It has been almost an entire 2 years since I’ve even logged into this website.  I’ve thought about it here and there, from activity to activity, from meeting to meeting, during those few minutes between Netflix episodes.

We feel such shame when we are absent.  Been absent from the gym?  Shame.  What is it that keeps us from putting on the tennis shoes and getting on the treadmill?  Shame.  Embarrassment.  All the feels of failure to commit.

What is it that keeps us from responding to texts from that friend we let fall off our radar?  Shame.  Embarrassment over a failure to commit.

I’ve let my commitment here go.  And there is shame and embarrassment in returning.  I’ve made additional agreements with myself in regards to personal goals and endeavors that I’ve also let go.  And there is shame and embarrassment there, too (and I’m the only one who knows about them)!

Shame is a powerful tool.  It causes us to sink into further distance, further loathing, further inactivity, and additional absence. Tweet: Shame is a powerful tool.  It causes us to sink into further distance, further loathing, further inactivity, and additional absence. #theshameofabsence https://ctt.ac/1iYEc+What was a month between conversations with that friend becomes 2, 3 months, and then an entire year.  One busy week that interrupts our exercise routine easily becomes 3 years of gym payments and an increase in 3 pants sizes.  The more time that passes, the more shame and guilt pile on.  It’s like that pile of mail and papers that need to be filed on the counter.  The longer we let that pile grow, the harder it is to sit down and deal with it.  It’s a form of condemnation that makes goals, healthy practices, dreams, and communities die.

We cannot be or do anything under the self-condemnation of shame.Tweet: We cannot be or do anything under the self-condemnation of shame. #theshameofabsence https://ctt.ac/fbbNZ+ I mean, at least be or do anything good.

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree from Luke 13:6-9
6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

When we are being ruled by shame, we want to just cut it all down.  We want to strike it and start over.  We would rather go shopping for a new and larger wardrobe than put down the donut and squeeze into our yoga pants.  We want to light a match to the pile of mail instead of painstakingly deal with it.  We’d rather torch the tree than spend the time tending it.

Shame leads to rash decisions and conclusions.

Wisdom leads to researching brands of manure.

Shame leads to harsh endings.

Grace leads to dirty hands and sore knees, and another year of waiting for good fruit. Tweet: Shame leads to harsh endings. Grace leads to dirty hands and sore knees, and another year of waiting for good fruit. #theshameofabsence https://ctt.ac/Db3e5+

Shames entangles our hearts and actions, leaving us paralyzed in a cycle of absence.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

Let’s throw off the shame, the condemnation, the embarrassment that weighs us down.  We’ve got ditches to dig, manure to spread, and papers to file.  There is joy set before us.  I’m not quite sure what “joy” looks like for me or you.  But I really do think it’s there…if we show up.   I think it might resemble “having life to the full”.

Let’s dive into the potentially awkward conversations that force us to face our failure to follow-through.  Let’s get over ourselves and what people might think of us because we haven’t done that thing we said we were going to do.  Let’s just do it.

It will be hard.  It might get messy.  But let’s despise the shame and show it who’s boss.

No more absence.  No more putting things off.  No more easy outs.  No more burn piles.

No.  More.

I’m getting back to the blog today after an extended absence to share one of my family’s favorite traditions:  the Seder Meal.
Let me throw a little disclaimer out first:  This is a Seder Meal that has evolved over the years for our very busy, over-extended ministry-driven family.  In fact, this year, I wasn’t planning on even doing it.  But my kids seriously ask every year at Christmas, “Is this when we have a Seder Meal?”
We attended a church during our time at the Seminary that would host a Seder Meal for the whole congregation, and it was really a beautiful thing.  But, Lord have mercy, as a pastor’s wife, I can’t imagine adding another night at church or another thing for my husband and his staff to plan.  I have really come to appreciate the intimacy of this being a family tradition.  Historically, this meal happened in homes with family.  There is something special about honoring that element of the ritual.
So, even though our week has been packed with Easter preparations for church, a wedding and a funeral, and both vehicles in need of repair,  I decided we would squeeze in this little tradition.  And I am so glad I did.


