Resonance

My son plays cello. No matter that we owned two violas, he wanted to play cello. Over the summer he took lessons because I wanted him to have something to do while his older siblings scampered around to jobs, hiking trips, and places with friends in cars.

Hearing him practice is a delight.

Once, his teacher moved one lesson online and a weird thing happened. While he was playing a scale, hitting the notes just right, the teacher’s cello all the way across town began picking up the sound waves and resonating a note. Through air, wires, chips, internet lines, then back through chips and wires and air that note traveled and replicate itself in the other cello.

When you think about it, that’s pretty incredible. Sound and music is one of the ways its hard for me to get out from under believing in the existence of God.

That resonance is what got me. One note moved through the air from one object and caused movement in another object.

Today I read about Peter at the last supper and then at that fateful campfire where he denied his friend, his teacher, the One he believed was the savior of his people.

It struck me that Peter didn’t know what was in himself. He was so sure that he would be loyal, that he would never… That all others might but not him.

And then he did the thing.

And Jesus turned and looked directly at Peter in that moment. When Peter met His gaze, he remembered what Jesus said would happen, what Peter so confidently denied could ever happen.

We don’t know anything about that look Jesus gave Peter. In my humanity I see raised eyebrows with I-told-you-so vibes because that’s how it works with me. Those moments when something comes true that I warned a kid about it takes everything in me not to raise my brows and waft off a distinct vibe even while I hold back the actual words.

What’s even more interesting is the interchange a few hours before. Jesus says to Peter three astounding things:

  1. Satan asked to mess with all of the disciples to see what will shake out
  2. I (Jesus) personally prayed for Peter that your faith would not fail
  3. I predict you’ll come back

I mean, tons of questions here for me. Did all the disciples get sifted or just Peter? I assume Jesus said ok? Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail yet Peter did fail.

And! Jesus seems to know that Peter will fail or why else would Jesus tell Peter that “when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers”?

That kind of blows my circuits when I really think about it. Did one of Jesus’ prayers not get answered with a yes? Of course we know that in the end Peter did betray Jesus but he also turned back and strengthened others.

Did Peter’s response right after this affect what happened? Did Peter’s following confident assertion that he was ready to go with Jesus to prison and death reveal that Peter needed to know more about himself without which he would not be ready to strengthen others?

There’s so much we don’t know but so much to know as well.

For me, I hate that so much of ministering to people involves living out of weakness, failure and suffering. Why does it have to be this way? Why is it that to follow Him, I must see and embrace those aspects of me that feel like nothing but failure?

I believe it relates to resonance. That phenomenon where some chord strikes the chord of another.

Could Peter ever lead the way Jesus displayed to him without a colossal failure followed by repentance and then restoration?

I don’t think so. Peter’s failure led him to an experience of restoration that transformed him into the humble servant Christ taught him to be.

And I don’t believe I or anyone can connect with the soul of another without the experience of being fully known in that moment of failure and then fully accepted and forgiven there too.

Those who are forgiven much love much, right?

And so it is that embracing our weakness is the striking chord that resonates in the souls of others who also seek the truth.

Rest: Leaving the Land Alone

Lately I’ve been contemplating a sabbatical, the strange option in my job to take three months of restorative rest from the day to day responsibilities of caring for souls. In our hurried world, this feels so out of the ordinary and strange that I’m a bit embarrassed its an option.

Who couldn’t use three months to restore their soul in our world these days?

But I have this option and I’m figuring out if I should take it. If I take it, when do I take it? Also I must talk through that time with someone beforehand which is a good idea because taking 3 months away could be difficult. That’s like 3 months of being unmoored from a central part of my every day life…for what purpose?

The last thing I want is heightened anxiety for three months because I can’t figure out how to rest!

I looked back at some key passages today about rest because rest was a big part of what God’s people were to do after they came out of Egypt and oppression. I guess rest wasn’t really a part of their enslavement because it sure was hard for them too.

How fitting that candles, illuminating lights, are part of ushering in Sabbath rest for God’s people…

In fact they never really did rest the way God told them to and God had such a problem with it that he forced them to go on a long trip to a foreign, deserty place to rest for the few decades worth of Saturdays they missed.

