Finding the sacred in this place

Hats and sunglasses, that’s what my son likes, and he’s amassing a collection.

When we headed to the beach this week to enjoy the weather,  he popped his Paw Patrol baseball cap on his head .

“This is my beach hat,” he announced.

Then he gave me the full run-down.  His Batman hat is for playgrounds.  His Paw Patrol hat is for the beach.  And, when he gets a Star Wars hat , that will be for the aquarium.  “My aquarium hat,” he says.

This is funny on so many levels.

For one thing, he doesn’t need an aquarium hat since we are infrequent visitors.

And for  another thing, we really and truly just grab whichever hat we can find whenever it’s time to go to wherever we’re going.  We have more than one hat precisely because we don’t always know where any given hat is at any given moment.

Hats are essential  wardrobe pieces for us.  We are fair-skinned folks who burn at the slightest hint of sunshine.

But exactly how many hats does he plan on having anyway?

Specific hats for specific places may not be practical or likely by any stretch of the imagination, and yet I love the idea of valuing place, all the individual beauty and uniqueness of this place and that place.

How something changes in us as we travel from  here to there, something about us in those destinations that might even require a new and different hat.

It’s so biblical, isn’t it, the way God’s story roots itself  in geography and location?  The Holy Land and Mount Sinai, Eden and Bethel ,right on to Bethlehem, to gardens and mountaintops, the Sea of  Galilee, the Jordan River.

God’s story in us does the same thing.

There are places that have entwined themselves with my own salvation story:  a childhood neighborhood, a college campus,  a church, a two-year sojourn in New Jersey, and the long-term settling in Virginia where God continues to work in me.

Maybe certain places in our lives are set aside for a holy work of significance.

Like the way the burning bush drew Moses’s attention out in the wilderness, and how God brought him and all of Israel back to that same holy mountain after they made it out of Egypt.

Or the way Jacob camped out at Bethel and saw a vision of a stairway to heaven and then returned to the same place years later to settle there with his family and build an altar to God.

It helps to know what places have holy significance for us, especially when we’re seeking His face.  Where do we go when we want to be alone with Jesus?  Where do we go when we’re desperate for a glimpse of Him or to hear His voice?  Where do we go when we need hush and peace and a stillness in our hearts?

Where is our Bethel?  Where is our Sinai?

Where is the place of spiritual retreat?

For  me, it’s a back deck or a porch, just one small step from inside my house to outside my house and there I am, in a peaceful place.

Sometimes, though,  I need to run away from the ordinary, everyday.  These aren’t long trips, just a drive to the botanical gardens, or to a museum, or the beach–anywhere there is beauty and there is quiet.

My go-to holy place, though, is a mobile one–it’s in a walk  The location matters less than the opportunity to stride in rhythm and not talk for about 30 minutes.   This is a sacred space for me.

It  also helps to know that God does focused work in specific places.

This is Gilgal for Saul.  That’s where the prophet Samuel sent the newly anointed King to wait before being presented to Israel.  That’s where Saul is crowned.  It’s also the same exact place where Saul loses his kingship, as he gives up waiting for Samuel and disobeys God’s instructions (1 Samuel 10:8,  11:15, 13:7).

Gilgal is where Saul both received and lost the kingship.

What if Saul had recognized the significance of the place?  Gilgal is where I wait and where God is faithful.  Maybe he would have been more patient.

Perhaps this place where you are right now is the growing place or the place of rest.  Maybe it is the land of milk and honey or maybe it is the waiting place.

It could be the place of worship or the place of calling.  Maybe it’s the place where we’re poured out or maybe it’s the well where Jesus fills us.

Where are you now?  In this place God has brought you, how is He at work?

This portion God gave me is actually enough

I’m not sure that I’ve eaten more than a handful of my own meals actually on my own in over ten years.

I know maybe it’s not the absolute truth.

But it feels like the truth some days.

It’s as if whatever food I’m eating is a free-for-all for my children.

Sometimes I grab breakfast out of the cabinet and carry it to the minivan as we rush out the door. The very second I open the cereal bar, an alarm system must be triggered because children in all corners of the vehicle ask if they can have some.

Perhaps I should be grateful.  Thank you, dear children, I did not actually need the calories from this breakfast-on-the-go anyway.

But there is something so illogical about this mothering phenomenon.