WHAT IS IT?
Simply put, Seder is the Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of Passover.  It is a meal full of symbolism to remember how God delivered the Israelites from years of bondage and slavery as brick makers in Egypt.  For Jews, it is a meal that celebrates freedom and the hope of the Messiah.  For Christians, this meal recalls all that God had done to free His people and marks the meal that Jesus had with His disciples the night He was betrayed.  Another layer of symbolism is added for Christians as we see Scripture reveal that Jesus IS the Messiah, the long-awaited King, and the Lamb that was slain for freedom from our sins.  It is a meal of freedom, for freedom.  Isaiah 61:1-3

 

Here are the basic parts of the meal and their meaning:
• Beitsah (Hard boiled egg):  The egg symbolizes the desire for freedom from which hard labor gives birth. Galatians 5:1
• Karpas (Parsley or Boiled Potato): A symbol of springtime, to be placed in salt water, a sign of the tears that need to be shed before joy can be experienced.  Exodus 2: 23, Psalm 116:8, Revelation 7:17
• Charoseth:  A mixture of apples and walnuts resembles the mortar which the Israelites were forced to make without straw when they were slaves in Egypt.  Exodus 5
• Maror (Bitter herbs like the radish, some use horseradish): represents the bitterness of slavery.  Exodus 1:8-14
• Matzah (unleavened bread) aka: saltine crackers:  When the Israelites were told that they would be leaving Egypt, it was done in haste.  They were instructed to make bread without yeast, because there was no time for the bread to rise. Exodus 12:33-34, Exodus 13:3
• Zeroah (roasted meat):  Symbolizes the sacrifices offered in the tent or the temple for the forgiveness of sins.  The Israelites were also asked to sacrifice a lamb and eat it before leaving Egypt.  Exodus 12
• Wine:  I’ve found a variety of meanings for the wine over the years.  It is enjoyed to honor the Lord and recognize His blessings.  It resembles the first plague (Exodus 7) in which the Nile turned to blood and the last plague: the blood of the lamb that was spread on the doorposts by the Israelites so that death would pass over  them in the final plague on the Egyptians(Exodus 12). (Where we get the term “Passover” Meal).  And for Christians, it can represent the blood of Jesus on the cross.  Matthew 26:26-29


HOW?
Like I said, I wasn’t planning on doing the meal at all this year.  Some years, I’ve prepared for a whole week beforehand.  This year, I decided I would have the meal the morning of, as I was doing other shopping at the grocery store.  It can be as simple or complicated as you want.  I am going to share the condensed version that is time and budget friendly.  So first, here’s the shopping list (for a family of 6…):

• 1 bunch radishes
• 1 bunch parsley
• 6 Russet potatoes
• 2 carrots (I just bought a bag of carrot chips and used half)
• 2 stalks celery
• 1 onion
• 2 red delicious apples
• 1 small bag of chopped walnuts
• honey
• cinnamon
• dried spices (Basil, Thyme, Oregano, salt and pepper)
• 2 lbs lamb stew meat
• 4 cups beef or chicken broth
• 6 eggs (one for each person)
• sparkling non- alcoholic wine for the kids
• red wine for the adults
• cooking wine (I used an open bottle of one I received as a gift…it was apple pie wine…very odd by itself, but worked well with the lamb.  Therefore, I am convinced that the kind of wine doesn’t really matter.)

 