But it wasn’t only Saturdays, one day a week, they were to rest. Every seventh year, God’s people were supposed to just… not farm the land. That is stunning. They trusted God to provide a double crop on the 6th year. Then, that seventh year they trusted God to provide enough from what came up on its own to feed them until the next year’s crops came to harvest.

Not surprising that they mostly failed to live that out. It’s pretty radical.

As I think about sabbatical for myself, I anticipate disorientation, doubt, identity crisis, and anxiety. I also expect surprise, identity formation, and trust to build as I notice the budding of new growth from richer soil of belonging to Christ rather than performance for Him.

It seems somewhat wrong to plan a sabbatical or feel that it needs to produce something. Isn’t that antithetical to the true meaning of sabbath rest? To just be?

But I can imagine my B.C. self standing in my fields that I chose not to work looking over at my neighbors fields all neatly furrowed and planted…and feeling mightily tempted to grab my plow.

To rest is so counter-cultural that I need support and encouragement to stand firm in waiting and trusting God to provide. I am most needy for Him to provide my identity apart from my usefulness and productivity in this world. Instead of seeing planning a sabbatical as striving to make rest productive, maybe it is more that I need to cultivate my heart and time for rest, knowing my heart will gaze upon the striving of the world and be tempted to define myself again on my usefulness.

Expecting new growth to happen in the sabbatical waiting is truly different than striving to produce that growth.

As my book mentor Eugene Peterson says,

“Maybe if they [pastors] would all go into the wilderness for three months, not read their emails, announce a moratorium on all conventions and conferences, take a deep, long, prayerful time of doing nothing–maybe some equilibrium might return.” (Letters to a Young Pastor, 140)

By equilibrium, he means a groundedness that is not rushing to fix every crisis while missing the opportunities right before us. To be present in the life and people God has for us in the every day is what Eugene senses that we miss when we do not take sabbath rests.

As I write, I realize I’m sensing the value of the gift of sabbatical rest more and more. Coincidentally, we are approaching 7 years in our current ministry assignment…

What is it about the number seven!?

I’m curious to know from my readers, what struggles do you experience with rest? How does rest provoke your soul?

Past Year’s Reads

Reading without caring about time remains at the top of my list of indulgent behaviors. When I can crack a good book and just read late, late into the night I know I’m relaxing.

I’m learning this concept of “Total Work” that we live under especially in the western world. A philosopher named Pieper wrote about how people are transformed into workers and nothing else. As I read about it, I realized how much I live in this reality of feeling like I always need to be productive even in rest. Reading is one activity that combats this tendency for me, especially reading fiction.

Every night I read fiction. There are so many books out there about our world and how to live in it (see that total work thing in play?) but fiction inhabits my nightstand as a means to just enjoy life. Good fiction hopefully!

So, what good books can I recommend these days? Oh so many!


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens:

I ended my year with some Dickens, which I have not read for 20 some years. He’s just a lot, you know? But A Christmas Carol felt like an appropriate way to put my heart into the holidays. It did not disappoint or fail to convict either! If you haven’t read this one, I’m sure you can pick it up for a song at the used bookstore or on Kindle. Set it aside for Christmas 2022.


A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles:

How do you make a life within the walls of a hotel? Sounds a little too familiar, doesn’t it? The main character is sentenced to live out his days within a luxury hotel. He ends up leading a very full life within those walls, impacting many lives through some tumultuous times in Russian history. A delightful read.


Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China by Pearl S. Buck:

This telling of Chinese history from the imagined perspective of the Empress enthralled me. Some of the themes of grievances are still in play today in world events. If you want to understand some of the tension between China and the west now, this is a more engaging method than some others. The loss of position and prominence for this empire and the efforts to regain a footing on the world stage explain so much of what we see in the news today. Maybe it can be seen with a little more empathy after reading this book.


Letters to a Young Pastor by Eugene Peterson and Eric Peterson:

Ok, this one is not fiction. It’s more a memoir but its so good I can’t keep it a secret.

Eric Peterson compiled these letters his dad sent him at his request to learn more about his dad’s interior thoughts on pastoring. Eugene fleshes out so very personally what it means to live out the unique role of shepherding others spiritually in this day and age when so much is so impersonal. Each chapter takes us into Eugene’s mind, heart, and struggles to form out in real time how to live as a “faithful failure.”

