day 17 {people}

people

I have heard it said that there are only two purposes in relationship. The first is for you yourself to “become more like Christ.” The second being for you to encourage the other party, “to become more like Christ.”

While I don’t see either option being a bad option by any means, I’m just not sure that these should be the driving force of our relationships. These two options seem more like a stringing together of the “one another” verses, a reduction of commands made into a neat little formula, instead of a living and breathing ecosystem. This kind of thinking demonstrates a huge split between the secular and the sacred. This kind of thinking sees heaven and earth as entirely separate. Not to mention, this kind of thinking (whether or not it intends to) negates the power of the Spirit and instead sees man as the primary force in a relationship.

This friendship formula is man-centered, seeing our sanctification  (the process of becoming more like Christ) as a primary focus of the Christian’s life. Man’s purpose is not seen in the creational good, the creation mandate given to Adam and Eve in the early chapters of Genesis. Man’s purpose is seen in getting better than the broken world and getting out of the broken world.

I have seen this friendship formula in action. Actually, let’s be real. I’ve lived out this friendship formula in action. While the radius is wide, the penetration is shallow. In seeking relationship for the sole purpose of sanctification, you miss the relationship. People are not loved holistically; mind, body, and soul. People are loved simplistically, solely as souls that need work. Living, breathing people with complex stories . . . simply become our personal projects. We pry instead of listen. We analyze instead of enjoying. We manage instead of praying.

In an attempt to live in the sacred as much as possible and disengage from the secular as much as possible, we have twisted the gift of friendship. We see music, movies, social media, and art not as neutral things to be enjoyed but as things that need to be redeemed. And we see friendship (aka “fellowship”) no differently.

A few years ago, a mutual friend handed out pieces of paper for us to tape near our mirrors. The paper listed each part of our face that we might apply makeup to and a corresponding verse. For example, “The Eyes: Our eyes look to the Lord our God, To You I lift up my eyes – Psalm 123:1” Makeup was too earthy and it needed our help. We needed to “Christian-ize” it. Here in lies the problem with said friendship formula. We’re trying to Christian-ize what is already good.

God is friendship. He lives in perfect fellowship with His Son and Spirit. He walked in the garden with His creation and He Himself declared that it was not good for man to be alone. We don’t seek the creational good that can be found between two friends, whether they are Christians or not. We don’t see the beauty in the breaking of bread, laughter over good drinks, the peace that comes with crying tears on a strong shoulder. We see projects. We see to-do lists.

Heaven is separated from earth when we see our friends, our family, and our coworkers simply as opportunities. But we can bring the reality of heaven to earth when we love others simply because they are people. Imagio Dei. We can reconcile the great divide we have created between the secular and the sacred when we simply enjoy the gift of relationship. When we simply commune as we were made to do.

I’m not here to say that sanctification doesn’t matter. That discipleship doesn’t matter. That hard questions and confrontation don’t have their place. But I am here to say that they are not our purpose. They are byproducts of time, sweat, tears, laughing, loss, and gain. The people who know me and love me best are not the people that have asked me personal questions. They are not the people to whom I have aired my dirty laundry. They are the people I have watched movies with. Shopped with. Eaten with. Laughed with and cried with. They aren’t the people who have tried so very hard to “get to know me.” They are the people who just be. The personal questions and dirty laundry come out their own. In sweet time. Heaven meets earth in our relationships, in our friendships, when we enjoy it’s created intention. Sweet communion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

day 14 {numbers}

numbers

We had a friend who was studying medicine. In commuting between home and school, studying for midterms, and working to fill the gas tank, their week had little wiggle room (did I mention they were studying medicine?). They were having a hard time making it to a weekly small group and shared this struggle with others. Our friend was met with the pressure to “do the bare minimum” and simply get “a passing grade” so as to make it all fit. Once again, there was a split between “the secular and sacred.” School work took the back seat and churchy stuff took the wheel.

Now while I agree that it is wise to evaluate priorities and at times do “the bare minimum” for the sake of sanity, I’m not entirely sure it should be our mantra. Especially if it’s because we see sacred activities (church, Bible studies, fellowship) as more important than secular activities (education, studying, vocation).

