Thursday, May 30, 2013

Finding Time to Write

It can be challenging to find time to write; there are so many distractions in spring. I want to share more about On God's Side by Jim Wallis, and I want to share about our Adventures in Writing program at WOU. Yet, time is short and the days are filled with much right now. Other stories beckon to me; calling me to mold and tell them in their own  time. Trying to live in each new day - one at a time. But we are...

trying to take time to appreciate spring beauty.

Sowing seeds and flowers for summer wedding blooms.
Thankful for the spring rains.
Finally settling in and less shy.
 We moved them off the hillside into the garden.
That was a comedic adventure!
Other adventures...
 as we try to find time for roads less travelled and...
dissection discoveries,
 fourth grade field trips, fun,
 and birthdays at the beach.
"I hate this leash. Help me. PLEASE."
We are learning to find our voice through crafting story.
 Adventures in Writing at Western Oregon University.
May you find a place to abide today. 
May you soak in His presence. 
God is present all around us; 
whether we recognize Him or not.
Soak in the Son today.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bookends: On God's Side, a Gospel for the Common Good by Jim Wallis

Art by P.J. Crook image from Bridgeman Art Library 
My concern is not whether God is on our side; 
my greatest concern is to be on God's side.”

~ Abraham Lincoln

Excerpts from On God's Side, A Gospel for the Common Good by Jim Wallis

The church is supposed to be saying, and the church is supposed to be showing, that our life together can be better. In our shallow, superficial, and selfish age, Jesus is indeed calling us to a completely different way of life that people are supposed to be able to see. He called it the kingdom of God, and it a very clear alternative to the selfish kingdoms of this world. ….The better way of living was meant to benefit not just the Christians but everybody else too. That's what makes it transformational.

That is because Christians are not committed to the kingdom of any culture, class, or racial group, or to the kingdom of America or any other nation-state, or even to the kingdom of any church, but rather to the kingdom of God. That kingdom turns all the other kingdoms on their head, brings forth the unexpected, and breaks open the unpredictable. We are called to show people how to love God and their neighbors and thereby bring new hope to lives, neighborhoods, nations, and the world. The world around us is longing for that wholly unpredictable ministry of hope. And that's the side I want to be on.

I love that Oswald Chambers echoes the same sentiments this week. Excerpt from My Utmost for His Highest May 6th.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free . . . Galatians 5:1

A spiritually-minded person will never come to you with the demand—”Believe this and that”; a spiritually-minded person will demand that you align your life with the standards of Jesus. We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One whom the Bible reveals (see John 5:39-40). We are called to present liberty for the conscience of others, not to bring them liberty for their thoughts and opinions. And if we ourselves are free with the liberty of Christ, others will be brought into that same liberty— the liberty that comes from realizing the absolute control and authority of Jesus Christ.

Always measure your life solely by the standards of Jesus. Submit yourself to His yoke, and His alone; and always be careful never to place a yoke on others that is not of Jesus Christ. It takes God a long time to get us to stop thinking that unless everyone sees things exactly as we do, they must be wrong. That is never God’s view. There is only one true liberty— the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.

Don’t get impatient with others. Remember how God dealt with you— with patience and with gentleness. But never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it. Jesus said, “Go . . . and make disciples. . .” (Matthew 28:19), not, “Make converts to your own thoughts and opinions.”

Don't go right, don't go left; go deeper.”

~ Jim Wallis

I praise God that His yolk is light. Only men, place burdens on the back of the already weary. Let us live like we were born free. For indeed, we were born into freedom through the gift of the Cross. Christ.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Adventures in the Art of Dwelling

Dwell: To abide in a place with contentment and intentionality.

dwell: Consumed by a past sadness or pain. 
To daily battle against the past, that it might not become the present.

We are now shepherds. I don't feel prepared to lead little lambs, but they are here and they are ours. Living, breathing, beautiful creatures they stare at me with timid, yet curious expressions. Why sheep you ask? We have embarked on the adventure of small animal husbandry, in part, to Dwell. 

I'm so done dwelling. You know what I mean: the past always threatening to overtake the present. Do you face that each day? Your past decisions, losses, betrayals, and pains threatening you? How quickly the past tries to steal the promises and potential of today. Today, the sun is shining in all her glory. "Embrace me," she says, "Soak in the present and bask in His presence and warmth." But, the past lurks in the dark and tries to steal. Like a black night sky full of clouds, the past has no stars to guide the way. 

This mama is trying hard to leave the past behind. I want to Dwell where planted and embrace today. I want to be present, here and now. I want to create a nest where I've been planted, but so many days I fall short. Like the little bird I held in my lap yesterday, it's tempting to look into another's home and decide their nest is so much sweeter. Unfortunately, the land of discontent is not a great destination. Discontent is a window into disillusion. When I slam into discontent, I end up flat on my back, gasping for air with all my feathers a-ruffle. I am learning to Dwell in my own nest. I'm learning to create a contented nest in the forest.

How does one create a nest in the place God has asked you to Dwell when you're tempted to simply dwell? Stick by stick, we pick up what has blown in and blown down, and fluff our nest. We fill our home, twig by twig, with goodness and God's grace. Then? I'm learning to sing from the porch. I'm learning to invite those passing by into our abode. Invite fellow wanderers into your home. Invite them into your heart. Yes, your heart may be broken, but then again, it may expand.

This beautiful bird house sat for so long. 
But now, someone's moved in, created a nest, and is singing.

As for the others in the nest? My husband Dwells carefully. He pondered for weeks what kind of fencing to install and he diligently answered the call. After long days, he yet humours his wife and supports her need to Dwell by lending a hand to bring about her desires. He is a Dwelling place in himself. He is a place children launch themselves upon and snuggle into. A ready shoulder and ear he gives freely. He is planted in the Word. He hears his sheep and answers them. He ministers to and guides his little flock. He Dwells by simply being present to us – in all our moments. 

The children? One child Dwells in deep and rich stories. She sits and reads for as many hours as we will permit. Emerging from her cocoon, her plans are often quite grand. She talks to the sheep and coaxes them with small handfuls of grain. I bet in time, she will woo them. The sheep know the voice of their shepherd and follow. The other child? He loves to run and chase. He dreams of the best way to catch the sheep and move them to other pastures. He, having helped his dad install the fence, is happy to instruct me on its usage. 10,000 volts fascinate him. He Dwells on every green hill he can run freely to - his imagination at his fingertips. 

"He who Dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty." Psalm 91

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Eucharist

Made from dust, we eat dust, that our souls may live.  I'm chewing thoughtfully, this profound collection of essays on feasting, fasting, fellowship, and food.

This is the most profound description of communion I have ever heard or read.

And since God has created the world as food for us and has given us food as means of communion with him, of life in him, the new food of the new life which we receive from God in his Kingdom is Christ himself. He is our bread-because from the very beginning all our hunger was a hunger for him and all our bread was but a symbol of him, a symbol that had to become reality.

He became man and lived in this world. He ate and drank, and this means that the world in which he partook, the very food of our world became his body, his life. But His life was totally, absolutely Eucharistic - all of it was transformed into communion with God and all of it ascended into heaven. And now he shares this glorified life with us. "What I have done alone-I give it now to you: take, eat...."

We offered the bread in remembrance of Christ because we know that Christ is Life, and all food, therefore, must lead to him. And now when we receive this bread from his hands, we know that he has taken up all life, filled it with himself, made it what it was meant to be: communion with God, sacrament of his presence and love.

Essay by Alexander Schmemann  in The Spirit of Food, 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Towards God