RECIPES:
Charoseth:  Core and dice the apples.  Add the package of walnuts.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Add about a 1/4 cup honey, or more to taste.  Stir and refridgerate until ready to eat.  Adding raisins is yummy if you’re into raisins.  (If you have leftovers, it’s great to add to pancake batter for yummy apple cinnamon pancakes for a Good Friday or Easter Saturday special breakfast.)
Lamb Stew:  When I got home from the store, I immediately started on the lamb.  Over the years, I’ve had trouble finding and cooking lamb.  We’ve done everything from a lamb shank that was incredibly hard to find and was so small that we ended up making hotdogs for everyone afterwards, to just roasting a chicken because I couldn’t find any lamb.  The lamb has always been tough to eat, so this year I tried something different and everyone agreed it was the best so far.  But don’t get caught up in the details…the goal here is to have roasted meat of some kind.
Because I was short on energy and time, I used the crockpot.  And the meat was so tender, I don’t think I will do it any other way.
In a slow cooker add:
• lamb stew meat (I lightly browned mine first in olive oil and minced garlic)
• carrots (again, mine were cut in chips)
• chopped celery
• 1/2 sliced onion
• 1 cup cooking wine
• 4 cups beef (for red wine) or chicken broth (for white wine)
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp basil
• 1/4 tsp oregano
• 1/4 tsp thyme
• salt and pepper to your liking
Cook on high setting for an hour and then add:
• peeled potatoes cut into large pieces
Cook for another 3-4 hours then add:
• A few stems of the parsley
(If you’ve got time, and didn’t grocery shop the morning of, you can do all this on a low setting for 6-8 hours and have even more tender lamb.)
Saltwater:  It’s easy to forget this element of the dinner.  Just put salt and water in the microwave, stirred until the salt dissolves.    You can do individual little bowls for everyone (because everything ends up being dipped in the saltwater and that’s kind of a germ-y thing with 4 kids.)  Or, just put one bowl of salt water on the table.


THE TABLE and THE RITUAL:
We’ve done this different over the years, as well.  We’ve plated all the parts of the meal for each person (in a circle) and then explained what each item represented.  Some years have been very formal with candles lit to represent Christ as a light in the darkness.  Other years, we’ve also just set everything on the table (family style) and as we pass stuff around, explain what each dish resembles.  At times, we’ve read the Scriptures listed above with each element of the dinner.
Last night, we were limited on time because I had to be at church in the evening, so we just all started digging in and we asked the kids to remind us what each part of the meal represented.  (Which was pretty cool to see what they remembered from past years).
I hope sharing this makes your own Seder Meal a less-burdensome endeavor.  There is something meaningful and fantastic about taking time, especially out of possibly the busiest week on earth for us, to remember the rich symbolism and history of our faith.  In a very real and tangible way, we can see and taste our God as Rescuer and Redeemer.  We connect ourselves with the Israelites and acknowledge in a very real way that the God of Exodus and Numbers is the same God of today.  We get wrapped up in the story of redemption.  The tradition is not man-made, but God-given.  He told Moses to instruct the people to celebrate Passover and to remember that He is the God who saves.   God is good to give us such a gift.

My 3-yr old has recently taken to a new habit.  Every once in a while, out of nowhere he screams.  (I think out of pure boredom.)  Not a long extended blood curdling scream, but rather a short, interrupting shout…and it scares the living daylights out of me.

I’m not terrified in a creepy grotesque Halloween way.  I get scared in the startling ‘my heart just stopped’ kind of way.  It’s like having a clown hiding behind every cabinet door, jumping out and shouting everytime you go for the box of cereal or a bag of chips.  You think you could just stay out of the kitchen and avoid the prank, but then you go to the bathroom and he’s behind the shower curtain, and you pee your pants.  There’s no winning.  There’s no way to prepare the body for the next heart attack.

It makes me angry…because there’s no reason or rhyme to his madness.

I’ve also been scared by another shocking habit.  A habit of our society: sex trafficking.  I’ve been diving into research, statistics, and documentaries. I’ve been getting to personally know mothers whose daughters have been kidnapped and forced into the trade.  I’ve been meeting with and learning from those who have devoted their lives to raising awareness, to education, to rescue, and to caring for victims.  And it’s shocking.  And it’s scary.  And it makes me angry…because there is a reason and rhyme to the maddness and we’ve lost control of the situation.

These things are relatively easy to talk about.  It’s easy to get passionate about daily mom woes or the injustices we see in our society today.  They are easy to mention.  They are easy to write about in a blog on a Tuesday morning.

But, there’s another scary thing I’ve recently been experiencing.

