Something I Have Been Thinking ABout

In the end of chapter 2 of the book of Acts we are told about how people were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and prayer and how everyone was giving of their resources for the good of the whole group and daily people were being brought to the faith. We see the same sort of report of the early church being given at the end of chapter four as well.

We don’t have a lot of information like how much time passed but by the time we get into chapter six they are starting to suffer growing pains. Word gets out that some of the widows were being neglected and not being properly taken care of. We aren’t given much more than the bare bones description of the dispute and when Rob referenced the passage Sunday in his sermon my mind, as it is wont to do these days, began to ponder the passage.

I wondered how those widows handled their lack. Did they whine and fuss? Did the grumble and gripe to all and sunder? I’d like to think that they didn’t do those things. That maybe they were already practicing what Paul would write down later about learning to be content no matter their state. Maybe they noticed they weren’t getting as much as others in the daily distribution and just shrugged it off the first few times before going in humbleness to the people that needed to know for the situation to be addressed later on.

We don’t know though because the Bible doesn’t tell us. But it does tell us something important that hit me in a new way.

Out of the widows need came the framework for a system of church government that is still in practice today. The primacy of preaching the Scriptures and a division of labor to handle the physical needs of the church was birthed by way of their lack.

And it made me wonder how I handle my own lack and my own needs when I have to wait for them to be met. Am I patient or am I so blind to everything except what I am going without? Am I able to see past myself to see what God might be doing for someone else through my own deficit? What good work might He be doing, not just in my life but within my community? Surely our emptiness and need has a place at the table otherwise what would be the use of our talents and gifts?

If I am being honest I must admit that I really don’t want for much or go without often. But I must also honestly pray that God lets me respond rightly when it happens. Maybe that situation will bear out in much the way as it did in those early days of the Church and the word of God will continue to increase and faith will abound among the people of God.

Some Day

Some days I don’t know whether to apologize to my children for the kind of parent I am being or call my parents and apologize for the kind of child I was.

I should probably do both.

Some days, when the weather is so very gray and rainy like it was yesterday, I just want to read and cook or bake. And not necessarily anything good for you but leaning more on the indulgent side. I didn’t bake though. A Florida friend is coming to visit today and I will probably make a pound cake. Oddly enough what I am looking forward to the most is the smell. A freshly baked cake smells almost as good as bread coming out of the oven.

On Sunday Rob read a familiar passage from the last chapter of the book of John and I have been thinking about it the last couple of days. The disciples had been fishing all night but they had no fish to show for it. Jesus, whom they did not recognize at first, told them to put their net out on the right side of the boat and boy, did they score a mess of fish! And more importantly they recognized Christ. Peter was so excited he jumped into the water to get to Him as fast as he could. Once they arrived at the shore the Bible says this,

John 21:9

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.”

That’s what jumped out to me. Do you see it? Jesus already had fish but He invited the disciples to bring their fish to the table, so to speak, after instructing them on where to catch some.

God suffers no lack yet He graciously invites us to join Him in the work of restoring and renewing the world. Not only that, He provides all that we need and equips us to do so.

How humbling is that? We should approach our days with the trembling excitement of a child being invited into the kitchen to help create the most unbelievably delicious fare.

Someday we will see ever so clearly all the ways that God allowed us to be part of His redemptive work. I think we might be surprised at how He used our to-do lists.

The Duty Is Ours

Sometimes we want a laundry list of reasons so we can understand why something has happened, why someone is doing what they’re doing. We might want time to plan and prepare for any all spontaneous events that might be disruptive to our prepared thought out plans and agendas. Or we struggle simply because we have our checklist and we’ve marked all of the boxes.

I get it, we do any or all of those at any given time.

We take in and gather information and organize it all in such a way that things make sense to us, so that life makes sense. The reality we construct may not always be exact or completely spot on but it’s how we process and how we’re able to cope. We need information. We want specific times, events, and incident reports. Life is easier if we have naughty and nice lists or a balanced ledger of pros and cons. We want a report card that we are able to point to and show our good behavior and prove we have a reason for life to not be so hard.

We want the inside scoop on what God is doing and we want a say on what He is doing. But how many times in the book of Genesis alone do we see God saying, “Go and I will show you…” and that was it?

