We bought a Christmas Tree.

In the beginning God created it and gave the tree to us for Christmas.  It was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of it. And the Spirit of God was hovering over me as I set out to add the lights:

First, the lights from last year didn’t all survive.  Of the strands that remained, a few of the bulbs were no longer working, but not enough to make a dramatic effect.  So I began weaving the green wires in and out of the branches.

About 1/4 of the way up, I was out of lights.

To the store…

Once home, I opened a fresh new box of 300-count lights, only to realize that the plethora of lights were packed into a mere number of feet.  Three green wires were tightly braided together to form an extremely dense cluster of lights.  Fearing a return to the store, I untwisted and manipulated the 300.  I tucked and stretched.  I stepped back to view.  Nope.  No way.  No how.  The center of the newly donned tree shone as bright as a burning apartment building, while the lower branches twinkled like stars.  I untucked and unstretched.  I twisted and manipulated.  There was no way these lights were getting back into the box.  If only they responded like my son’s tummy when I tell him to “suck it in” to button his pants.

I had to forget the tree for a minute…so I moved on to a new room and found a nice ledge to softly drape my now contorted strand of new Christmas lights.  It was pretty.  Whew.

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And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.

With morning came another trip to the store after dropping the kids off to school.  Promises were made to have the tree ready for decoration when they returned.  Three boxes of 150 lights…double checked…no clusters of lights.

When school was out, next to the tree I opened and untied the first bundle of 3.  I wove under and over, forward and back.  Lots of twinkling sparkles.  Beautiful.  The first box was a success.  I opened and unwrapped the second and went to connect it to the previous strand.  NO!!! No outlet.  I didn’t buy the lights that connect one strand to the next.

I am NOT taking these lights off,” I said to myself.  I continued with the new box, sneaking the cord to the original source of energy down the trunk of the tree.  With what remained, I placed the rest of the lights between arms and fingers of branches.  It wasn’t too noticeable.  Disaster averted.  Onto box three.

I turned to reach for it when I saw that my little helpers had already broken the seal…

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Sigh..now to untangle the third strand of lights.

I draped the lights over one child and asked them to follow carefully behind me as we circled the tree with the last set of lights.  Again, I threaded the plug down to the outlet first, then climbed the step ladder to start sprucing up the last top third of the tree.  Half-way around the whole tree went dark.

And there was evening, and there was morning, the third day.

Back to the floor to find my chaotic daisy chain of plugs and wires.  Unplugging and switching order and figuring out which lights or line of lights were the culprit.  The section of last year’s lights were to blame.  I stripped the bottom rows of branches and pulled and stretched at the new lights to avoid starting the whole process over again.  It kind of worked.  I figured presents would cover up the bottom anyways…or maybe we’ll go heavy on the ornaments down there.

I headed back to the top untouched portion of the tree and the last bit of lights.  Round and round we went until every light was intentionally placed for the best overall effect.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  About a foot of the tree remained unlit.

I turned to the staircase, where our stockings were hanging, tied over stiff and scraggly garland and one short thin strand of about 50 lights.

With a huff, I forced each tiny bulb under each knot that held each of the 6 stockings.

Back to the ladder, where I just threw the flimsy 4 feet of lights at the peak of the tree, tucked in the ends a little and stepped back to look at the finished tree…FINALLY.

Not too bad, I thought.  But now it was entirely too late to start the reminiscing of each homemade ornament as we placed them on the tree.  Promises broken.

And there was evening, and there was morning, the fourth day.

Bright and early we woke to head off to school.  As the kids made their way down the stairs, I heard while back in my bedroom closet… “What happened to the lights on the tree?”

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sigh

And there was evening, and there was morning, the fifth day.

I avoided the tree for nearly half the day.  When it finally became apparent to me that I was letting an oversized stick have rule over my day and my joy, I went through the leftover Halloween candy.  Yep…didn’t touch that tree.  I ate green Twizzlers and a fun-size PayDay instead.

And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.

Surely, I can light this stupid Christmas tree in a week.  Today is the day.

