10 Things I Learned in August

I’m joining the fabulous Emily Freeman in sharing 10 things I learned this August weaving back and forth from silly to serious. This is the summer vacation edition.

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1. First, I need to just keep pushing the publish button. Keep putting words on paper. Keep making art.

 

This winter I stopped writing. I really had a hundred excuses including a new job and homeschooling, but there’s more of a messy reality behind the whiny list. As I began teaching new Journey groups, (Healing Care Group with Terry Wardle’s incredible curriculum,) the Lord uncovered how much of my sense of significance rested in approval through ministry.

 

My writing was completely tangled up in it like a nest of fishing line, a chaos of deep hunger for worth.

 

I needed to stop writing. I needed a pregnant silence in which to be transformed. Daily, even hourly at first, I held out empty hands and brought my nagging hungers to God. I stayed present with Him using Brennan Manning’s beautiful prayer, “Abba, Father, I belong to You.”

 

After the soul work, I’m writing out of a new wide-open sort of freedom. I’m not holding on with a tight fist. It is now my barefoot joy, my worship.

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But honestly, starting to write in the open again was hard. I’m a perfectionist, a poet who weighs the power of every word. This month I learned to just…push…publish. Over vacation I wrote for just twenty minutes a day with my thumbs on an iphone keyboard…on instagram…on Facebook here, here, and here…(wherever words are free) and then came home and opened my laptop and began writing in earnest.

 

2. In August I reconnected to the power of the podcast: short, concise teaching and entertaining. We logged a lot of hours on the road. 25 hours to Maine. 25 hours back.  This is where I discovered Michael Hyatt’s, This is Your Life. First, I listened to Escape Perfectionism Once and For All then I began streaming episode after episode. By now, I’m a groupie. Another favorite, this one with much wisdom? Why Learning to Lead Means Learning to Follow. I wish I had digested that one straight out of college.

 

3. This month I’ve embraced becoming a morning person…but I’ve learned that it truly IS an art.  This is Michael Hyatt on How to Become a Morning Person. I told you I’m a groupie. I also reached deep into the encouragement from Hello Mornings I did a few years ago. Check them out.  The key to becoming a morning person? Go to bed every night fifteen minutes earlier in order to wake up 15 minutes earlier.  Oh ya, and naps, glorious glorious naps.

 

4. This month I discovered a new standard for the perfect breakfast: Lobster Benedict. Amazing. That is all.

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5. Lately I’ve been trying out Shauna Niequist’s dinner question from Bread and Wine: If you knew you were going to die tomorrow (sounds like the beginning of an Evangelism Explosion question, doesn’t it?) and you would choose any meal you wanted to have the day before, what would it be?  You learn so much about a person when you ask about their food loves. Their eyes light up and you hear stories about grandma and that time they travelled by boat to Greece and had their first espresso on the deck looking over the Adriatic.

 

6.  Vacation with older kids? So much easier.  We just spent two weeks on Mount Desert Island, Maine going in and out of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. I had my first actual vacation in ten years.

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7. This August I was shocked to find I feel rooted in Maine along the wild, rocky coastline, the stiff fir trees that stand up against the winter wind. Even after moving away thirty years ago, I put my feet on Crescent Beach, Cape Elizabeth and had that soul sense of home. I immediately wanted to start writing.  Do you have a place like that?

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8. I brought lots of books to Maine but read only one: Wild in the Hollow by Amber Haines.  I was entranced. It was messy and beautiful and redemptive. Those are my favorite stories.

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9. I’ve been waiting for Emily Freeman’s book, Simply Tuesday, and I couldn’t just sit in the bookstore to read, I had to buy it immediately. It is the type of book I can only read with a pencil in hand, underlining and amening all the way through. This lady has read my mail. She echoes LeAnne Payne’s writing: Celebrate your smallness.

 

10. Here is my biggest aha moment this month. I took a walk on Crescent Beach where we had spent whole summer days when I was a child and was surprised to discover my trust plant had grown deep roots.

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As I walked back toward the Inn after an early morning walk, I prayed a new surrender prayer and discovered there were no “buts,” no fears, no root of anger toward God. I prayed God would do all that it takes to transform me and make me holy. And here’s the shocker, folks; for the first time, I did not fear the outcome. Tears are rolling now. This has been a long time coming. I closed up to trust after sexual abuse the year I was fourteen, and then wrestled to exhaustion with the problem of evil. How can we trust that God is good if He allows evil into the lives of the small and innocent?

 

I wrestled with tutors at L’Abri, Switzerland when newly married, through the lines of poetry furiously scribbled through seminary, and then through the deep healing which has occurred through formational prayer. I’ve wrestled and God, He’s stayed, and I’m starting to recognize the blessing.

 

Then kindly, He gave me this peek. This trust-building has been the hard work He’s been accomplishing during these last excruciating moves. We move and He keeps stripping me, humbling me Hosea 2 style taking away all my “lovers,” and then beckoning me to come lay my head against His chest to hear His heartbeat: You are my beloved. You are my beloved. You are my beloved.

 

I finally trust the sound of that heartbeat.

 

You too, friend, lean in hard. Put your head on His chest like John at the table with the bread and the wine. Listen to His heart. Pull in tight. You are His beloved. You are His beloved. You are His beloved. 

 

Can you hear it? It’s as steady as the lapping of the water on the shore.

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And you, dear friend, what have you learned this August?

 

Want to read more places where I am writing words?  Join with me on Instagram, mtrsummer, and Facebook: Summer Gross.

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Eleven Things I Learned in May

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I’ve been silent a good while.

 

Listening.

 

Wrestling.

 

Homeschooling.  I’ve taken that leap again…she who said she would never…ever homeschool…again.  But after our move to GA Madeline was drowning with math that didn’t make sense and a month into our semester Caedmon whispered this: “Mom, I love learning in the quiet.”  And so we will continue to walk forward through homeschooling one step at a time.