Sometimes it is a conglomerate of things that aren’t very specific and well defined yet there you are, standing in your garage sorting ten years worth of life into the throw away pile, the donation pile, the I wanna keep that pile, and a much larger garage sale pile than you expected.

Then one day somebody does something that has a big impact on your life circumstances and you have yo deal with stuff you didn’t even know existed. Or something big is going down at work and there’s nothing you can do to change it or you’re having a conversation with your doctor you never expected to have about yourself, your parent or your child.

Sometimes your peaceful little life is upended by circumstances completely out of your control.

Because God moved. Not in a rush. Not overnight. But all along moving you to a place where what you thought you knew, what you thought you ought to have, the way you thought it would always be, isn’t.

Samuel Rutherford put it this way, “…the duties are ours, events are the Lord’s.”

All events in our lives come from the hand of God. We cannot predict or control them. How we respond to those circumstances is what we are responsible for.

Ours is the work of obedience, of being faithful to His leading, to do His work where we are, where He has brought us to. To respond in faith and trust He is at work for our good.

In all the seemingly sudden upheaval we may face we can trust that His plan really isn’t sudden, that in the same way a farmer plans and prepares long before the first mound of dirt is tilled up, He has been busy sorting and preparing seed and the work He intends for each of us to do.

May we be found faithful and may He bless the works of our hands in what we have done and in what we will do.

Have a great weekend, y’all, no matter what comes your way!

Learning New Things

Did y’all know my brand new son-in-law is a photographer? He is and a really good one. He’s a young whippersnapper though and has given me grief over the fact that I don’t use Lightroom (the industry standard) for my editing. All in jest of course, and much love, because he wanted to marry my daughter 😉

He is actually going to second shoot a wedding with me in July though and in the interest of making life easier for both us in that endeavour I made sure my computer was up to snuff and could handle the Adobe program and I am now officially doing things like a grownup photographer.

I’m shooting in RAW and editing in Lightroom.

Turns out that young whippersnapper knew what he was talking about when he kept telling me I just needed to do it. I still have a bit of a learning curve and as of yet I haven’t worked on anything involving people but I love love love what I have been able to do so far just with some flower pictures I took in my yard.

Between the extension tubes and Lightroom I am feeling all fancy and the clover in my yard has never looked prettier.

I don’t do a whole bunch of editing but I do think I like what I have the freedom to do since the file is larger and gives me more information to work with if I do want to play with it.

I know, I know. I’m just geeking out over a few pictures and new techniques and skill sets and it’s probably not terribly interesting to you. But seriously, look at the scope of detail that God put into a simple little clover.

The swirl and flare of each petal. The movement of color from stalk to stem. Even the beautiful tea stained shade of the dying flower.

How much more does He care about the details, the smalls ones and the big ones, about your life?

I’m still hung up on the wonder leading to wisdom I guess. Because how can we not be in awe of the God who created this and not trust Him enough to live the life He calls us to? A life of genuine love and real forgiveness? One flush with steadfastness and truth, beauty, and goodness.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

We have been created with even more attention and care than the flowers and He has work for us to do, good works. So get busy. You’re supposed to glorify Him today. Go make someone marvel at what He has done.

Being Fruitful

Quick! What is the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase, “…be fruitful and multiply”? For most of us we think of pregnant bellies and sweet squishy babies and obviously it is a right thing to think. After all, we know that is what God was saying to Adam and Eve in the first chapter of Genesis and the word multiply literally means to grow in number. Here, Adam. I made this woman for you. And I have made you both in such a way that you can make more of you. Now go fill the earth with more of you and take dominion over everything.

I want to point out a couple of things on the baby having side first and then back track to look at something I think is often overlooked or overshadowed in that verse.

Firstly, in this day and age that is abundant in birth control options (some that are outright sinful and others that aren’t) I do think as a society, even among Christians, childbearing has seemingly become an option that one can exercise or not depending on how you might feel about it. But I think it is pretty clear that choosing to be willfully childless is not the way of God’s people. Anyone can have babies. But for Christians, why we have babies and how we raise them, should be vastly different from unbelievers. In reality this is true about everything. We christians do the same life things, the same activities, as people who do not know Christ as King. But because we do know Him as King it is supposed to look different in our lives. It is glorified…we reveal Christ in what we do because we do all things for His glory, to make Him known.