After removing 3 strands of lights (I don’t even know where the 3rd came from),  buying one more box of 300 (the right kind that connects end to end, and adding an extension cord with multiple outlets, the tree is done.  It ain’t perfect, but it’s done.

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No lie, when I stepped back and took the final look, the “Alleluia Chorus” came on the Pandora Christmas station.  You can’t make that stuff up.  Now I’m just praying it doesn’t start an electrical fire between now and Christmas Day.

And on the seventh day I finished my tree that I had lit, and I rested on the seventh day from all the work that I had done. 

A whole week was spent unwiring and disconnecting to produce light in a dark place.  The analogy is not lost on me.  When I am dark in spirit, when my light seems to have fizzled out, it takes time to rewire my heart, to reconnect with the Spirit.  It doesn’t take time because the Spirit is slow to react or that I have to wait for the Father to reset His gaze upon me.  God never leaves me nor forsakes me.  Rather it is I, the twisted and confused amidst the prickly needles of this world.  Because I am slow, because I have to reset my eyes to Jesus, it takes time– intentional time in quiet and still places.  Again, I am reminded that this is Life After Rehab.  When the temptations of relapse make everything a blur, I, like the addict, have to step back and re-evaluate where I am vulnerable and weak.

Back in the series of posts: 7 steps for Life After Rehab, I addressed all of the things that I already have forgotten.  Step 7 was “Stay alert for signs of a relapse”…yeah, that would have been a good one to remember.  I haven’t been alert, as evidenced by buying the wrong kind of lights…twice.

I rewire with a heart of thankfulness and gratitude.  I reconnect with quiet time in the Word and in prayer, becoming comfortable to sit still and just listen to Him…scary as it may be.  I am relit by all of His blessings and all the ways He loves me.  I am recharged by His words of love and forgiveness for me.

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

2 Corinthians 4:15-17

Yesterday was game day: my daughter’s debut on the middle school basketball team.  As most sports enthusiasts know, girls’ 5th-grade basketball is where it’s at.  The NBA has nothin’ on the drama of a 20-minute scrimmage of tweens.  The NCAA can’t compare to the fast pace surprises and amazing display of developing talent.  It truly was a memorable evening.

The three mini-games played last night were purposeful.  Most of the young women participating were only just beginning to learn the rules of the sport.  So, the shortened matches were a chance to learn by doing.  (Sort of a toss the baby in the swimming pool approach)  Dribbling a ball down the court in practice alongside your teammate only requires one set of skills.  However, maintaining control of the ball while a ponytail covered in spirit ribbons whips you in the face is another.  Practicing lay-ups and working on jump shots provides some building blocks of the basics.  But, remembering which basket to aim at in the midst of screaming pre-teens and enthusiastic parents, now that’s an essential lesson all of its own.

A friend and I were laughing as we watched.  Some of the athleticism in unintentional plays was awkwardly unreal.  In the split-second of receiving the ball, the ability to chunk it towards the side wall as if it were a football (or a soggy sock) takes amazing muscle reflexes.  The agility required to scramble on the floor over jump ball after jump ball is not qualitative.  We both agreed that we probably couldn’t imitate was we saw, even if we tried.  And if we were to attempt such feats, there’s no way we’d last a full 20-minutes.

Thankfully, my daughter has wisdom beyond her years.  She was telling us before dinner the night before about this upcoming match.  With great excitement she said, “Ya’ll have to come!…Come watch me fail!  We are horrible!  There’s no way we will win, but you have to come!  It will be great!”  Oh, my sweet, sweet, girl.  I love that she held excitement in the sport, not in the hope of winning.  I love that she didn’t merely want to play the game, but moreover wanted us to enjoy simply watching her play it.

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“Come watch me fail…”  

Wow.  She has more self-confidence and security than most adults, including myself.  I don’t know if I’d invite any of y’all to be spectators at an event in which I was assuredly going to bounce my own ball into my own face.  She could have pouted.  She could have turned red in embarrassment.  She could have cried from the uncomfortableness of her awkwardness.  Her hope, however, was not placed in points or winning.  Her aim was to learn and enjoy the game.