If we see the material world as less important than the spiritual world, we neglect our purpose here on earth. One of those purposes being numbers . . science, facts, logic, puzzles, and all the molecules in between.

Hypothetically speaking, if I were to break my femur and need surgery, I would hope my surgeon didn’t half-ass his classes because he was taught that fellowship is more important than getting an “A”.  Chances are, I won’t see a surgeon who was taught this because most of the young men and women in our evangelical circles are being taught that ministry is the highest calling, not medicine. So, crisis averted (sorta).

Our concerns shouldn’t be solely focused on what the church needs, our concerns ought to be hugely related to what the world needs. We are to be a blessing to all nations. And the nations need good physicists, chemists, biologists, and engineers. Surgeons, optometrists and architects. We need men and women who stayed up all night cramming for their test and making flash cards for anatomy. We need men and women who can solve mind boggling equations and balance “the books” in their sleep. God designed us in such a way that we can all play a part in the creation mandate. Some of us will build sturdy houses and others will decorate beautiful houses. It’s all part of our place here on earth to create a holistic masterpiece. . . and that might mean you can’t squeeze in just “one more activity” for the sake of the church. Because we are concerned for the sake of people.

Those of us drawn to math and science have an opportunity to point to a God of order, of wisdom, and design. Of logic. How comforting to know that God has placed our earth in orbit. He isn’t flippant about creation. He didn’t just throw our planet into the mix. He is intentional and those of us drawn to the logical side of His universe can serve others through being intentional and orderly themselves. I don’t ever (in a million years) want to file my own taxes. But I do want someone else to file my taxes who is orderly and meticulous. In striving for truth, they are striving for goodness and beauty as well. It just shows itself in numbers instead of colors.

The secular/sacred split breeds both guilt and pride. Our friend above experienced the guilt that comes with daring to invest in something “earthly” but many of us indulge in the pride that comes with spiritual superiority, in disengaging from that which is “earthly” so we might pursue that which is “heavenly.”

But heaven isn’t separate from earth. The kingdom is here (and not yet). It is our job to bring the new earth to fruition while we eagerly await, not destruction but hope. To evoke love, joy, and peace through well made buildings, properly working sprinklers, balanced check books, well made speakers, and administered chemical reactions. Heaven meets earth everyday in the well working engine, the skillful scalpel and the faithful algebra teacher who patiently walked me through it’s treacherous wonderful truths. We can reconcile the reality of heaven and earth even with a calculator.

day 13 {food}

Processed with VSCOcam

If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him … the people who give you their food give you their heart – Caesar Chavez

There are few things earthy-er than food and it is easy to see food as simply a utilitarian substance. Remember when we discussed the secular and the sacred? With this kind of split thinking (which is hugely influenced by Plato and Greek culture) permeating the west, food, one of our most carnal desires, most certainly must be secular. No questions asked.

However, with hearts that look at creation as something good, with a vision of reform and renewal, even food can be an instrument of reconciliation. Of Eden. Food is just one more way for us to reflect the coming kingdom and our true purpose here on earth.

Whether it’s in the effort to put a beautiful tablescape together, the sweat of an honest and hardworking farmer, or the baker striving for beauty in their next creation, food matters. Whether you are the gardener, cook, pastry chef or the consumer, you have the opportunity to strive for goodness, truth, and beauty. Food is neccesarry to survival, that much is true. But do not be fooled into thinking food is simply a means of survival. Many things unseen can take place in the kitchen and around the table. Many things unseen within our soul. It isn’t a coincidence we affiliate certain flavors and smells with particular events or memories. Food matters.

This could easily become a rant on commercial farming and The Man. And as much as I rant on these things in the everyday life, I will spare you. I want to talk about the broad view, not so much the specifics. I want to talk about the skeleton and let you do the fleshing out. Truth is, not all of us have the funds to shop organic, the means to engage in local business, or the time to research. That is okay. Not everyone is going to be passionate about food and its origin. Not everyone pours over cookbooks for fun or is growing tomatoes in the backyard. That’s the beauty of God’s design, we’re all making our own art, whether that be in a bank or a classroom.