Every time I read the sign off at the end of each chapter, I think of my own dad who was also so proud of his kids and so invested in our lives and life work. Sitting with Eugene is a little bit like sitting with dad again.


The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles:

What can I say? When I read one book by an author and resonate deeply with it, I look for other books they’ve written. My kids gifted me this book for Christmas and I enjoyed it. An almost modern day hero’s journey, the story follows two brothers as they strive to make a life of their own in the world. Who do they need to keep in their lives? What does loyalty look like? It is a worthy read!


Beyond these books, I read quite a bit of suspenseful fiction of the unreliable narrator sort. Trying to figure out what the heck was going on was pretty entertaining for a good chunk of this past year. They are edgier and may keep you up at night but sometimes that’s pretty fun.

Was it good fiction? I’m not sure! The Death of Mrs. Westaway and One by One by Ruth Ware are my top recommendations in that category.

I’m stumbling back into writing on my blog so if you got this far, you get a gold star for plodding through my rusty, low bar attempt to just get words out again. Thank you!

Leave any book recommendations you think I should check out in the comments please.

Finding Lost Things

I am the #1 finder in our house. If something is lost, I’m the one that gets called in pretty quick. Sometimes too quickly.

I’ve threatened people in my family. If I find it upon entering your room and just looking around, I’m going to be…not happy, I say.

While I packed to go on a trip once, I opened the cabinet where we kept our nice DSLR camera. My destination was beautiful and I wanted to beef up my stock of photos. The cabinet opened and no camera.

This puzzled me because I’d taken a trip the week before with the camera and was sure it came home with me. I backtracked my steps and remembered that when I got off the plane at home, I left it in the overhead bin. I’d left it and lived in great peace and calmness not knowing our expensive camera was gone.

But I was headed to the airport so I decided to just check and see if they had a lost and found. My experience with losing things in Asia was not great. If you left something somehwere, it was no longer there 5 minutes later. My hope was almost nonexistent.

You know what? I came home with our camera.

There was a lost and found. The camera was waiting. To claim it, we needed to look at the photos. Bummer, dead battery. So I described the photos of the panda reserve, little blonde kids, and a wide smile wreathed the woman’s face.

She remembered the photos and gave me back our camera! I was so happy.

The camera is still with us taking great pictures.

Losing things is not fun. Finding things is so much more fun.


Here’s a few things that guide my searches…

It will not come to you. The essence of lost things is that they do not know they are lost and they cannot get back. We’re talking about things here. They just are where we left them. They’re not going to come back to us on their own. They must be found. Waiting around isn’t going to bring them back.

Lost things do not come back on their own.

Where was it last? Start there. You see, lost things are where they are. They are things and they don’t know they are lost. They do not move on their own. It’s obvious and easy to forget when looking, but you must backtrack and determine where the item was last.

You must go and discover where the lost thing is if you want to find it.

What was happening? If backtracking doesn’t work, then think about what was happening. In the panic of losing things, my family members generally resist my questions. They feel antagonistic and blaming. What were you doing? spoken to a sensitive soul feels accusatory.

But, it helps me to know if the shoes are under the chair where Xbox is played or in the backyard because they were contaminated with the dog waste.

Discovering the story around the loss will help you know where to look.

Why can’t we see it? So often, I find things because I lifted something else. The calculator was under the shirt. The keys were in the pants pocket. The stuffed tiger was in the microwave (yes, that’s a funny story of sibling rivalry).

Sometimes the item is hiding under something. Well, it isn’t hiding but it got covered up and needs to be uncovered.

Be persistent. Ask dumb questions. Basic elementary questions like what was I carrying? Where would I be if I were Ali’s camera after an airplane trip? Keep asking and don’t give up hope that there’s a lost and found when nothing ever seems to get found.

Persistence and hope lead us much farther than despair.

Wait. Somethings are only found by waiting. When we’ve exhausted the search, sometimes we need to wait. Often, one day it will just show up in the least expected place.

Time can uncover what our abilities cannot.

Pray. The much loved stuffed Tiger was lost for three days. Three days of comforting a crying boy with a second best toy at night. I related my small dilemma to a friend on the phone. She said she’d pray. I prayed a one liner to God that moment, looked to my left and saw Tigey stuffed between the fridge and the wall.