Many of us are in situations or circumstances that likely require us to learn.  I’d argue that none of us is beyond spiritual growth, for sure.  2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  But how do we approach the opportunities to grow set before us?  How do we approach our transformation?  Do we listen to the Spirit to even discover chances to mature?

One tendency is to approach the court in fear.  There was another sweet girl on our team who avoided the ball at all cost.  I don’t think this was intentional, because she was happy to be there, she was glad to be a part of the team, and she had some occasional hustle.  However, at one moment in the game, as she stood next to a fellow teammate, the ball was passed in her general direction.  As it barreled towards her, she dodged to the side, in an instinctual response to avoid fast-flying objects.  The girl next to her reached as best she could to cover for this young lady’s evasiveness, but to no avail, the ball hit her elbow and bounced off.  Like a pinball machine the orange ball of danger was directly boomeranged back into the poor timid girl’s arms.  She caught the ball squarely in front of the chest, as coach had taught. But, as if it were an intense orb of fire, she immediately flung it in the air…into the arms of the opposing team.  Without hesitation, she turned her face to the coach and mouthed with distraught wrinkled brow, “I’m sorry!”

Our fear in situations can cause us to rely on instincts that are better reserved for real-life-danger.  Is it really necessary that I react to my children as if they were an attacker mugging me in the parking lot?  Is it really necessary that when confronted with conflict I hide in a back room as if an axe murderer was hunting me down in my house?  These reactions, while they seem completely rationale in the moment, only deprive us gaining wisdom and strength through trials.  Rather than soaking in and absorbing wisdom, we repel it like water on a duck.

We can also deflect the scary ball of responsibility onto others, but the lesson is for us.  It always ricochets back.  They have their own issues to deal with and their own path of maturity.  Only we can deal with our ‘stuff’.  Do we receive the hard things as opportunities of growth?  Do we instinctually fling them into the air?  Even if our acknowledgment isn’t as quick as the young girl’s, we will eventually feel regret that the opportunity to grow was lost.

Another tendency is to over-analyze the situation and our position.  There were some young athletes who really took to heart their defensive positions, that even after the ball had moved cross-court and was now in their team’s possession, they were still defending their territory.  They got so lost in their assigned job, that they missed the larger lesson and flow of the game.  There was no acknowledgment or rejoicing that their own team had the ball!

Man, I do this every stinkin’ day.  I get lost so easily in my tasks or seemingly designated position (usually self-appointed) that I miss the larger picture and the goal that Jesus is working me towards.  I can over-think what I should be doing and how I should be doing it, that I miss valuable play-time.  I forget that the purpose and plans to which God has called me are also ordained and controlled by him.  I can become very self-focused on what I feel is a valuable priority, that unknowingly I am left standing alone, in a very defensive position, with only my check-list in hand.  Meanwhile, the Spirit is yelling and pointing at me to get down court and help.  Your team has the ball!

Lastly, the tendency I observed in my daughter is the one that I hope to learn from.  This is the tendency to joyfully engage.  She was puzzled most of the time.  She kept up with the team and when the ball came to her, she dribbled a few times and then passed it off to someone who had a little more experience.  Over the course of the three-game evening, I saw great improvement in her understanding and her skills.  She never perfected her skills, nor did she ever fully understand what was swirling on around her.  She did, however, slowly transform from nervous and timid, hands glued to her sides, to quick feet with spurts of trying to steal the ball from the opponent.  I watched as she fervently sought out the coach and his instructions throughout play.  And, thankfully, she has a great coach, who is teaching the girls through encouragement and support.  He could have gotten worked up about the lack of points on the board, the number of turn-overs, or the amount of double-dribbles.  Instead, he guided each player only in a way that resulted in joyful participation.