As soon as my children graduate from pureed squash in a jar to their very own mini-portions of actual human food, they want to have what I am eating from my very own plate.

Even though we are eating the same food.

The same food!!!!

I may have had to cut it up into non-chokeable portions before putting it on a highchair tray; nevertheless, my lasagna did taste the same as their lasagna.

And the Cheerios in my cereal bowl are (earth-shattering announcement, here) the same Cheerios in my child’s bowl.

I know older moms are probably chuckling.  Surely my own mom is.  Because this is probably a universal mothering struggle going back generations upon generations.

Let’s face it, Eve should have gotten used to sharing her fruit with another person because once Cain and Abel came along, she’d never eat completely on her own again.

The thing is, my kids are buying into the same lie that trips us up all the time.

It’s the lie that whatever she has is better than what I have.

Maybe we’re even eating the same food.

Or maybe it really is different.  Maybe she’s sitting down to steak and potatoes while we pick at boxed macaroni and cheese.  Or maybe we’re the ones with the gourmet fare while she wolfs down some PB&J.

No matter what the dish, so often we just really want what she has.

We want the same.  And we want it to be the same quality.  And we want it to be the same amount.

We don’t trust God to care for us uniquely, personally, individually.  We don’t trust Him enough to accept what He gives with gratitude, knowing that He loves us and cares for us, knowing that anything He gives us is far more than we deserve or merit.

I read in Numbers how Moses divied up supplies to the people of Israel.

He gave two carts and four oxen to the sons of Gershon.

He gave four carts and eight oxen to the sons of Merari.

He didn’t give any carts or oxen to the sons of Kohath.

Sounds like a rip-off.  Sounds like a big, unfair, scam.

Those sons of Kohath could have raised a mighty fine protest about injustice and favoritism and the need for equal distribution of all goods.

But Moses gave out the oxen and the carts “according to their service,” and the sons of Kohath cared for “the holy objects, which they carried on the shoulder” (Numbers 7:7-9).

Every one of them received what they needed for their particular, God-chosen, unique job.  He equipped them for their calling.

He does the same for us.

Some days, I’ll confess, it feels like I don’t have enough.

I don’t just mean material goods.  I mean enough patience or enough time or enough patience or enough creativity or enough patience or enough sleep—or enough patience.  Did I already mention that one?

So many others around me seem to have plates heaped full with the very gifts and traits I feel so desperately in need of.

But I take my need to Him.

Because I don’t need any thing.  I don’t need a specific gifting or a particular object.

I don’t need to be the same or have the same as anyone else.

I NEED JESUS.  HE IS ENOUGH FOR ME.

HE EQUIPS US FOR OUR CALLING.

YES, HE GIVES ME ALL I NEED TO DO WHAT HE WANTS ME TO DO RIGHT HERE IN THIS MOMENT.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:24 NIV)

LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure (Psalm 16:5 NIV)

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26 NIV).

You are my portion, LORD; I have promised to obey your words (Psalm 119:57).

Originally published March 25, 2015

May we learn to linger

I’m tempted to rush.

On a rare day when I have this time, the temptation is there to fill it right up with more activity, more going and more doing.

Most days, I don’t have this luxury, of course.  It’s the mad morning scramble of toothbrushes, hair brushes, ribbons, bows, socks, shoes, lunches and backpacks to send children out to the bus stop.

Then, zoom into the day with the preschooler and the errands or meetings or Bible studies or appointments or whatever busyness has etched itself onto the schedule.

But this day.  This one day.

After I watch my girls step onto that school bus, I return to my home and breathe in and out this uncertain freedom.  I don’t have to run out the door.  I don’t have to meet an external agenda or deadline right away.

So what to do?

Rush through my home, stuffing laundry into the washing machine and another load in the dryer?  Frantically move cereal bowls from sink to dishwasher and then grab the broom (maybe the mop if I’m inspired).  Respond to messages.  Catch up on the to-do list.  Fill out the forms.

So it goes, me filling up this one little space of time with too much, cramming in activity and sitting on the lid in hopes it will fit.

My tea, poured hot this morning turns cold.

My morning devotions, rushed through just to be done, leave me unfilled, uninspired, unopened to what God wants to say.

Too busy…too busy…just always too busy.

But today I consider Joshua.

