Too Big…Big Enough

Today the world’s problems got too big for my heart to handle.  Up until this point I’ve been able to keep a “safe” distance to not get overwhelmed with all that is transpiring outside my house. But then I saw a post from a friend down in Guatemala.  Last fall God invited me to take a trip with him to meet my brothers and sisters living in Guatemala who are considered among the poorest and most vulnerable in our world.  It seems that this pandemic will threaten to push the rich and the poor further from one another.

While in Guatemala I visited the garbage dump in Guatemala City that thousands call home and even more call their place of work.  Their government has decided in the wake of the coronavirus to shut the dump, and I understand for good reason, but this also means 30,000 people, who already barely eke out a day’s wages for their family to live on are now without work.  Let that sink in, 30,000 people.  Walking through the cities of this beautiful country I met more folks, mostly women and children, who earn their life wages selling on the street corners.  With everyone in quarantine right now their ability to work has dried up too.  I know in my own community and country the unemployment rate is climbing to frightening rates but what happens when unemployment meets those that are already vulnerable impoverished people like my friends in Guatemala?

Upon reading this news my heart started to race.  What can I do to help?  How can I fix something this big?  As my anxiety flared up I retreated to my sacred spot, where God and I go to talk together.  I cried with him and pleaded what can I do?  I’m a helper and an idealist by nature, my desire is to fix what is broken around me but this often means I can get a savior complex, quick.  As I looked at the magnitude of the world’s problems feeling guilty that I couldn’t do more God scooped me up and whispered in my ear, “I got this.”

I am thankful that my heart is learning more and more to listen to his gentle voice that tells me I’m already enough.  The guilt and anxiety that was starting to crush me made me blind to how I am helping and loving right now in my own home and community in the ways that I can.  Fear would desire us to see our efforts as small and therefore meaningless but God says each act of love is huge and impacts his kingdom.  Having a dance party with my kids to alleviate their stress is huge.  Painting little rocks to place around our neighborhood for our neighbors to find is huge.  Being intentional about staying in touch with family and friends to listen and stay connected is huge.  Picturing my friends in Guatemala in my heart so I can pray for them, lament with them and share their story is huge.  Writing every time I feel an invitation from the Lord to share what’s on my heart with all of you is huge.  He showed me that the list goes on and on.  The plight of 30,000 people felt too big for me and guess what, it was, but I don’t take on that plight, God does because he’s big enough.  I will love here and now how I can and how I am called to.

When Jesus’ disciples were about to face a situation that was going to be too big for them Jesus gave them these words.  May they resonate in your heart when fear, anxiety, and guilt try to crush out his gentle voice to you.

“I’ve said these things to you so that you can have peace in me.  You’ll have trouble in the world.  But cheer up!  I have defeated the world!” ~John 16:33

Home is what Shapes us

Home has been near and dear to my heart for over ten years now when I made a shift in job title and became a Stay at Home Mom.  My primary place of work became my primary place of living and so the idea of home took on new meaning in my life.  I began to view home as more than a place to eat and sleep and to see a bigger view of what was going on in my four walls.  As I learned at the feet of “Mama Sally” Clarkson and others, God invited me not just to care for my children but to live out the cultural mandate and cultivate creation through my home.

Home is what forms us, nurtures us and inspires us, into who we are and who we will become.

The art on the walls of my home, whether created by little hands or those of a seasoned artist, is no longer merely placeholders on a blank wall but cultivate beauty, evoking feelings and thought to inspire.  The furniture that fills a room is selected in a way that honors who made it and how it was made to welcome all that sit upon it to find rest after a long day or spurn the imagination of a child to become a boat or a fort of epic tales.  The morning routines we form as a family in our home aren’t just about getting out of the door on time, but preparing us and strengthening us for what we will be invited into. And the list goes on and on as each object, each tradition, weaves into the fabric of our being.

For me, this picture of home has been lived out in a very small way, for me and my family, but after traveling thousands of miles south to the country of Guatemala and being invited into so many countless homes there I saw the universality of this theme of home come alive.  Homes exist all over the world because the human race has multiplied and filled the world.  So though I entered homes of different sizes and shapes and locations, each was filled with the same themes of Belonging, Love, Beauty, Joy, Lament, Comfort, Celebration, Inspiration and on and on.

I realized the importance of welcoming others into my home to learn who I am and traveling to others homes to learn who they are, whether it be my neighbor down the street or my neighbor in another part of the world.  To enter someone’s home is learn who they are since it is the place that has shaped them.  In it, I learn my neighbor, though their home is unique to them and mine to me, is not so very different at the foundation.  I appreciate them for who they are and the story their life tells and I see how our homes together more fully depict God’s kingdom here on earth.