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We left having lost, won, and tied at least once.  My daughter, though she expected to walk away a “failure”, left with new knowledge, confidence, and deeper joy.  I am thankful that she engaged the challenge of flying balls and twisted feet.  I pray that I learn from her to have the same joy and courage when it comes to potential failure.  I pray that I have the guts to invite others to come alongside me and witness my weakness and inability.  I pray that just like her I find my value in something other than winning, gaining points, or being impressive.  Instead, I hope to score steadfastness and maturity.  James 1:2-3 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  Every time a hurling challenge flies my direction, I can respond with thankfulness, knowing that the opportunity for joy and a strengthening of faith awaits…I just need to have open hands, elbows out, palms forward to receive it.

After the game, we went to a sandwich shop for dinner as requested by our star-player.  My jersey-wearing-girl ferociously downed her meal.  She said, “Man, playing basketball is a good workout!  I could eat two of these.”  When we also engage with the circumstances laid in front of us–when we don’t run or hide from the difficult and sometimes intimidating things to which God has called us–we get a good workout and a healthy appetite as well.  Our bodies and souls, while fatigued, become stronger and more steadfast.  Our desire for Jesus and His word intensifies.  We look less to unhealthy escapes or quick-fix wisdom because it just doesn’t sound good anymore.  We’d rather be fueled through these hard times by the healthy life-giving and recharging Word of God and His encouraging Spirit.

Thank you, God, for 5th-grade girls’ basketball.  Thank you for the awkwardness, the confusion, and the spirit to confront fear with the best of friends.  Thank you for my daughters invitation to watch her fail and for the safety she must feel in our relationship to take that risk.  Thank you for coaches that speak words of encouragement and refuse to let us quit.  Thank you, God, for the sovereignty of Your plan and Your testing through any circumstance.  Thank you for opportunities to grow and to enjoy having a position on Your team.  Thank you for gratitude and the joy that quickly follows.

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Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.

Psalm 147:7-8

He prepares all things for our growth.  What wisdom and beauty He is.  To Him be all glory and thanksgiving!

Last night I had a dream…

It was a crowded room full of glitz and glamour.  I’m not quite sure how I fit in, or why I was among the on-slot of celebrity faces, but it was obvious that no one knew me.  I sat next to my husband at a very small round table donned with a white linen table cloth, a vase with one red rose, and candlelight.  Across the table, with one elbow next to his diner plate and the other propped on the back of his own chair sat Bill Murray.  He puffed on a cigar precariously dangling between his lips and in front of him was a small glass of dainty ice cubes and scotch.  Next to Murray in his tux appeared Ryan Gosling, who only leaned on the table to make a contorted face and an inside joke to our dinner guest before he was whisked up into the stirring pot of fame dancing around the room.  

We looked at each other in disbelief that we were in the presence of comic genius and marveled as he started to make small talk with us.  He was funny.  I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but all I know is that we were overwhelmed with uncontrollable laughter.  As the dinner ended, an invitation was made by the party’s hostess that the after-party would be taking place now.  The mob of people exited the building down stairs shoulder to shoulder, not staying for the next event.  Bill Murray’s head stood at least a foot above the crowd and he turned to us from across the noisy crowd and said,

“Well that’s pretty contradictory to the Bible or the Koran or whatever you believe…”

We laughed.  I’m not quite sure what he was referring to, except that all these people leaving were in agreement that whatever the hostess wanted us to stay for wasn’t worth it.  

We made it to the street and oddly enough all the ritzy hollywood types continued on foot, while our car, driven by my dad pulled up.  We got in, still laughing with wide smiles, and were soon accompanied by my mom and our two boys.  I don’t know where the girls were…it was a dream. 🙂  We turned onto a street filled with cars and all of a sudden found ourselves sitting in a living room with tons of people and..

Bill Murray…

The pomp and circumstance was gone, the tuxes and evening gowns were all replaced with casual jeans and t-shirts.  We laughed and cajoled as we listened to witty banter and slick one-liners.  As Paul and I relaxed on the couch, the rest of the group seemed to intensely gather at the feet of the actor, eyes wide open and attentive with their whole bodies.  At one point, he turned to us and said, 

“Watch this…”

“I think I need a glass of ice water.”

And at that, the entire room left to the kitchen, pushing and shoving to find a cup and the ice-maker.  He laughed.