Moses met with God face-to-face in a tent.  A pillar of cloud covered the entrance while the Israelites looked on from the flaps of their own tent dwellings, bowing in worship in the doorways.

When Moses finished talking with God, he returned to the camp to share the message with others.

Not Joshua, though.

“his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent” (Exodus 33:11 HCSB).

He wouldn’t budge from the glory and the presence, lingering there stubbornly while others moved along.

What if we chose to linger?

Chose to be Joshua refusing to leave the tent as long as God’s glory electrified the air….chose for this one day to be Mary at the feet of Jesus rather than Martha slamming pots in the kitchen?

Because serving perpetually means serving empty and that means dying of spiritual starvation and dehydration.

We need the Mary moments so we can re-enter the kitchen as Martha and care for others cheerfully and ably until we have that opportunity once again to lay down the dish towel and sit at Jesus’ feet.

It’s not practical, of course.

That crowd of more than 5000 who sat on the hillside listening to Jesus hour upon hour should have been watching the clock.  They should have known what time it was and how long they had to travel back for food.  They should have abandoned the sermon and packed up their blankets and lawn chairs at a reasonable time so they could eat dinner at a reasonable hour.

But Jesus rewarded their time in His presence.

Had they left early, they would have missed the miracle.

In order to witness God’s glory, they had to wait, they had to sit patiently and linger there until they received.

In Living Beyond Yourself , Beth Moore writes:

“He placed them in a posture to rest in His provision.  He commanded them to “sit down” and fed only those who were “seated” (vv. 10-11) . . .”Are you ‘sitting down’ in a posture of trust and sitting quietly to receive it?  If so, prepare the baskets!”

For me, it’s just this one day to breathe before a new wave of stress and busyness crashes down again.livingbeyond

For you, it may be a morning, a day….even a season of sitting and waiting on that hillside so you can see His glory, or a season at Jesus’ feet instead of in the kitchen, or a season of lingering in the tent.

Whatever the length of the wait and the stillness, it’s a discipline to rest rather than rush.

When we remain there, though, insistent on lingering where His presence is, we see His glory displayed and He fills us up with the sustenance of His presence and His Word.

Originally published 11/2014

We’re Singing Star Wars in the Supermarket

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One of my son’s favorite shopping activities is singing the Imperial March from Star Wars while stomping down the aisles.

Dum Dum da-dum da-da-Dum Dum da-Dum

For a three-year-old, my son is remarkably good at singing this while swinging an imaginary light saber.   Even the frozen food employee is impressed.  He always stops to chat with us about the latest Star Wars movie.

This is, of course, not my son’s only grocery shopping habit.

There is also pretending to fly like an airplane and also making superhero fighting noises while acting out an epic battle.

We have rules, of course.

Star Wars singing and marching is okay.

So is superhero pretend and airplane flying .

Crawling on the nasty floor like a puppy dog, however, is not acceptable.

Also on the Not Allowed List:  Walking directly in front of the cart and stopping every two inches or so….touching everything we see….putting things in the cart without Mommy knowing….and running too far ahead or lagging too far behind outside of Mommy’s line of vision.

So, I do a lot of guiding in the store, holding his hand sometimes.  Or guiding him with my hand on his back because he’s too engrossed in his superhero game to actually walk forward.

And almost 100% of the time you can hear me narrating our adventure: “Okay, now we need to go to the cereal aisle.  We need to stop here for  a minute and look.  Alright, let’s get going, go all the way to the end of the aisle without stopping.  Let’s go faster.  Let’s slow down.”

These are my Mom-skills, my guidance techniques to keep us both on the same page in terms of purpose, direction, and timing.

We are imperfect.

Some days we ace this and I’m tempted to pat myself on the back as if I’ve got it all together and have finally (after four kids) figured this whole deal out.

But inevitably the next time we shop, we forget something, or we take forever, or I lose my temper, or there is a tantrum.

So, we go with grace.

I’m so thankful for such grace.

I’m thankful for something else, too, because I know what it’s like as a parent to lovingly guide  and direct.  I know what it’s like to be listened to and what it’s like to be ignored.

I know what it’s like to “know best….” and to understand the grand scheme of things:  the meal plan, the budget, the true needs versus the cavernous wants.

Maybe these weekly shopping excursions are a little hint of God’s heart for us.

