Bringing our Impossibles to Jesus

Do you ever feel hopeless in prayer, overwhelmed by what seems impossible? Today the Canaanite woman invites us into persistent prayer.

Every week on Monday (and sometimes on Thursday) we have a lectio divina right here.  Want to join the SLOW Word Movement? Subscribe on the right. Then, after you listen/pray  with the video join us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theSLOWwordmovement to share the bread of the Word. Let’s share the feast!


My Madeline had fallen down the yellow cottage’s central stairs and landed onto the hard kitchen floor below. She was barely five, blond hair, all eyes. We raced her to the emergency room for a possible concussion. They sent us home.

 

My mother was staying with us and together that night we witnessed her pain and held the large metal bowl for her to get sick. We pushed back her hair and stared helplessly into fearful eyes. Then somewhere around whatever o’clock and her seventeenth time getting sick, my mom laid down on the floor and cried out to God, “It’s enough! Oh Lord, it’s enough!”  I watched her tears pour out over our wood floor and that’s where she stayed.

 

She buried her face in her arms and held on to the hem of Jesus’ robe, waiting and praying.

 

That was the moment Madeline fell asleep, the sickness was stilled and we raised our hands in gratitude. It was then that my mother became my first prayer mentor.

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I wonder what would have happened if the woman with the issue of blood would not have felt the blood stop trickling. Would she have gripped the rough Galilean fabric and held on tight despite the crowd pressing and shuffling around her body? Would she have wrapped her arms around Jesus’ ankles like the Shunammite woman held onto Elisha in 1 Kings 4:8-37 or doggedly sought the Healer like the Canaanite mother in today’s story from Matthew 15:21-28?

 

And here’s what I’m reflecting on:

I wonder if we let go too soon.

I wonder if we plant prayer seeds and perhaps through a lack of hope or a small attention span forget to return to water them.

I wonder if we are so prone to scrolling we’ve forgotten the gift of waiting. Resurrection is rarely instantaneous.

 

I wonder if we’ve become so accustomed to a fast-food life, to scrolling and soundbites, that we’ve forgotten how to sit and keep leaning in when we’re confused by the silence of unanswered prayer.

 

Here the Canaanite mother, weary of watching her daughter’s suffering, becomes our mentor for persistent prayer. Jesus is traveling through town, His feet traversing her streets, and as she spots him, she grabs onto hope and refuses to let go. She cries out: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” and apparently she doesn’t stop. Her strident cry annoyed Jesus’ disciples but I can’t judge them too harshly. Their attitude towards pain is an all too familiar mirror. I recognize myself in their begging Jesus to send her away. Compassion fatigue, it’s called. I too get easily exhausted by need. I shut it out, turn away, roll up the window, turn up the radio. But this mother refused to be silenced. She may have been powerless in the face of her daughter’s suffering, but she was completely confident Who held the power. And love drove her to keep crying out.

 

 

 

Jesus then puts up a clear boundary between them by rehearsing his mission: “I was sent to the lost sheep of Israel.” But she would not be deterred. In fact, she pressed closer, sank to her knees, and laid bare vulnerable need stating simply, “Lord, help me.”

 

This mother invites us to get comfortable with uncomfortable prayer and with the surprising beauty of weakness. She pats the ground beside her and teaches us to bring our own impossible need, to kneel down in our poverty, and learn to stay at Jesus’ feet.

 

But, can I just name something hard? It’s here that I find myself at a loss. Jesus’ statement, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs,” smacks very clearly of systematic prejudice. I have a nagging worry that it sounds like a very rehearsed racism.

 

But if I turn the prism another way I see other possibilities. Perhaps he saw into her heart and knew that we would need the determination of her story.  Or perhaps he was trying to discern if she was just looking for a medicine man or truly yearning for a Savior? Either way, this fierce mama did not have the privilege to grasp onto an easy resentment. True love never wallows in self-pity. In this one exchange we see her deep confidence; she knows that she is looking into the face of the only One who can heal her daughter. She steps forward with courage: “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their Master’s table.”

 

And this uncommon combination of pure humility and witty tenacity cuts through and Jesus was moved to compassion: “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And yes, that was the last day of suffering for her precious daughter. That day Satan was denied his fragile prey.

 

And honestly friends? I stand in awe of this Canaanite mother’s resolve. I’ve just begun to learn to hang onto Jesus’ hem. I’ve just begun to learn to sit in the silence, to be still, to wait.