I do, however, believe there is a lot more theology behind “be fruitful and multiply” than just having babies and that brings me to a second thing. I do not believe this is a command to everyone to have all of the babies. We have five children. To some that is a lot. To others that is about half of a lot. But here’s the thing. God doesn’t prescribe a specific number of required offspring. To some couples He grants life for one child. For another He opens the womb for more. Sometimes someone may wish they had more. For others God seems to let them decide how many and for still others He closes the womb and opens their hearts to adoption. I certainly cannot fully grasp His providence in these matters but I know that He graciously invites us in and allows us to use wisdom and discernment in planning the size of our families so that we can faithfully tend the children we are given.

I realize a lot more can be said and teased out on this subject but I’m going to leave that part of the verse now and back up to what I have been thinking through this past week. It’s the phrase, “be fruitful” that has been tumbling around in my head.

You see, I think it is a mistake to lumb that in with the multiply part as if the whole thing is only talking about having babies. It would seem to me that if we do that we are condensing down the mandate to what is a relatively few short years out of our lives. At fifty-one my child bearing years are done so if the mission God gave humanity all the way back in the garden is just about having children what does that mean for the rest of my life? What did it mean for the years before I could have children?

A definition for the word fruitful is abundantly productive. If we are looking at it through the Genesis chapter one lens then we know we are made in God’s image. God, the Creator, is telling us to be creative, to produce something. But what? We are not all artist or musicians and what have you. Not everyone is a gardener or an accomplished cook. Are we exempt if we aren’t talented or skilled? I don’t think so. I think we may just need to think a little outside of the box in ways we can be produce fruit in our lives.

I find this quote by Edith Schaeffer very helpful in thinking creatively in how we can produce fruit in our lives ~

There are various art forms we may or may not have talent for, may or may not have time for, and we may or may not be able to express ourselves in, but we ought to consider this fact-that whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are. We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us.” 

Can’t play an instrument? Cultivate an appreciation for music by listening to good music. The kind of beautiful music that has lasted for hundreds of years or at least four or five decades. Do the same with art. Expose your children to that sort of music and art. Read the classics to them and yourself. But I don’t think we should limit ourselves to just understanding and appreciating good art, music and books and not actually trying new things. We should challenge ourselves to do things that are difficult if even just slightly so. Go ahead and plant something in the dirt. Choose a new recipe to try. Learn to do a skill that you haven’t done before.

Create balance between those tangible and intangible ways that produce fruit in our life.

We create with more than clay and paint, or words or music notes, fabric or photographs. Everyday we create. And everyday we make choices to imitate what has already crafted by the Master.

We create homes that are a refuge the way He created an ark.

We create new culture when we resist the world’s culture, the world’s way of doing or being.

We create a world of reconciliation when we imitate the dark art of death in dying to ourselves that produces the kaleidoscope of color and light found in the resurrection.

We create peace when we turn the other cheek and offer the glorious poetry of forgiveness.

We create a symphony of mercy when we love and esteem others more than ourselves.

We create places of hospitality as we open our door and beckon in the poor and hungry.

We create a tapestry of grace when we weave longsuffering through our relationships with husband and wife, child and friend.

We all produce something. We all create. The question is whether it is worthy of presenting to our Creator.

In her book Loving The Little Years Rachel Jankovic makes the point that the more fruit we make the more of that fruit God will use.

“Some of those apples will fall to the ground and rot. But God uses rotten apples ~ to fertilize the ground, to start more apple trees after little animals plant them, and just to make the air smell sticky sweet. You cannot know the depth of His plan for your fruit. So throw it out there on the ground when you have no plan for its future. Waste it. Waste homemade pasta (and the mess it makes) on your family. Don’t save cloth napkins for company only ~ sew a dress your daughter doesn’t really need. Be bountiful with your fruit and free with it. The only thing you can know for certain is that God will use it.”

I don’t know about sewing a dress but I have spent some time over the last month buying up packs of fat quarters each week when I go to the grocery store. It’s probably been a dozen years since I tried to piece together a quilt and if I am honest my previous attempts, although well loved (it was a napping quilt for Claire when she started school) were less than lovely. We don’t really need another blanket either. But the fabric was so pretty and it caught my eye and on a whim I decided I wanted to do it again. It won’t be anything uber fancy but I want to work at it. I want to make sure my seams are straight this time and that my binding is even.