He knows the big plan:  the layout of the store, the timing, the provision, the needs.

Sometimes He says, “no,” even when we really want to hear “yes.”  Sometimes he hurries us past aisles where we want to linger.  Sometimes he slows us down for the opportunity to consider.

Sometimes He lets us dance in the aisles and sing our hearts out right there in the middle of the bread because He’s so crazy about us and we bring him such joy.

But I can be so wayward.

I can try to rush ahead one day and drag my feet the next.  I can try to sneak things into the cart and perhaps I even throw a tantrum every once in a while.

I’ve been reading in Exodus about Israel’s long and winding trek through the wilderness, and how God guided them every step of the way, providing for their needs with manna and quail even when they longed for the food in Egypt.

What would have happened if the Israelites had pushed on ahead of the cloud that God used to guide them by day?   What if they guessed at God’s potential direction, balked at His delays, and set out on their own?

What if I do the same, trusting in my own wisdom and strength rather than in God’s?

We are all simply lost without Him.

So I’m trying to trust Him and trust His heart, even when there are diversions and delays, even when there are annoyances and “no’s” and restrictions.

In Exodus, God actually gives Israel a glimpse into His heart:

 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.  Exodus 23:29-30.

Conquering the Promised Land wouldn’t be some quick and painless affair, which is probably what they wanted.

But God’s purpose was for their protection.  His timing was for their good.

He promises us this, as well:

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you (Psalm 32:8 NLT).

How I Tried Not To Look Like a Tourist (and probably failed)

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My husband told me, “try not to look like a tourist.”

That was the advice I tucked away for my recent trip to New York City.

I feel pretty comfortable in Washington, DC, but I know nothing about the Big Apple.

So I bought a laminated map the week before my trip and then I spent an afternoon on my comfy blue sofa with a cup of tea, my map, my itinerary, and my good friend:  Google.

Then I wrote it all down, every bit of it.  What subway stations to use.  How many stops there were between places.  How much tickets would cost.

This is  my modus operandi: intense preparation before any action.

Eventually, though, you just have to do it.  You have to step off the tour bus into the city and make your way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with nothing but a map, your notes, scattered street signs, and some friends.  Plus you need to do it without looking like a tourist, which probably means not pulling out the map and pointing at landmarks in the middle of Central Park (I failed).

Somehow my friends and I found our way, partly because of my advanced preparations, partly because we  got lost and learned from our mistakes, and mostly because we asked questions.

“If I’m on seventh avenue, which way do I need to go to 8th avenue?”

“Am I headed in the right direction for the art museum?”

“Are the subways on this level going  the direction we want to go?”

I asked the lady pushing her stroller through Central Park, the security guard walking down 42nd street, and the guy adding money to his frequent user subway card. I asked questions all over New York City.

As long as someone looked like they were friendly, approachable, and knowledgeable, they were fair game for one of my questions.

I’m a question-asking girl.  I even wrote a whole book about asking questions (Ask Me Anything, Lord), so this is who I am and how I navigate the big, wide world.ask-me-anything-lord_kd

In life, we can try our best to seek our own answers or wrestle with guidebooks and Google-searches in hope of making good choices.

Or we can make mistakes and then learn from them.

But it’s often much easier and far less painful just to ask.

Ask a friend for help.  Ask someone we respect for advice.  Ask a mentor for prayer.  Ask an expert for some input.

Being willing to seek advice with a humble heart opens us up to wisdom.

Proverbs tells us:

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15 ESV).

We don’t just ask any random person, of course.

We ask those we respect, those who have already “been there,” those who are prayerful and those who live with godliness.

More than all of that, though, we can bring our question-filled hearts to God Himself.

Jesus told us to ask (Matthew 7:7).  He gave us permission to come to Him with questions and requests, and He even praised those who sought His help when they needed it.

Of course, it’s deeply humbling to confess the truth: “I don’t know all the answers.”

But this is what we need, to recognize what we don’t know…to trample over our own pride and admit our deficiency.  This is what allows God to teach us and to guide us.

Moses stood barefoot in front of the burning bush and dared to ask the big question:

 “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13 ESV). 

He said to God, “Who are you?!”

No pretending like he had it all together or knew everything or was so capable all on his own.

He asked.

And God answered:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14 ESV). 