God can find things for us when we ask for help.

As I walked around campus and my city this week and talked to people who are seeking God, I started thinking about finding.

Do I really search for people? It haunts me a little

I hope I can be as good at finding lost people as I am at finding my kids calculator.

We don’t know what to do but…

I encounter more people now as our community stumbles forward and we try to feel each other out. How close is it ok to approach a person on a neighborhood walk? What criteria do I use to decide if I go back to church in-person or watch online? What level of risk is appropriate to be with people and for what purpose?

Figuring out this new world, learning how to live in it as we hold in tension so many competing realities is a weight we are all learning to carry.

The other times in my life that I remember talking this much about how to interact with people on a daily basis was when we first moved overseas. My husband and I experienced an onslaught of new our first few years overseas that left us speechless, staring at our McDonald’s cheeseburgers.

We are now back in the country we grew up in. But, with the sudden shift of culture caused by this pandemic, it again feels like we are learning a new world. We are in the same place physically as last year but doing so many things so differently adding to the strangeness of it all.

It’s like the world tilted and I’m left again grasping for firmer ground.

A passage of the Bible that captured my attention this past week was the story of Jehoshaphat (yes, like in Great Jehoshaphat!). He was one of the good kings in the Bible. He went around to the whole kingdom to talk to the judges and tell them, look guys, you’re working for God and He’s not a God of injustice, bribery or partiality so let the fear of God guide you.

Wow! I really appreciate that kind of leadership.

A lot of times you read these stories about the good kings and generally things go better for them, but not Jehoshophat. He soon learns a huge army is coming for them and they’re pretty powerless to stop it. He prays this great long prayer but at the end he says, We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You. 

So then, another guy stands up and says he’s got something to say from God. He basically says, don’t be afraid or discouraged. Go out to the battle but you will not need to fight in this one. Stand firm and hold your position. God ends up routing the enemy before they even get to Israel’s army.

There is something beatiful and right in determining you’re up against something bigger than you can deal with and saying I don’t know what to do. And, then, still showing up to the battle even when it’s not clear how it will all play out, just that God will be there.

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In all this upheaval, I’m realizing the importance of showing up to see what God will do. When I say show up, I mean open up opportunities, be available and trust that God can do something no matter how meager and anemic the method feels.

Somehow, he’s not limited by our physicality. I can tell you, God shows up on video calls, phone calls (they’re back in again–just give younger folks a pre-call text), and conference calls.

I guess that’s where I am today, I don’t know what to do often. I feel overwhelmed some days. But I want my eyes to be on Him.

Sometimes its more that I don’t know how to do it this way, but I am trying to take the step and trust Him to be there in the middle of it with me.

Each time, as I look back I can see that He’s never deserted me.

 

On Bargains…

I rode away with my new-to-me love seat stowed in the back of the minivan, crowing about my enormous good fortune to my son. Not only was it an exact match for my sofa I bought used a few years ago, it was a fraction of the cost I was willing to spend!

I almost felt guilty it was such a good deal. Almost.

That love seat pulled together my whole living room exactly how I wanted it and right before family arrived for Christmas. All fall I’d tried and missed in my efforts to source pieces (that’s decorator speak for find cool stuff) on online marketplaces.

My frustration had grown and given in to despair. I was settling and felt that was the best I could hope for, but then someone got tired of their love seat and wanted it gone. What a score!

Over the next week, and even now, I’m rather stunned at God’s timely provision for something so unnecessary to life as a well-arranged and beautiful living room set up. Food, clothing, shelter are the necessities…not nice food, nice clothing, and nice shelter.

God proved Himself, again, as a very personal God who is able to arrange some truly wonderful gifts when it seems good to do so. It seems that He cares for me and my wants along with my needs. He doesn’t always give me what I want, but He knows my wants as sure as He knows my thoughts from afar.

I got to reading Isaiah 9 and God likens the people’s joy at the coming of the Savior as to the joy when the harvest comes in and as when people divide the spoils. Literally, that is times when the profit comes in. Times when the warehouses are full from a year or season of hard work.

He’s talkin’ about payday, y’all. Dividing the spoils would be like finding valuable treasure or getting something for nothing. Or…a bargain?

