Calling

A friend of mine is contemplating a call to serve in India.

Another friend of mine is about to start a whirlwind month of serving in two different states, something she commits to every summer.

Another friend is dreaming big dreams of a women’s retreat in October.

Another is living on mission in Florida, having moved thousands of miles from friend and family.

10525972_10152563920595867_4148264669658602640_nAnd here I am, reading my VosKamp, my Lewis, studying David, raising my kids, working my job, loving my husband, trying not to go crazy with the wonder and inanity of it all. What do you do when the mundane is what you have? When you are called right here and right now, to just be you  in your hometown. When you have neither the capacity nor the compulsion for something grand. When, right now, you are simply called to the everyday.

Let’s find out shall we…

Quiet Booming Moments

portland-press-herald_3785696Last night, as I was about to go to bed, the Thunder started to roll. B had gone to bed already. I had wrapped everything up. I was going to be in bed by 9. Then the lightning struck.

And it was too tempting.

I made a cup of tea, grabbed The Weight of Glory, and curled up on the couch under my son’s Curious George blanket.

I drank my hot tea, watching the lightning strike in the distance, listening to the thunder roll by. And I sucked the marrow from the words of C.S. Lewis. I let them roll around inside my mind as the thunder rolled around outside. Just as the lightning strike, certain words and phrases leaped out at me.

Both the storm and the book left me feeling that I had been in the presence of something great, but not quite quantifiable. We can measure the voltage of a lightning strike, but not understand where it will strike next. We can count the decibels of a thunder roll but not know when it will end. I feel like I am coming to an understanding of glory, but that I am still sitting on the edge of the storm, watching it roll by.

And my tea is getting cold.

Ambulant Reduplication

10525972_10152563920595867_4148264669658602640_nTurns out there’s reason we say Tick Tock. That Lin Manuel is a master of Hip Hop not Hop Hip. Why we play Tic Tac Toe. But there isn’t just a reason, a biological imperative, there’s a term for it. Ambulant Reduplication. The reason we say certain vowels in a certain order when putting words together. Tock Tick doesn’t sound right, and there is a rule almost as strong as gravity, and acting just as invisibly, behind it.

I like that. I don’t need to know the rules to be ruled by them. I don’t need to understand the whys and wherefores to be connected to this ingenious aspect of the human brain, the human tongue. The connection to creation runs deep. It’s things like this that keep me coming back to the Christian God. Coming back to a creator at the source of all, a divine hand in the daily mix. The details are irrelevant to a large degree, because the connection runs deep.

This morning I was up with the birds. By some miracle I was also up before the rest of my house. I was up, and showered, and dressed, and ready for the day before anyone so much as stirred. In the quiet of the morning, with a song playing softly in the background, a cup of hot tea in hand, the connection runs deep. I am grounded in something stronger than a good nights sleep. In something deeper than a full belly and clean hair. I am part of something bigger than packed lunches and answered emails. And in the quiet of the morning that deep connection is palpable. I can reach out and touch it.

There is a reason we say Tic Tac Toe.

Never Unfriended: A review and some thoughts

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I would love to sum this book up in one word, because it packs a powerful punch and I feel like it should get it’s own catchphrase, like Bazinga or Kapow. But one word doesn’t quite capture what Lisa Jo Baker has done in her second book Never Unfriended. It is honest yes, and also vulnerable, it is entertaining but it also delivers a walk through scripture that my soul craves.

Lisa Jo is the community manager over at incourage.me, an online community of women. I originally encountered this site when we rebooted the women’s ministry at our church, it captured what we were trying to achieve. That feeling of gathering around a fire with your people, putting your feet up and letting the friendship and holiness wash over you. So color me not at all surprised, that the woman who wrote the online book on community has finally put together her thoughts on friendship and community in this encouraging book.

One of the things I loved instantly was that this was not a linear book, though I read it that way. Lisa Jo encourages you immediately to go straight for the chapter you need, to the words your soul calls out for. For me that was the opening chapters so that was where I started. But I loved the recognition of how different we are, that we are all joining this conversation from different places with our own set of baggage. Lisa Jo frees us to find our voice and settle there, before expanding to the other gems within. In fact this is a point she makes in several places throughout this book. That our differences define us but don’t have to divide us, that we each have a need to be seen but also need to find and practice to see others around us. Just because I want to vent, doesn’t mean I should. Just because I have the perfect story to complement what you are telling me, doesn’t mean I should fill in your silences, but listen.