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In January I began teaching Healing Care Groups at Holy Cross Cathedral…what we call “Journey.” Fourteen people signed up. I hyperventilated. (You can’t create vulnerable community with fourteen people!) Two weeks later I broke them into two groups and Monday and Thursdays we use a fantastic curriculum by Terry Wardle from Ashland Seminary that I’ve been using for six years.  This year I’m adding more Anglican theology, even a few icons! (Andrei Rublev’s Trinity gave us a theological framework for where self-giving love truly begins.) And once again God has done miracle after miracle.  No joy comes close.

 

And this is what I’ve learned this May, the humorous and the hard-won:

1. Forty surprised me with its weightiness. Madeline and I sat on a porch swing in the white garden at the Vines for a bit, white blooming dogwood trees all around. She wandered off to click pictures of white azalea bushes with my camera and I listened until it seems to me the Lord sat down on the swing and took my hand and said this, “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.” Peace slowly settled onto my fortieth birthday.

One of Madeline’s shots:

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2. The strawberry crop ripens early here in Georgia. And they grow monsters down here.  We spent thirty minutes picking down one row and came home with four gallons.

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3. While we chopped buckets of strawberries, juice dripped across our cutting boards and we listened to this: Brennan Manning’s Parable of Willie Juan. The children surprised me afterward with their lovely insights. I can’t get enough Brennan Manning right now.

 

4. I’ve decided eggos with homemade strawberry jam and whipped cream is the best brinner ever.

 

5. I’ve also decided Candy Crush is from the devil:)  I’m pretty sure I could hear Wormwood guffawing as I wasted time trying to get to one more level, my heart racing, involuntarily seeing switches in my sleep.

 

6. Clarity. This month a personal credo began to take shape: Position people to encounter Christ.  It drives away fog, keeps me grounded, removes my ego and helps me make decisions. What I’m learning? Set a feast and then get out of the way.

 

7. I will no longer yell/loudly encourage at soccer games. At the last game of the season I saw one man from Latin America turn to his wife exasperated at the American parents causing a ruccus. I no longer want to be one of them.  I will now carry lots and lots of Big League Chew gum and hide behind a camera.

 

8. I play with my children more at the beach. I dig in the sand, make dribble castles, jump waves, and giggle as we run along the surf trying not to get caught by a wave. My question is, why don’t I play more often? (This is me and my darling niece, Maggie.)

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9. I’m painfully aware I have not learned to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry,” the Dallas Willard quote that undid me over Lent.  I crave stillness and yet often go entire days without taking a breath.  #PocketsOfStillness will wind its way in and out of my writing here over the next few months…because I write to wrestle toward freedom. Follow me on the journey?  Share with me yours?  How do you carve out moments for stillness? If you carve out an intentional pocket of stillness, use the hashtag #pocketsofstillness and we’ll be able to watch the fruits of solitude on twitter and instagram.

 

10. Oh yeah, I’m done with perfectionism.  Done. With. It.  So this is what I’m hearing about the process of writing right now:

1. Pray.

2. Listen and receive word.

3. Craft and play, wrestle and bless.

4. Release fully and blow the seed on the Wind.

5. Come back to Rest in God. Hide in Him, worship, and practice my smallness.

6. Pray and get ready to hear again.

 {Pray. Receive. Craft. Release. Rest. Ready.}

No more perfectionism as if my ego is at stake…Receive and Release.

 

11. Staycations are divine, especially when your children are at someone else’s house. Thank you Miss Debby!  Friday night we stood three hours through a bizarre live show at the Buckhead Theatre seeing Postmodern Jukebox. (We can’t get this clown, which climbed up on stage out of the audience all cream ruffles and comic sincerity out of our head…all six foot eight of him…)

 

 

But the next morning we had mimosas, custard-like French toast and hours to chat and remembered with a sigh what a great decision we made nearly twenty years ago.

 

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I’m joining the always-inspiring Emily Freeman @Chatting at the Sky to share my May learnings.  And by the way, my Instagram is where I often post my learnings throughout the month. Click here to follow MTRSUMMER.

 

And you, Friend, what have you learned over May?

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Day 19: Lift up Empty hands

We often live anxiously searching for our needs to be filled. Moving intensifies that. I wrote this post last year. It still applies. Today’s action? Lift up your needs to the Father using the prayer printed at the end. Don’t be afraid to cry out. Last night we were crying out for Caedmon’s need for a friend…a sense of belonging. We’ll keep lifting up empty hands until they are filled…and then we will dance our thanks.

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You spread a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

 

Sometimes our neediness is profound.

 

Sometimes it’s just a reaction, a familiar one, like reaching for the telephone when we are lonely, a package of oreos for comfort. One of our core longings…a need for safety, worth, messages of our having value, unconditional love, care, encouragement, a pathway to God, belonging, and feeling useful and needed…are crying out to be filled. (These are from Dr. Terry Wardle’s work from Ashland Seminary.)

 

Like a cut that keeps bleeding when scraped. Like a hunger that keeps turning over demanding to be satiated. And He is the only one who has set the feast.

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We are the matchstick girl.

 

Since our move, my needs for belonging and a sense of purpose are loudest. I click on Facebook, but leave feeling emptier hearing about others’ full lives. I zone out and watch others be creative in reality shows instead of embarking on my own adventures.

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I have a feast spread out waiting but I live frantic. I forget the truth: “whatever we need, it’s on the table.” I nose around looking for a mirage and settle for sand when I could have an ample feast.

 

Caedmon, my nine year old boy, has stopped wanting to go to children’s church with the other lines of children. He wants to squeeze in between his dad and I and catch phrases of the sermon, lean his head against our arms, close his eyes and gaze at the painting of Christ ascending.

 

We’ve been attending Ascension Anglican in Oakland with its cavernous nave and sitting on a dark blue padded pew at the 9am. We cozy up to the pulpit so we can hear every word.

 

This sunday in his sermon, Father Jonathan Millard asked everyone whether they had read C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair. Caedmon’s head jerked up. His eyes flickered recognition and he raised his hand. We were on a Narnia kick all winter and who could forget Jill and Eustace and Puddleglum being sent into the underworld to rescue Prince Rilian from his enchantment?

 

Father Millard read this excerpt like it was story time, clearing his voice from the high pulpit and speaking in his English accent.