Moses’s question led to revelation, God telling His very holy name: I AM.

One of the deepest moments of divine revelation in the entirety of Scripture came because Moses dared to ask a question.

It takes  time to ask and listen for the answer.

It takes humility to lay aside our own opinion and agenda and seek God’s thoughts and plans.

It takes a teachable heart to seek advice from a respected friend.

But we’ll learn more, make fewer mistakes, and get a little less lost in this life if we embrace humility and learn the art of asking questions.

He leads the dance

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At three-years-old, my son is a movie theater pro.

He knows how this whole movie-watching thing goes.

“I get glasses.” (We’ve seen some 3D movies lately).

“I get popcorn.”  (We love movie theater popcorn!!)

“I sit in the big chair and be quiet and watch the movie.”

Yes, sir.  That’s how it works all right.

Only this time we weren’t going to see a 3D movie, so we messed with his routine a little.

No special funky glasses to play with during the movie?

Surely the 3D glasses are an intrinsic part of the movie experience!

Fortunately, we arrived at the movie theater and he didn’t protest when we headed into the dark theater sans glasses.  He just happily munched on his popcorn.

My son went with the flow in a way I kind of envy because going with the flow is the hard thing for me.  I like things to be just so, the way they always are, the way I expect them to be.

But life and faith aren’t always so simple.

Sometimes you get the popcorn but not the glasses.  Or the glasses and not the popcorn.  Sometimes you sit in a movie theater with all the movie paraphernalia, but nothing shows on the screen.

Sometimes I follow five-step formulas of faith and don’t hear from God or fulfill every religious obligation and still feel spiritually dehydrated and dying of thirst.

That’s because faith is relational and relationships can be messy and hard to define.  They can’t always be crammed into facts, figures, and formulas.

Relationships take effort because they are dynamic and changing, close and then distant and then close again…and my relationship with God is the same.

Jeremiah 29:13 tells us:

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

What does it look like to seek God with all my heart instead of just half my attention or a little of my focus?

It means I’m willing to wait and willing to listen.

I’m willing to be honest and tell God where I’ve gone wrong, how I’m hurting, and the places where I’m clinging to unsurrendered disappointment.

I feast on His Word and rest in His presence because just being near Him helps.

It means waking up in the middle of the night and hashing it out with Him in a heart-to-heart instead of counting sheep.

Maybe God purposely keeps us on our toes so we’re drawn into this wholehearted search for Him because He knows we’re distracted.

When Elijah ran in desperate fear from Queen Jezebel, he ended up at Mount Horeb–the very same holy mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

Elijah sojourned to the”mountain of God” to have his own personal God-encounter.

There in that sacred space, he witnessed an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake.

He saw fire, but God wasn’t in the fire.

Instead, God showed up “in the  sound of a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12 ESV).

There’s more to this than just the superficial lesson that “God speaks in a still small voice so be quiet enough to listen.”

Sure, that’s often true.

Life can be loud, far too loud for us to reflect, think, listen, or pray with reflection.

But that’s not all there is here.

God didn’t speak to Elijah from a storm or earthquake.  Truth.

But He did speak to Job that way.

Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. Job 38:1 NIV

And no, God didn’t speak to Elijah from the fire, but He did to Moses.

the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush (Exodus 3:2 ESV).

God whispers sometimes and sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes He speaks in storms or from the midst of the flame.

All through Scripture, we see this isn’t about methods or venues; it’s about God speaking however He chooses to speak.

If I’m not hearing Him, I can throw my whole heart into listening, allowing Him to speak how He chooses instead of expecting Him to stick to my relational plan.  To show up on my timetable. To discuss what I want to discuss.  To answer the way I’d like.

Maybe this time I need to watch the movie without the glasses.

Maybe another day I’ll need to wear the glasses to see the whole picture.

It’s not always the same.  So I let Him lead in this relational dance.

And I hold on to one beautiful promise:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 ESV

When we draw near, we must believe that God does indeed reward the wholehearted seeker.

I just keep seeking.

 

Welcome Home

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We want to do “Home” here.

On the bad days, on the days you messed up or didn’t win, on the days the minivan breaks down and we all cram into the little car to shuttle around town….

On the days when we say the foolish thing and our tempers get the better of us…

On the day when we’re just crazy forgetful or running late and the ballet studio is calling me (again) because my daughter is waiting for me and I’m still two minutes away on Main Street….