IMG_5166This book is the perfect blend of personal narrative, sound advice and (hallelujah) scriptural direction. My heart cries out for scripture, not for more self help stories, and so watching Lisa Jo artlessly weave scripture throughout this book was soothing to my soul. She manages this in so many ways, with passing reference to familiar stories, with direct blasts of scripture, with the seamless incorporation of truth directly into the words she is speaking over us. If you have been reading and reading and reading all the wonderful books coming out these days, but feeling a lack of scriptural truth, you will not be disappointed. The tales of Lisa Jo’s friendships, her speculation on what we might be feeling are bound up with scripture within the pages of Never Unfriended in a way that makes you thirsty for fellowship and for the pages of your bible. For this I am truly grateful.

This book touches on so many aspects of friendship, most of which (all of which) I have struggled with over the years. The fear of being left out. The fear of being left behind. The fear of being case aside. The fear of not being enough. The fear of missing out.

For me, one of the biggest issues I deal with is that of idolatry. Give me something, anything, and I will quickly set it up in my life on it’s own little pedestal and let it interfere with my relationship with God. Until I read Lisa Jo’s words, it never occurred to me that I was doing that with some of  my relationships too, that I was seeking the approval or validation of a flesh and blood person, that some days I felt dependent on that rather than dependent on the God who put air in my lungs and the stars in the sky. MIND BLOWN. She then goes on to say that as we pull our relationships down from their lofty places, we have to realize that we are not their god either:

Our business is to believe the best about people. We are not their judge, or their jury, and we are certainly not their god. We are intended to be their blessing. On purpose. p 163.

I am my own worst enemy most of the time. And Lisa Jo confirms to me that I am not the only one. Most of us get caught up in our own minds, most of the time! We craft stories in our minds that aren’t real, we have entire conversations in our minds that never take place, we ascribe thoughts and words to other people. We let our imaginations run away with us, and never stop to allow reality to sink in.

Just because I think it. Just because I feel it. Doesn’t mean it’s true. p 156.

Something to remember, that little voice in your head, sometimes it lies.

17626266_10211942504373979_5640318903424001118_nThis book arrived in my life at a time when I felt that I had wrestled all these demons and beaten them into submission. Lisa Jo focused in for me on what I had been through, but also showed me where some of the weaknesses could still lurk, ways to deal with them, areas that I never even looked for these problems in. I didn’t feel judged by this book, I didn’t feel judged by myself as I read these words, I felt comforted in a community of women who said “Me too!” We do not exist in a vacuum, we were designed for community, and women like Lisa Jo do an amazing job at encouraging us to put the most into that community and get the most out of that community. And let’s al try to keep our sanity as we do so!

Community

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Since God created Adam, since God saw that it was bad for man to be alone and created Eve, community has been at the heart of who we are as human beings.  It’s a basic need, a part of our blueprints. It’s the connective tissue that runs across nationalities, skin color, gender, politics. This is what my friend Robin has a passion for. For bringing people together. Whether at Panera Bread for coffee, at a ladies retreat or in her home with her sweet boys, her heart seeks people out and seeks to bring them together. Robin is the founder of The Collective in Greater Portland, Maine.

The Collective was born out of a desire to simply provide a space for the Church in Greater Portland to come together to worship God and to love people. As a part of each worship gathering, our hope is to provide a simple, tangible way that we can join together in loving others around us both locally and globally.

And so every few months we gather. We worship. We join together in pursuit of a goal. We leave aside the boundaries of church walls and political affiliations. We put aside the labels we give ourselves, church planter, seeker friendly, non denominational. We get rid of the trendy buzz words that seek to draw people in. We’re not starting a new culture here. We’re reveling in an experience that we were designed to have, we are worshipping God as we were designed to, together.

So if you are in Maine on March 25th and looking for some community, join us. We’ll be together at First Baptist Church in Westbrook at 7pm. There’s always room at the table.

Abundant God

51t9-5f9cjlYou know you’re in a bad place when someone has written a children’s book about what you are feeling. That awful moment when you are standing in Barnes and Noble watching kids run around looking for their favorite character, and you pick up the latest Elephant and Piggie because you like Mo Willems, and the whole book is about you and your friends. And you’re 35.

Talk about the crosses you bear, mine is Jealousy with a big ole capital J. I used to fight against it when I was a kid. You can be my second best friend and I will be your third best friend and Samantha can be my third best friend, but if you want to trade then I can be your second best friend and you can be my first best friend. Even when you get to college, and you’re sitting in your room, and you can hear something happening down the hall and you just aren’t part of it and you don’t have the nerve to step out of your room.

Turns out that kind of stuff doesn’t go away. Why did that couple not invite us to go ice-skating with them as well? Why didn’t my kid get an invitation to that birthday party? Why didn’t I get an invitation to that kid’s birthday party? Why aren’t I in that small group? Why can’t I go to lunch with you after church?

That’s no way to live, and it’s not what we’re called to.

