Summer Heat

DSC_0039If I ranked seasons…and I do…summer ranks last.  Dead last.  For some reason God planted me in place after place that heats up to unholy temperatures in summer time.  The furnace of Texas and now the furnace of Asia.

Because I know it is the right thing to say, I say God must know what He’s doing and somehow the heat will lead to greater sanctification of my soul.  And, because I know a seed must fall to the ground and die before producing anything I can give mental ascent that the feeling of dying in the summer heat might serve a purpose.

Yet…I still enter the heat of summer dragging my feet and fighting a dull, pervasive grumpiness of soul.  For three months makeup slides off my face and I feel ugly.  For three months, my kids want to swim everyday in the blow up pool and spray each other with the spray nozzle set to the “kill” setting.  For three months, the grocery store refuses to turn on it’s a/c until 3 pm.  For three months…

I admit I deserve a prize for being a brat.  We do run our home a/c day and night in summer.  Ice constantly occupies our freezer drawers.  My suffering is slight compared to some.  But when it comes to discontentment, comparing with others rarely nips my disease of complaining up at the roots.

Instead my eyes opened a little this week to my need to come before the Maker of summer and submit to His seasons physically and spiritually.  Is it possible I can grow in the Lord just by being willing to live in the heat that He brings for a while?  To even cheerfully set up the pool for my kids in the heat?  To put on makeup every once in a while to cheer my soul even knowing it’s going to disappear in an hour?  To go to the grocery store and refuse to open my mouth to complain about the a/c schedule?

Learning to come under the reality of my days instead of fighting and wishing and complaining is no small task for me.  I just now begin to accept that possibly my whole summer’s spiritual assignment revolves around cheerful submission to the heat of summer.

I wonder what He holds on the other side as I choose to walk through this barrier to contentment.  I bet it’s good whatever it is.

What season ranks last on your list?  Why?

Cisterns and Springs

Mountain walks provide soul nourishment I never fully appreciated until I lived life surrounded by the noise of dense population.  Exploring and listening to the myriad sounds of silence lifts my soul.  On one such walk, I stumbled upon an interesting contraption to gather rain water and irrigate a small plot of land.  I snapped a picture and filed it away, not knowing for what I wanted to use it. DSC_0019

Fast forward 6 months and here I sit, thinking of that picture.  This image of a cistern captures my attention again.  Cisterns hold finite, defined amounts of water to sustain life.  Someone rigged this one to fill by itself but in general, cisterns require significant labor to fill because water weighs a ton.  Cisterns lose their effectiveness quickly.  Water left a few days becomes stale.  Containers break and they run out when drought arrives.  With cisterns, one knows how much water one possesses, making it easier and practical to divvy out and a source of fear as water runs low.  Rationing is reasonable and necessary with a cistern.

6 months after taking this shot I see what I missed then.  So often I live life as though my sustenance comes from a cistern.  A limited, contained, quickly stale, rationed source.  A fearfully fragile pot that I fill myself through much hardship.  Water weighs a ton.  My spiritual life feels like hard work and I decide on my portions.  I ration my efforts based on how much water I see in the container and the labor I know it takes to replace it.  Exhausting.

So when Jesus speaks of a spring bubbling up, my ears prick.  Springs produce water through no effort.  They spill water all around for anyone to gather.  Their limitless supply confounds the mind as the source stays mysteriously buried underground.  Springs clean themselves and never sit to stale.  Rationing?  Impossible and unneccesary.  Drought may come but the spring reaches farther down to draw up water.  Fear subsides as I see Jesus, the fountain of living water.

As I contemplated the cistern spiritual life I’m prone to lead or the spring-fed life Jesus offers, I want to throw down my heavy buckets and come to Him.  I search for ways I ration my outpouring–and the Lord reveals many–and gather with others at the spring for my daily drink.  The spring always bubbles up and I rest, quenched.

What differences do you see between a cistern and a spring?

Thriving or Blending In

As we struggled to get back to thriving during a relationally dry time a few years ago, I struck out with plough in hand to turn up some ground for new friendships.  International playgroup was the ground and I was going to make some friends.  Mom’s from around the world in various stages of survival or thriving gathered to talk while kids played. So many interesting people!  Surely, a friendship could be borne.

Eventually, mom’s night out came around.  I, of course, went and ended up sitting next to a woman who loved to pepper me with questions about what we did, how we did it, how we got paid, what our plans for the future were and so on.  We’re not exactly forthcoming with all that information for some good reasons so to say I was uncomfortable is an understatement.  She then proceeded to ridicule another family in the city for doing religious work.  She did not know I did the same type of work.  And, now, I did not want her to know.  I really did not want her to know.