 

But I want to learn, and now I have a second mentor, the Canaanite woman.

 

Dear one, what is your impossible case? Where do you need to develop perseverance to hold on tightly to the hem of Jesus’ garment? In what area of your life do you need to remember that your Savior, your Healer is traveling your same roads? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Praying to Heal our Land *SLOW Word Lectio video*

 

Right here every Monday and Thursday dear ones, we’re listening, we’re praying, and we’re being transformed by the word. Perhaps this is a gift you want to share, to set the feast for another weary pilgrim.

 

“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

What if the land that you need healed is right under your own two feet?

We pour out our heart for the healing of our nation, for the daughters stolen as possessions, for the country whose children wear scars from their first breath.

But what if a fissure has appeared right through your home from the front door to the back and ever widening?

This, dear friends, is when we sit down, light our candle and determine to stay:

“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will heal their land.”

We humble ourselves, pour out our uncensured prayers and seek the face of the only One who knows how to knit together land.

 

We turn and turn again from our sin when we look down and find that we are the ones holding the pick-axe that broke open the scar.

Tonight I’m staying right here: Seek my Face.  These are the words that dropped weighty in my hand and I’m turning them over like rocks at the beach. I’m listening to them chink against each other, feeling their shape, their coolness.

My boy used to lay his head in the crook of my arm on Sunday nights as we watched Extreme Makeover. His sister was asleep upstairs in her crib. He was the big boy. He would sometimes fall asleep right there before the reveal and I’d listen to him as he’d catch his breath and then breathe even again.

He’s growing too fast, so fast I can’t catch up. It’s this land between us which needs to be healed.

So I’m here to seek. I’m asking his Maker, the One who had a dream of him before I did, the One who placed him in my arms, to teach me how to mother a runner. I’m seeking to know how to celebrate the tender mystery that is a young boy stretching out.

 

What are you hearing in this SLOW Word, my friend? 

 

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What I Learned this September

1 We swung into September littered with full suitcases to unpack from vacation and a house that hadn’t seen love for a month.  The next day we started homeschooling amidst the chaos.  I’m taking notes for next year. Start school AFTER preparing the home.  Check.

2 Stephanie White is my local homeschooling guru.  “Just think,” she said, “you have three little apprentices to prepare for the world.  And besides, you get to learn alongside them.” That was key. I love to learn. I could nightly put up a cot in a library.  Alongside my kids I get to learn French and memorize the 7 wonders of the world. I couldn’t be happier with my 9-5 world. Who knew?

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3 Homeschooling science is more fun when you can poke and dissect and feel grainy pollen between your fingers. My mother bought us orange lilies when she was in town ten days ago and last week Friday they started dropping their petals. We took that opportunity to do science. We memorized and watched videos about pollination and flower anatomy but until we started picking apart the stamen, and holding up the delicate filament to the light, we didn’t learn wonder.  What I’ve learned about homeschooling this month is that I love the days we focus on just a few subjects and dive in deep.

4 In September I decided that packed lunches don’t need to be boring. I’m packing a meal three nights a week right now while Andrew takes all three to Soccer and climbing.  Enter the Monet sandwich straight from the Paisley Park Cafe in Mansfield. Does it still exist? I don’t know. These sandwiches were memorable. Large croissants, ham sliced so thin it’s falling apart, a few toasted walnuts, and a smear of basil pesto on the top and bottom. Three minutes at 425 until it’s a bit crispy. Savory ham and pesto? What could be better?

5 While we’re talking food, let’s talk about the Tres Leches Cake. This was my September culinary aha moment. I made one for Jack Lumanog’s birthday, our friend and the COO of the Anglican Church of North America. Andrew said it was Jack’s favorite. Only problem? I had never tasted one myself.  So, when I’m concerned about a first outcome, I always turn to Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.  I have a 90% success rate with Ina.  We moaned through the desert course and decided this was worth making from scratch. We also giggled at how many leches there were in the recipe. One leche baked in and four soaking into the vanilla sponge cake. Whipping cream for on top of the strawberries? One more. Seis Leches! Here’s a link to the recipe for this insanely creamy cake.  Your next birthday cake recipient will thank you.

 

6  Priscilla Shirer has this beautiful sermon that has been playing in my mind on repeat all month. “When you experience the presence of God fall, you are ruined for church as usual.”

