Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

You know Romeo and Juliet, right? Well, they got nothing on this love story. Nothin'.

A love story of love stories.

A local news reporter walked into my office Thursday afternoon at about 3PM. The church I work for is located in one of the most dangerous areas of our city and  he wanted to know what kind of outreach we did in the community to meet the needs of at-risk kids. I put him in touch with Mike, because, although the church I work for does reach out to the community, it isn't targeting kids. But our church does, so I gave Dakarai Turner from WLTX News 19 Mike's card. By 4PM Mike was being interviewed, and the story aired at 11PM the same night. See what our church has been doing for years to rescue kids from a future of gang life, drugs, and prison. Thank you, Dakarai, for a great news package. (Today is the last Saturday of the month and we are out ministering in Arthurtown, a neighborhood in Columbia that only residents enter. Usually.)

Combatting Midlands Gangs With a Lifeline

And finally, this from Emily Freeman at Ann Voskamp's place today. Her book and message about our lives being art is changing me deeply, hopefully in a million little ways.

"The traffic in the sunroom is bumper to bumper." Read the rest here.

Have a great weekend, y'all.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Unnerving Remedy for Self-Editing Your Life

I spoke of the problem of self-editing my life in my last post. As I continue to let this issue simmer in my spirit, I'm fast concluding that the only one who should be editing me is Christ.

If I am his handiwork (artwork), then he is the artist. You know—He is the potter, I am the clay and all that. That way, when I'm who he created me to be, I reflect his glory. It's biblical to bend to his touch rather than to try to craft myself into what pleases others and attempt to strike a perfect balance of likeable traits.

We begin self-editing for many reasons: discouragement, doubt, feelings of inadequacy, practicality, fear, rejection, and looking into the mirror and seeing our nasty sin. But mostly I think we do it because it's safer, less risky, and gives us a sense of control—false though it may be. It's the path of self-preservation, and that's the opposite of the crucified life.

When God corners you with that beautiful and scary truth, all that's left is to lay down our failures, insecurities, and all the other negative junk that tempt us to self-edit. We must strip ourselves of all our reservation and hesitation so what's left is the naked, raw material God wants to use to fashion us into his original masterpiece.

Won't that be fun.

But be assured, it will be worth it.

We may not turn out looking like we wanted to. But we won't be unrecognizable either. We'll finally be the version of ourselves God intended all along, crafted with all that was right in us when he knit us together in the beginning.

Doesn't that sound much better than attempting to rework all the negatives into some sort of positive self-made image? Besides, the only one I know who can to turn our negatives into positives is Jesus (see Romans 8:28), and anything I could make myself turns out to be an idol—totally not what I was going for.

So how about it? Are you willing to strip down and become putty in his hands?

"We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us"  (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Untangling a Fabricated Life

I cracked open A Million Little Ways a week ago on my back deck with a cup of coffee.
I ended up adding my bible, a journal, and computer to the mix. I looked up Greek words and lingered long enough to contemplate actual answers to Emily's probing questions. I answered some and scribbled yet more questions of my own. 

I read the first 2 chapters and journaled five pages.  

This is what I don't want to sneak past me from those pages: 

God is pleased to have the fullness of his glory dwell in Christ (Colossians 1:19) and just as pleased to have Christ dwell in us (Colossians 1:27). 

As Christians and God's artwork that bear his image (Genesis 1:27),we have been tasked long ago—like Garden of Eden long ago (Genesis 1:28)—to do good works.

That good work is not my to do list or generated from any other outward, earthly source. (That's going to be a huge paradigm shift. Huge.)

Instead, that good work is this: to reflect his glory, his identity from the core of who we are in everything we do, in the way only we can—through all the intricate, artful facets he created uniquely in each of us.

I knew about reflecting his glory already. But because I thought I already was doing that through my task-oriented living, this old thing that I've long known is now fresh and ripe with scary possibilities and unknowns.

But I've been "do" oriented for so long I've lost track of the "be" orientation. Reflecting his glory from my core instead of from my to do list requires knowing who I am way deep inside.

Here's the rub: It's been so long, I'm not sure I know who she is anymore.

I've been editing who I am for public consumption for some time. It's a joint venture that began when my mom dropped me off at the birthday party when I was four and reminded me to say please and thank you. It continued in 7th grade when I adapted what I did, wore, and said to my predictions of how ill- or well-received I would be by my peers. The self-editing matured in college into honing my image to what I deemed to be the perfect combination of  "blend in" and "cool unique contribution." I've tweaked into my 40s.

How do you untangle that decades-in-the-making fabrication?    

It's risky, will take courage and faith. It's going to take work, too, because old habits and vantage points don't change all by themselves.

But it will be beautiful and freeing and a work of art all its own that makes God renown in my corner of the earth.

It's going to require listening more to the Holy Spirit within me than I listen to my screaming to do list or surface desire to fit in.  

Do I know how to do that? No. Will it change what my days look like? Maybe a little.

But probably not much because I still have all those daily responsibilities that aren't going away. I will always have a to do list. I just don't want it defining me and driving me anymore.

What needs to change is who is carrying out all these daily details. Another thing that must change is what anchors me as I do the same ol' things I always do. The reason why I do them will be different. The how I do them will probably change too, even if the what, where, and when remain the same. The adjustment is small and nuanced, but has great potential to radically change my sense of purpose and my attitude as I approach each day.