 

As an aside, I just want to say that C.S. Lewis should always be read by an Englishman. I do my best BBC accent as we sit around the fire in the evenings but friends, I acknowledge that this is dangerous territory for a girl from Ohio. One day a few weeks ago the accent came out randomly and I had to explain to new friends why I was pretending to be from across the Atlantic. Dangerous, I tell you.

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Here’s the excerpt from early in The Silver Chair. Jill is hoping to drink from a stream but there is a full, male lion guarding the water:

 

“‘If you’re thirsty, you may drink.’

…for a second she stared here and there wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, ‘If you are thirsty, come and drink,‘ and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen his lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.
‘Are you not thirsty?’ said the lion.
‘I’m dying of thirst,’ said Jill.
‘Then drink,’ said the lion.
‘May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?’ said Jill.

The lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
‘Will you promise not to–do anything to me, if I do come?’ said Jill.
‘I make no promise,’ said the lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

‘Do you eat girls?’ she said.

‘I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,’ said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

‘I daren’t come and drink,’ said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

‘Oh dear!’ said Jill, coming another step nearer. ‘I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.’

‘There is no other stream,’ said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion–no one who had seen his stern face could do that–and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted.”

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There is no other stream. There is no other table.

 

If you are thirsty, come and drink.

 

I’m learning to identify my core longing need, to sit quietly before the Lord and wait…but more on that in Part 2. Want more, the feast, the fullness? Check out my sermon here.

 

I’m learning to keep praying this on repeat, to lift up my hands empty:  

 

Litany of Core Longings

Lord, I need a safe and secure environment

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need constant reinforcement of my personal worth

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need repeated messages that I am valued, unique and special

And I can only get them from You.

 

Lord, I need unconditional love and acceptance

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need basic care and nurture

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need encouragement to grow and develop my personal gifts and talents

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a pathway to fellowship with You

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a sense of belonging

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need to feel useful and needed

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a hope and a future

And I can only get it from You.

 

God loves me unconditionally and wants to give me all this.

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We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved five states south and are loving the warm October but riding the ups and downs of a major transition. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together. Start here.

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Searching for Resurrection

Crabapple trees in pink frills process down my new street. All winter I wondered what color they would wear. Their miniature crabapples  fell onto the sidewalks and gave the early robins something to eat in the cold. Still, they kept their secret. Now I’m showered with fragrance as I pass them on my morning walk.

 

I needed spring.

 

I didn’t just hope for spring, long for spring or crave spring. This year I. needed. it. We moved into a new town, a new empty life right before the dying seasons and by March, I was holding my breath. I hadn’t been writing much, here or in my journal, afraid to go digging in the mucky soil. I was afraid of what I would find. I couldn’t write, couldn’t tunnel down with a trowel into the loam without signs of resurrection.

 

I’ve been a coward.

 

I know the grip of depression, the root ball of the mind squeezing tight. I’ve lived in its tomb before. This year I’ve been waiting…like the earth.

 

Last week, I took a camera with me, the children kicked on scooters creating a rhythm as they slid over the cracks and I went searching…for resurrection.

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Late the next day we drove up to McConnell’s Mill State Park. The children found a sandy spot on the trail by Slippery Rock River and started digging like they were at the beach. Caedmon rested under a tree deep in a book and Andrew took out his fly rod waving it back and forth with nymphs tied on tight for the ride. I went hiking, D60 camera around my neck, looking for light and resurrection.

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Tillium. They push up hidden under a canopy of trees creating constellations of light for those who go into the deep forests to find them. I remember tramping back into our woods behind the North Fairfield house in the wet of early spring and discovering an island covered with trillium. I held my breath as I tiptoed between their stalks afraid they would die if my foot came down heavy.

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In the days that followed I found other constellations of light and tried to drink deep.  But it wasn’t until I started naming the spaces in between, the dark places, that I began to hope. So much of what was making me hold my breath was a fear of rejection. Being new has its gifts but for a girl whose main wounding includes a fear of rejection, being new is like a drive over Gabon’s dirt roads from pothole to pothole, jolted and holding on, exhausting. I began to see patterns of tiny rejections I was holding onto. When was it that I quit writing? When was it that I began to veg out in front of the tv every night? When was it that new experiences made my heart pound hard?

 

We have to name the dark before we can renounce it.

 

I started to pray simply when I felt the shadow passing over, asking this question: what core longing is not being fulfilled? (This core longing list comes from here from Terry Wardle and maybe you remember my conversation about my moving fears and the core longing litany found here.)

Am I lacking:

A safe and secure environment,

constant reinforcement of my personal worth,

the need for repeated messages that I am valued, unique and special,

the need for unconditional love and acceptance,

basic care and nurture,

encouragement to grow and develop my personal gifts and talents,

a pathway to fellowship with you,

a sense of belonging, or

to feel useful and needed.

 

Acknowledging the empty places led me to light. He is always the Source of our core longings…no amount of turning toward the face of another will provide these essentials.

 

In lamenting my lack I was able to open my hands. I was able to stop the search, open my hands and ask the Provider.

 

Halfway through my hike, I had taken out my iphone and clicked. I breathed in the mist foaming up around the waterfall but I didn’t see THIS until my husband commented on it days later:

 

Light was streaming in.

 

In the midst of my maniacal search for resurrection, I had been bathed in unknown light. I breathed out slowly. He had always been present on the road. Resurrection had found me.

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linking with the lovely Jen Ferguson and the Soli Deo Gloria sisters

and joining with Jennifer’s community of storytellers...and boy, she will lift you up and speak encouragement straight into your eyes today: Don’t Give up.

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Permission to Rest

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You are allowed to rest. This is permission. Invitation.

 

It had been a busy day, full of teetering stacks of laundry and ministry and the kind of slow exhaustion that makes one desperate for another cup of coffee…at 8…just to make it through the bedtime routine.  I laid on the couch utterly finished, trying to talk myself into walking downstairs to wash my face. The kids were finally asleep and in their own beds. I clicked the tv off. My show was over but my mind still spun. Then, out of the quiet I finally heard the invitation, “You, my child, are allowed to rest.”

 

The verses I had done Lectio Divina with that morning in my group came back to me in pushed open space of silence:

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13, 17a).