 

7  I’m watching Madam Secretary on Netflix. It’s reminiscent of West Wing though not as fast or witty or…lovable 🙂 . OK, so it’s not like West Wing, but I still love Tea Leoni as the Secretary of State, her husband as a professor of religion at Georgetown and both of them trying to figure out how to engage with many of the foreign issues we face.

8  Carly Fiorina. I was enthusiastically climbing onto the bandwagon after some insightful comments Ms. Fiorina made at Republican debate until I read this on Red State.  Now I’m concerned with her integrity. Anybody else have better information?

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9 These are the books by my nightstand right now. I’ll share the others slowly. Big Magic is the type of book on writing I would read furtively under a blanket with a flashlight. It may be a bit hoaky, (magic?) but it’s an entertaining, well-written, and generous piece of creative midwifery. There should be a picture of Big Magic in the thesaurus under writer encouragement: heartening, cheering up, inspiration, motivation, stimulation, fortification. If you are a creative or an entrepreneur and your War of Art by Steven Pressfield is dog-eared, Big Magic is your next download.

8 My daughter has always wanted to SAVE THE BABIES. When she could barely talk, she arranged her dozen babies on the stairs, one per step, and informed me that when she grew up she wanted to have real babies stacked up to the ceiling. She used hand motions to get the point across. A few days ago she ran around the house searching for change to fill an empty bottle for the pregnancy clinic in our area in order to SAVE THE BABIES. This got Andrew thinking. What if she would take that passion as well as her love for cupcakes and marry them using the Cupcake Kids.  Madeline is busy making plans. Have you seen this simple idea to raise money for imprisoned children with AIDS in Uganda? Do you have young girls? You’re going to want to check this out: https://vimeo.com/85654021

9. So…I was planning on doing a 31 day writing extravaganza on REST and spiritual exhaustion starting today. In fact, I planned and wrote three-fourths of the posts for it. I wrote drafts and perused old blog posts and designed a title page and had a lovely title: Selah: 31 Days of rest for the war-weary. And then Tuesday it seemed to me the Lord said, no, that He wanted the 31 days of rest to be a book on His time. He wanted me fully present this October to be able to move with His agenda.  I’m learning to listen. I’m also learning that I can’t add items to my agenda without taking something away.  Even more important? I can’t add items to my agenda without being willing to provide the intercession support to support the work.  I’m learning. Slowly.

 

What did you learn through September?

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How our God image gets Healed one Sparkle at a Time

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This morning I was startled awake by a little sparkle on my right hand. Just like a giggly new fiance after eight hours of sleep, I had forgotten about the little navy box, the Harings Jewelry symbol, the surprise inside.  As soon as I turned on the light, there it was: diamonds. The generosity of my parents is a never ending stretch to my theology of not enough, of thinking I have to earn love, of fearing that God’s good gifts have to be begged for with just the right choice of words.

 

Last night, mom and I sat at PF Changs outdoors enjoying an awning in case of rain and a beautiful chat, the kind you sink into and get cozy with. She had flown in yesterday from Philadelphia and walked onto my front porch with suitcases for a short visit.  The children all clamored for her eyes to be just on them. They could have cared less that there were presents and chocolate, but they knew there would be.

 

She and my dad are always thinking about how to love their people. My parents are the type who invite you on their vacation to Italy because they want to see your reaction over the curls of homemade pasta laced with pesto, the vineyards stretched out in the sun, your moans over the thick hot chocolate in the Uffizi plaza. They plan all year for Christmas morning, scheming for just the right gift to wrap and place a bit of tangible love in your hands.  They speak generosity like its their native tongue. They sing it like opera stars. I and the many others who are recipients are crazy blessed.

 

Last night, under the awning, rain patting on the roof with a sudden shower, she pulled out the box. This was the diamond she had worn for forty years through the med school in Italy, the four more in Cincinnati, the five long winters in Maine of surgical residency trudging through those 100 hour workweeks and the three small children.  This was the diamond she wore in forty years of faithfulness, forty years of the struggle and the glory of a marriage which was human and scarred but came out of the refiner’s fire brilliant and shining.

 

And now here was her diamond of forty years in a tiny navy box wrapped up in gold ribbon. And still their generosity did not stop there.  I opened the box and a halo of tiny diamonds had been placed around the center and it was something new, and sparkly, and who doesn’t love sparkly?  It was generous love on a band. It was over-the-top and stunning and slightly vintage. Just because they’re like that and they know I love all things vintage.