I’m going to use the new cake pan I got this weekend and make something pretty and delicious.

I’m going to keep taking pictures of anything and everything. I’m going to keep making cards and such with the pictures and putting them in my Etsy shop.

I’m going to keep stringing words together and blogging.

I’m going to drive Rob crazy picking out plants and flowers and designing garden beds.

I’m going to keep blowing bubbles for the puppies to chase and watch silly video clips with the girls and let Sam show me all the different bits and pieces to his latest LEGO creation.

I’m going to keep finding ways to produce truth, beauty, and goodness. And joy and laughter. And prayerfully it will also produce a deeper love and thankfulness for our great kind God who did it all first.

Join me, why don’t you? Tell me about the fruit of your hands.

What You Ought To Remember

You know what’s embarrassing? Slamming the toilet lid down in a public restroom because you forget that all toilet lids are not self closing like the ones at home.

You know what’s painful? Forgetting that you chopped jalapeños a few hours ago and rubbing your eye.

You know what is not embarrassing or painful? God’s forgiveness. The teaching of Scripture is that when we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us. Not just forgive either but to cleanse us from the dirt and mess of our sin. And if that were not enough, we are told He throws our sin away as far as the east is from the west.

You know what God doesn’t forget?

Us.

Me.

You.

He remembers our frame. He remembers that we are His people and He is our God.

He remembers His promises.

So many promises! But this morning I woke up thinking about forgiveness and Psalm 139. Such thoughts are, indeed, too wonderful.

You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (Verses 5 & 6)

I hope you begin your week thinking of the promises God gives to His children. And may you walk in them.

Happy Monday y’all.

A Beautiful Reminder

I love autumn.

The brisk temperatures.

The cozy sweaters and fuzzy socks.

The comfort food. I may not be real good about eating soups and chili and such during the summer but I do love that stuff when it starts to get cool. I guess I definitely have seasons for my food even if, having lived my whole life in the south, my fall and winter are short and barely there.

What I really love the most though are the colors. The amazing display that the foliage puts on each year just takes my breath away.

Years ago, as I was contemplating a particularly gorgeous autumnal exhibition by a Bradford pear tree, I connected the dots in a profound way that has stayed with me ever since.

The beautiful leaves with their colors that so delighted me were quite simply, dying.

Obviously, I knew the change of seasons, however limited my exposure, and I understood the science and mechanics of what was happening. But in that moment under that tree I realized it in a different way.

Every year since as I see the stunning colors of fall I am reminded of this truth..they are at their most beautiful in death.

The way of Christ is upside down from the way of the world but when we are faithful to His ways, when we are willing to be that living sacrifice, we are just like the leaves and gloriously beautiful in the way that only His people can be.

I think it is truly fitting that the rich bold colors are at their peak as we prepare for Advent, don’t you? A gracious reminder that while there is pain and suffering and even death, the Christ child who came bore it all for our sake.

Valley of Vision

More of a prayer than I poem I think.

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

Hello 2021!

Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are, be all there!”

For some reason that was one of the first thoughts to come to mind this morning before I had even gotten out of bed.

Wherever you are, be all there.

I think for most of the world we may have started saying it in jest and somewhat tongue in cheek, that we just couldn’t wait to see the last of 2020. But somewhere along the way, as everything began to really pile on, I think we began to believe that if we just wished it so the turning of the calendar page would hold some kind of special magic that would ease the brittleness and uncertainty of life right now.

This morning I put up a brand spanking new calendar. I alternate years between Ansel Adams and some kind of folk art theme. I didn’t do it on purpose I just sort of fell into the habit. Last year, Rob gave me a beautiful large calendar of some gorgeous Ansel Adam black and white prints. This year we did a “time” theme for one of our 12 days of Christmas and everyone got a new calendar (except Emmy who didn’t need one so she got a lovely hourglass) and while I was shopping I bought my folksy art one that hangs just outside the main kitchen area.

And in a way there is something promising and magical about all of those blank squares. Opportunities seem to abound. Birthdays and anniversaries and other celebratory moments lay ahead. But the reality is dark days wait too. Bad things will come mixed in with the good and if all we marked time by was the freshness of a new year, the hope of this year being better than last year, then we are doomed to a miserable existence.