A good place to start is to remember we are God's artwork, and, therefore, our daily output should be artwork as well. And that will only happen if it comes from who we are and not what we do.    


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

Whether you gain huge popularity or are only loved by your family, whether you influence 10 or 10 million, always approach life with generosity, gratitude, and graciousness.  Love this from Emily this week:

What we can learn from Martha Stewart and Mr. Rogers

An inspiring (and well-written) story by Lane McGregory of Tampa Bay Times about a gutsy kid who is fast running out of time and anger, and so dared to hope went viral last week. I know you saw it somewhere. Twitter, Facebook, somewhere. What you probably didn't see is Flower Patch Farm Girl's equally poignant and unnerving response:

Why We Are Called to Davion

This, from my beautiful, wounded cousin whose God is turning her mourning into dancing, ever so slowly. She's so broken, I think it might only be a toe tapping right now, but she is trusting in the God that has her right where she is, and I hear the quiet, beautiful music in the distance on that road less traveled:

Where Two Roads Diverged and She Had No Choice.

And for all these heart-warming and heartbreaking reasons, I long for more love in the world, the kind that is patient and kind, doesn't envy or boast or keep a record of wrong. These posts this week remind me that for now, we see in a mirror dimly and only know in part. They make me thankful that then, we will see face to face and know fully.

"Love Is" Original music by Adrian González from his album No Record.

Happy Weekend Wanderings, y'all.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Soul Thirsty: When All Is Vanity

Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again. --Jesus

It begins first thing each morning: empty the dishwasher, begin to reload, pack three lunchboxes, recite the breakfast offerings to three unenthusiastic kids, the shrill countdown to oh-my-gosh-we're-gonna-be-late. There's also the laundry baskets, the bills, unopened mail, supper plans, and a phone blinking and beeping a night's worth of notifications and a day's worth of plans. All before 7:30 AM, the day still young, the To Do list already long.

What advantage does man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?
...the sun rises and the sun sets;
And hastening to its place it rises there again.
...All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing;
...I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun,
and behold, all is vanity and striving after the wind.
~Ecclesiastes 1:3, 5, 8, and 14

Somewhere in the midst of the busyness, I search for the compass of meaning and hope, but find
"Used up"
on the dial that used to show True North. 
What was it God said to me just this morning? It feels like so long ago, I can't remember. It's hidden in the fog.

I'm talking about water, wells, fog, and vanity over at Laced With Grace today. The rest of this post is over there.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Sunday Lunch

It's 6:03 and I've entered the quiet kitchen to begin the morning. It's Sunday, the earliest morning for me all week.

I have vague memories of mom cooking hot Sunday dinners when I was very young. After my parents divorced it didn't continue. The big hams slathered with yellow mustard and lumpy mashed potatoes drowning in butter became a thing of the past.

Then I met my mother-in-law and began to be invited to her Sunday table. She fed me nightly during my engagement to her youngest son and we had full time jobs and four night classes. We studied all day Saturday and slept Sunday afternoon to make it through those weeks. If she didn't cook and Mike didn't drive, I'm not sure I would have survived those semesters.

Her arroz con pollo was one of my favorites, and she could cook it blindfolded while reciting the beatitudes. But she couldn't teach me how to make it. The woman didn't own a single recipe. One time I watched her make it. I tasted when she tasted, stirred when she stirred, and wrote it all down.

I still don't make her arroz con pollo, and I've since learned it's partly because I don't have one of those classic pots that I have found is in every Cuban cook's kitchen. But it's partly me too.

Noemi revived Sunday dinner for me. As newlyweds, we would return to our hometown for weekend visits. When I spent the night at her house, I was privy to her hustle and bustle around the kitchen in the early hours to have lunch ready.

I gladly took up the Sunday lunch mantle, her chicken and rice notwithstanding.

My kids have a lifetime of Sunday lunch memories around our kitchen table. They will treasure them one day, at least that's what I tell myself.

They're not so fond of them now, because, in the last ten years, our extended family has gone out to eat Sundays after church. Noemi's days in the kitchen are long since over. And so, while the cousins and aunts and uncles and Aya went to Cici's for bad pizza, we went home to homemade spaghetti sauce bubbling in the crock pot.

Today, while I get the brown rice to a boil and slide the roast into the oven just before 7AM, I'm thankful for a godly woman, her legacy of Sunday lunch, and the way that she fed me when she fed me.

Sharing with Michelle's Sunday/Monday community, because sometimes what you learn on Sunday you didn't hear in the sermon. And with Laura's Play Dates with God.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Web Wonders For Your Weekend

Daddy/Daughter Duet
There's an adorable, pajama-clad little girl who can't sleep because of the scary fireworks and a dad with a pink ukulele and a mouth-trumpet solo. It's everything wonderful about parenting and childhood.

Emily's Open Letter to Generation Y 
"Maybe you are one of the 300. Or maybe you are a single mother. Maybe you manage a liquor store. Maybe you work at Wal-Mart, the graveyard shift, and you've been told your whole life how much potential you have, but you don't see it.   . . . We are dust, turned into miracles, because of a God who loves us."

The Love of Laundry @ Sayable
Lore Furgeson contemplates the married life she will soon embark on, and she's speaking my language because around here the new life we face, maybe not new — but different, is one without my mother-in-law in it.  She speaks about loving this life, and it will speak to you wherever life finds you right now too.

Inspired RD with Just Be
My weekend wish for you . . . and me.
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