 

And I will think about them every time I look down and startle at the sparkle and experience their love, but I’ll also think about God.  Every time they provide such good gifts, they heal my God image because their generosity points beyond them to MORE.  Could it be? Matthew said it like this: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:11). And I’m listening now because I walked into this prayer closet this morning with the fear that inspiration was somehow a measured out and stingy commodity, that the Holy Spirit only gives out wisdom to the worthy.  And sometimes I come to prayer just hoping to catch His attention, when really, God adores to shower good gifts on His children.

 

I’ll believe it a little more every time I catch the sparkle.

 

 

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The Prayer that Saves Me

It’s the prayer that hits all the Goliaths of my sin square between the eyes. I read it and fall to my knees.

 

To tell you the truth, I don’t really pray this prayer at all. I hold it in awe and choke it down. I look at it askance, always out of the corner of my eye, never straight on. I might be burned. Yet the wholehearted surrender grips me tight and I can’t put it down.

 

I don’t have hands this open.

 

I need another Copernican Revolution.

 

Self, who do you revolve around? Who is your gravity, your breath, who built you from two cells to four?

 

If He is God, faithful and trustworthy, can’t I brave prying open the fingers of my life? If He loves, can’t I crawl into the deep caverns of His goodness?

 

This prayer sifts and quakes and sweeps and saves me from the prosperity gospel I could easily sign up for on some days. Pray this prayer and receive all your heart desires? Where’s the dotted line?

 

Do you have the courage to pray this prayer?

 

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“I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt;

put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing;

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

From the Watch Night Service by John Wesley, possibly 1755

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Naming the restlessness: Audrey Assad

You have made us for Yourself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.    St. Augustine

I’ve been listening to a lot of Audrey Assad lately. I’m captivated by her articulation of our hunger for God and how it comes out simply in worship. Here is a short of a conversation about the desire for a life of communion with God.

No time to watch Audrey share about her hunger for an underlying life of prayer? Here is her song Restless. For me it’s a search to live in His Presence.

Name your restlessness?  Is it a core longing?

  • A safe and secure environment
  • Constant reinforcement of personal worth
  • Repeated messages that you are valued, unique and special
  • Unconditional love and acceptance
  • Basic care and nurture
  • Encouragement to grow and develop personal gifts and talents
  • A pathway to fellowship with God
  • A sense of belonging
  • Feeling useful and needed

When we experience anxiety, fear or anger, could it be a lack in what Terry Wardle calls a core longing?

When does it arise? Time of day? After a “trigger” event? During a season like Christmas?

 

Can you give a feeling to your restlessness? Try this chart here. Journal that.

 

Look for the patterns, and come into the Presence of God without a mask, ready to receive.

 

 

 

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When your Soul Craves a Home, a vlog

Do you crave more? Do you crave home and knowing you have a place card at God’s table with your name embroidered on it? Me too.

 

 

summer preaching the tableYesterday I had the privilege of preaching in the strip district at Church of the Incarnation Anglican church. I adore this group of artists, musicians, poets, students, children, and professors. Gorgeous and meaningful classical music, reams of paper and colored pencils for creative meditation, ample silence, and a liturgy that’s ripe and full, never stuffy. Incarnation is planted in the middle of Pittsburgh’s foodie heaven above Bar Marco, a hipster restaurant on Bon Appetit’s top 50 list. It’s church with the muted sounds of diners just underneath. This is the perfect setting for a full theology of the table to be born.

 

The lectionary handed me Psalm 23 and I zoned in on verse 5: “You have spread a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

 

Early on I share Rublev’s Trinity and its invitation to join in the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit:

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You friend, whatever you need, it’s on the table.

 

This is your invitation. Scoot up your chair and taste and see that He is good.

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Sharing this post with Ann Voskamp and counting thanks:

1. 21 years with my love, chocolate cake and the numbers 37 on his cake

2. After dinner walk with the sweet assertive smell of lily of the valley

3.Walking downtown with my boys coaxing their soccer balls

4. Discovering Lucy Mond Montgomery again with Madeline.

5. Marilynne Robinson’s gorgeous life-steeped prose.

6. The cards and smiles and the homemade presents of mother’s day

7. Xavier jumping flat footed in the puddles

8. Daddy’s help at bathtime

9. the privilege of good news…oh the privilege

10. coming home more and more often to my place at the table

also linking with Jen who encourages so many.