On the nights when mom didn’t sleep because she was up all night stressing about a problem and then remembering to pray over it…

When we get bad news, when our feelings are hurt, when our friendships are tricky, when two girls keep fighting on the playground and that ruins our favorite recess game….

We want to come home.

I want my husband and my kids and surely myself to have this place of space and grace.

This is the place we celebrate with milkshakes and we commiserate with movie nights and freshly popped popcorn.

Life can sure be disappointing sometimes.  People can be cruel, trodding all over you when you’re already down in the dust.

But home is where the people are who genuinely celebrate your victories and accomplishments.

Home is also where you drag your disappointed heart with its hurt and sadness because it’s safe here.  You are hugged.  You are loved without conditions and expectations.  These are your people, the ones who are for you.  The ones who won’t mock your tears or tell you to ‘buck up and just get over it.’

Home should be the safe place.  The united place.  The place where being you is being enough.

Of course, Home isn’t that way for everyone.  And that’s the great tragedy.  It must break God’s heart to see how Home sometimes hurt instead of heals.

But at least here in my space, in my life, for my family, I want Home to be the refuge God meant it to be.

I read in Psalm 90:1, how Moses prayed to God.  He said:

“Lord, through all the generations you have been our home” (NLT).

I’ve read this in other translations before.  The ESV says the Lord has been our “dwelling place” and the HCSB says the Lord has been our “refuge.”

But I let that word “home” echo a bit and think about what it means for God to be Home for me.

My safe place.

My refuge.

The place where I abide, live, dwell…where I relax and be myself, where I kick off my shoes and plod around in my cozy white socks, where the masks are off and people see the real me, where I wash off my makeup, where I mess up sometimes and ask for forgiveness from those who love me still.

God is my Home.

He’s celebrating our victories.

And He’s wrapping us up in arms so big when we unload the disappointment, hurt and sadness we’ve been carrying on our shoulders.

In a world where we can feel judged and criticized, like people are always jumping in with suggestions of how we should be, where bullies and mean girls set themselves against us, God is our Home.

He loves you as you are.  He says you’re beautiful.  He says you have value and worth and He’s proud of you and He’s seen it. All of it! All your hard work and effort–and He says it’s good.

I wonder what it was like for Moses to write that God was his home?

Moses–the slave baby sent into the river on a basket, raised by an Egyptian princess in a palace where he didn’t quite fit in.

Moses–the murderer turned fugitive, who spent 40 years out in the wilderness tending sheep and living outside his community.

Moses–the leader of a nation that spent another 40 years wandering around the desert, pitching tents, moving on and never lingering in one place for long.

FOR THE UNWANTED, FOR THE OUTSIDER, FOR THE BROKEN, FOR THE SINNER, FOR THE PRODIGAL, FOR THE WANDERER, FOR THE LEADER, GOD WAS HOME.

GOD IS HOME.

WELCOME HOME.

When We’re Tempted to Pull In, Reach Out Instead

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My daughter was five at the time, and I put my hand gently on her back to usher her into the minivan.

She did not move.

But my lecture about wasting time and ‘please can you hurry because we don’t want to be late!’ caught in my throat when I glanced back at her.

Her head was bowed, her eyes squeezed shut.  Her hands were clasped and tucked under her chin.

She was praying.

I bowed my head to her and heard the whisper:

Dear God, please help the person who is hurt and help the fire truck make them safe and all better.  Amen.

That’s when I finally heard them: The sirens in the distance that I’d been blocking out with busy thoughts and Mom-instructions to “get your seatbelts on quickly” and “take turns sitting in the middle seat” and “make sure you have all your stuff.”

You know.  Life.

Life crowded out the need, crowded out others.  It tunneled my vision so I saw only my agenda, heard only my voice, pushed and shoved and crammed right up to the Father with only my own needy self in mind.

As parents, my husband and I have had our more spiritual moments.  We’ve hushed the general din of six people crowded in the minivan so we could pray about the fire truck or the ambulance passing us on the road.

So my girl took this to heart.  She tucked it into her soul and now she watches and listens and drops her head down the instant she senses the need to pray.

She even stopped the mad dash to the coveted middle seat of the minivan and let her sisters rush in to claim the prime spots in order to pause and pray.