While I’ve been throwing myself into fighting injustice, making Halloween costumes, and yelling at my 3-yr old to stop screaming, (note the irony), I’ve been casually ignoring a very silent and sneaky clown in my closet.

I’ve been slowly drifting out of the things with which God draws me to Himself.  I haven’t been praying.  I haven’t been reading His Word.  I haven’t been doing the unique activities I’ve realized over the years keep me rooted and grounded in Him:  like writing, like singing, like creating.  I’ve been neglecting all these things…not willfully, but rather very unknowingly.  And it’s scary.  And it makes me angry…because there seems to be no rhyme or reason and it seems as though I’ve lost control of the situation and remembering who God created me to be.

I’ve been slowly retreating into a grumpy, drained, and taxed person.  My desire to write has vanished.  My desire to sing: gone.  The desire I once owned to be creative can’t be found.

That’s not to say I haven’t written a few things here and there, or haven’t sung in church, or didn’t make the kids’ costumes this year.  But it was out of obligation, not joy.  It’s not to say that fighting injustice and rallying the troops isn’t fulfilling work, but it’s not the stuff that rejuvinates me, that personally fills my empty cup.  And it’s scary.  And it makes me angry.

1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

I’ve always read that verse and thought of the MGM lion at the beginning of movies with the huge roar…making itself known.  I’ve always understood that he prowls and lurks, but I think I’ve assumed that when he’s about to attack, he roars loudly, revealing himself.  I think I’ve unknowlingly believed a lie– one that I would refute on paper, but when living out life,

I’ve acted as though I believe the devil only sneaks around in jungles, not alongside battles for freedom or underneath church pews.Tweet: I've acted as though I believe the devil only sneaks around in jungles not alongside battles for freedom or underneath church pews. #scary

Today, I read it differently.  I hear that roar as a faint grumble, snarling with a fierce desire to overcome, but with eerily little to no sound.  He prowls.  He does lurk.  But, he’s also got the time to quietly wait it out.  He has stamina to linger while my fatigue and weariness take over, ultimately providing him an easy and satisfying meal.

Just like the trafficker, the devil shows no prejudice, cares little for the setting, and has all the time in the world to casually lure his prey.Tweet: Like the trafficker,the devil shows no prejudice,cares little 4 the setting, &has all the time in the world 2 casually lure his prey. #scary

While I’ve been busy studying on facts and gathering stories, working on websites and organizational structure, and being appalled by the level of sin in this world, I’ve lacked sober-mindedness and watchfulness for my own soul.

This stuff isn’t so easy to write about:

That time the pastor’s wife stopped praying and reading her bible.  That time she seemed grumpy and angry all the time, or at best simply absent from the converstaion. That time she had to force herself to get out of bed and go to church.

That time the author, while in the midst of releasing her book, stopped caring if anyone would even read it.  That time she spoke with publishers about new projects, but secretly felt she never wanted to write again.

That time the girl got up on stage and sang that worship song.  That time when she sang like she was all in, but in reality, she was questioning all of life with every note.

This is the truly, truly scary stuff.  When Satan attacks us with a weighty and heavy pressure, stripping away all that brings joy and intimacy with God.  He slowly presses down on our souls, squeezing out the joy, squashing out the life.

He is crafty in getting us to a place of silence.  He lures us into perfunctory expressions and words, uses our outward activities as distractions.  He keeps us from engaging with the condition of our souls and with others.  All while the world watches us and believes that what they are seeing  on the outside is a reflection of the inside.  You know he’s significantly worked us over when we become aware of our soul’s emptiness, but lack the desire or will to change it.  We often know the steps back to spiritual health and wellness, but have not the motivation nor sense of urgency to take action.

Like human trafficking and sexual exploitation, the first step in solving the problem is awareness.  “How can we fix it, if we don’t know it’s broken?”  Light has to be shed on a dark and scary facet of our world, in order for enough people to get a little angry about it, to sense the urgency, and to be motivated to work towards change.  While it’s not fun or comfortable to talk about children being sold for sex or about my own current struggles, having open conversation is necessary for ultimate healing and restoration.