 

He never expected a cape wearing supermom. He never expected me to take a flying leap from motherhood to ministry and back again without getting out of breath. He never expected me to soar into this move with all its constant anxious newness without the whiplash of the triggers. He remembers that I am dust and instead of being repelled by that fact, He offers me rest.

 

And you too.

 

You, my friend, are given permission to rest, a commandment to rest. This weekend, lets peel off these velcroed  capes and lean into the truth of our own frailty.

 

Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28) Yes, that sounds good about now.

Come pilgrimage with me into rest and into His heart. Place your email (always protected) in the Connect box on the front page and we’ll gently ramble there together.

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When We are Confused by our Calling

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Welcome to Word-seeds dear friend.  This is where we pray the Scripture roots into every crevice and crack of our life, breaks up the hard ground.

Word seed is a Bible study that may take longer than a day. We wind around a thought, give questions for meditation and begin to open up the Scripture that you may be hearing this next Sunday. Feel free to stop at a picture question and come back later for a bit more time in the Scripture. This week we are on the rocky shores of the Lake of Galilee with the fishermen cleaning their nets for the day.  Read it in Matthew 4:12-22 before you read here?

(These word seeds will always correspond with the lectionary because I have a need to join others on our common pilgrimage.  Today’s post comes from the gospel, Year A, Epiphany 3)

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Pray that I don’t loose the hands of Jesus in my attempt to feed the poor.

Mother Teresa to Henri Nouwen

 

Kathy Sicard wrapped the scarf tight around my head and the world dimmed. With the second scarf I went blind.  I felt like I had walked into a movie theater late, groping for chairs, hoping I didn’t end up in someone’s lap.  Marie Diebold grasped my hands, facing me, walking backwards. Her voice was low and soft.

 

We were in her house for our Tuesday night inner healing study.  One Tuesday night we went through the lessons, the next Tuesday we gave it to others. It was our first year doing the 16 week Healing Care study by Terry Wardle.

 

Marie guided me slowly through her kitchen, around the butcher block island, the metal sink cupboard from the 60’s, the collection of hanging mugs by the window.  She talked me straight through the narrow kitchen doorway shuffling our feet from the wood floor of the kitchen to the oriental carpet in the living room.  “Walk straight. OK, a small step to the right, and there now, here’s the coffee table. Can you feel it against your legs. Ok stop. Turn left. Walk ahead two steps.” We wound through the downstairs of her farmhouse like this.

 

I do fine with trust exercises like this.  Not so much in real life.  I know God is guiding but  I find myself fumbling wildly for the wall, the doorways, begging to take off the scarf.

 

This scripture reveals my heart.  I’m the one walking in darkness.  I’ve seen the great light but much of the time the brightness doesn’t register.  Let’s just say I don’t spend enough time basking in the glow.

 

So much of my calling has seemed like a straight line. No, that’s not quite true.  There have been plenty of times of uncertainty, I have just repressed them.  I like straight lines. Receive calling. Go to seminary. Work in a church for ten years.

 

Every line looks straighter when looking back right?

 

The truth is that after ten years of parish ministry, I’m down to a congregation of three.  I’m a mom to three blondies with big blueberry eyes and small unwrinkled hands.  I fold them up onto my lap and smell their heads.  I’ve been smelling my children ever since they were born.  Primal, I guess.

 

They are beautiful and I struggle to be an intentional mother, wrapping them in truth and fuzzy blankets at night.  I spread pasta on our table like I’m asking them to take forkfuls of love.  I’m an Italian mama by osmosis after having been born there, I guess.  But my calling?  This is where I struggle.  I like adventure and large purposes.  I like to see where it is that I am headed.  I want to get my hands dirty in the fight. I want to climb in bed at night exhausted for more than just wrestling children into their jammies.

 

So I’m listening to His voice in the Gospel, looking for direction this week.  And it is His words that begin to open up a new way to see my calling inside our brick bungalow.

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Until now, I always saw Christ’s calling of the fishermen as Jesus sending them out on a quest.  Set down your ordinary life and I’ve got a new purpose for you. Something big. Something dynamic.  We’re going to go fish for people! I imagined the disciples going straight from cleaning that fishy smell off their hands to a brainstorming session.  But Jesus’ words indicate something quite different, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

 

Some of the translations leave out the “come” but it’s right there in the Greek. Deute. Come hither. Come follow. The next time we see the verb spoken straight from Jesus’ mouth it is in Matthew 11:29, “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” The literal translation of the Greek here is: “Come follow after me and I will make you fishers of men.”

 

So much of my calling feels like a groping in the dark instead of a knightly quest.  No gallantry. No coming home with the holy grail.

 

But “Come” makes all the difference in the world.  Come means that He is walking in front of me. “Come” means that He is present as I walk forward into the darkness.

 

We are not alone in our callings, we are following.

 

Just the definition of following calls us to walk forward with Someone growing big in our field of vision.  When we follow, He fills our focus.

 

Christ grows bigger as we follow closer.

 

I think over my mental landscape this past week, my mind twisting with that fear that I wasn’t enough, the tantrum at dinner time, the day spent wrapped up tight in disappointment.  How much of my mental landscape is consumed with the One I am supposed to be following?   Perhaps that is the unfortunate answer.

 

Perhaps what or who I am following takes up most of my mental landscape.  

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Marie walked backwards and held my empty hands and I grasped tight.

 

They were the same hands where I had placed the Eucharist bread that tasted of honey and fed us of Jesus. They were the same hands that had massaged my tired pregnant muscles and the same hands I held between mine before she went into surgery to get the cancer cut out.  That Tuesday night in the dark I grasped tight the familiar hands of a friend.  I grasped trust.

 

When they heard the call of Jesus, Andrew and Peter put down nets, families, lives, expectations.  They opened their hands to grasp a hold of His. They opened the tight fists of their lives, and everything fell through.

 

When we open our hands to follow Jesus, we drop the what for the Who.

 

grasp Him tight

 

We drop the tight-fisted control, the shiny magazine lives, the surge for self-expression when we follow the Call.  Following requires the hard purging.  Following requires repentance. Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.  It requires setting down  everything heavy.  It requires the healing of the fears that have us tangled in their nets.

