Thursday, September 8, 2016

Quietness & God

I am a wife, mother of two, teacher, administrator, small business owner, sister, daughter, friend. Most days are not long enough for me to actually accomplish the things that are on my to-do list.

With the busy-ness comes the inevitable noise. My family is clamoring for snacks or clean clothes or disputes between kids require settling. There are texts, phone calls, coffee dates squeezed in when hearts are broken and breaking, grace-filled words are spoken, and truth is felt. Papers still need grading, students need helping, business needs to be finished. Time is not standing still and, often, is flying by faster than I can process.

And on some days, I feel the anxiety pressing closer as the noise bounces off the walls of my house or the hurting cacophony of the world begins to close in. There is more to do! Hands to hold, prayers to pray! Good that needs doing. “After all, God,” I reason to Him, while I juggle far too many things, “someone has to do it. Someone has to be Your hands.”

Almost as if He is speaking to me in my weakness, I hear “Be still and know that I am God” whisper through my crazed thoughts about laundry, deadlines, and school activities. In that one phrase, I am reminded of my dependence and His preeminence. In that one phrase, I am gently scolded not to carry burdens that are not mine to bear. In that one phrase, I am encouraged and strengthened in the work that has been prepared for me.

Stillness tends to be foreign to me most days. Quietness even more so. My instinct is to work for my salvation - not work it out. The old (wo)man holds tenaciously in my mind that my effort is what is pleasing to God. The new (wo)man is the one who hears the reminder, “Be still…” And then the conflict begins. Old and new fight for dominance in my inner person, a place that I don’t fully understand and am not always brave enough to explore.

Through the internal conflict, I hear it again: “Be still…” And then I realize that it is a command. Out of curiousity, I go and find the full passage that the command comes from. Psalm 46 is a full account of the work of the Lord for His own glory and on His people’s behalf. Being still is at the end of the psalm - after hearing that God is encouraging, protecting, defending, instructing His own precious people.

“Alright, Lord,” I say (pretending to submit but not actually letting go of the busy-ness and noise). “I am being still. Now what?”

In that “now what” moment, it is crystal clear: simply that HE is God. God of creation and creativity, work and rest, time and eternity. My arrogance smacks loudly in the barely established hush. He is God. Now the silence, the quiet, becomes convicted worship. This essential fact - He is God - is gifted to us in precious silence. It is a fact that is in and of itself grace. His Godhood is our peace, our very salvation. The psalmist describes natural disasters and raging nations (Ps. 46.2-3 & 5) but then the command - “Be still...I am God.”

The noise still happens, the chaos still encroaches. But there are days (or mere moments) that have whispers of quietness when tendrils of grace and peace weave themselves into the thoughts in my head.

A command is present more often than before: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The "Good" Paradox

Good things are hard.

Right things are hard.

There is a challenge in the human experience. Particularly Gospel experiences...the ones we encounter this side of heaven anyway.

We want things that are right and good. We want situations to be right and good. Christians believe in a standard of right and wrong, good and bad, that exists outside of our individual selves. Which is good. But sometimes the application or encountering of that standard is...hard. 

Sometimes application of good and right will look different in different situations. Perhaps a parent has to say no to a younger sibling who simply isn't ready to do the same thing as the older sibling. Maybe an employer has to let one employee go to save the rest of the company. What if the decision that you have to make in life is one that necessarily hurts those around you?

How can good and right still be good and right when there is hurt, anger, sadness, brokenness? What about issues of racism, sexism, where people are told that they have no worth? That is grossly wrong. But how do you fix it when it would require telling someone that they are not loving hard enough, being grace filled enough, and that they need to try doing more hard work?

And then I pause. And look at myself. And ask if I am loving hard enough. Or if I am grace-filled or trying to keep doing hard work. And then I am left with a new paradox: I cannot do all of the things on my own. But all of the things are required of me. 

Where, then, am I to find the strength, power, endurance, to do all the good?

Right around that point, when hopelessness is starting to set in, I remember that I am not my own. I belong to the true Good. I am filled with the Spirit of One whose power and grace and goodness I cannot fathom.

The paradox doesn't leave. The tension, the pull, is still there. But now I know that while it is a paradox for me, it isn't for Him.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The reality of suck

Growing up, I was told that I shouldn't have a bad attitude about things. I should obey my parent's directions immediately and happily. Or at least make it seem that way. There are some obvious problems with this but, depending on your parenting philosophy, no real solutions.

As I have gotten older and realized that there is value in being emotionally honest with myself, I have been forced to actually feel things. My upbringing taught me to gloss over or suppress a lot of emotions because they didn't matter in the family economy. So adulting has now required a certain amount of unlearning. Because guess what? Sometimes, reality sucks.

In unlearning though, I have hit an interesting road block. I am feeling things but I am not always sure the value or place of some of these emotions. Maybe this is my personality but I am still trying to figure out what to do with these feelings that are now filling my head and heart.