So it’s scary.  All of it.  And it’s finally making me angry.  All of it.

Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Well, Jesus…seek me and save me.  I’m angry and tired and in need of rescue from the pit I seem to have fallen in.  Seek out those enslaved in a world that devalues them and treats them as a commodity.  Those who have been forgotten and lost.  Have mercy on them and save them, Jesus.  And, while you’re at it, seek out my 3-yr old.  He needs some saving…because obviously, he’s lost his mind.

I recently saw a bumper sticker that made me laugh out loud.

images

Genius.

Yes, I don’t run.  I have hard time with it.  I like the idea of running…the cool shoes, the fancy workout clothes, the amazing body that probably comes with it, and the sticker you can put on the back of your car announcing the courageous distances you have conquered.

But I don’t run.  I have a hard time with it.  I have some pretty decent flip-flops and a new shirt that says, “namaste in bed.”  I am slowly beginning to accept the extra 15 lb. around my middle and now I can have a sticker on my car…0.0…and proud.

I am realizing this morning, that I also don’t like to run spiritual races.  I have a hard time with it.

This morning’s verse hit a nerve in my soul, like most morning verses these days:

Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

run

Bleh.  Run.  With endurance.

“With endurance” implies that the race will necessitate endurance.  Which means I probably will have a hard time with it.  This is not a promise for an easy, uplifting Sunday jog.  We are promised vigorous races that we have to “endure”.

Again.  Bleh.

My current house buying experience is asking me to endure changes, instability, lots of waiting, and unending unknowns.  As soon I think I see the finish line ahead of me, I realize I’m only entering a hillside and my vision has been deceived.  As the horizon line swells, the optical illusion is revealed and I watch the finish line disappear behind the mountain.  This race has tricked me, pricked me, and left me exhausted, barely able to catch my breath.

Do you remember the first time your mom or dad stood in the swimming pool and asked you, a trusting child, to jump off the edge into their arms?

As a mom, I now realize what was really happening in that water.  Often, my parent, or older sibling, slowly stepped back forcing me to swim further and longer than I ever expected.  And usually, I ended up a little upset, even if I just doggie-paddled half the length of the pool.

This is me and God right now.  I jumped.  He’s backing up.  And I’m finding my water-legs.  And I’m a little ticked off that now I’ve no option but to learn to swim.  I feel like the whole world is watching, (though I know this is the farthest thing from the truth).  And I feel like God is playing some kind of mean prank…just for laughs.

This season of “homelessness”, living with another family of 6, (two of which are toddlers who have made it their passion to NOT share and to tattle-tale on each other)…this season of multiple closing dates that come and go, all while storing our stuff in 4 places across the city…this season of school supply lists and uniform orders that have no place to be stored except for the front passenger’s seat of my car…this season of suitcases and the same two outfits for over 3 weeks now…this season has tossed me into the race without water, into the pool without a floaty.

I don’t run.  I have hard time with it.

But last night, the couple who has been so generous with us, sharing their home with us, “crazies”, sat down across from us and shared much more.  They shared encouragement from God’s word.  They talked through the decisions that lay before us.  They gave perspective, hope, and most precious of all, witness to God’s faithfulness and sovereignty.

Today’s verse hit a nerve in my soul.

I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, and therefore, I can lay aside all my weight and all my fear and all the doubts that are entangling me.  I am not alone.  And now, the word “endurance” doesn’t stick out and prick my heart quite as much.  It’s a little two letter-word that now catches my eye: “us“.

Let “us” run with endurance.  I don’t run.  I have a hard time with it.  But my wobbly legs and flailing arms are being supported and encouraged and I don’t feel alone.  We run.  We don’t have to have as hard a time with it.

And God stands at the finish line, encouraging me to push through, telling me, “look, you’re doing it!” And, though I’m still a little miffed at the process, I realize I’m finding my legs, my breath, my stroke, and my pace.  I don’t know when I will reach the finish line.  But I do know that struggling along the way will only produce good things, if I allow it.