And yet, I do think as stewards of the earth, we ought to be at least somewhat educated as to where and how our food gets to our plate. It doesn’t need to be the hill you die on but as an image bearer, all of creation should bear significance. This extends to the food in the ground, the animals on the land and the hard working harvesters.

Like all things, this topic has the potential to become all consuming. Detrimental instead of helpful. If you are passionate about ethical trading, farming, or agriculture, let your passion be a blessing. If someone offers you a cup of coffee, don’t ask where the beans are from. If someone invites you to their home, graciously accept the work of their hands, even if all they did was open up a Costco bag. Snobbery and elitism isn’t the answer.

If you are passionate about food, whether that be outside the kitchen or inside the kitchen, let your passion be an instrument. Remember when we talked about vocation? Find the sweet spot where your passion lies in serving others, for this is where heaven meets earth. Maybe you can serve others by fighting for the legalization of raw milk in your state (some of you are rolling your eyes. Bear with me.) Maybe you can serve others through joining the Slow Food movement. Or maybe you simply love baking pies. Make the best pie you can. Love on others through your craft, striving for goodness, truth, and beauty. When it’s your kid’s birthday, make a great cake or support someone who likes to bake by purchasing their great cake. As truth seekers and beauty makers, we of all people should be able to see the significance in good wine. Hearty meals. Savory cheese and creamy desserts. Because we know it’s significance. We know it’s part of our humanity to cultivate creation and enjoy creation. The heart finds much joy in celebrating it’s purpose, even if that’s growing or eating good food.

PS the pic above is stolen from a very good cupcake recipe, found here

Here are some resources I have enjoyed and been blessed by,

Shauna Niequist  and her book Bread and Wine 

This book is a game changer, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle 

Jenny Rosenstrach and her blog, Dinner: A Love Story

The story of Sunday-Suppers (and their wicked style)

This solid cookbook, The Nourished Kitchen 

Realmilk.com (don’t laugh. Maybe I wouldn’t say “blessed by” but it’s important)

The book, Nourished Traditions 

And (sorry one more book), Death By Food Pyramid 

day 9, 10, 11 and 12?

tradition

Well, I’m behind. But I took up this challenge in the middle of a move and between packing/unpacking boxes, lugging my pregnant self around (think tomato on stilts) and spending hours on the phone with various customer service lines to initiate service and/or disconnect service, I fell behind. But today I’m back to discuss our next topic of reconciliation,

Tradition

Tradition has two tastes in my mouth. On one hand, tradition tastes like holidays and birthdays. It means the fire pit in the backyard. It means Christmas morning and cranberry sauce. Tradition is sweet. On the other hand, tradition (maybe tradition-al) tastes stodgy. Uptight and unbending. Formal. Boring. Maybe even lifeless. Tradition is mush.

Whether we are discussing tradition in the sweet way (eating red velvet cupcakes on your birthday) or the mushy way (going for a  daily jog), I believe tradition is vital.

Somewhere in the yearly, semi-yearly, weekly, and even daily rituals is where heaven and earth kiss. It’s where the magic happens. Sometimes we can clearly sense it. Other times we can hardly notice it. And yet, it is there all the same.

Whether it’s the same cup of coffee we have every morning or the turkey we only have on Thanksgiving, it’s magic. It’s easier to see the magic when it comes once a year. It’s much harder to spot the magic in our everyday routine. But do not be fooled, the magic that exists in the dance between heaven and earth, the blending between the spiritual and material, is there all the same. But I believe we often neglect the magic and instead focus our attention on one or the other, more often than not, just heaven. In removing ourselves from earthly concerns, I believe we actually have removed ourselves from the important concerns.

We (of all people) should celebrate tradition with the most joy. As trite as Christmas lights or birthday cake in a world gone wrong, may seem, they are the material reminders of that which is immaterial. We are artists and the earth is our canvas. As we pursue the spiritual world, we are not called to stop painting. We are called to paint even better.

This isn’t going to look the same for everyone and that is a good thing. How boring would it be if we all made the same art?  Not all of us are into decking the halls or baking cakes but all of us can institute little traditions. Engage your senses. Allow the smell of pine, the water wet on your toes, the sound of music, the birthday candles and the taste of your favorite desert linger. It is much easier to rush through the tradition and miss the magic. It is just as easy to disengage from tradition and ignore the magic.