Because Covid is still a fact in our lives right now. Mask mandates, limited gatherings, and all the other craziness caused by the world’s reaction to the virus is still here.

The political landscape is still as divisive and unstable as it was on December 31, 2020.

The tension between you and whomever is still there.

The hard situation didn’t just poof away at the stroke of midnight.

Obviously a case can be made for what you need to let go of in the new year. But I’m not writing a blog post about how to step into a fresh new beginning. I’m writing one, probably as much to myself as anyone else, about not just marking time, waiting until whatever the heck 2020 was runs out of steam and we get our lives back.

We don’t get our lives back. This is our life. Now how are we going to walk in that? Just keep trudging along with the same weariness? No. We walk into this new year with Jim Elliot’s words ringing in our ears.

Wherever you are, be all there.

Not because we can somehow muster up enough strength to move the mountain or summon enough inner peace to sail calmly through the panicked seas.

But because He has promised that His mercies are new every morning, not just on January first.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion”, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.” ~Lamentation 3: 22-24

You are, I am, exactly were God has called us to be. Because His love is steadfast, because His mercies know no end, because He is faithful, repent where you need to, forgive where forgiveness is needed, and ask God to give you new eyes to look at the people around you with kindness and humility, and a right perspective about your situation.

Wherever you are, be all there. Don’t live in limbo just waiting for something to be over and done. Don’t live as if the world is going to hell in handbasket.

Live rejoicing that the Light has come! God’s people, more than any others, should be walking into this new year hopeful and smiling. Our God is faithful even in the midst of utter havoc.

Glory be to the Father
and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost,
as it was in the beginning,
is now and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen, amen.

Call and Response

We did some gardening this year. We have long held to the romantic notion of gardening but our only feeble attempt was years ago when the kids were little and I didn’t have much inclination about anything except keeping them alive. It also left Rob with an abiding dislike and grudge against squirrels.

But the kids are much older now and we have plenty of friends growing stuff and what with quarantine a few months back and a desire to cover space in the yard to cut down on trying to keep grass alive in Florida, my love built me some fabulous raised beds and it has been one of the greatest things we have ever done.

There has been something very life affirming and soothing about working our small garden. It has also given me a new appreciation for all of the garden/growing/reaping/weeding metaphors found in Scripture…the actual hands in the dirt and watching stuff grow and seeing it all in action I guess.

One thing that stood out to me again and again was seeing the fruit of a plant blooming and blossoming at various stages right next to each other. A barely ripe berry growing right beside a ready to pick and enjoy berry. Same stalk, same nutrients but completely different rates of growth.

IMG_0202 (1)

Throughout the New Testament we are exhorted with a whole bunch of “one another” verses.

Be at peace with each other ~ Mark 9:50

Be welcoming to one another ~ Romans 15:7

Bear with one another ~ Colossians 3:13

Love one another ~ I John 3:11

Forgive one another ~ Ephesians 4:32

Serve one another ~ Galatians 5:13

The list goes on and on and on. Basically we are commanded to do life together even when we are in different stages of  of growth. Even when we are maybe further along than those around us in some areas or a little behind in others.

One of the things I love about my church is our liturgy that requires a call and response between the pastor and congregation. Every Sunday my husband calls us to repentance and as we kneel together we confess corporately our need for grace and forgiveness. Every week he will ask us, “Church, what do you believe?” and as a group we will say the creed of our faith.

Together.

Sometimes you can hear someone get a little ahead of everyone else just by a syllable or maybe two. Or someone else is lagging just a bit. Tempos and cadences have to be adjusted and that means we have to listen and know where everyone else is.

Because we are speaking together we can hear when we get a little too far ahead and need to slow down. Or we notice that we are needing to focus despite distraction and pick up the pace a little. It is more than just saying the same things. It’s also about saying them at the same time.

It is a practical way to remind us that we are one body…one voice…united to each other…connected to each other whether still a little green or ripe with color. It is a beautiful way for us to practice being one body despite differences from one to the next, family way to family way. It seems like a gift of grace each week to be reminded that we belong to each other.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  ~Romans 12:3-5