There are benefits to running.  Cool outfits, slimmer waistlines, and stickers that bear witness to the lengths that have been endured.  Spiritual running is no different.

romans 5

 (Romans 5:3-5)

 

 

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”(Psalm 46:10).

Whenever I’ve read this verse, (which is usually on a FB graphic or on a coffee mug), I imagine calm seas and peaceful breezes.  We often talk about this verse when we need to have rest, quiet places to sit and read the Bible.  All of that is fine.  God does provide those things sometimes.  But I think we’ve got a false impression of what it means to “be still.”

This week I’ve been packing our house.  I’ve been trying to plan a 10-yr old’s birthday party.  I’ve been juggling house inspectors, repair men, a 3-yr old’s nap, and just hoping to be showered in time for my evening commitments.   I’ve been trying to understand inspection reports and book study questions, and applying the meaning of both to the decisions I’ve got to make for my life.  I’ve driven to and from a city over 200 miles away in one day, with plans to repeat that trip two more times before move day.  And I’ve also been dreaming.  And talking.  And doing.

Life hasn’t been still…in the slightest definition of the word.

In fact, the picture that comes to mind is the tornado scene in the Wizard of Oz.  There I am, like Dorothy, grasping tightly to my bed, watching houses and a poop-emoji-bithday-cake fly past the window.  I see boxes and bubble wrap topple and spin through the air.  The A/C guy and sprinkler repair man wave at me as they whiz by and toss the bill into my lap.  And then the buyers for our house ride by on their bike and cackle through the window, “I’ll get you, my pretty.” (yes, there is a story there).

I think when we read, “Be still and know that I am God…”, we imagine finally landing in a magical land full of color and singing and little people who just want to give us oversized lolly-pops and cheer at our arrival.

But that’s not the way life works.

Being still and knowing that God is GOD is like sitting in the spinning airborne house without fear.Tweet: Being still and knowing that God is GOD is like sitting in a spinning airborne house without fear. #BeStillAndKNOW

Being still is leaning against the bed and watching in amazement as God does all the work outside the window.  The house is still going to shake.  There might still be moments when the mayhem induces dizziness and nausea.  But in that sepia-colored movie scene, Dorothy sits still as the world spins outside the door.

We are told to be still for one purpose only:  To know that God is GOD.Tweet: We are told to be still for one purpose only.  To know that God is GOD. #BeStillAndKNOW

He doesn’t tell us to be still so that we can rest.  He doesn’t tell us to be still so that we can have a quiet cup of coffee.  He doesn’t tell us to be still so that we can enjoy comfort and earthly stability.  He wants us to know that He is God.

And when God shows up, He usually comes in big ways…like burning bushes and trembling ground, crazy whirlwinds of activity and madness.  He comes with strength and fury.  His Spirit violently blows through communities toppling over idols and uniting hearts to be on His mission.  He kicks up the dirt and moves families out of their homes to be closer to those with whom He is asking to do big things.  He rattles our hearts with meaningfully deep questions and spurs us into actually engaging with the world around us.  That’s not representative of a peaceful river scene on a Christian coffee mug.  It’s not easy.  It’s not comfortable.  It’s not still.

But He tells us to be still enough to look.

He asks us to identify Him in the movement outside our windows, to watch, and KNOW.Tweet: He asks us to identify Him in the movement outside our windows, to watch, and KNOW. #BeStillAndKNOW

He is busy out there.  He is busy exalting Himself among the nations, exalting Himself over all the earth.  That isn’t accomplished by Him being still or for life’s schedule to be calm and serene.

If He wants the earth to know Him, the world is going to get shook up a little.Tweet: If He wants the earth to know Him, the world is going to get shook up a little. #BeStillAndKNOW

Today, I might dare to step outside the spinning house, hold onto the front door posts, and lean into the twister…lean into what He’s got going on out there.  If I gain enough courage, I might stick my chin into the wind and let the fierce storm tangle my hair and wet my eyes.  I might, just might, embrace the howl of His mysterious work as it whips with sting across my face.  Will you come with me?

Let’s get to KNOW Him.