Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Feeling the Holy

“…we’re hushing the hurry and
feeling the holy and savoring the wonder.”
Ann Voscamp

I have been on a quest for holy lately.
There is something pushing up in me,
a desire to find this thing that's missing.
So when I read Ann Voscamp's post,
something stirred in me.
It's been hard to describe this feeling.
But the word that best describes the
feeling that I am searching for is "holy."
We live in the age of familiar and common.
Not much takes our breath away.
Not much flips our shoes off.

It’s not that God doesn’t have 
holy moments all around.
It’s just that they are hard to find.
Today’s churches have taken some  
awe and wonder and replaced them 
with comfortable and common.
Where there used to be holy water at the door,
there is now coffee and donuts.
We want to take some of the mystery away
so seekers can find connections.
That’s not a bad thing.
It's just that sometimes we trade away a thing
that will have to come another way.

I have this strange longing for cathedral ceilings
and incense filled air and candle lit altars.
I want to walk into a sanctuary and
sit in the holy silence
and breathe in the anointed air.
But this is just part of wanting to find holy
and those moments have to be everywhere.

A holy moment presents itself when
I am faced with two reports, and I decide
to turn from the report punctuated with fear
and look to the one stamped with peace.
It happens when I am all alone and 
my thoughts have free reign to go anywhere.
But “Joy to the World” plays on Spotify
and I’m struck by the 
repetitive declarations filling my home.
And wonders of His love

And wonders of His love

And wonders and wonders of His love.
And I realize that I can think anything I want,
but grace has stepped in and led me
to think about wonder.
The wonder of His love.
He uses a music app to remind me
that His wonder is as real in my home
as it is in any cathedral.
The next song declares that
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
And I choose His gospel--
which is always about good news--
over the report filled with fear and doubt.
 And maybe for a moment
I had my breath taken away
and I wanted to flip off my shoes.

I am grateful for wonder and love.
No other season more loudly proclaims
the wonders of His love.
There are people who have no understanding 
of Jesus singing about this great love.
And there are those, like me, who sing of it with
a measure of understanding but sometimes 
as if seeing the wonder of this great love
for the first time.

And if I close my eyes,
I can smell the incense and 
see the candles burning.
I think that I'm feeling the holy
and savoring the wonder.
In the midst of wonder,
hurry is easily hushed.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Reaping and Keeping

To everything there is a season and 
a time for every purpose under heaven.

There are times when physical and 
spiritual seasons are in perfect alignment.
And it feels like everything around is teaching you
and everything confirms what you are experiencing.

This autumn season has certainly mirrored
the spiritual season my heart is in.
The leaves began turning color,
signaling the transitioning out of
a long season of sowing and growing.
But as the leaves have turned and fallen,
and the weather has turned cold and rainy,
it's been hard not to look at all that's died back.

But that is also the inherent danger when
spiritual and physical seasons align.
Jesus has reminded me that although
I experience these seasons sequentially,
He holds them all simultaneously.
The various seasons allow us to focus on
what might be going on around us.
But we can’t get defined by a season either.
In this fall season, I can acknowledge that 
things are dark, and damp and dying.
But my expectations have to be framed by
His goodness to lead me into life everyday.

He reminds me that autumn is multi-faceted.
It is about reaping what was sown.
It is about giving thanks for what we have.
It is about sitting still during long dark nights.
The darkness pushes our borders in,
asking us to be more still than busy.
Stillness can make busy people uneasy.

When we are still, we can see that autumn
 is also about things that are gained.
Sometimes we can only grow when
we are forced to sit down and let go.
But letting go isn’t the final word.
Autumn is a time to reap what we've sown.
And what we reap, we get to keep.
It is easy to identify the meager fruit
of all our shortcomings.
Maybe we sowed fear and reaped some anxiety.
Maybe it was negativity and we reaped doubt.
But Jesus is asking us to take some 
fruit from the sowing we have done right.
"Put peace into your basket," He tells me,
"because there were times you sowed peace
when you thought none could be found.
And kindness too. And love. And faithfulness.
There were times you chose to sow into those
and you get to reap and keep 
the fruit from those choices.”

This is the real story of autumn,
the season of reaping and thanksgiving.
So I will learn what I can from all
that is taking place around me.
But I won’t let it be the final word.
Jesus is the beginning and the end,
the Alpha and the Omega,
the autumn and the spring.
Though the days are long and dark,
and everything looks like it has died back,
I am going to take my gathering basket
and do some reaping.
And what I reap,
I get to keep.
To everything there is a season...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sweaters and Gratitude

When I am finally forced to admit
that summer is gone for good—
and often not until mid November—
I sometimes do what seems a bit odd.
I defiantly refuse to dress for the cold.
Somehow this makes me feel still in control.
So I'll throw on a sweater and go off into the day,
arms wrapped around myself, totally uncomfortable,
but telling that day it cannot dictate how I dress.
I am dressing for the day I want it to be.

This has not been an unconscious decision.
I know I do this and I know it is, 
well, kind of dumb.
But the principle behind it is not:
Defiantly declaring our circumstances do not 
have to define the way we respond to them.