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Shame-less Devotion, the Revolution

Everyday just under the surface lies a low-grade growl of shame: “You haven’t done enough.” Do you have his voice on repetition as well? Not enough vegetables on the table. Not enough exercise. Not enough blank.

 

Shame comes in for an easy landing when I’ve blown up angry, seen his sweet heart shrivel. It pounces after the kids walk away, pull open the glass school door. I’ve made breakfast, the oatmeal with the hot apples, but have forgotten to feed their souls.

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Shame.

 

I who say I’m on a quest to know His Presence vibrating wildly through every minute live bowed low to it.

 

And do you know where shame gets loudest, my friends? Here. I had hopes for my morning, for the prayer and the quiet and the pulling out that big Bible to find life but that little one wakes up with an early morning whine and an empty belly. That chair sits empty. Again.

 

It’s time to rebel. It’s time for a Shame-less Revolution, a Shame-less Devotion.  The thirst for living water never goes away but it’s time to release the hunt for the well from the frustration. It’s time to no longer pretend that life is not the blur of the kids and the carpool, the chores, the volunteering, the deadlines, the homework, the dinner, the bedtime and the exhausted sigh.

 

We all fly through life in a blur slightly dizzy.

 

We live smeared without a Center.

 

Remember ballet class and learning how to turn to avoid dizziness?  No, I didn’t have dance class either, but somehow I learned this. When turning, we fix our eyes on a clock, on a pole, something…and keep fixing our eyes there turn after turn.

 

It’s called spotting and this is what I want. I want Jesus clear when all else blurs.

 

I want to release devotion from early morning shame and on those hard days, spot on Jesus, find ways to draw close throughout the day.

 

Susanna Wesley, John Wesley’s mama, used to throw her apron over her head for a bit of prayer here or there. I don’t wear an apron long enough but I think in the swirl of 16 kids, she might be packing some wisdom.

 

It’s time for a Shame-less Devotion for the busy…practical ways we can wriggle in close throughout our day, find the well…ways we can spot on Jesus in the midst of our daily blur.

 

Think I’d leave you without a practical exercise? (This is what I’ve been doing lately…join me?)

Throughout the day, fix Your eyes on Jesus, arms out, inviting.

Listen for His question, that same question he asked the blind man (and doesn’t the blurring blind us too?): “What is it that you really need?”

Allow your answer to bubble up slowly. Listen…a lament, a cry, a desire. Lay it before Him.

Then, let His love enfold you. Receive. 

 

This is going to become a new quest…this search…this spotting.  Come along?  Pilgrimage with me and slip your email into the CONNECT box on the front page. 

 

And you, friend, how do you “spot” on Jesus?

Writing in community with Jennifer Dukes Lee who has big news this spring…a new book: Love Idol. I’m looking forward to being one of the first…

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Finding Time for Prayer – The Busy Mama’s Remix

It seems impossible doesn’t it?  My beautiful college friend asked THE question: How do we find time to pray and wait on God as busy moms?

 

How do we sit at His feet when they are climbing all over our lap?

 

We wake up to the cry down the hall and we are at work as soon as our feet hit the floor.  And we are so bone tired. All. The. Time.  We want to pray but every time we get silent enough, we feel a nap coming on, and oh, here it comes, the accompanying wave of guilt.

 

No guilt served up here.

 

This is finding time for prayer, the re-mix, the busy mom version.  Here’s the original.

 

The exhausted mom version?  I’ve been there. I’m still there many days. I went to sleep at 8:20 last night. No writing, no reading, no Downton Abbey. My kids are 9,7, and 4 and my 4 year old has nightmares, poor guy.  He cries out from the upstairs hallway and then I’m awake. Yup, that’s when I pray.  Whatever time Xavier has his nightmare is my wakeup call.  Yesterday morning? 2:00 a.m. This morning? 5:20 a.m., much more civilized.

 

OK, I’m up and it’s time for the honest re-mix, the busy mom version.

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We want to steal bits of time, to stay focused among the one hundred emergencies a day.  If anyone asks me what is hardest about being a mom with young ones it’s the emotional swings.  They are skipping with me into a store, each hop going higher and higher throwing their head back with laughter one minute, and utterly dissolved into a puddle of tears, skinned knee the next.  In just one day?  This times fifty = constantly worn out mom.