So what do you do? What do you do when parenting sucks? Or when work stress is overwhelming? Or you get so intensely lonely that you aren't sure what to do and start getting that crazy look in your eyes? Or what about when you see something so mind-blowingly beautiful that you can't fully process it? What about when a loved one dies? Or disaster strikes your country, community?

I'm still figuring that all out, figuring out how to process grief, love, beauty, awareness. But one thing I have realized is that I need to lean into those feelings. Hiding from them doesn't change them. But leaning into them. Leaning into them may be the only way I will learn how to feel and act in balance.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Some days...pt. 4

It was recently suggested to me that holy is small, unnoticed, even undignified. I didn't want to like that but even as I read it, I realized the truth of those words. Like the original author, I wanted big actions, big change, big difference. Little did I know that God does big in the small.

Really though...I should have known that. My God suffered infinite punishment on the cross in finite time. That is really big in the really small. My God washed feet of His disciples, His creation. The Creator cares for the creation. My God says that He has begun a good work in me and will complete it. That is a lot of fixing to do in one small life in one short time span.

And so on some days, I will remember that. When my kids make big messes in our little house or I yearn to do something bigger than wipe boogers, I will remember that my little will be big. Because it is my job, my calling, my heavenly stores in the making.

But some days...it is hard to remember. Small is big.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dear Sister, Be Thankful!

Dear Sister,

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!  Do you realize this will be the first Thanksgiving we will be celebrating together in 7 years! I pretty excited about that!

We get frustrated by a lot of things: the world, brokenness in the world, and our inability to fix the world.  I know you hate it when you can't fix the brokenness you see around you.  I know you hate it when life gets disorganized and you feel inadequate to organize it.  My revelation for you is you don't have to be the fixer!

Our God is greater than all the chaos of messy life and has sent His Son to redeem us from our brokenness.  When your kids are covered in mud from the backyard, or your home is organized chaos and you feel inadequate to fix the chaos remember... Jesus is the fixer.  You don't have to be perfect or always adequate because God gives grace to cover all our brokenness!

So on this Thanksgiving, celebrate that grace.  Be grateful for the covering of grace our Lord has supplied.  He is in charge of fixing the world's brokenness, not you.  So relax, eat some good food, and be thankful for God's amazing grace.

Love always,
Your sister

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Identity, part 2

Having previously written about how we all want to have our cake and eat it too when it comes to gender identity issues, I thought I would dig a little deeper into the internal nuances of female gender identity.

Women want relationships.  It is inherent to our creature code.  Really, it is a human condition but women seem to have it intensified.  More than anything else (under normal conditions), we want to love and be loved.  There are things that complicate that singular focus but that is the underlying desire and motivation.

Discussion recently occurred in my ladies' Bible study about what really happened to women at the Fall in the Genesis account.  In Genesis 3:16, God tells Eve that her desire shall be for her husband. We know that that curse was not just to Eve but women throughout all of time so it has always fascinated me. I had always heard that interpreted as a power struggle thing.  That women want to be in charge and so we nag and bitch and try to get men to do what we want.  I think there is reason to suspect a second aspect or interpretation here.

Desire for husband does not have to be solely about power.  As relational beings, the other cry besides "He never listens to me" is "He isn't romantic, show he loves me, talk to me, etc."  Once a relationship has begun, the individuals often forget that they were friends before they were something else.  And that intimacy is lost.  The thing that attracted you to another human's soul is gone.

But really, it isn't a matter of it being gone.  It is a matter of it being invisible, hidden.  Satan does his best work when there is a lack of relationship - between God, between spouses, parents, friends.  If we know that, how hard should we fight to keep our relationships alive?

That is hard for us, for women.  It requires us to acknowledge that at the Fall, along with Eve, we said we would rather have knowledge than safety and intimacy and relationship.  And that choice haunts us every single day.  Insecurities crowd our minds and tell us that we are not worth loving, worth befriending.  Those voices are loud.  So very loud.  Or our inadequacies become so glaringly obvious that everyone has to see that I am not a good wife, mother, sister, friend.  What do we do to quiet them?  Or even to minimize them so that we can try to think something else...

Praise God that our identity is in Him.  He is the one who can speak louder than our voices.  He is the one who loves bigger than our inadequacies.  There is nothing man or woman can do that will separate them from the love of God.  And that is the best identity.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Some days...Part 3

Perspective.

Perspective is so important and so hard to hold on to sometimes.

Perspective is what keeps the teacher from giving up, the inventor from walking away after the first rejection, and the boy in love from never asking again when the first girl turns her nose up at him.

Perspective (and perseverance) keep a Christian from throwing the towel in when sin and doubt crowd your mind.

We have all had those moments when we look at life and don't know how we will live, much less survive, with our sanity.  But in that moment, every once in a while, you remember that you have so many things that are important and valuable.  You remember that you do have all your faculties, a house, a job (no matter how shitty), a family (no matter how crazy).

But sometimes, it isn't that easy.  So try.  Try to remember because perspective will help with some days.