 

But perhaps following is freedom, the first steps onto heavenly ground, arms empty, lifted in worship.

 

searching for big

 

I want to go back to school to get a counseling degree.  I want to write. I want to be a midwife to God’s redemption, do spiritual direction and inner healing prayer.  I want to get back into the life of the church.  Right now I feel shut out of all the callings that make me feel most at home.  But perhaps that’s the point.  This move is stretching me and stretching sometimes happens so fast it leaves scars.

 

I think Jesus understands the strangeness of being sent away from the comfortable.  After his desert temptation, Jesus was not welcomed home. His hometown of Nazareth had not been able to transform their definitions from Jesus the carpenter son of Joseph to Jesus the Christ.

 

Just like old times, on the Sabbath He had sat with the others in the Synagogue, rolled out the scroll, found the job description of the Messiah in Isaiah 61. These were the verses I imagine kept him awake at night. His mission.

 

THE mission that all other callings reflect back.

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

 redeem renew.jpg

 

But people don’t want to “know” their Messiah, their neighbor. They want celebrity and a charismatic Samson who will fight their enemies with the jawbone of a lion.  They don’t want their Messiah to be the boy that grew up on their front lawns.

 

And so Jesus found himself homeless with a mission still burning deeply. He was kicked out of the synagogues and into the streets.  But, again, perhaps that was the gift.

 

I found this in Barclay’s Gospel of Luke: “Jesus would go anywhere men would listen to him.” Then Barclay links us to John Wesley’s journey,

“Our [Methodist] societies were formed from those who were wandering upon the dark mountains, that belonged to no Christian Church; but were awakened by the preaching of the Methodists, who had pursued them through the wilderness of this world to the higheays and the Hedges—to the Markets and the Fairs—who set up the standard of the Cross in the Streets and Lanes of the Cities, in the Villages, in the Barns, and Farmers’ Kitchens…”

Barclay says in closing, “When the Synagogue was shut, Jesus took to the open road.”

 

Same mission. Different location.  Same purpose. If the mission burns within us, we proclaim it wherever we can. The kitchen table or the internet. We implant it as hope into a friend’s heart, or whisper it into our daughter’s hair.

 

We join His mission and it becomes our heartbeat: Proclaim. Release. Restore. Redeem.

 

Wherever we are.

 

calling not about us

…………………………………………………………………………

Would you like weekly Word-Seeds to be slipped into your email?  Slip your email address into the Connect button on the front page of “a thirst for God.” Let’s pray that the Word plants in all the crevices of our lives.

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Writing in community with the lovely Jennifer Dukes Lee here:

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Where My Story is Challenged by Truth

It all started when I brought Psalm 139 to bed with a hot steaming mug of chamomile tea, mulling it over in my mouth, breathing in its earthy fragrance and then licking the honey resting at the bottom.  I stopped abruptly on verse 14, and at first the words seem embarrassingly forthright, prideful even: “fearfull-y and wonderful-ly made.”  It felt hard to say, a passage that I would pass over quickly, like I was reading about breasts in the Song of Solomon. Inappropriate.  Overly intimate.  But I kept chewing over these words, knowing there was a truth I was dodging.  Finally, I fell asleep.

All through the night “fearfully and wonderfully made” wound its way through my dreams, and then appeared with the first light of morning.  Repetition had stripped the verse of the false veneer of pride.  The first jumps of delight appeared and I turned this key over and over in my hand, as if it was a foreign object I’d searched for as Mary for the secret garden key.

I was around her age, ten, when I lost it.

That first school day in Ohio’s rich farm country, twenty hours from my grammar school in Maine, I wore a white shirt with suspendered blue plaid pants, was called a clown and teased every time I opened my Eastern mouth.  I stuffed any hope of an easy move into the bottom of the toy chest along with the suspendered outfit.  I never wore it again.  Jr. high girls can be cruel and those four years my brain ate a new channel of self-despising all other thoughts filtered into.  At home I was loved, but at school I was pursued as a scapegoat of pre-teen inferiority.  I proved an easy target.

Hunchback bent, I lived deformed, leaning toward those as unhealed as me expecting them to turn, a lighthouse signaling glory.  False hope glimmered and was gone as each passed in front.  I forgot to stand straight to receive  truth from the One.  I forgot to listen to that Voice always speaking, inviting, affirming, challenging.

I walked leaking life.

The One eternally holding Living water says:“My people have committed two sins; they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”  (Jeremiah 2:13 )

Cannot hold water, those I was asking to stamp “Gift” on my forehead.

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.  You have swallowed death, even this death of unholy judgment.  You know who I am: Your child, Your daughter, Your beloved, Your friend, Your sister.

I sit with that.  The God of the Universe calls me His child, accepted just as I am, loved here and now, before I get cleaned off.  A sponge, I swell, soaking up life-giving words:

If He gives me grace, perhaps I can too.

Later I go to the fitness center and after working out, find a quiet room while my children play with others.  I open the scripture back up.  The key is already in the verse! ”I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  It is another thanksgiving! And thanksgiving has recently opened up the core of my being.

Lately I’ve started accepting the imperfect gifts of each day, thanking God, lifting each “failed” interaction up, asking Him to bless and fill them with Himself…to redeem.  So why can’t I do that with myself?

Yes, I am imperfect.  I will always be imperfect but my continued anger at myself and the story that has created me is not making matters easier.  Can I accept God’s gift of me?  Can I lift myself back up (my tiny loaves) and pray that He will bless and multiply?

Sunday evening, heavy summer sun invites us west to the Lake Michigan shore.  As soon as we hit the sand, my kids dressed all in red swimsuits scatter and I tip my face to the sun, turning my ear to listen.

Summer, “thank me,”  I hear.

Instead of sitting on our blanket with a book, my normal modus operandi, I begin to play too.  I push rocks stuck deep at the water’s edge that look like they might have been a wicca circle and occasionally I glance up, hear my husband deep laugh helping five-year old Madeline balance on the boogy board in the waves.

God, help me too to learn balance…freedom… and to love me, because not loving me is creating a dam of my life, truncating my ability to open my arms wide, fearless.