I think this is especially true of everyday life. Some days just aren’t magical. Some days suck the life from our hearts. It would cause us much harm to ignore this harsh reality and pretend as though everyday were special. The everyday isn’t special. The morning routine, the rush to eat dinner, our ever growing to-do lists aren’t special. They aren’t like cranberry sauce and cocktails. They are like oatmeal and the gym. Toothpaste and freeways. They are the everyday.

And yet I think the magic of tradition can be found in these everyday things too. It might not be the same kind of magic we experience on our birthday. It may not feel like anything special is taking place. But they too are part of our art here on earth. They too are reminders of that which is true. Our humanity. Our earthyness.

The easy way out is to live as though none of this earthyness matters, to scoff at others who are knee deep in the everyday concerns. To separate yourself from the mess here on earth and instead strive after some “higher form of spirituality.” It’s much easier to read your books, engage with people who are like-minded and stay comfortable. But it’s the courageous artist who acknowledges his calling to engage in the material world and is faithful to seek the magic in tradition. In the holidays and the Mondays. In the wedding receptions and the office work.

I think tradition serves to remind us of that which matters, both the spiritual and the physical. Both the secular and the sacred. Both fighting poverty and taco eating. It’s easy to see the magic, when you’re in deep. It’s easier to feel the magic in special moments. It’s much harder to engage in the mundane and dare to look for something with meaning. Chances are, it’s there. It’s just much harder to find. Not all magic is special. Some magic is rather grey.

 

 

 

 

 

day 8 {home}

home 2

This post is a little tricky for me to write because, well, I think the idea of  a middle class white girl talking about “the home” is  somewhat nauseating. Between books on “Biblical womanhood” and Pinterest, I the think we may have done ourselves a disservice by unintentionally throwing potential out the window and replacing it with Stepford-itis. Not to mention, some of us don’t have homes. Some of us are renting rooms or crashing on couches and that is okay. I’m not here to advocate you get a ring and start decorating. I’m here to advocate the spirit of home and I believe this pertains to all of us, no matter our living situation.

Humans long for home, a place where they feel at rest. This rest isn’t necessarily physical (although it most certainly can be). I believe this rest is internal, a peace within. We crave shalom. 

I think we can find shadows of shalom still in our broken world and this is why a home cooked meal, movie and popcorn with the best of friends or curling up in a squishy chair are so appealing. It doesn’t have to be where you live. It’s where you feel at rest.

Ideally, we would all feel this way in our place of residence but it is not always so. I believe our longings for shalom reveal that home matters. Craving the internal rest, the quiet afternoons, the cozy blankets . . . it matters. It’s a window into our souls that we were made for something better than this world has to offer us. We were made for Eden. Are we not sons of Adam and daughters of Eve? Did time not begin in a garden brimming with hope?

Cultivating a home (whether you are man or woman) is part of our human nature AND part of our duty here on earth, to create a place where we ourselves and those around us feel at home.  Now, just like some of us are artists and some of us are lawyers, it is important to remember that this doesn’t look the same for everyone. Some of us don’t have homes, some of us travel around the world helping others build homes (literally). And yet we all crave home because we were designed for what was and what is to come. We were not made for death, poverty, hunger or strife.

Our homes matter because we have the opportunity to bring healing to a broken world, home being one of the loudest instruments at our disposal. Not everyone can identify with science or health or love for good literature (all instruments) but everyone can identify with home. A place of belonging. A place of refuge.

For those of us who do in fact have a home to call our own, it doesn’t begin with pretty things and good food. It begins with cultivating a place of shalom for your fellow dwellers and opening your doors to others on the outside . . .  for an hour, a weekend, or a year. Everyone’s home is going to look different, smell different and sound different. Some of us can’t wait to paint the interior and others of us could care less. Some of us thrive on trying a new recipe on friends and some of us thrive on popping open a box of Ritz crackers. Whether you are offering your fellow dwellers/visitors brownies from scratch or Doritos, the heart of shalom can be the same. We can strive to reflect Eden in our methodology. We can strive to create a home no matter what our resources may be. That is the beauty of hospitality.