I get this one. I love a bargain. How I love a bargain. I often check myself in conversation because I’m prone to bragging about the bargains I have made. I get this enormous joy from a good deal.

The paradox, though, is that I am not a bargain when I think about my life as a Christ-follower. This Light came into the world, His name is Jesus Christ, and He spent Himself completely–paid an enormous price–for me and people like me who are most definitely not perfect.

On the face of it, it stands out as an all-time bad deal. Why would He spend so much on me? And, why would He be so happy about it?

I rejoice over a good deal, but God rejoices over what appears to be a pretty bad deal. I  have nothing to offer. The moment I think I do, I’m like that person trying to sell some used earrings for what you can buy them for new. I’m a fraud who isn’t living in reality.

But this bad deal for Him is such a good deal for me that I can only accept and give thanks. Gratitude and love and obedience to such a God is about all I can respond with and its enough.

Oh! And with all good, truly great, bargains–I can tell everyone I know not to miss out. It’s not bragging on myself, because I did nothing!

If I can talk so extensively about my love seat deal, how much more I want to remember that it’s not the best deal ever. There is a better deal in life with Christ that is truly worthy of talking about any time there is a chance. Why wouldn’t I want to?

Haha…and answering that question is so important and has so much potential to change a life, it must be considered.

Why wouldn’t I want to tell someone about Jesus like I tell them about my sofa?

 

Slowing Down

The first few days of January is the time for me to slow down. Our town is relatively quiet. There are New Year’s events but mostly I stay home with some or all of my children while my husband works a conference.

Generally, I have longer times reading my Bible in the morning and I stay up late (way too late) reading good books. In the daytime I get a few things done while children play more than normal amounts of Xbox. I make some returns, pack up Christmas, think about Bible study plans for the spring, and generally slow down.

The phone chimes pretty rarely and just about absolutely nothing is on the calendar as far as appointments or meetings. I can wear the same thing multiple days if I want, as long as its clean, or I can wear all the things that are comfortable, even if they don’t match! Its divine…and uncomfortable at times.

I realize during this time how much I like to do things to feel worthwhile. Spending the time with myself is like looking someone in the face for just a little longer than is socially acceptable. It’s a bit uncomfortable and revealing.  And, I think it is absolutely necessary to slow down enough to look yourself in the face long and hard at least once a year.img_6469

When I slow down I relearn stuff about myself. I regain my affection for cooking. It actually occurs to me that I would like to try a new recipe that I wouldn’t enjoy tackling when school is in session and life is busy. I stack up scheduled posts on my blog.

Slowing down restores my spiritual health. Reading the Bible a little longer and without much of an agenda is like having a date with my husband where there’s nothing we have to get at the store or plan and there’s no time we have to be home. It’s just free time together.

My life is a little peculiar in that it is very seasonal and shifts very quickly from a lot of people intensive time and scheduling then changes to working on more back burner stuff like planning and development. Then, we take the 6 week work related trip most summers! Not everyone has that kind of work.

So, how do you take time to face yourself? Consider wrestling with this question and figuring out some creative solutions like taking a day off for a long weekend spent without obligations. Or, wipe a week clear of anything that doesn’t absolutely have to be done. For a tax accountant, that won’t be April, but there’s probably a few days somewhere that the cycle of the job is at a low ebb.

It’s taken living in the U.S. for almost 5 years and our current home almost 4, to discover some rhythms. That’s one of the hard things about a move internationally, a change in jobs, or a significant life change like becoming a mother or kids going to school or leaving the nest. There are new rhythms and it takes at least 2 years to figure them out!

The first year, everything is new and I constantly adjusted. The second year, I remembered the first year and tried to figure out what was an every year thing, or an anomaly. The third year solidified some distinct patterns to life like this first week of the year slow down.

I’m glad I have it because next month our oldest kid gets her learner’s permit. Hopefully all these stored up reserves will be enough! She swears she is going to drive like a grandma and we need to worry about our middle kid who has some Michael Schumacher speed in him.

We will see. He’s 2 years away from a permit so I have 2 more slow downs before he drives.

 

Do You Confess?

One of my kids has “reactive airways”, doc talk for asthma. Not all the time and not that sudden type but the type that whenever he gets sick, it goes straight to the chest.