As I push the large rocks around the wet sand, forming a cross, the voice of God comes clear.  I listen: whose authority will you accept as true?  The junior high girls from your past or the God of the Universe?

The question seems a bit ludicrous.  “I thank You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” comes straight from scripture and who am I to question the God of the Universe’s authority?

He is the Light of the World, so why would I study someone else’s carnival mirror?

I stand on the flat rock at the center of the cross beam and lift my arms up to the sky.  Who am I NOT to thank You for the gift that You have given…to refuse any gift from You?  Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me and so I lift up my fullness and my emptiness, my imperfections and my gifts.

The Roman Catholic priest, Romano Guardini, writes in his essay, “The Acceptance of Oneself,” words that invite me to open the gift:

The act of self-acceptance is the root of all things. I must agree to be the person who I am. Agree to the qualifications which I have. Agree to live within my limits. … The clarity and the courageousness of this acceptance is the foundation of all existence.

The beach has emptied for dinner time and I stand, balancing on this rock cross, arms up.  You loved me even while I was a sinner.  And if You open-heart-pierced-hands could accept me, than who am I not to accept the gift?

And if I am a gift, so is the precious little one that just toddled up in her bathing suit covered with red cherries, splashing through the puddle beside the cross.  I look into her brown face with the four new serrated white teeth and tell her that she too is a gift of God.  She keeps coming back for more through the rest of the evening, eyes wide drinking love.

And this is why this self-acceptance, this thanksgiving is the opposite of pride.  Being a gift does not mean the least of these is not.  Being filled with this thanksgiving makes me want to go out into the highways and byways and put faces in my hands and speak truth into dry hearts.  “You” teenager with the hungry, aching eyes, “are fearfully and wonderfully made.” “You” gangly man-child whose mind never grew into his body and whose arms twist in constant motion, “are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I want to whisper it into the heart of everyone I see and on the way home I tell the cashier at the grocery store with the lovely lips and the dreary store coat, “I hope you know that you are lovely.”  She smiles and light goes on in those almond-shaped eyes just for a moment.

Summer Gross

And you, my friend, you too are a gift, and I am utterly thankful for you.  You are made in the image of God and crafted with purpose. You are crazy beautiful, imprinted on every cell with His stamp.  Sure we are shot through with imperfection, scarred with the pain of a violent earth, but His redemption can make new even those stories.

This piece is reposted here but I find I need to drink slowly of its truth once again as I transition in this move to PA. Perhaps it will be a gift for you, too? Consider subscribing to this site through the Connect box on the right. Together we will wrestle with truth right here at “a thirst for God”, witness redemption through simple stories.

 

I would love to hear in the comments: What are you thankful for streaming out of your imperfect story, your God-given personality? Perhaps writing it down will strengthen the truth in your heart.


Summer Gross

linking with the always authentic and wisdom filled, Emily Wierenga here:

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When Fear Squeezes

Tonight it was the chocolate sheet cake, the one with the thick fudgy frosting Andrew’s mom taught me step by step. It’s THE “birthday cake” around here because no one can imagine desiring anything but a large rectangle of this warm, chocolaty goodness.

So tonight as I mixed up the frosting for Andrew’s birthday cake, ran my finger around the icing in the bowl and brought it up to my lips (because really, none of it should ever be wasted), again I thought, at least we will have this when we move to our house/apartment/townhouse next month. Because although the forms get more clear, we still don’t know exactly where we will be landing. After hyperventilating a bit, I do know this: I know what recipes I’ll be pulling out onto those stainless steel/laminate/granite countertops. I’ll get out the control journal I made a few Christmases back filled with recipes covered in plastic sheets and smeared with a hundred memories here in South Haven.

 

There’s comfort in that.

 

I don’t know where we will sleep, but I know what we will have for dinner.

 

I know I’ll still dump Hunts tomato sauce cans in a crockpot along with ground beef, garlic, onions, a bay leaf, and a light blanket of Italian Seasonings and it will smell like home for hours. Then, on warm nights when we grill, I will still slice the Vidalia onions thin, mound them up in a frying pan and caramelize them for an hour. Andrew will then fork them up on his burger and moan with the joy of all that golden buttery love.

 

I know that on Saturday nights I will still add a large spoonful of ricotta cheese and zest an orange into pancake batter and plop frozen blueberries into their centers hearing them sizzle on the griddle. We will then stop with that first forkful, and chew slow, blueberries warm and bursting in the mouth. Then we will all pile on the couch to watch some Mary Poppins-like film and sing along on movie night. No, that’s not quite right. I will sing along and they will beg me to stop but I can’t because I have a dead on perfect Julie Andrews impression.

 

 

I know we will still buy Brownberry whole wheat bread for our sandwiches and make hot buttery cinnamon toast before bed.

 

And there is comfort in this.

 

What’s harder for me to remember is where my living Bread will come from. I wake up anxious, fearing a Bread shortage on the other side of following the Uhaul truck through Michigan and across 80 in Ohio and into Pennsylvania. I fear moving will clamp shut all the channels through which God has come to feed me Life.

 

 

And then I remember whose responsibility Bread-giving is and take a deep breath and pray this litany I learned from my 16 week healing care curriculum written by Terry Wardle. This prayer is how I slowly turn my face toward the One, towards the Bread-giver. These words are me holding out my hands empty. They are the way hope creeps up slow because as I pray these words, His Presence comes and slowly untangles the choking fear.

Yes, there is bread here, but Summer, manna will still fall there. Remember, Summer: Bread here, Bread there.

Litany of Core Longings

Lord, I need a safe and secure environment

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need constant reinforcement of my personal worth

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need repeated messages that I am valued, unique and special

And I can only get them from You.

 

Lord, I need unconditional love and acceptance

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need basic care and nurture

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need encouragement to grow and develop my personal gifts and talents

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a pathway to fellowship with You

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a sense of belonging

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need to feel useful and needed

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a hope and a future

And I can only get it from You.

 

God loves me unconditionally and wants to give me all this.

 

And you friend, which of the phrases of the core longings litany connects with you?

(oh and by the way, I found the bread image from wikipedia and the pancake photo here.)

