Tuesday, July 28, 2020

When you hit a wall, 4 things to do

I’ve heard the same thing from several people, some in leadership roles. Last week was a tough time for many. It’s as if collectively so many of us hit a wall, because the seemingly worsening pandemic isn’t the sum total of the issues we’re dealing with. Day to day problems continue to roll and last week it felt as if the challenges just piled on.

Some of the problems we can address, but some we feel helpless in the face of, because we’re unable to effect any change.

So how do we live day to day?

Some of this I’ve said before, but I’m going to say it again. Here are a few suggestions:

1.      Savor the small things. I spotted an unusual coneflower in a neighbor’s yard and found a plant at a local nursery. It was more than I wanted to pay, but how it changed colors as the bloom matured really brought joy to my heart. When I put it on the patio, I realized it was a big attraction to pollinators. So the caveat is if you’re allergic to bees, you might want to skip this one but on the plus side, a pipevine swallowtail has decided it is home plate. More joy.

2.       Do something creative. For many of you cooking is a creative outlet. It usually isn’t for me, but I discovered this woman from a link Ann Voskamp sent out. Brenda Gantt made a little video of how to make biscuits for friends and family and posted it on social media. It hit a million views. So now, she’s down there in South Alabama cooking up a storm and showing the cooking dummies like me how to do it. She reminds me so much of my Aunt Nell. I've never done it before, but I may just get up the courage to cook collards this week. Find somethingpainting, sewing, crafting, gardening, jewelry making, or writing, whatever to take you out of that side of the brain where you’re trying to figure it all out.

3.       Slow down. This is one of my greatest challenges. You might ask why I’m in a hurry when there are not too many places to go. Here it is. The hurry doesn’t come from out there. It comes from in me. I get up in the morning with a list two people would have trouble accomplishing. I’m hurrying through my list all day and in the evening still feeling I haven’t accomplished my goals. I go through periods when I’m consciously aware of keeping the list short but then over time, I start adding more and more and the rush escalates. Someone I respect recently recommended the book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. It has my name written all over it and is on my ereader right now to be read next. I sense I’m not the only one with this issue since it’s sitting in the top ten in its category. In the mean time, I’m going to renew my effort to remove items from my to do list.

4.       Stay connected to God. Above all, make sure you’re taking the time every day to spend with the One who loves you most. In your efforts to streamline your to do list, be intentional about blocking out time with the Lord for Bible reading and prayer. That time is a well we draw from throughout the day. As is said in pastoral circles, we want to minister from the overflow not the undertow. After we come out of this pandemic, we want to come out more in touch with God, not less. The words from Isaiah come to mind that God is able to give us “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).

You probably have a few tips you’d like to share about what has helped you during this time. I’d love to hear about them.

Keep up your hope, friends.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Where the glory comes out

I tell you there’s nothing like a global pandemic to make you want to as Jerry says, “Sit near the spout where the glory comes out.” Just in the past week, we’ve had three prayer requests related to the virus from the circle of friends and family in our small church. A woman who passed from it, a twenty-something in critical condition, and another man also in intensive care.

Oh, yes, the heaviness, and the heartache of this present time make our hearts cry out for His presence. Yet his glory shows up in many ways if our eyes are open to it.

For those who name the name of Jesus and who have given their lives to Him, that glory can show up in the mirror. It was the apostle Paul who wrote, “Christ in you, the hope of glory."  Max Lucado says “The mystery of Christianity is summarized in Colossians 1:27, ‘Christ in you.’”

We are glory carriers to the world around us. Sometimes we forget when our own hearts sag and our hope dwindles that within us is glory. Christ dwells in us. And that spout where the glory comes out, well, let’s allow it to be us.

During these last months, I feel as if I’ve been holding back, not allowing God to shine forth as He might. I just want to be more of an open vessel for Him. Maybe you do, too. In all the negative, bickering, politicizing talk, let’s allow God to make us glory splashers wherever we go, whatever we do, and for sure, whatever we say.

Praying a glory filled week for all of you, friends.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Letting it fly and the unforced rhythms of grace

Last week, my sister and I were talking about how this pandemic is really beginning to weigh heavily. I'm sure that's true not only for us, but for many. It has to be a heavy load for health care workers and other essential services personnel who have been staring it down for months. I thought of this post from the archives and wondered if it might help us all refocus. Peace and grace, friends.

While looking for a photo on my husband’s phone, I found these pictures and remembered my granddaughter saying, “Mimi, come swing with me.”

And so, for a few minutes, I put aside grown up ways, and we pumped and pushed, flying higher and higher―back to the ground, face to the sky. 

I wondered how long it had been since I stared straight up into the tree canopy to fall leaves quivering on the limb and me lighter than air, forgetting all about that big bundle I’d been carrying.

When we finally stopped, I recognized those few minutes with my feet off the ground provided a divine interruption to my diligent burden carrying.
Where was that bundle, now, anyway? Perhaps tossed aside as the arcing swing delivered me into God’s grace and rest.

Maybe it wasn’t just that sweet girl asking me to swing with her. Perhaps God himself was saying, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Oh, to live free and light, learning those unforced rhythms of grace.

Every day.

My hands are on the ropes, my rear is in the seat, and I’m poised, just about to push off again, letting it all fly.

Join me, won’t you? 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A Seashell and You

This week a post from the archives written almost ten years ago when our family faced my husband's cancer diagnosis as well as several other serious challenges. It felt like a tsunami of trouble. It kind of feels as if we're facing that in the world today, doesn't it? I thought of  this post this week and needed to read it again. Maybe you, too? Be blessed, friends, despite all the ups and downs of life. You are His.

I have a fascination with seashells.

I think it started when I learned many years ago while teaching a class on baptism that the shell is a symbol of baptism--perhaps taken from pictures of John the Baptist pouring water over Jesus from a scallop shell. The evening I taught the class, I placed in each attendees hand a thin ridged still sandy crater to carry home as reminder that in baptism, we are claimed by God.

But there is this other thing that draws me to shells: It’s that each is like a snowflake, one of a kind. As I scoop them up from an encroaching tide, I study their various colors, and markings. None are alike. Even shells from the same kind of mollusks are singular in appearance.Though some might be tempted to throw back the ones with obvious flaws, I like them better. One with broken edges, another with weather worn creases, and still another with mottled color all scream imperfection, but they are still beautiful. For all their blemishes, they have endured to wash up on this shore.

I spot only a fragment of a much larger shell, broken and etched by thousands of high tides, and I think I like it best. Thousands of ups and downs, ins and outs, suns and moons, and yet it has persisted to takes its place in my sack of treasures.

Shells remind me that God sees our imperfection, our flaws, our brokenness, our holes clean through, and yet He has claimed us in baptism. We are his. Shells teach me of the great beauty in persisting, and enduring through many changing seasons. Shells speak of our unique place in God’s purposes. “If you don’t do you, God’s plan is incomplete, because you’re the only one who can do you,” McNair Wilson says.

If I could, I’d send each of you a cockle shell from my bounty. You could place it on your nightstand, and every morning when you awoke, you could remember that in all the fragmentation of your life, you are claimed by God. He has created you uniquely. He knows. He sees. He loves. You are His beautiful child.

“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel. ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you…For I am the lord, your God, the holy One of Israel, your Savior…” (Isaiah 43:1-3).
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