Then he starts this distinctive cough that lets me know my next few days will be spent hauling out nebulizers, inhalers, Vick’s, netipots, and on and on. The cough’s purpose was to force out trapped air so when the airways relax, the cough goes away.

Breathing is a pretty essential activity to human life so asthma attacks are stressful. We’ve always been able to turn the tide and get out of danger. In the middle of it, though, you don’t know the end.

Spiritually, the concept of breathing has been on my mind. I talk often in ministry about spiritual breathing- a cycle of confession (exhale) and filling (inhale). A few tough situations over this past season, namely the August Smackdown, brought me close to exhaustion…and my own need to breathe.

That tightness in my chest would come, that prompt to take a deep breath. A sigh. Like an old lady lament. I was feeling it, the old lady weariness.

So I sighed. Then, with each sigh, I reminded myself of the need to breathe spiritually as well as physically.

Exhaling. Recognizing I was trying to take control of the humanly uncontrollable. Fearing that God was not in control. Releasing the toxic build up of the thoughts and emotions and very real sin so I could take in more life-giving breath. This is confessing.

Breathing in. Each time asking God for more of His resources, His oxygen to extend farther into my soul and strengthen me for the situation. To have mercy and help me. Filling.

So what about asthma? Asthma, if left alone and not treated, slowly suffocates the victim as I understand it. With no room in the lungs to take in more oxygen, and CO2 trapped inside the lungs, the body is deprived of the oxygen that keeps it alive.IMG_0587-0.JPG

All the while the body is trying to breathe in unsuccessfully.

The body begins using almost every muscle it can in the torso to bring air into the lungs. Retractions, where the skin sucks in at the collar bones and around the ribs, notify us that our son is really, really struggling to breathe. The lungs work overtime trying to cough out trapped air. Lips begin turning pale. It’s terrifying and it would be time to go to urgent care.

In the physical world, there is albuterol and steroids to resolve the problems of asthma. Steroids control the tendency to flare up. Albuterol treats a flare up.

Spiritually, there is ordering our lives to God and His revealed truth in the Bible, the fellowship with the community of believers, the Spirit of God convicting and directing us…and regular confession. These all serve as the anti-inflammatory control to prevent serious flare ups of spiritual asthma.

But asthma strikes still. When spiritual asthma comes and we struggle to breathe because we know we are not right with God. Or we are working overtime to win favor and status with God by doing, doing, doing…there is, again, confession.

Exhaling by agreeing with God about our sin or our human efforts to earn forgiveness. Inhaling by receiving the resources He gives through His Spirit to live a life pleasing to Him. Sometimes over and over about the same old things.

Slowly, surely the toxic is released so the pure and fresh can roll in and bring life again.

 

 

 

The Table

Each takes their plate and begins their trek down the long buffet loading up their plate, unable to fit all that’s available. Smiles, talking, laughter abound as one by one they finish. Walking away more because they can’t fit any more on the plate than because they are finished.img_4712

Each takes a place next to another on a bench that seems to always have room for more. No one saves a place for anyone else, no one jockies for position closest to the Provider of All. Content and at peace, there is no need for all know they are loved deeply, abundantly.

The family meal is diverse beyond imagination because everyone is adopted. Everyone came from a different table. Some use chopsticks, some use forks, some use bread, some use their hands, and some use only their right hand. All languages are spoken yet everyone seems to understand each other.

Love abounds and the conversation around the table celebrates the days events. Successes are shared without one upmanship. Failures are shared without smug looks. All is met with compassion, affection, and correction. No one is ashamed or embarrassed.

Before adoption, all came from other tables, more uncomfortable tables. Food at their former houses was sometimes locked up or there wasn’t any at all. Crusts dropped on the floor from the table and that was all there was. All devised a strategy to get a seat.

It was always better to be a certain color or have a certain ability in the former families.  Attention from the stewards in charge meant more provisions so it was sought at all cost, even the cost of another. Highlights of the day were shared at the expense of others. Praise for one was at the cost of praise for another. There was terrible fighting which never got resolved.

Even in the best families, there was lack of something. There was more order, more smiles, more peace which made it almost harder to recognize how much better the Provider’s offer of adoption was for them. Where things were smooth in their families compared to others, it seemed unnecessary to make a change and receive adoption.