“Watch this…”

He turned and from behind his chair pulled out a glass filled with fresh ice water.  He swirled the glass a little to jingle the ice against the cup.  Immediately, the room filled and the Murray disciples all gathered to hear the man speak once again.

We didn’t know what to think of his trick.  But, it seemed as though he wasn’t at all enjoying the power he had over the masses.  He seemed to almost loathe and pity his followers.  He got up from his chair and found the bathroom.

In his absence, a hush fell over the room and the anticipation of his return by the party guests was almost frightful.  Paul turned to me and said, 

“I don’t think he feels good.”

I agreed, “I think he’s tired and unhappy…maybe even sick to his stomach.”

He soon returned and a man in the crowd piped up with a story for Bill.  It was uninteresting and was an obvious attempt to impress the famous comedian.  Soon, everyone lost interest and started their own side conversations as the storyteller continued, oblivious to his fading audience.  Bill Murray turned to me and said,

“I’d much rather be spending my evening with a family watching polar bears and meerkats fight over the migration of the monarchs in Europe.” (remember, this is a dream…)  “You know, wish I had settled down somewhere.”

“It must be hard in this kind of environment…always on the road, to have meaningful relationships…”, I said, and then I woke up.

My jaw and cheeks were tight as I halfway came to.  I think my face muscles were labored from smiling in my sleep at the initial non-stop laughter and funny discourse.  And then, my heart sank.  I wanted to go back.  I wanted to sit on the couch next to Bill Murray and put my hand on his shoulder and invite him to watch Animal Planet at my house, with my kids.  After all, we had just had dinner and drinks and were hanging out on a couch.  I wanted him to become part of our family…to be..”Uncle Bill”.  

I tossed and turned, trying to fall asleep and re-enter the dream just as it had left off.  I played through the conversation in my mind–heartfelt sympathy for his desire to be settled followed by an invitation to come over to our house any time he was in town.  In my half-awake state I imagined what the evening of popcorn and nature shows would be like, the jokes he would tell and the way my kids would laugh at his crazy antics.  Then, the more I regained consciousness from my sleepy state, the more I started to apply realistic worry about fantastical “Uncle Bill” spending the night in our meager office/guest room, the fact the I don’t really know the man or his past, and worse case scenarios…what if he hurt my kids in the middle of the night?

Sleep was not coming easy at this point.  I had to sit up and shake my head.  Angie, you don’t know Bill Murray.  You’ve never met him.  He’s not coming over for family movie night.

My heart was twisted  between dreamworld and reality and I couldn’t relax enough to fall back asleep.  I thought, “God, what in the world is this crazy dream about?  Do you want me to pray for Bill Murray???”

So as ridiculous as it sounds, I prayed for Bill Murray at 2 am.  I asked God to give him peace and joy in Jesus and not his success.  I prayed that he find happiness and a family.  Then I peacefully and easily fell asleep.

This morning, as I was recounting my dream to Paul, I realized I really know nothing of Bill Murray, except that he’s hilarious.  I have no knowledge of his personal life and I just hours earlier had prayed for the man.  So I did what any other non-celebrity would do…googled it.  I learned he’s actually been married twice and has five children.  So, I’m sure he’s had a chance to watch the Discovery Channel with kiddos.

I don’t know why I had the dream, or why I am even blogging about it today.  All I do know is that it prompted me to pray for Bill Murray last night.

There are many people in this world of high stature and with lots of worldly success that I never pray for.  I never think to pray for them, because I assume they have it all.  Today I’ve wondered if anyone is praying for these people–for the people who so many gravitate towards and follow–for the people who have so much cultural and social influence.  And, I don’t mean pray for them, that they learn to love Jesus and can use their platform to spread the Gospel… I mean praying for their hearts, even if they come to know Jesus in the last minutes of their life, away from cameras and spotlights, and no one ever knows about it.  I don’t think I have ever thought to pray for a celebrity or someone I don’t know to have personal joy in someone greater than themselves, simply for their benefit.

