ESV]

But when I consider the context of Jesus’ admonition to remember Lot’s wife, I can rest assured that when my practice of looking back is motivated by the desire to see how God has been at work in my life the previous year…focusing on and celebrating his goodness and his faithfulness towards me…then I can rest assured that my life is secure and that I am safe in the place of refuge God has made for me!

 

How safe are you?

This year I am reading through the Bible using the Bible in One Year app from Holy Trinity Brompton. Three readings are given each day–one from the Psalms, one from the New Testament, and one from the Old Testament. Todays readings included the second Psalm and the second chapter of Matthew’s gospel. In his commentary on the last verse of Psalm 2, Nicky Gumbel says,

The safest place to be in the world is close to Jesus.

The next reading is from Matthew, telling of Joseph’s second encounter with an angel (isn’t he the lucky one!), who advised him to take little Jesus and Mary and escape to Egypt, and to stay there until he (the angel–which, by the way, means there will be a third angelic visitation for Joseph!) tells him it is safe to return.

I wonder…Did Joseph feel “safe” with Jesus?

As if a visit from an angel isn’t frightening enough, the message that a murderous king is out to kill this innocent child who has been entrusted to Joseph’s care…this child who is the long-awaited Messiah–screams “DANGER!” I certainly wouldn’t feel safe, and I bet Joseph and Mary didn’t, either.

So Joseph takes his wife and child and flees to Egypt as the angel advised, narrowlyflighttoegypt escaping Herod’s murderous wrath. They remain there for a couple of years, until the angel reappears to tell them that Herod is dead. So Joseph packs up his family and returns to Israel. If Joseph thought it would be safe there, he soon learns otherwise. In yet another angelic visitation (that makes four, if you are counting!) Joseph is warned that Herod’s son is even more evil than his father, and so Joseph avoids his ancestral home of Judea and takes up residence in a despised little town called Nazareth in Galilee.

A life lived on the run certainly doesn’t sound safe, does it? And yet, because Joseph was with Jesus, he was safer than anywhere else in the world.

I often comment that following Jesus is an adventure, and adventure almost always includes some element of risk. Sometimes it doesn’t feel particularly “safe” to be with Jesus, but no matter what life brings, as long as I am with and in Jesus, I can rest assured that I am in the safest place I can be.

What about you? As you begin this new year, are you safe with Jesus?

Seventy Times Seven

20160919_151416One year ago today my mom transitioned from this life to eternal life. Over the years I had watched as a few of my friends lost their mothers, some of whom warned me that I would miss my mom when she was gone from this earth. Especially in the last decade or so of her life, my response was, “Hardly!” To say that our relationship was strained was, at times, an understatement. But…

I miss my mom. Time has a way…

 At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.   -Matthew 18:21-22 [MSG]

I have typically thought of this verse as an admonition to forgive someone each time they hurt me. But there is another way of applying it that makes as much (and sometimes more) sense. Every time I remember a hurtful situation, I am faced with the choice to forgive again… and again… and again. Each time that memory reasserts itself, I have the opportunity to forgive. Easier now to understand that seventy times seven, isn’t it?

The truly interesting thing is how, if I am persistent in forgiving, the offense begins to fade away after awhile. I’ve spent a year letting go of offenses, both real and perceived. I’ve forgiven, and forgiven, and forgiven–sometimes the same offense, countless times. And over the course of the year, I’ve found that other memories have begun to rise up and take the place of the painful ones. Memories of laughter, of fun times Mom and I shared, of little phrases that were our own private sort of shorthand–like “milk and cookies,” which meant that something wasn’t working out quite right. (We never could get a glass of milk and a stack of cookies to finish at the same time! There was always more milk than cookies, so we’d have to go back and get more cookies…but then there would be more cookies than milk, so… well, you get the idea. Mom and I could go through a whole package of Oreos playing that game!)

My spiritual director suggested a few months ago that I plan on doing something to mark this first anniversary of my mom’s passing. Her grave is in another state and I knew I would probably not have the opportunity to go visit. I tried come up with something she would have enjoyed doing, thinking that I would go do it in her memory…but nothing came to mind. Last week my daughter and I went to a quilt show. We had a wonderful time together and I know it’s a memory we will both treasure. On the way home it occurred to me that, many years ago–before our relationship became so strained–Mom and I enjoyed doing things like that together and, for a moment, I sensed Mom’s smile.

Seventy times seven is nothing in light of that peace.

I love you, Mom. 20170513_204953.jpg