She let go of self.  She focused on another.

My little prayer powerhouse reminded me to get down on my knees and beg for God to help me see.

Because somehow there’s this automatic pull of humanity back to self.  Somehow the noise within us drowns out the noise without….so we no longer hear the cries of need from a needy world.

Somehow we lose the eyes of God, the ears of God, the heart of God.

Moses also teaches me to see others with God’s vision.

He stood on a holy mountain preparing to die.  Moses was not to enter the Promised Land and he knew God’s intentions to take him up a mountain he would never climb down.

But his eyes were not on his own immediate need, but on the people of Israel instead.

He could have asked for a legacy.

He could have begged for forgiveness and the chance to step at least one weary foot onto Canaan’s soil.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he prayed:

Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd (Numbers 27:16-17 ESV)

Long before Jesus, Moses stood overlooking the crowd and saw them with God’s eyes as sheep that have no shepherd.

Centuries later, Jesus Himself stood and saw this same need:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36 ESV).

Moses got right to the heart of the matter, right to the need before him and put aside his own affairs—he was, after all, moments from death—-in order to intercede on behalf of God’s people.

His heart matched God’s own heart.

He had 20/20 vision instead of cataracts of selfishness marring his perspective.

Selfishness takes up time and takes up space; it muscles out God and keeps us from loving others.

Today, let’s lay it down.

In the moments we’re tempted to focus our vision on our own need, our own circumstances, our own weariness, may we deliberately choose to prayerfully reach out to and lift up another.

Because it’s in our moments of deepest need that we can be most sensitive, most compassionate, most prayerfully passionate on behalf of others.

prayerlovingothers

Originally published 3/18/2015

When Your Toddler Knows Your First Name

1 john 3-1

“James”

“Daddy.”

“James on the phone.”

“Yes, Daddy is on the phone.”

“James.”

This is the back-and-forth conversation my two-year-old son and I have been having.

Over the summer, he mysteriously figured out his dad’s first name and started using it.  We’re not exactly sure how this happened.  He just started saying, “James” out of the blue.  We didn’t teach it to him.

So, for about two weeks it became:

“James on the phone.”

“James at work.”

It was “James” this and “James” that.

I kept correcting him and it took him time to understand that “Daddy” and “James” are just two names for the same person.  But while lots of people might call him “James” only a few people get to call him “Daddy.”

And, two-year-old children don’t get to call their dads by their first names.

Besides that, “Daddy” is the personal name, the relational name.  It’s not just about what is technically on the birth certificate or what anyone can call him whether they are stranger or friend.

“Daddy” shows the privilege of intimacy, position and belonging.

And this matters, not just when we’re talking about family, but when we’re talking to God.

Why would my son choose “James” when he has the privilege of position, the right to call him “Dad?”

Why would we choose distance when God offers us His very presence?

Sometimes, that’s what we do, though.

It can creep up on us so stealthily. One morning we realize we’ve been calling God by formal names and keeping the conversations “all business” instead of making it personal.

Perhaps we’re like Israel out in the wilderness, heading out of Egypt after the grand and glorious displays of God’s might.

Usually, we say that God brought them out of Egypt so He could take them to the Promised Land.

But that wasn’t God’s first intention for His people.  Instead, He took them to Mount Sinai to meet with them.

As John Bevere writes in Drawing Near:

Remember God’s words to Pharaoh, through Moses, “”let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert” Ex. 7:16 NIV). It was not “Let my people go, so they can inherit a land” (p. 4).

But at the foot of that holy mountain, they knew their sin stood in the way.  They could never survive the presence of the Holy God, so they told Moses,

Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say, and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’ (Deut. 5:27 ESV).

Instead of drawing near themselves, they sent in a go-between, an intermediary. Moses could hear from God and tell them about it later.

If only they’d been prepared for His presence. If only their hearts were pure and made ready.

Instead, God said,

“Return to your tents” (Deut. 5:30 ESV).

John Bevere says:

How God’s heart must have broke, and how heavy was Moses’ heart as he returned….God brought them out of Egypt for one reason—to bring them to Himself—and they missed it” (p. 75)

I don’t want to miss it!  When God brings us to Himself, may we be ready to go up, not sent back down to tents far from His presence.

Or maybe we’re like Martha in the New Testament, who allowed busyness, stress, and too many distractions from too many worries keep her from the feet of Christ?