That is the principle behind Thanksgiving.
Everything around us indicates that
beauty has died back.
Leaves have all fallen and the rain has set in.
People may have experienced a year
marked by loss and pain.
A long winter season is ahead of us and,
 those can be challenging months.
But instead of agreeing with all that,
we sit around tables and give thanks--
thanks for what we have and for who we have.
Thanksgiving is a symbolic day of declaration:
we are grateful regardless of our circumstances.
Sitting around the table being thankful
is a wonderfully defiant act.
The new “pre-black Friday” trend
is so the opposite of that spirit.
We leave our place of thanksgiving for
what we have in search of what we want.
We step out of acknowledging that our needs
have been satisfied to declaring that 
our wants are found wanting.

Many say this trend is an attack on the family.
But even more it is an attack on gratitude,
on contentment, on peace.
And no amount of “pre-black Friday” savings
is worth compromising those.
Staying "seated" for an entire day
of Thanksgiving is such a good idea.

So I may occasionally choose a sweater 
because a cold day cannot dictate my dress.
But more than that, I choose gratitude
as a reminder that my circumstances 
cannot dictate my response.
Sweaters and gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

God With Me

“Recognize that God is with you.
Acknowledge God knows what He's doing.”
Brennan Manning

When God announced that His Son
would be called Immanuel,
He was announcing the most
important attribute of His being.
He was defining the incarnated Christ
as “God with us.”
God would be with us in it all—
our joy, our sorrow, our pain, our everyday life.
He would be the One walking in us and through us,
but most importantly, He would be 
the One walking with us.

No matter what we’re going through,
our truest friends are the ones who say,
I want you to know I’m with you.
We don’t care if they understand all we feel
and we don’t care if they can’t fix us.
We care that they are willing to stand with us,
even when there are no words and no solutions.
Especially then.

Jesus is moved by what moves us and fully
participates with us in all that makes us human.
He is God with us.
When life gets challenging and
we feel like maybe we are alone after all,
we have to hold on with all we have to
“God is with us.”

It wouid be good enough if 
all we had were Scriptural promises.
But we have even more.
We have His name.
It's as if God shouted into the universe,
“My people! My Son is coming to live with you.
His name will be God-with-you.
This is the greatest news I could ever give you.”
He has invited us into this new relationship,
to live not out of our old fears and strivings,
but out of grace, mercy and compassion—
out of Christ, who gave Himself
that we might live.
In Him and through Him.
And with Him.

I need to declare "God is with me"
every minute of every day.
It keeps me grounded and true.
Authentic and vulnerable.
At the end of the day, it comes down to
I am His and He is always with me.

Friday, November 7, 2014

On the Bridge

Whether a small foot bridge in Mindowaskin Park NJ, 
or the Golden Gate in San Francisco, 
bridges provide the means 
to get to another side--
from where ever we currently stand  
to a place we are going. 
Sometimes our crossings are small,
and we hardly give a thought to getting over.
Other times they are suspension size,
requiring that we both suspend our doubt 
and stretch forth our faith.
Regardless of the size, 
bridges require trust that on the other side
we will find solid ground for our journey--
whether we can see it or not.
By definition, bridges must include obstacles.
There must be something in our way.
Bridges are built to get across an obstacle,
to get to another piece of solid ground.
Sometimes it means walking over to the "there" 
but "not yet known" part of a journey.

There are times we have to stop and ask:
Am I standing on one side of an obstacle,
waiting for the faith to cross over?
Am I actually on the bridge suspended
between here and there?
This is a transition season for me,
and it has been helpful to recognize
that I have been walking on a bridge to "there."
And even though I am not sure of "there,"
I am confident of "Who."

God required Abraham to leave the familiar
and follow Him to a country
 that He would show him "later."
God doesn't always give all the information
we need during the journey.
But He always gives us grace.
He always gives us Himself.

At this season of crossing over,
I must remember that I am being led.
On this bridge to solid ground,
there is grace to believe that my faith
is strong enough to cross all the way.
I deal with doubt and negative thoughts
by pointing back to the side I just left.
You cannot come with me on this journey.

I continue walking, 
trusting that He is with me.
“In the same way I was with Moses, 
I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you;
I won’t leave you.”
Joshua 1:5
For right now, that is all
the assurance I need.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Beauty Exposed

Sometimes when the leaves fall
and the tree looks bare,
a beauty is exposed that
we couldn't see before.
As I was out for a walk,
a tree that had lost almost all its leaves
revealed a beautiful pond that likely
wasn't all that visible a week ago.
With the leaves in their rightful place, 
this little pond was probably hidden. 
The Lord so clearly spoke to me
that sometimes things we have
totally enjoyed during one season
may have to look like they have died back
before we see can something new.

As we trust the Holy Spirit to guide us,
we can rest in His desire
to lead us not only to something new,
but to something beautiful.
We just need to have eyes to see.
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit 
would make my heart open to goodness, 
make my heart open to the beauty that
He has placed all around me every day.
Especially when some things around me
look like bare trees and scattered leaves.

All of creation reflects the beauty
of the One who created it all.
An old song has been running
through my heart as a reminder to see.

"I see Your face in every sunrise
The colors of the morning 
are inside Your eyes
The world awakens in the light of the day
I look up to the sky and say
You're beautiful..."
Phil Wickham