I shut down.  Survival became my goal.  Blend in to the group.  Be just another mom living life overseas.  Don’t stick out.  Danger!  It seemed an appropriate time to visit the lady’s room.

One friend who knew our more important work, observed the whole encounter.  She observed my walls go up, my survival instincts kicking in.  Later, as the cab dropped off first one and then another and another person until my friend and I were alone in the cab, she leaned forward and told me clearly she did not hold the views of this other woman.  In fact, she respected what we did.  I breathed.  I’d found a friend.

I realized after a long while and am still reminded now that blending into the group does not lead to survival but slow death.  It seems on the surface the right thing to do.  Friends are lacking, so go make friends…but not at any cost.  Never at the cost of who I am.  That’s not survival and it doesn’t lead to thriving….it’s just the long road to a slow death.  The wrong death.

The life Christ calls me to is so much more than blending in.  In fact, it’s the opposite of blending in.  It’s being willing to stand up knowing life as I know it probably won’t survive.  As I think on it more releasing survival seems to be the first step on the path to thriving.

The Color of Anticipation

Orange.  Warm, wonderful, wild orange.  Bought in the dead of winter for toes hiding in thick wool socks and cozy Uggs.  Usually I stick to more conventional…ok…normal colors.  But last week upon exiting the local grocery store, orange caught my eye.

My mind rushed to mid-year break.  Soon, I’d pack my bags with summer clothes.  I’d strategize the least amount of layers I could wear to the airport without freezing for the relatively short distance to donuts, mangoes, and sun.  What would I change into during our layover?  Or, will I change upon reaching our tropical destination?  Anticipation.

Anticipation wields a double-edged blade.  On the one hand it sparks a fire in the everyday as the moment approaches.  Tick off more things on the check list.  Come to a stopping or pausing point in a routine activity.  Contemplate the needs of others in the same situation and speak into the worry, anxiety, and stress of a conference.  Anticipation can move me towards action.

On the flip side, anticipation can start the slow slide toward disengaging too early, of coasting towards the day that I know will come.  I’ll deal with that later, my heart says.  That conflict, that difference of opinion that looms large, that kind word I want to speak.

Important things get put on the back burner as I count on the awaited event radically changing my outlook on life.  Relatively minor activities gain utmost importance like should I or should I not take beach towels?  I’ll have to wash them.  I don’t have a washing machine. But, it’s nice to have more towels.  They’ll get sandy.  On and on my mind goes…anticipating the beach.

Tonight as I paint my toenails orange, I hope the warmth of that color will rouse some praise in my heart about the gift of a break from the cold and fellowship with friends.  Then, as I look at my toes in the tropics I hope orange reminds me to live not just for myself, my break, my fellowship but for whatever He anticipates for me.

What are you anticipating?  What reminds you to live for Christ in the anticipation?

Waiting for My Club

People gathered around me.  More and more people.  They stood in a circle.  Circles are not lines and lines are not circles. I began to grow anxious and strategize.

Waiting.  I stood at the Subway sandwich counter.  The store depends on a nice, straight line.  I was next but the line was neither straight nor nice.  Those devices that corral people into single file orderliness?  Nowhere.

Does The Way consist of being willing to give up my place in line?  Do I press my claim at the expense of another?  I have kids waiting, though.  Waiting for sandwiches.  I’m waiting, trusting God to make it right, to make even this chaotic gathering orderly.  Am I willing to be wronged? To be treated unfairly?  Am I willing to accept life in a broken world when it comes at my expense?  Will I willingly wait an extra 10 minutes in line?

The artist donned her gloves and met my eyes asking for my order.  She saw me.  My heartbeat slowed.  This time I enjoyed things as they should be…or, should I say, as I think they should be.

I know.  It’s a line at Subway but lines in this country provide the crucible which reveals my true nature.  These everyday moments stare me down.  When I’m asked to lock up my purse at the grocery store but know for foreigners its more of a desire than a mandate, do I comply?  When the cashier asks me to pay for my toiletries separately or the parking attendant requests that I re-park my car nose out like a drug dealer making a quick getaway, do I grumble?  Do I even do it?

Will I throw my lot to God and submit to what seems ridiculous…and to what really is ridiculous?  Or will I do what I like to do and fight, press my rights, stake my claim?  I who have no rights?  I who follows the One who did not hold to His rights?

Ouch.  I don’t do well at this.  It feels like a freefall…a total loss of control.  And, it is but from the few times I’ve fallen from my rights, it’s been fabulously freeing.

I may be waiting longer for my sandwiches in the future.  And, I’ll need to perfect my drug dealer parking skilz too.

What is one of your crucibles?