I pause to think, do I even do this for those around me?  At first response, I think I would say, “absolutely!”  When I have a hurting friend or an ailing child, of course, I am praying for them and strictly for their sake.  But, if I really dig deep, some times–not all the time–but some times, my prayers for them are motivated by my discomfort.  Their hurt or their illness is uncomfortable for me or scary for me, and life would be more manageable for me if they were better.  I think I am learning.  I think that I am learning to more often pray for others simply for the sake of their benefit, not mine.  Imperfectly, I am learning to pray for the Spirit to work in individual hearts and not for the betterment of a group or for a movement in the masses.  I am learning to seek the Father’s will, that He be glorified, above that of my own comfort or happiness.

In the back of my mind I kind of hope somehow Bill Murray catches wind of a little blog about him and hears that he was prayed for.  It might make him feel good, it might make him mad.  I have no clue.  But if he’s reading this crazy random musing….just know, Uncle Bill, you are always welcome to come over and talk about it.

 

The rain dances off the shingled roof while shouts of laughter and giggles of delight bounce back and forth.  I sit in the coziness of my kitchen with my smoked berry and incense candle setting the mood.  What a calm Columbus Day home from school.  With the showers and dark clouds comes the dawning of Fall.  (Or at least I hope cooler weather is on the horizon.)

Autumn is my favorite season, with all it’s tastes and scents.  Whether it’s walking into the grocery store and smelling the cinnamon pine cones, or sitting in a Starbucks with a spiced pumpkin latte, once October hits, the aroma and palette of fall is hard to escape.

This morning I thought, I really should write a blog post today.  We are coming off a full and long weekend and though I should write, all I want to do today is sit with my coffee in front of the panes of glass and watch my children soak up the drops of joy falling from the sky…that, or take a nap.  I had to run a quick trip to the store earlier this morning for some basics as I was praying, “What do I even write about today? I got nothin’, Lord.”  Then I realized I completely drove past HEB, as if headed to school on a non-holiday Monday.  I was already sitting at the next stop light.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve done this before.  I’ve been deep in thought, distracted by squabbling kids in the back seat, or simply so exhausted that I miss my turn, pass my exit, or even drive past my own house, especially if it is a non-routine stop.  I hope some of you can identify with this…

As I sat at the red left-turn-only light, waiting to make my u-turn back to the store, I prayed again, “What do I even write about today?  I’m too tired to think, too tired to process, too tired to listen.”

Yep, there it is.  A clear word from the Lord.  Here we go:

How many times have I been too tired, too fatigued, too apathetic to listen to God?  (More times than I can count or realize, I suppose.) Our pace of American life lulls us into such monotony of routine that we drive right past the urgings of God.  When His Spirit speaks something that is outside the set boundaries of our schedules or beyond the lists of to-dos, we can sleep-walk ourselves past doors of opportunity.

Wake UP!  God is telling us, “WAKE UP!”  I have let my new-found awareness and ear (albeit still being fine-tuned) go…to…sleep.  Are you awake??

I know what it is to be so exhausted that eyelids succumb to the laws of gravity, even in the midst of conversation. I get it. I know it. I am in that very state right now. But I am called to WAKE UP! I either need to make the necessary changes to not be so dang tired or I have to get over the sleepiness and force myself to be aware in the midst of fatigue. Perhaps the solution requires a little of both.

There are values in our culture that oppose rest, that break the 4th commandment.  It’s admirable to work overtime.  We boast of our busyness.  Think about that for a minute.  Our sins are all equal in the sight of God.  Every sin, whether “big” or “small” (as deemed by our society) leads to death.  So are we willing to take murder with the same degree of self-righteous excuse as we do working on the Sabbath?  What if we murdered for the sake of an extra days worth of salary?   What if we murdered for the sake of ministry? Yeah, I went there…  How unsettling if we boasted of our killing?  If we boasted for killing innocent people for the “sake of the Gospel?”

Our disregard for the Sabbath, using the excuse of “ministry” as justification, is no less a sin than the genocide of populations during the crusades.