Some of us may thrive on fluffing the throw pillows and lighting welcoming candles. Some of us may thrive on bringing a home cooked meal to the table and using cloth napkins. Just as anatomy-loving doctors are able serve others through their knowledge and care, homemakers are able to serve others through offering bits of shalom. Not everyone is going to be an author and not everyone is going to be a homemaker. But for those of you who have the opportunity, let it be said that you have been given a tremendous opportunity to bring healing to a broken world, to spread a little Eden and reflect the new world that is to come. A world of hope, love, and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

day 7 {education}

education

In my last post I shared my thoughts on vocation and just how far we have strayed from our true calling. Well, just as we have reduced vocation to simply making ends meet, I believe we too have reduced education to be a means to an end. That end being a job (and not our vocation).

We count credits, study to the test, and hope to “get into a good school” so we might land a solid job. Nothing is wrong with good schools or good jobs and unfortunantly, we often have to play according to the rules when it comes to GPA and SAT scores and yet, as partakers in the reconciliation process, we are called to something greater. We are called to a greater and fuller understanding. A brighter truth.

Over lunch a few years ago, I sat with a peer who told me with rolling eyes that, “education doesn’t matter in the light of eternity.” Not only had they bought into the lie our American culture tries to feed us, they had bought into the lie our American church tries to feed us. Once again, here was the great split, the division between the secular and the sacred. Education was viewed as earthly and “time sensitive.” It was simply a part of growing up. It was simply a necessity and it most certainly had nothing to do with Christianity because, “who needs physics in heaven?”

However we are part of the redemption story . . . we as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve are called to cultivate the earth and we as followers of Christ are to bring healing to a broken world.  Education isn’t a societal obligation to achieve a diploma. It’s a rich blessing. It’s a process. It’s a pursuit of our purpose here on earth, our sweet spot, if you will.

Education is not simply the time you spend in school. Education is a cultivation, a whetting of the appetite within to learn and observe. What used to be known as “discipline” is now known as “your major.” But discipline was a specific word with a specific trajectory; helping you find your place in helping the world, in becoming more human, more of who you were made to be in Eden, in paradise and in perfect harmony.

Education and vocation are not simply milestones that we reach at a certain age (Graduation, check. Promotion, check. Retirement, made it!) They are a lifelong journey of pushing into who we were made to be. Education ought to equip us with the tools so we might build better cities, grow better food, create beauty, solve problems, understand the ecosystem and execute justice.

My lunch date didn’t see the good of society, of the world or of creation, as part of our mission. Education was just another “earthly” activity. I would beg to differ. I believe education can be a lifelong journey and the tool that aids us in our mission so we might live fully up to our potential as image bearers continuing the development of God’s created order and thus point to the hope that awaits us. The new earth. The restored.

day 6 {vocation}

vocation

Yesterday I shared my thoughts on our joyous duty as humans in a broken world; striving after healing as we carry out the creation mandate given to us as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.

But what the heck does that mean?

If we are reconciling the reality of heaven and the reality of life here on earth, what does that look like for our everyday lives? That’s where the theme for these 31 days, Reconcile, comes into play. I’m going to share my thoughts on a number of topics, not because I think I have the answers but because I have spent the past couple of years mulling this over and want to share what I have learned (and am still learning).

Today we are tackling the topic of  vocation.

For the sake of this post, I’m going to define vocation as, “one’s calling.” I’m also going to define the vague term “job” as “what one does to pay the bills.” You can agree or disagree, I just needed to give them definition before diving in.

Perhaps teaching biology is your passion and you get to teach biology everyday to high school freshman. In this instance, your vocation is your job but this is not always so. I’m not going to cite my source (because you have just as much access to Google as I do) but I have heard it said from multiple sources that anywhere from 65-70% of Americans hate their jobs.

There are multiple factors and variables attributing to this number and I am not equipped to lay them all out for you. However I do believe that a big contributing  factor to such an unhappy number is the lost vocation. I think it is common to reduce life’s work to that which pays the bills. Please note that paying your bills is a good thing and we are called as stewards to manage and budget this very real part of our lives. This is not to be neglected so we might “follow our dreams.”

