Love Is Slow

Love Is Slow

“Hurry sickness” is a thing.

Trust me, I know.

I rush to make green lights.

I snag aisle seats so I can get out fast.

I scrutinize grocery store lines, placing bets on the fastest one.

Evelyn Underhill said, “On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur.

Ah. It’s the opposite of my instinct. Counter-intuitive. If I want to mature my soul, I must resist the urge to hurry.

Do my kids notice if I’m listening to their stories with half a heart because I’m so efficiently multi-tasking?

Do I put off a date with my husband because the calendar is brimming, and my to-do list is dizzying?

Do I feel a pang when my son wonders, “Mom, do you have time for me to tell you about the book I’m reading?”

Love is slow.

I can’t dive into conversation with humans or God and hit those deep, sacred moments if I’m nervously monitoring the clock.

It’s hard to pull out of habitual hurry. It’s so engraved in my soul I hardly notice it.

“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2

John Ortberg challenges you and me to earnestly combat life-sucking hurry.

His suggestion: choose the long line at the store and the stop light.

Maybe I should plant myself in the center of the row and snake out of the building like an ordinary person .

Sounds. Like. Torture.

Not to mention a reckless waste of time.

It seems like the Kingdom of God is best measured intangibly. I’m not able to chart the effects of time spent worshiping God.

Impossible to count what happens when I meditate on His Word. Or when I join His heart in prayer for the humans that He loves.

When I spend precious minutes playing games with my kids or hanging on the couch with my husband.

It feels like faith to practice the discipline of slowing.

I long to pass the slow lane and get to work three minutes faster. Resisting that urge is a little way of proclaiming that I’m not the most important thing. The world can thrive without me.

May my soul be as a weaned child within me. May I cease the clamor and striving. Lord, help me to grow up.

May I trust You enough to go slow.

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The Real Me

The Real Me

I’ve gotten pretty good at honing my image.

It’s not that I’m trying to deceive you. I guess I just want you to like me.

But in my need for human approval I push down the real me. And, more tragically, I lose interest in the “me” that God is fashioning.

As Henri Nouwen put it, “When we start being too impressed by the results of our work, we slowly come to the erroneous conviction that life is one large scoreboard where someone is listing the points to measure our worth. And before we are fully aware of it, we have sold our soul to the many grade-givers. That means we are not only in this world, but also of the world. Then we become what the world makes us. We are intelligent because someone gives us a high grade. We are helpful because someone says thanks. We are likable because someone likes us. And we are important because someone considers us indispensable.”

My image-driven Facebook world is the perfect way to mold myself into the “right” image. I fine-tune the nuances of my words and edit my pictures and measure my success by number of likes.

I pause and wonder if that image is the real me.

“I will walk with integrity of heart within my house.” Psalm 101:2

Within my house. The doors are closed. The makeup is off.

It’s not the stuff I post on Facebook.

It’s the way my mind wanders. It’s how I respond to my kids when they are sick, and I am exhausted. It’s the tone I use with my husband when I feel misunderstood.

There is great freedom in laying down the image. Great freedom in being my messy, sinful, struggling self.

“I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Those living words resonate. They breathe hope in me.

I bare my true self to Him. As Oswald Chambers challenges, “Am I willing to reduce myself simply to ‘me,’ determinedly to strip myself of all my friends think of me, of all I think of myself, and to hand that simple naked self over to God?”

The real me.

Jesus is here.

Funny that  I keep forgetting. Everything would change if I remembered that He is here. I would lean in and talk to Him and listen for Him and slow down and savor Him. I would be different. This spiritual discipline of “practicing the presence of God” is a game changer. A life changer.

It seems so simple. Just remember that He is here. Why is it so hard?

The ancient wisdom of Brother Lawrence encourages us to persevere in this discipline little by little. That’s what makes up integrity of heart. Little tiny choices. They add up into the character of a human.

“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”  ~Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God.

Tender Jesus, You are here! Actually right now. Here.

Thank You.  Amazing Love.

I am Yours.

Help me to slow down and acknowledge You. That I may hear You. And walk in obedience and the delight of being Your daughter.

For this moment.

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Fool’s Bench

Fool’s Bench

The Fool’s Bench is actually a place of honor.

It’s the bench in the church lobby where we wait for our friends.

Oh, beloved friends!

That they would meet Jesus in this place. Just like I did so many years ago.

It feels embarrassing to still be standing there after the service starts and nearly everyone has scuttled to their seats.

But how could I abandon my post? If there’s a chance they’ll show up, I will stay.