May home take on a deeper meaning in all our lives.  Our home will shape us, whether we see it or not so may we be purposeful and thoughtful in the way we approach it.  May we be intentional about getting to know other people’s homes so we can get to know them better.  Look for the universal themes and foundations that shape each of us and open wide the arms of your home to receive all.

A Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage has been defined as, “a trip with God, to meet God, together.”  I just returned from a 10-day pilgrimage to Guatemala and El Paso/Cd Juarez.  Below is a link to a piece a wrote up about my experience.  Perhaps God will prompt you to journey with him as well.

“On October 20th, 2019, Coracle sent a team of 12 people on a 10-day pilgrimage, to “take a journey with God, to meet God, together.”  We traveled south to Guatemala for several days, then north via Mexico to the border cities of El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The purpose behind our journey was to discover why thousands of brothers and sisters every year make this same journey, albeit under very different conditions.

Even to say others are making a journey is an understatement.  In truth, they are fleeing their homes as a last resort, leaving behind their families, their cultures and their people to seek refuge and justice because they have exhausted all other options….”

To read on, click on the link below…

https://inthecoracle.org/2019/10/a-report-from-guatemala-and-the-border/

Work that glorifies

Yesterday I spent a lovely day with my dear friends at Coracle.  We sat around a large board room overlooking the city of DC to discuss the topic of work.    As I’ve talked before work is not some hardship meant to just fill our time up here on earth.  Work is a God-ordained gift, given to us his image bearers at the dawn of creation.  Genesis 2:15 instructs us that God gave us the garden to work, (cultivate is the actual word here) and to care for.  It wasn’t till after the curse in Genesis 3 that our work was cursed as well, our food to come from the sweat of our brow because the land had been infested with thorns and thistles.

But of course, God never ends the story there.  Jesus comes to this world to bring dignity and meaning back to our work, to redeem it.  He works most of his life as a carpenter, a ‘tekton‘ I learned yesterday, which has a much fuller meaning I knew before.  He spent the majority of his time, not with the professional religious folks but with the everyday workers, tax collectors, fishermen.  Then on the cross, he took the thorns and thistles, the full measure of sin and he defeated it.  Our lives now are redeemed to the fullest meaning that even our work done now can take on its original intent, to glorify God and prepare us all, this whole creation for the new earth to come.

I heard this complete gospel in my college days.  It was a way of life that ignited me to see each task I performed, each paper I wrote, each exam I studied for, each job I took on to be done to the glory of God.  Colossians 3:17 became my mantra, “and whatever you do, in word or action, do everything in the name of the master, Jesus, giving thanks to him through God the father.”  I was introduced to a gentleman named Brother Lawrence, a monk known for how he lived each and every day doing what he called, practicing the presence of God.  Brother Lawrence lived his days in a continual awareness of God with him.  He is also well known for saying that he could peel potatoes even to the glory of God since all work was done for God.  I wanted to live this way, knowing that even peeling potatoes was God ordained and glorifying, living into my image bearing identity.

And I did.  I set about my years post-college in passionate pursuit of serving God through all my actions and sharing this complete gospel with everyone I could, that the lie of the dualistic life, the sacred and secular divide was false when it came to our lives, our whole lives, including our work.  I was busy doing, doing doing, for God trying to please him through my work each day.  But these seasons of doing don’t last forever and I found myself lost wondering if I’m not doing for God or serving him as I once thought was the only way possible, am I still glorifying him?  What does he think about that?  What does he think about me?

In my later years now I revisited my old friend Brother Lawrence and sat as he instructed me on his life, through his words.  I began to see his life and his practice completely differently.  Brother Lawrence didn’t start with his doing to glorify God, he started with his being to glorify God.  That constant awareness he lived into of the presence of God, the presence of Love with him always grounded him in his identity as a child of God.  His practice was neither fancy nor complicated, just a centering of himself on God so that no matter what he did, “in word or action,” he did for God not through his doing but through his being.

These days I’m switching things around.  My primary task each day is not centered on doing anything but sitting with my God who is always with me.  He gently reminds me who I am, his child and image bearer in this world.  Sitting sweetly with my Lord I am able to hear his voice and the instruction he has for me that day, the work that he will offer to me to do, whether it be washing clothes, running my son to baseball practice, writing this blog entry and yes, even peeling potatoes for an evening meal.  Living into the constant presence of God, abiding in the Vine and his word is what makes my branch fruitful and ultimately glorifying to God.

The Present Moment

Too often when I stop and catch my thought pattern I find I am distracted by what has happened, reliving the what and when and how over and over, or I’m preoccupied with what is coming ahead, the to-do list, the maybe, the unknown I’m trying to control.  In either instance I am very rarely focused on where God is with me.  My thoughts are inward.