 

This Christmas was THE FIRST batch of un-burnt cookies. First in nine years. I was so proud. Before there was always an emergency in that crucial 10 minutes, (a fall, a fight over a toy, a “mom! I need toilet paper!”), and I burnt 100’s of cookies before completely giving up the fight. Success 9 years later. Huge unwarranted kudos coming from the family. I’ll take it.

 

We want to hear from God, to have Him empower our work, our motherhood, our marriage, our ministry. Perhaps we want to hear God’s direction for our lives. All of this takes time waiting, which we haven’t got.  Now what?

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Sabbath:

Honestly? Most of my time alone with God for the last 9 years was made possible with a babysitter once a week for six hours.  My sanity depended on it. Any ministry I did depended on it. Often I would go sit at a coffee shop with a book and a far-away look unwinding from the stress of mothering wee ones. I would always start by staring at the wall.  Yup, just staring. I was allowed to stare, no one was pulling at my jeans. Any books I read, journaling I did, praying I enjoyed, happened during that six hour time period.

 

Where did we get the idea that the fourth commandment to take a Sabbath does not apply to moms? The truth is that we are on the job if we are at home. On. The. Job.

 

The story you read this weekend about being refilled by God? It happened on one of these Sabbaths.  I had an amazing babysitter during that time. A few.  They didn’t charge a lot but they loved my kids and they made this weekly Sabbath possible. Thank you Jennifer, Julia and Kim.

 

It seems impossible.  There’s a money hurdle and you don’t know a reasonable babysitter in your area.  Yup, I’m in that position right now. Perhaps you and another mom could switch babysitting for a few hours?  Do you have an aunt or a mom close by? Perhaps your man could give you an evening, or take the kids to Playland on Saturday mornings, leave you home in the delicious quiet?

 

Fast:

Thirsty? Need more time with God? This is where fasting comes in. Fast a favorite evening television show. Fast a girlfriend visit. Exhausted and having a hard time focusing? He understands. Just offer your imperfect time to God.

 

How?

 

Deep breaths. Quiet your heart. Be present with the Lord with a short scripture.  Breathe in: “Be Still and Know that I am God.” Breathe out: Be still and know that I am God.” Use the Jesus Prayer:  “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Or for the sake of this particular issue of empowering, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses,” (Acts 1:8). That means you too, sister.

 

Focus:

I couldn’t get away but my inner healing care group was meeting the next day and I needed God’s Presence to show up strong.  I needed more than a good curriculum because He is the only One who truly has the power to heal. Without the Spirit’s power, without Jesus’ authority, without my heart being right before Him, it could be an exercise in frustration instead of another step toward healing.

 

That’s when I lit a candle and had it burning all day right on top of the kitchen table. Every time I saw it, there was a small invitation to pray. It’s just a simple candle in a glass jar but it reminds me that He is present. It reminds me that prayer is like incense rising before His throne.  Sometimes it was a seriously short prayer, imagining Him, the Light of the World, present in the room with us the next day.  Sometimes it was a sentence, “Lord, I need You to burn anything away that might hinder You from working tomorrow.”

 

Worship:

It’s just a song on repeat and I join the worship while I go about my daily chores.  Your Great Name by Natalie Grant. Laura Story’s Mighty to Save. Matt Maher’s Christ is Risen. I might even invite the kids to dance in the kitchen while we pray God’s Kingdom come.

 votive lit

Fall:

Sometimes when I’m exhausted, I lose all ability to form words. At those moments I can only pray really… simple… prayers. I can only fall on His mercy. This “breath prayer” is from Ron DelBene in a book called, The Breath of Life. It’s perfect for us busy moms.  Simple. Profound. Here it is:

 

We find a moment of quiet before the Lord (nap time? before bed?) and imagine the Lord standing before us, arms outstretched, inviting. He speaks: “What do you most want from me?” Listen for the deep heart’s cry that bubbles to the surface. This, my friend, becomes the simple prayer that you offer.  But, don’t let go of the prayer, allow it to become part of the ongoing conversation between you. Breathe with it. Cry out. Keep it simple: “I am lonely.” “I need true rest.” “I need to know that I am loved unconditionally.” Or like Moses: “God, don’t send me out unless you are going!”  (Exodus 33:15 Summer’s version).

 

Finally, there is grace:

Finally, friends, remember that there is outpourings of grace for us. When I first had Xavier and was overwhelmed with all three, 4 1/2, 2 and 0, I would pick up the phone whenever the stress reached over my eyes.  My mama in her quiet voice would quote Isaiah 40:11, “He gently leads those who are with young.” Gently. He encourages us to be gentle with ourselves as well.  We can live life grace-fueled. No more huge helpings of guilt, only acceptance.