This Sunday I sit in a pew and carefully save two aisle seats for my seeking friend and her guest. She has started coming to church recently, but she is conflicted.

I guard the spots protectively. Hopefully.

The pastor is preaching about how Jesus chose the humiliating task of washing feet. He exemplified the humility of love.

I smile. If Jesus can wash feet with great love and humility, I can hold spots in my pew and my heart for those who aren’t sure about Him.

There was a time when I wasn’t sure about Him.

Now I know Him. And He is mine forever. What do I have to lose?

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”
Psalm 73:25

So I will wait.

And I pray for Jesus to draw these wandering, wondering ones to Himself.

Honored to remain a fool by a bench.

Photo credit: upbeat.com

 

My Life as a Farmer

My Life as a Farmer

My roots dig deeply into Indiana soil.

South Bend isn’t exactly rural, but my calling to bear fruit resonates deeply.

“I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” John 15:16

And so I plant seeds.

Parenting is planting.

Planting tiny dried up bits of seeds. They seem so insignificant.

Countless ordinary moments.

I teach math and manners.

Self-control and serving.

I encourage quietness and forgiveness.

Prayer and perseverance.

And in the hidden soil of their hearts mystery lurks. I have no idea what’s happening in there.

Is the Master Gardener nurturing a soft, quiet servant heart? Is He watering and weeding a bold leader? Will the branches stretch overseas to a people that thirst for good news? Will the leaves grow thick and shelter hurt ones close to home?

We plant, and we water.

But God gives the growth.

Master Gardener, we pray for the mysterious miracle of growth.

Only the warm breath of God can coax life out of a tiny bit of hardness.

Only His life can shoot growth into wisps of roots that grow deeper and stronger.

Only His love can lure tender, green stems to reach up for warmth. And slowly, slowly absorb the nutrients of His word to grow a faithful trunk and strong branches.

Until one day they bear the miracle of fruit themselves.

And the legacy continues.

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Remembering to Float

Remembering to Float

So, Lord, I have these problems.

And in some ways I’m thankful.

Without hard stuff I tend to glide through life with a friendly nod in Your direction.

But when the problems come, I catch my breath and lean into You.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

So this hard stuff is my opportunity to trust You. To please You by believing that You will make a way out.

It helps that my feet can’t touch the bottom. It’s almost hard to not trust You.

But, while I’m here treading water, waiting for Your intervention, I can think of some ways that You can solve this.

May I let go. Release my solutions and timetable. Float on the water of Your unfathomable goodness.

My ears submerged, muffling the chaos. Enveloped in the other-worldly peace of Your presence.

May I be like that astonishing Roman centurion who prompted singular praise from You. (Matthew 8)

He knew that You could do a miracle without human scaffolding.

He didn’t need a plan.

You were sufficient.

You are Sufficient.

So I remember Your power and goodness. And my heart inflates with hope.

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10 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Marriage

10 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Marriage

“We’re going to show the world how marriage is supposed to be done!”

We actually said this before we got married. Of course it was before we got married. Marriage itself has a way of humbling people.

And now we’re celebrating 20 years! Our slogan now might sound more like, “We know how marriage is not supposed to be done!”

Here are my top ten things that I have learned in 20 years of marriage.

  1. Be humble. In some ways I am a model American – proud and independent. My whole frame of reference from birth has been myself. Being married forced me to consider his point of view. So unnatural and uncomfortable! Impossible to imagine that there is another perspective on how to celebrate Christmas or what to do on a Friday night. Or, that our disagreement might be more easily resolved if I try to see it through his eyes.
  2. Slow down. This is an outflow and discipline of humility. My personality leans toward fast thinking, fast speaking, fast acting. It’s been awkward, but so helpful, to slow down those fast reactions. It’s hard to retract words that spew from reflexive anger. I even try to have a little speech prepared that will give me time to reflect before I speak. “I feel too angry right now to talk about this. Let’s talk about it later.” The challenge is to actually talk about it later!
  3. Journal. Everyone has a different way of processing muddled thoughts and feelings. Writing in an old notebook gives me a safe place to write out my feelings and thoughts. I start by spilling all the feelings on paper, and then I’m able to get a little deeper and unravel the source of my frustration – which is usually fear of some kind. It deflates my defensive anger, and I’m more able to engage in discussion with him.
  4. Sit on the couch. We are not always in this habit. But, it is a great discipline to sit and relax and connect for 15 minutes at the end of the day. Little things that happened during the day come up. Even though we’re usually exhausted it is good to connect. Our lives are usually so constrained by daily obligations that couch time doesn’t come naturally. But, it’s a good way to nurture the friendship of marriage.