Maybe it’s that we fear what God will ask of us.  Like the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10, we think we want to be with Jesus, but then He asks us to give up position or power or possessions or habits or relationships or plans and dreams.  And the choice is harder; we want God, but do we want Him more than everything else?

Or perhaps it’s the slow drift, drift, drift of our hearts, worn down by the daily grind, where time with Him is duty and not delight.

Or maybe our hearts are tender and bruised with disappointment because even though we know God is good, and even though we know He’ll never leave us, we’re hurt.  Prayers weren’t answered the way we hoped.  Expectations weren’t met.  Dreams didn’t work out.  Healing didn’t come.

So, we cradle our hearts with a wall of self-protection, not just from others—from God Himself.

But here’s what Scripture promises:

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (1 John 3:1 ESV).

We are His children.  His beloved.

That means relationship.  It means repenting. It means talking it out when we’re hurt. It means choosing to trust.  It means drawing near and knocking down walls.

And He allows us, invites us even, to draw near, to call Him “Father,” to call Him “Dad.”

 

Being Still is only the first step

psalm 46 NASB

I found her that day with untied tap shoes on her feet and eyes red from crying.

We zipped into the ballet studio, one mom and three girls (plus one baby boy) on a mission.

Three daughters in four back-to-back and sometimes overlapping dance classes during observation week.  This means instead of huddling in my minivan or zooming around town doing errands in between classes, I sat in the corner of the dance class taking pictures.

We all piled into my youngest daughter’s class except for my tap-dancing girl who left to change into her tap-tap-tappy shoes.  I watched the clock carefully and slipped out just in time to check on her before her tap class began.

She wiped her eyes and explained, “I couldn’t get the ribbons on my shoes tied and I didn’t have anyone to help me….”

I tied the ribbons swiftly and then smoothed down her hair with my hand.  Then I said it so she knew it wasn’t just about shoes anymore:

You didn’t trust me to come help you.  I knew you’d need help and I came just in time.

She’d been frantic and upset and all along I had a plan for her rescue and I was right on time, not a second too late.

So, all her fretting had been unnecessary drama.

And when is fretting not?

For months, I’ve dreaded this schedule and the packed-in craziness of our agenda of these few weeks.  I feared the stress—-as in, tearful eyes, breathless suffocation just thinking about it.

But here we are.  We’re making it.  God is gracious.

Those mornings I feared how it could possibly work out, the details of each day that I just couldn’t figure out in advance, the way my to-do lists exploded at the start of each day…it’s all been in God’s hands.

When I felt that familiar strangulation of fear, I heard a still and small reminder: Don’t worry about that.  Just think about today.

So I did.

I focused just on today.

And God has been bringing me the perfect rescues at the perfect moments all along, despite all my worrying and fretting that it’d all fall apart.

Why?

Because I’m learning to trust Him.

I trust Him to bring me the help I need exactly when I need it.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

So often, we read that familiar Psalm—-BE STILL and know—and we focus on the stillness (Psalm 46:10).

Yes, stop with the flustered activity, the desperate attempts to fix things on our own, the frantic search for help from everyone except the only One who can truly save….

“Cease striving” it says in the NASB.

So, for a moment we pause.

Here’s what I’ve been learning—“Being still” is not enough. It simply tells me what not to do.

Don’t rush around in frantic activity.
Don’t try to do everything on your own.
Don’t come up with your on fixes and try to force your own solutions.
Don’t keep a white-knuckled grip of control on your circumstances.
Don’t rehash regrets or dwell on hypothetical problems that haven’t even happened yet.

I can’t forget, though, that after I’ve ceased that striving and calmed my heart, God tells me what I should be doing in the stillness.

The verse tells me to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 ESV).

Know Him.

Know He is God.

Know that He’s got this under control and I can rest because He cares for me.

He is I AM.  He isn’t just the God who was or the God who will be faithful.

He is here.  Now.  In this very moment, I rely on His presence.

So, like Moses standing there on a holy mountain before a Holy God, I pray that I may know Him:

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you (Exodus 33:13).

Because, God, in order to dwell in Your presence day after hectic day, I must be still and I must know.  I want to know You more, know You as I AM, know You as God present with me.  ~Amen~

Originally posted February 11, 2014