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When our Love Gets Suffocated

I hear a call in the quiet of the early morning:  “Deepen,” He whispers. God is using the specific vocabulary of a Madeleine L’Engle lover.

 

I was shaken Saturday.  Triggered, that is.  They were dressed straight off the cover of a JCrew catalog and I shrunk back, sure they could see straight into my uncool.  The message of the arrows came back loud. (Have you read Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge?  Classic and beautiful.  So worth your time.)

 

“Here comes rejection,” swirled unbidden from somewhere deep.

 

Lies that are sewn deep, demand excavation.

 

I felt uprooted, pulled up and honestly?  I felt separated from God.  The anxiety earthquake was so strong that I couldn’t scurry for cover, couldn’t hide under the banner of love (Song of Songs 2:4).  I was 12 and had braces and permed frizzy hair. I might even have forgotten to put on deoderant (every junior higher’s worse nightmare…or maybe just mine.)

 

I was sick, but didn’t really know it at the time.  A chest cold.  Asthma.  The voices come back loudest when I’m sick.

 

But, honestly, there’s been a lot of hard work done already.  I found myself going faster to Jesus, bypassing the intense shame that used to descend like a thick cloud.  But, bummer, (yes, I say words like “bummer” and “shoot”) I thought I had healed from that and wow, will this anxiety surge every time I walk up to these fashion goddesses?

 

 

“Deepen” I hear again.

 

Have you read A Wrinkle in Time?  I love it.  I read it again this last summer with my kids on a rainy day.  It’s still good as an adult.  Now, have you read A Wind in the Door?  It’s seriously one of my  I- need- this-with-me- on- a-deserted- island  books.  Brilliant theology.  It makes me want to worship.

 

The youngest sibling, Charles Wallace, is sick and getting sicker fast and the doctors can’t tell them why.  Death feels immanent.  Obviously a plot straight out of a fantasy novel, a few characters are shrunk inside his body to survey the damage, to see if they can discover a path toward healing.  While inside they meet the culprits: farandolae, a microscopic species inside his cells, who don’t want to deepen, don’t want to grow roots, and so are spinning out of control, dying, slowly killing their host.  I know, a little dramatic (though possibly a great social commentary on our culture.)  But, it’s fiction, there needs to be drama.

 

“Deepen,” I hear.

 

God, I cry out, it’s not that I don’t want to grow roots, don’t want to deepen, it’s just that there is so much darn stuff to do!  My life is stuffed with people and children and ministry.  There are dust bunnies under the futon and my sink is clogged with dirty dishes.  Most of the activity and of course the people…I love dearly.

 

The truth comes down firm. Pay attention to first things.

 

I’m not paying attention to the One Thing that Jesus chided Martha about.  Her sister was resting at Jesus’ feet, in listening mode.  Martha was spinning around so fast she wasn’t even aware of the magnetic force of God breaking open true Life in just the other room.  One thing is needed, Martha.  Just one. (Luke 10 38-42).

 

I hear it too.  Stop spinning, Summer.  “Deepen.”  Sit here at my feet.  Listen.  Abide.  Be fully present.  Pull some of that stuff out hogging God’s oxygen and get rooted in love.

 

Practice my Presence.

 

I have clarity in this early morning calm.  Healing will come out of this will-work, this conscious knowing of God’s presence here in this moment.  I feel Brother Lawrence daring me to practice God’s presence from his post doing dishes there in that medieval monastery in France.

From his second conversation:

“That in order to form a habit of conversing with GOD continually, and referring all we

do to Him; we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care we

should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.”

 

Here is the “aha moment”: if I am deepened in His Presence, truly dwelling there, resting from that center, I can invite others smack dab into the center of our ongoing communion.  When I am safe, deepened, roots down, stable spread into unconditional love then I can humbly, gently open my arms to another…

 

without disturbing the root system.

 

 

 

I turn to Bible Gateway and find this gem, this billboard, as my kids’ babysitter Kim would say:

Jeremiah 17:8 ESV

(S)He is like a tree planted by water,  that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

 

God, plant me, deepen me, spread my roots so firmly into You that I am free to love all of your precious ones, even fashion goddesses.

 

Summer Gross

All tree photography found at this beautiful etsy shop: Amy Tyler Photography

 

 

Friend, what work is the Lord doing in your life?  Do tell.  Please share in the comment section and then, if you have a blog, add a link to your site so we can say thanks to God too. 

 

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On the Wrestling Mat with the Tithe

(From Sunday’s sermon)

Today, I’m preaching to myself and I need you to hear that.  I’m preaching at the point of my present struggle.  And for some reason God keeps asking this of me!  My writing and my preaching is usually painfully birthed out of total vulnerability.

But, if this subject of money and tithing is not where you are wrestling, I trust that God will show you where the wrestling mat has been thrown down in your life.

Come, Lord Jesus Christ, come.  I pray that the wind of Your Holy Spirit will breathe strong on all of us here…burst open those doors we try to hold shut against Your Presence.  We ask You for hurricane-force strength winds today.  You come and do this work in us.  Amen.

So friends, this is where it all started:  Monday night vestry (our board meeting) we sat down cozily at Lynne Maxwell’s house and my husband, Andrew, led us through a Bible study that could be described as anything but cozy based on the Gospel (Mark 12:41—44) and Old Testament (1 Kings 17: 8-24) from this morning.

That’s where the hard-core sweat on the mat wrestling with God began.

Anyone else thankful that the widow had such hardcore trust in God but fearful that God might ask the same of us?

I had just been crunching numbers the weekend before, Andrew, has been recently able to provide a more steady extra income from the website design business and the swirling numbers were starting to come into focus. I was gathering a healthy feeling of control. I sat down on the futon with a cup of tea and an empty November budget from Dave Ramsey spread out before me and began crunching last month’s numbers.  Oh.  I hadn’t realized what those choices were really costing us. I started fumbling through the money being pumped into our cars at the gas pump and then evaporating into thin air.  I know you all are going through the same thing as you look at your own numbers.

Then, my eyes slid down to the tithing line item.  We had honestly stopped tithing last January when we bumped our salary down…

but this is what I’m realizing…

when we stop tithing, something dams up in our heart and it’s a whole lot harder to get started again.