God’s gentle voice calls me out of that headspace and slowly I am attuning my heart to follow where it leads, and often where it leads it to the moment right before my eyes.  The more I discipline myself to practice the present moment I see that it has nothing to do with the human construct of time, instead, it draws our attention to the thin veil that separates our world with heaven and in that space, we meet God and we experience joy.

God has given me wise teachers in life who are always attuned to the present in the form of my three small children.  Children are not distracted with what has been or what the future might hold, they have no concept of time.  At any given moment I know exactly what my children are thinking and feeling, engrossed in story time, building a world of make-believe, feeling the deep hurt after falling off a bike, or the disappointment of no dessert.  They feel happiness and fear and sadness and all the things I believe because they are so present to their true selves at that moment.

One day I was playing with my three year old and he kept getting frustrated with me.  I realized I wasn’t having much fun either and then I realized it was because I wasn’t actually playing.  I was thinking of all the things I should be doing, could be doing.  And then it hit me, be present to this moment, the one that is gifted me right now.  As I could fully give myself over to play I felt peace and I felt joy and happiness and fun.  I connected with myself and my son deeply and when we do that, we always connect with God as well.

I think back to the moment I sat at my father’s death bed and watched his last breaths slip away.  I characterize that moment as feeling the deepest joy and deepest sorrow in my life.  I felt deeply because I was present deeply to the thin veil.  At that moment I knew God presence and I knew my true self to be present.

If we want to be people who are fully alive then I believe we must be people who are fully present.  Perhaps this is just one more way we must become like little children to inherit the kingdom of God.  The smaller the child the less the false self has guarded them off and so the easier it is for them to just be present.  Today let us listen to the gentle voice that calls us to him.

Receive

I found myself in a familiar passage in Luke’s gospel this morning.  Luke begins the story with the people bringing their tiny babies to Jesus for him to touch.  In a society where children were neither seen nor heard, it doesn’t seem out of place for his disciples to shoo the people away.  Jesus as always has a counter culture, unexpected response.  He not only receives these little ones, but he also embraces them and blesses them and then says something that I’m sure was quite confusing.

Receive the kingdom of God as a child or else you will never enter.  Jesus tells us, this is the truth, a sure foundation to stand upon.  So it got me wondering, how does a child receive?  I’m fortunate to have a handful of kids running around my house at any moment so I pondered, how do my children receive a gift or really any good thing that’s been presented to them?  I thought of words like excitement, wonder, joy.  Small children have the ability to immerse themselves so fully in the moment they are in and so feel these things to the fullest measure.  Children have no fear of good gifts given to them from their loving parent, and never wonder if any strings are attached.  Children receive with open hands and open hearts.

Do I receive the good gift, the invitation to enter my true home, God’s kingdom, in this way?

Luke then immediately goes into the next story and so I continued to read.  A man Luke calls a ruler, comes to ask Jesus a question that is important to him.  I imagine this man has it all together given the nature of his questioning and responses.  He thinks he has life all figured out, he’s rich, he’s young, he’s a ruler, and he’s kept all the commandments.  Now he wants to know how to get everything in order for life in the age to come.  Jesus tells him to sell everything he owns, distribute it to the poor and then come and follow him.  The man is sad, Jesus can tell and he says to the people how hard it will be for those with many possessions to enter God’s kingdom.  Their reaction, well then who can be saved?

I have many possessions and a life that seems pretty together, will I enter God’s kingdom?

At first glance, it’s easy to read these two stories as separate, each with their own meaning but then why did Luke tell them back to back and why did some person decide centuries ago to group them together under one heading?  And then I made a connection.  Why does a child receive with wonder and excitement and joy?  Because they possess nothing.  There is room in their heart to receive and they are totally dependent on their parents to provide for them.  When that parent-child relationship is one of love and security the child trusts and their heart is open wide.

Jesus looked beyond the exterior of the rich, young ruler, of his life all put together.  Jesus perceived a heart that was full already.  Perhaps full of pride and self-sufficiency.  The man found security in his possessions and wealth.  Through his acts of doing, he was able to achieve the life he wanted and now he thought through his own actions and work he could achieve the life he wanted in the age to come as well.  But that’s not how God’s kingdom works and that was what Jesus was telling the people when he said they must receive as a child.

By giving away his possessions to the poor the young ruler would make room in his heart to receive.  By seeing himself dependent on his heavenly Father, he would run to him for what he needed.  By following Jesus he would see what the relationship between the father and son is to be, an exchange of love and grace and trust.  The young ruler could see that his security comes in his identity, a child of God, and he would receive life to the fullest in this age and the one to come.

Do I have room in my heart to receive?  Where do I find my security?  Do I see myself as a child, totally dependent on my Father?  What possessions must I give away to the poor, so that I might become poor and receive the kingdom of God?