AND YET. Our dreams do matter. While they might be secondary to taking care of our families and filling our bellies, I don’t believe they are any less important. In fact I believe they are pivotal to both the reconciliation of heaven and earth and our very humanity.

God has built us each in a unique way so that we might partake in His masterpiece here on earth. Some of us thrive on numbers and statistics while some of us may thrive on running or sculpting. This is not an accident nor is it by chance. This is a very real part of our humanity and while the reality of mortgages and empty gas tanks are our responsibility, this part of ourselves is not to be ignored. In fact it is to be cultivated.

I believe that part of reconciling heaven and earth, part of bringing healing to a broken world, is tapping into your dreams and aspirations and that which makes you come alive. Is is there we find the sweet spot.

“What is the sweet spot?” you might ask. Both Eddie Wadsworth of Life in Grace and Ken Robinson, author of The Element, say it best. Your sweet spot, your vocation, your calling, your purpose here on earth (geez that’s a big statement) can be found when your desires/talents/gifts intersect with people’s needs.

One of my all time favorite examples of this phenomenon can be found in the movie, Stranger than Fiction. Character Ana Pascal attends Harvard Law. During late night study sessions with fellow students, she bakes and serves delicious treats. Everyone looks forward to her creations, the study sessions grow as a result and the law students survive the grueling nights with passing grades. Except for Ana. Ana was spending the study time making her guests feel welcome and keeping their bellies full. She had found her sweet spot (no pun intended) and it was not practicing law. It was loving on others through baked goods. As simple and trite as it might sound in our lofty world, she had found her vocation. Dropping out of law school she opened her own bakery where the doors were always open and people’s days were made better one chocolate chip cookie at a time.

Silly? Seemingly. Trivial? No. Ana tapped into her passions and found where her gift intersected with people’s needs. A fictional character she may be and yet, I can tell you, that the Ana Pascal’s of the real world are not the 70% who hate their job. They too are the tired and hard working but they are also the happy and joyful. They are the 30% finding fulfillment in doing what they love and loving others along the way. They are bringing healing to a broken world through their vocation.

I believe we have completely lost this idea of vocation and in so doing, lost the idea of one’s purpose. Our jobs are merely a way to pay rent and our dreams are impractical, not to be considered. Or, perhaps, those of us in the church are even told that our dreams are frivolous, that our dreams and passions and desires don’t matter on this side of heaven (unless of course it is your desire to preach, teach, or fold chairs). Instead we are encouraged to find a practical job that enables us with the resources and time to pour back into the church. Never is the good of  society considered and never are your dreams considered.

But I would call for something better. A bigger and brighter truth. I would call for a vision that sees our dreams and aspirations not as something to be ignored or to be put on hold but something to be considered and cultivated. I would call for a vision that sees our vocation as our purpose here on earth. We need politicians, artists, math teachers, pilots and doctors. We need architects and musicians and writers. We needs moms and dads and cooks and baristas. Why? Because our purpose on earth is to participate in God’s renewing ALL of creation . . . blue whales to blueberry muffins. Remember our joyous duty? To partake in God’s masterpiece here on earth . . . to strive for goodness, truth, and beauty in how we bandaged scraped knees and how we cut coupons . . .  in how we build buildings and how we change the oil in a car. . . in setting the Christmas table and in making a good meal.

Some of us need to stick with our everyday jobs, as mundane as they may be, for practicality sake. That is not bad. This is not a challenge to throw caution out the window . . . but this might be a challenge to throw fear out the window and consider how you might pursue your vocation. It might not be an overnight thing, it could take lots of time BUT it is part of your humanity to dig deep and find what makes you come alive, to find your vocation . . . the sweet intersection where your gifts meet the needs of others. This is where the salve for a wounded world lies and where our purpose as image bearers comes to life. Do not neglect your dreams.

Below are some of my favorite resources on this topic . . .

The Life in Grace Podcast (find it here along with her own resources and book recommendations in the show notes)

Ken Robinson’s, The Element

Emily P Freeman’s, A Million Little Ways and her blog