With my finger on that empty line item, a toddler whine rose up from some deep cosmic place…it’s mine.

David knew that giving rearranges our perspective.  This is what He said:

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things. (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)

Tithing is just this: knowing that all of what He has given us was His in the first place.

Tithing is getting down on our knees and begging for the idol of greed to be slain in our lives.

It is money that is out of our control…an offering.  And sometimes we wrestle laying down squirmy things on the altar.

Do you remember that creepy emaciated figure in the Hobbit?  That’s the image I get.  I’m Gollum in the Hobbit holding onto that ring and petting gold whispering, “My precioussss.”

But I fully understand that 90% of the world does not live anywhere like we do!

Statistics:

We in America live insulated in our two car households, with 1500 square feet on average and throwing out at least $500 worth of food every year!  90% of the world lives in a building the size of some of our sheds and lives on $2.50 a day with much bigger families.  1 billion people on our planet do not have safe drinking water and we have it coming out of our shower heads!  We have NOTHING to complain about!

Discontent is a contagious disease.  We pass greed around eagerly with every handshake, we inhale it as we watch television.

In Matthew during the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explains that our small seedlings planted by the word of God get choked by what? …The worries of this life and the desire for wealth.

Matthew 13:22 “The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. “

When we stopped giving, I slowly began to believe that it was all mine…

The question is, when my fingers clamp tightly around that small round coin, could it be that my heart gets stony and tight too?

On Monday night at the Vestry meeting, the scripture exposed the hard truth.

Here’s the gospel scripture again:

“Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury.  Many rich people put in large sums.  A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.  Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.  For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

This time as you listen, place yourself in the scripture, are you a disciple, a passersby listening, someone in line at the treasury ready to give out of your abundance, or perhaps the widow herself?

What are you hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling?  What words stand out to you?

By the way, this way of looking at the scripture is called the Ignatian Way.  Ignatius taught us not just to open our ears to the scripture but to live inside the stories through the senses and allow God to transform us by jumping into the Word with our whole selves.

It was in the middle of this scripture that I began to wrestle….  Someone at the vestry pointed out that the widow was giving not out of abundance, but out of poverty.  Unbidden, my anger started rising.

Like much of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes an Old Testament command and raises it to the nth power.  Don’t just avoid committing adultery; don’t lust after a woman in your heart. Don’t just love your neighbor, love your enemy.  Don’t just give and “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And now here: Don’t just tithe out of abundance, give out of your poverty.  Really God?  You can’t be asking us to give from the point of our fear?

Have you ever gotten angry at a word of God?  It’s kind of scary…but our emotions, especially strong emotions are just signals that there are tender spots to bring before God…and it was clear I had some major work to do in His Presence.

It was then that the truth began to emerge.  Jesus pointed to His love, His sacrifice. Nothing held back.  All given out of love.  He left heaven, a world of perfection, of riches and a throne to be born from an unwed mother into poverty,

left perfect health to be crucified,

left perfect love of the Trinity to be rejected.

Jesus is talking less about money in this scripture and more about full heart conversion.  He just knows that with us Gollums, what we do with our money says a lot about where we worship. 

Where we put our money tells us about our focus and even more telling…about our trust.

Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”

The tithe is my bowing down before the altar, money in hand, and worshipping, offering to God all that I am.

On Thursday I schlepped our bulky Lenten cross into Joy Seiler’s living room and each of us in my Journey group asked God for what sins we were running to instead of giving our full selves, our pain, our mistrust, our wounds to God.  Then after a time of silence, we took small nails and the hammer and banged them one at a time, confessing to one another the idols we were begging to give us life…instead of God.

This is what the Lord seems to be saying to me:

The weekly tithe is another hammering, each time banging my greed, my discontent, keeping my greed nailed to that cross…

The wrestling finally stopped with a story, this story

…a nun came to LeAnne Payne, one of my favorite Anglican inner healing prayer ministers…

This nun had laid down in front of the altar, given her all to God but had never felt close to the God she served.  She was drowning in depression, a swirl of negative thoughts about herself and her relationship with God.  LeAnne invited her to journal through each negative thought and ask for a verse to speak directly to that thought pattern. (Extremely helpful idea, by the way…)

She wrote this in a letter back to LeAnne and this, friends, is where hope finally sparked for me…this is where the grace comes in:

[That horrible thought that keeps going over in my mind, “I’ll never be able to surrender to God” met Ezekiel 36:16-36 (and I want you to write this down because this is THE key to the spiritual life) but especially verses 25-27.  “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

And she continued with this: “My surrender issue is of long, long standing.  I have felt as though my hands were hopelessly clamped onto my life, control, a driver’s wheel, a rope—something that had to be let go of, but I couldn’t pry my grip loose, and confessors who demanded a verbal declaration of surrender made me feel only MORE guilty and frustrated and hypocritical because I knew the words couldn’t effect the reality.  And now—it doesn’t matter anymore!  It is God’s responsibility.  I can trust Him to give me the heart and spirit of surrender when it pleases Him…”

 

I finally lay down on the wrestling mat, face down.  Lord, I can’t do this myself.  I need the Spirit of God to be put in me to move me to follow His decrees.  This is always the key:  God’s Spirit in us, moving us to follow Him.

If it is your desire to have God work in your life like the nun experienced, pray with me:

Lord, we admit it…we can’t do this ourselves…we have places in our lives where we have closed and locked doors to You.  But we know that abundant life means getting healed and holy and having the wind of Your Holy Spirit blow through every corner of our lives unhindered.

Jesus, we thank You that through Your blood and through baptism, You have already sprinkled clean water on us, and we have been made clean and You are still cleaning us out;

Continue to cleanse us from all our impurities and from all our idols.  Give us a new heart and put a new spirit in us; Remove from us our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh. Put your Spirit in us and move us to follow your decrees and be careful to keep your laws.

 We thank You that this is already Your will in our lives.  In Jesus name, Amen.

from Summer Gross

Photos of mites: pitterlepostings.blogspot.com of open door here of cross in sea here black and white open door here clouds here

sharing with the lovely writer: Jennifer Dukes Lee @

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