For others, adoption was unbelievably good news. How could it be so easy? Just say yes? What was the catch? There must be a catch so they waited and prepared, trying to learn all the ways of the Provider’s family. They stood at the windows dressed up and ready but feeling too bad or unworthy to walk through the front door. They operated under what they had learned on the street–earn it, steal it, buy it.

There’s no free lunch.

Until a knock came from inside the front door, oddly. Usually, knocking came from the outside, but this one came from the inside, and someone was calling their name. Could it be that the door would open for them?

And then it did! The choice came to walk through…or not.

Most heard about the Invitation from the Father’s kids who couldn’t seem to stop talking about their new family. It could be really annoying to some. They talked about what their adoption was like, what it was like to learn a new family, to get used to new siblings with all their quirks and hurts, to blend into the Ultimate Blended Family.

It wasn’t perfect, yet, they said, but it would be one day. They were all excited about that day and it made a difference in today. There was always enough for today.

They shared how at some points, it was only the love of the Father that kept them from running away. The table wasn’t always like it was supposed to be yet.

Sometimes there was sibling rivalry. Sometimes siblings did jockey for a seat right next to the Provider only to have Him firmly correct them. There is a seat for anyone who accepts the invitation, He would almost roar. The correction was always right and fair and true. Instead of slinking off in shame, it was possible to receive it and know there was absolutely no love lost from the Father.

And no ridicule from the siblings…on a good day. Ridicule was met by just rebuke from the Father, another roar. Frightening like thunder, yet it also lit up the sky in a revealing sort of way. Noise and light, illumination, then order again.

Ones who had been at the table longer than others sometimes forgot about their first days in the family and had to be reminded. The reminders somehow freed them from a darkening that would slowly take place. It was easy to get used to the new family and forget how much better it was than the old. To forget the adoption. When reminded, they remembered and their lips loosened up and smiled again.

They began looking around again, and inviting again.

They remembered how wonderful it was to be part of the Family.

 

 

 

 

Spiral v. Mastery

I read an article on how Shanghai schools teach math differently from western schools. They mentioned that Shanghai teachers taught mastery before moving on to the next concept. I remember this well. My daughter spent her 1st grade year in an Asian school. They spent a couple of months on number bonds. It seemed so basic but they drove it home over and over again. She became a master at number bonds and it laid the foundation for mental math. She still loves math.

Then, I homeschooled for a while and our math curriculum used the spiral method. Teaching a concept, then another, and another, and then coming back around and going a little deeper. Revisiting each concept a little deeper each time. My daughter is now in the spiral method in her current school. She’s not a fan yet. “We’ve already done this!” she tells me often.

My heart resists relearning things I thought I knew, too. It can be a book of the Bible I’ve read quite a few times and know. Or a concept like forgiveness…yeah, I know those verses. I hear it in time with others and in my own journey of spiritual growth. I’ve already been here! Are we really talking about this again? I know this!

Yet, the Spirit speaks again in a small, soft, ever deeper way and I discover there’s another thing or two or a million I need to learn about forgiveness, grace, or obedience. The spiral concept of learning. I see it play out.

I am beginning to realize the freedom it brings. The desire for spiritual mastery is strong. To know a truth inside out and always know it, like your math multiplication facts or the ABC’s feels good. Who doesn’t want mastery? It feels so good to know something.

But, from the stories shared in the accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry, Acts, and Paul’s letters, I see a different method at play. Disciples felt they mastered concepts and then were shown how far they were from mastery. Learning, relearning, re-relearning. The spiral method.

I find freedom as I accept the spiral method over the mastery method in growing in my walk with Jesus. It also brings freedom as I endeavor to shepherd others too. Releasing mastery gives us all a breath of fresh air as we abandon the expectation that we can be done learning at some point because we somehow mastered the Christian life.

Letting go of the disappointment of failed mastery allows me to embrace the wonder that I can always, always learn new things about an old thing from God. My lessons are never over, He always keep coming back to make sure I’m getting it. It can be pretty painful and definitely humbling.

The spiral method. May I not act like a brat when presented with a lesson I thought I mastered!

In what ways do you see the spiral method at work in your relationship with Jesus?