 

Remember that word?  When grace and acceptance and humility intertwines, it’s the quickest way to fall back into His power alone and be filled right back up.

skeleton-key

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Thirsty for more?  Let’s go to the well together. Come along for the journey. Put your email in the “Connect” box on the front page and lets pilgrimage together.

Thirsty for more encouragement? Encouragement 101 for you.  Blessings, friend!

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Counting thanks with Ann Voskamp and writing in community with the insightful Laura Boggess:

1. Thank you Jesus for Ann, for her courage, for her obedience in writing…I’m sending her book into dark places and watching them light up bright!

2. Mom and Dad Gross’ encouragement. I was cornered to keep writing, to find more avenues for these words to find a home! Cornered in a good way, of course!

3. Xavier’s love of legos. He builds and I clean and I’m crazy thankful for multi-colored plastic pieces everywhere.

4. After School Kids: Beautiful women giving their time to teach, beautiful friendships started. So thankful.

5. Drinking in beauty at the National Aviary. Drinking in oxygen. Watching my boy’s eyes light up.

6. My brother’s wedding at a chateau in France this August? I’m crazy excited.

7. Aaron and Elodie setting up home this side of the Atlantic. Kissing baby’s cheeks more often.

8. Feeling stilled, thankful, purpose-filled.

9. Salt-tasting at Church of the Incarnation, Strip District. Thank you Dr. Leslie and Fr. Paul for the imagery that will stay with our children forever. My favorite? The Himalayan pink

10. Roast with red wine filling my house with that gorgeous earthy smell all day.

 

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Re-igniting when our Flame Flickers Low

word seeds

Welcome friends to Word-Seeds. Here we take a step into the Scripture, read the gospel for Sunday morning, prepare our hearts. This week, read here first: Matthew 5:13-20.  Stop at pictures ? They are wide open spaces for contemplation in the middle of the meditation.

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I sat on a bench at Wade’s Bayou watching the carps’ backs roll just under the surface. The Lake Michigan inlet looked more like a crowded koi pond. I had brought my Alpha book, Questions of Life and was reading the Chapter on the Holy Spirit again. The bench was cemented into the ground and so was I. I wasn’t going anywhere until God showed up.

 

I wasn’t filled with angst, I was just resolute.

 

About five weeks before, my Tuesday morning women’s group had begun joining Nicky Gumbel and his gargantuan Alpha class at Holy Trinity Brompton  by sliding a tape in the VCR. Alpha is a type of Christianity 101 and after years without much Christian Education, they needed the basics. We all did.

 

The Holy Spirit weekend was approaching and it had all just clicked. This is what I had been missing. I had been living thick with doubt for eight years. In college Christians had begun annoying me with their perfect formulas and black and white question and answer books. I had more questions than answers. For one? Why would God let a little girl be abused? Yes, that one. The questions held me.

 

Questions are important. They are guides to the struggle. They tell you where to start the journey. But, sometimes they reveal places of deep need, tender places where the wounds reside. They are often the places where our deepest laments should begin. When glossed over, they hold us hostage.

question flower

 All through seminary and the early ministry years, I had searched for God, been lonely for God, fought for God, and wrestled Him hard.  I had prayed, but not trusted.  Then one day I slid over. That’s how it felt, like a slide of a lever on a soundboard…untrusting to trust, just like that. I gave over the tangle of questions and rested.

 

How? I finally came to the point where I believed that God is fully good, always loving. I may never be able to wrap my mind around all the issues that glared at me but I could rest in His goodness.

 God rock

 

Besides, He was infinite. I was not. I only have a brain about the size of a closed fist. I finally handed Him the frayed ends of my doubt.

 

A couple months later I found myself searching for more, as if I was searching under the couch cushions for that last puzzle piece.

 

When the tourists walked around the bench at Wade’s Bayou, I hardly saw them. I was waiting out God. Wood slats under me. Sunny day overhead. I sat. I waited. I had decided something was missing, like the Spirit and fire.

 

I was like a butane lighter that kept trying to fire but could never ignite.

 

rock  own strength

 

I had grown up witnessing miracles. Cancer healed, exes slipping the rings back on, alcoholics dumping whiskey down the sink.  I expected to preach Jesus and see the same things. My husband saw them. I didn’t. I was all words and no power.   All wick and no flame.