Luke 1: 39-45 (ESV)
39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[g] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Last year I spent a lot of time focused on these six verses, on Mary and Elizabeth’s time together, thanks in part to Sophie Hudson’s excellent book Giddy Up Eunice. What I keep coming back to, what I can’t take my eyes from, is Elizabeth’s joy for Mary.

11896375_10153468808005867_5861246177937295750_oElizabeth had been waiting decades to have a child. She had faced decades of scorn, decades of being left out, of being uninvited. Yet here comes her cousin Mary, not even married yet, barely even a woman, and she is pregnant. Not on my watch sister, turn your behind around, march straight back to where you came from. This is my time. I’m pregnant now. I get to glow and have people fuss over me, I get to dream about my baby, I get to rub my belly. You with your young skin and your full belly and your messiah in the oven, turn right around and leave. I need to take a nap, and I get to do that now because THIS IS MY TIME.

That’s how we’d react right? After watching all of our friends get pregnant, seeing their kids start school, and then that newlywed with the shiny Kitchenaid mixer comes in and is pregnant too, and so excited because you get to do this together. You want to be happy for her, but you also want her to find another church to go to.

But it’s not just John in Elizabeth’s belly that’s happy. It’s not just the one in the dessert jumping for joy at the presence of the one whose coming was foretold.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Not for one second did it cross Elizabeth’s mind to welcome her cousin with anything but joy. Even beyond joy, to feel such pleasure that Mary would choose to come alongside her in this. Elizabeth was so confident in herself and whose she was. So confident in who her son was, and knew so well the God that she worshipped. There was nothing Mary could do, or say, or be that would diminish what Elizabeth was and was expecting.

img_2883I tend to think in finite terms. If someone gets a book published that’s less chance of mine getting published. If three of my friends get pregnant then I’m not going to be able to. If none of my friends have a miscarriage, it means I’m going to,… if I manage to get pregnant. She got her dream job, so I can’t have mine. She got the haircut I wanted, so of course it won’t look any good on me.

This is not how God works.

There is not a finite supply of God. His blessings do not run out when those around you receive them. 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV) says that God is able to bless you abundantly. Ephesians 3:20 (ESV) says Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Our God is an immeasurable God. He is greater. He is better. He is stronger. He is more able than anything we can imagine.

It’s not God who tells us that their more equals less for us.

John 10:10 (NKJV) The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

God tells us more, the thief tells us no way. God calls us home, the thief tells us there’s no space. God calls us child, the thief tells us insignificant.

I have battled with this thief for years, no more so than since having children. Those un-received party invitations burn with a heat I never knew in all my years of single jealousy. So I pray, and I read scripture over myself like an ointment, and I confess, and I confront, and I lay myself bare before the women with whom I struggle, who turn back and say “Me too, I thought I was the only one.” And still I struggle.

But standing there, in that book store, reading a children’s story, seeing a beloved author trying to teach children how to not worry, how to share and how to bless one another, the thief’s hold was broken. And now, though I may have my times of weakness, though I may feel that jealousy creep back in to hold on to me once more, now I can laugh in his face. Because if they can write a children’s book about it, this grown up woman can certainly kick it to the curb.

Great Expectations

I was reading from Joshua yesterday. I always try and pay attention to the verse(s) that spring out to me. Something that might catch my eye, or need repeating. Sometimes it’s a well known verse, sometimes it’s the only blank space amidst a sea of my notes. Yesterday it was Joshua 1 v 5. “Just as I was with Moses,so will I be with you.” Has there ever been a more loaded statement.

My heart instantly leapt into my throat and went straight to, that’s a lot of pressure, some mighty expectations there, how can you hope to live up to that, big shoes to fill. My natural inclination to go all human in the face of Holy, and worry about personal limitations, personal needs, personal desires. What if I don’t want this? What if I don’t want to walk that path? I wan to watch The Tonight Show and eat Cheetos in my PJs.

But after 24 hours of this scripture rolling around in my head, crossing my mind when a spare thought let it, I suddenly realized. My inclination to load this statement with humanity, completely misses how loaded up it is with God. See God was with Moses, and God will be with Joshua. The God of this whole universe. The God who created time. The God who parted the red sea, freed the slaves, set the captives free. He was with Moses, and He will be with Joshua.

This verse does not say, I will only be with you in the exact same way as I was with Moses, so you need to do things as if you were him, you need to walk his path, you need to literally fill his shoes. No. It says that God was with Moses and that God will be with Joshua.  See, God isn’t asking Joshua to fill Moses’ task, but to complete the plans that God has set in motion, and to complete them as Joshua would not as Moses would.

I want to be like Mary, who upon hearing the words of the Angel Gabriel cries out “Let it be with me as you have said” (somewhere in Luke.) But most of the time I end up hiding in a cave, saying “Let it be with me as you have said but please sir can I do this first.”

God is with Joshua as he was with Moses, as he is with me.