Advent 2015 (GLORIA)

gloria

Maybe you are following a daily or weekly Advent reading or maybe you’re not. This is a rule free zone. Either way, here are some good words. May they stir your heart as they have stirred mine many a times.

GLORIA IN PROFUNDIS

There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is spilt on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all-
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.

– Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Advent 2015

No, I didn’t finish my 31 days. And I hate bloggers who are flaky. I do that which I hate. But hey, I’m not a blogger. I’m just sharing my thoughts and while I would love to be more consistent, life happens. To be honest, I planned poorly and should have written my posts much earlier, giving myself time to sit, think, read, and listen to others. I shared all my thoughts and needed to sit for more. The world still turns.

Today is the first day of advent!! Are you into advent? As I grow to appreciate liturgy and the magic found within (seemingly) mundane repetition, I’ve looked forward to it with growing appreciation each year. Earlier this afternoon I may have even looked at an ancient church calendar to hang on our wall . . .

Not only have I grown in an appreciation for Advent, I have grown in recognizing a need for it. We’re sick and broken and needy. We aren’t getting better, Jesus is just getting bigger. I’m over trying hard. I’m just ready to admit I can’t. I’m hungry for grace.

I keep thinking of these words,

… the weary world rejoices

Life is heavy. I’m not even 25. I’ve lived a relatively sheltered life. Never missed a meal. Never wondered where I was going to sleep for the night. A beautiful childhood and wonderful people. And yet, even I have felt that the world is weary. I’m weary. Because our souls are hungry.

That’s why Advent is so sweet. I’ll be sharing (or at least trying to) what I’m reading. Happy Advent.

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.