 

Nothing was catching fire.

 

I waited holding onto the Alpha book. I was expectant. Besides, He promised. It’s what Jesus told his disciples. Wait. Acts 1: 4-5,”Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” I was thirsty for my own Pentecost.

 

wooden bench

 

Was it an hour later? I don’t know. I remember being in an entirely emotionally neutral state and looking out onto the water rippled with light when a powerful sense of the love of God encompassed me. From zero to 100 in three seconds. I bathed in that love, was showered in that love, drank in that love, was utterly overwhelmed by that love. I sat still. I was inside the flame.

 

Was I devoid of the Holy Spirit before? I don’t think so. I believe every Christian has the Presence of the Holy Spirit on their lives.  But, this my friends was an extreme makeover. Afterwards, fruit flourished in ministry, my flailing marriage, my own interior life which had been stalled for years. What else? After Wade’s Bayou, I had the desire to read more Scripture, to be placed under His authority, its authority. I was like the thirsty who couldn’t get enough. I woke up early eager to drink more.

 

The gospels are filled with references to Jesus going off early in the morning to spend hours with the Father.  “But Jesus Himself would often slip away by Himself to pray.” This Luke 5:16 verse is echoed in Luke 6:12, Luke 9:28, Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35-36, Mark 6:46, and John 6:15. He picked out his twelve after one such morning.

 

If Jesus required this in His own perfect life, this sitting, soaking, listening, sharing, why do we have such a burgeoning sense of self-reliance?

 

Martin Luther shared with a colleague that he had so much to do that day he needed to take the first three hours in prayer. When I was at Asbury college, I remember hearing about an Indian seminarian across the street who would try to fit his homework around his prayer, complaining he never had enough time on his knees and when did these Americans wait on God?

 

Over the years, I’ve seen a direct correlation between the light of Christ in my life and prayer.  Sermons dusty? Sit. Wait. Pray. Marriage struggling? Sit. Wait. Pray. Maybe it’s just me who needs the waiting because I have so much to break through. I’m stubborn, prideful. It takes time to become pliable for Him.  It takes listening and waiting and journaling and conversation, but a lot of just sitting still, expectant.

 

While waiting all of this happens:

1. We fold ourselves deep into humility. We recognize that we can’t do it on our own, without God our work is utterly empty. We lean in dependent and He breaks through the thick ice of our pride. We become a creature before the Creator.

2. Repentance comes. We get out of God’s way.  What must I empty that is hindering God’s work? What needs to be confessed? What needs to be healed?

3. Wisdom comes. The Word is opened and we understand its correlation with the needs of the moment.

4. The Spirit comes. Our work is empowered.

 

Paul got it. He explains it to the Colossians: “Christ in me, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me,” Colossians 1:27b-29.

 

One of our Anglican bishops says that he believes we leak the Spirit in our daily lives. As we turn toward other sources to meet our needs, as we sin, as we depend upon ourselves, His power leaks out. He believes that the infilling is a constant need. I agree.  That is why we wait. We wait for God present to transform our small offerings to God-empowered ministries.

 

We lift up our loaves and fish and pray they will be enough to nourish. We lift up our water and pray He will transform it to wine. We lift up our ordinary and wait to be broken and blessed.

 

holy spirit flower

 

We lift up our minuscule candle flame and ask Him to be the bellows. That’s how fires get started.

 

I pray for wisdom for this house mess, for Him to brood over this chaos. I pray for the Spirit’s power before I do spiritual direction. I pray for calm before I make the bedtime rounds. I pray before I write.

 

We wait for Him to ignite our spiritual giftings. When the Holy Spirit empowers, His fruit filters down to all areas of our lives (Galatians 5:22-25). Hallelujah because I need some serious patience around the morning rush.

 

He lights us and people see and they can warm their hands in our flame, but they will only truly get warm if they turn toward the Son, toward Jesus.

 

We just hope to light their way.

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Thirsty for more?

Come pilgrimage with me. Slip your email into the connect box on the front page and we’ll journey together.

When you Need More of God 

My favorite book on the subject? Terry Wardle’s Untamed Christian, Unleashed Church, a somewhat humorous and highly masculine book (sports analogies, man humor) about our need for the Holy Spirit. A must read. Perfect for clergy or laity.

pics from our trip to Italy and Wikimedia.com

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