  5. Date night. Of course! You can’t have a top ten marriage list without date night! Over the years, our date night currently looks more like date afternoon. And we have found that grabbing a cherry limeade and sitting and talking at Sonic is a nice break from a house full of kids. We also realize that hiking together is a great, budget-friendly way to do dates. Actually, it was a surprise to realize that we both like to hike! We are certainly thankful for colorful Colorado! Afternoon dates are a good way also to compromise the energy levels for a night owl and an early bird.
  6. Pass the pencil. I have become a conflict avoider over the years. It’s taken me awhile to realize that just blowing off conflict doesn’t make it go away. But, oh how I dread those hard conversations that can be a door to reconciliation! A great tool for us is passing the pencil. We each get a turn to “tell our side.” When it’s his turn to talk, he holds the pencil. I am not allowed to speak until he hands me the pencil. And then, during his turn, when he hands me the pencil, I am only allowed to paraphrase what he has just said. The goal is that he can express his “side” and that I can show that I understand. So much of conflict is simply feeling “not understood.” Then, when it’s turn for “my side,” we switch the pencil. It’s a great tool, but I find that I still need a time limit as we do this. Even if we don’t get to actual steps of resolution, just feeling heard is huge.
  7. Celebrate! My romantic husband insists that we set aside time to intentionally celebrate our anniversary each year. This year, the big 20, he actually asked me to take a day off of work for it! Not easy for me, but what a great way to prioritize celebrating our marriage! We even re-enact our first date every December 1st. He brings me a poinsettia like he did on our first date and we do our best to copy what we did on that first date.
  8. Keep learning. Before we were married we felt pretty confident that we knew how to do marriage, but since our first heated argument on our honey moon in Hawaii, we’ve been undeceived! We’ve read marriage books and blogs, attended retreats and workshops, and done some counseling over the years. No silver bullets. But a lifestyle of growing and learning. (Couples that have been married for 40 and 50 years tell us that this never changes!)
  9. Kids take a backseat. This is counter-intuitive for me as a mom. From the moment the kids arrived on the scene I was consumed with caring for them. I’ve sometimes thought, “I’ll prioritize our marriage when they leave the house.” But in the same thought I realize that it would be too late. One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is parents that worked on having a healthy marriage.

  10. Hang with Jesus. The greatest gift I can give our marriage is a heart that is close to Jesus. My times of quietness with Him re-calibrate how I approach our relationship. Where my instincts are self-focused, He tends to whisper wisdom. When I start to forge ahead in emotion, He tends to slow me down. He gives me courage and peace and deep, true satisfaction no matter the ups and downs. Marriage is from Him and through Him and for Him. A mystery indeed!

Here is a little list of resources that have been very helpful to me in the marriage area:

  • Family Life marriage conferences
  • For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn (I’m sure that For Men Only by the same author is great for husbands also!)
  • The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
  • The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I also gain so much wisdom by talking to other people about their marriages. Everyone has a unique experience and perspective. It really encourages and enriches me to hear from others.

SO, I would love to hear your nuggets of marriage wisdom or favorite marriage resources. Please comment below so we can all be encouraged!

The Foolishness of Wise Men

The Foolishness of Wise Men

A silent, brilliant beacon of hope pulses in the sky.

A King has come.

And His star draws wise men.

They simply can’t sit in their Persian palaces. They must get up and go. Gather their servants and horses and travel 1,000 miles.

It looks reckless. Extreme. Foolish.

Paul said, “We are fools for Christ.” 1 Corinthians 4:10

But the worship of the wise men was deliberate and planned.

They studied the prophecy , and they studied the star.

They chose their response.

They planned. They packed.

They traveled days. Maybe months.

They stuck to their plan.

Their worship was costly.

Such a journey required extravagant time and money.

But the human heart is made to love Him.

When we land on Jesus, our hearts thrill. “Finally. This is It. This is Who I’m made for.”

And we long to worship.

Not just superficially. Deeply. Calling up the best and most valuable.

In the tradition of King David who wanted to build an altar of worship on Araunah’s threshing floor. Araunah wanted to give his threshing floor for the altar.

But David wouldn’t budge.

“I will not give to the Lord that which costs me nothing.”

Oh to be a fool for Christ! The exhilarating freedom of living for an audience of One.

1,000 long, costly miles.

They worshiped Him.

Face to face.

Their knees and hearts bending in awe.

And they turned around and went home.

No regrets.

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