Jesus healed on the Sabbath, yes.  But Jesus also withdrew from the crowds and rested.  We have to rest.  We have to take rest seriously.  We have to regard the commandment to honor the Sabbath with the same conviction as we do the other 9 on the list.  What good is a half-eyed “christian” zombie who is too tired to hear the Spirit?  It sure doesn’t make the truth of “Jesus in me” very convincing to others, when I am too tired to listen to Him and to bear His fruits of joy, peace, and patience.  Why would anyone want what I have?  It looks and feels miserable.

Jesus, forgive me for not taking rest seriously.  Forgive me for not taking care of the body you have given me.  Forgive me for letting my lack of rest inhibit me from following You.  Forgive me for selfishly pursuing works instead of pursuing You.  Forgive me for misrepresenting the new life and joy you offer in the presence of others who have yet to taste it.

Jesus, thank you for covering me in grace and giving me new life regardless of my performance.  I am made new, daily.

Adequate rest is only half of my issue.  When I am fatigued (and it’s bound to happen regardless of good Sabbath habits, because I’m only human), I am still called to wake up.  In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked his disciples to stay alert and pray…and they couldn’t keep their eyelids peeled.  Twice He pleaded for their attention and twice they fell victim to slumber.   “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41).  The Spirit is right there, willing to reveal to me all manner of amazing gifts and revelations, but my flesh has been entirely weak.

Jesus pleads for our attention.  He desires our alertness to His words, to His Spirit.  If we are walking through life on auto-pilot, we miss His very voice and all that He has to offer us.  He sings songs over us.  He speaks truth to us.  He reminds us of our beauty, our inheritance, our value, and our worth.  These are reminders I need daily.  I’m so ashamed that I don’t pay attention to these messages that I desperately need.  I can’t believe that I own lies of value and worth that are contrary to what He says about me, yet His sweet words are ever-present for me.  The Spirit’s fragrance and taste is all around me, just like Fall and it’s hard to escape.  Yet, I have found a way to bypass it all.

Jesus, forgive me for falling asleep to Your voice.  Forgive me for coasting through the day to day, unaware of the destinations to which I’ve been blind and the reminders of your truth.

I receive the clean slate you give me and honed-in ears to start afresh.

2 Timothy 2:13 says, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”  For that, I am truly thankful.  My list may not be totally completed at today’s end, but at least I heard Him say, “I will be faithful to you.”

Today I am tired, but not alone.  My list of to-dos fills an entire 8 1/2 x 11 page of lined notebook paper.  About half-way down the list is: write blog post.  Listening to God doesn’t mean I’m irresponsible with my daily duties.  When I listen to Him, He walks alongside me and makes the stuff happen, infusing each task with His fragrance of joy and lightness of heart.  It’s the cinnamon and cardamon added to the everyday cup of joe.  The ordinary becomes enraptured with His presence.  With Him living in me, I can be tired, joyful, productive, and attentive all at the same time.

I have tried in the few hours of sitting in front of the screen to listen to God, even through my fatigue, even through trying to complete my writing task, and even with the other 15 things on my list looming in the back of my mind.  This morning, I went on a journey to write a blog post.  But I listened and stopped along the way, guided to pitstops and destinations that were not in my plan.  Here’s what happened:

– I watched the rain fall.

– I closed my eyes and opened my ears to the sounds of my children’s laughter.

– I laughed over the top of the laptop as I witnessed four kids battle one dog to a bath–in the rain.

– I embraced muddy feet.

– I happily scratched off the list…

give the dog a bath

– I stopped typing to take pictures of siblings hugging in the open grass midst a thunderstorm. photo – I savored my creamer-enhanced coffee as I sat waiting for the electricity to come back on.

-I stopped typing again to tickle a half-naked, wet, and muddy toddler boy.

-I pondered my rest and lack thereof…then prayed for forgiveness.

-I meditated on grace.

-I paused to fill a bathtub with soapy warm foam for cold little bodies.

-I tossed soggy clothes into the washing machine, counting the blessings of modern technology.

– I marked off…

do a load of laundry

– I wrapped little boys in fluffy dry towels and kissed their tender noses.

– I happily elongated the chase of a naked bathroom escapee, and marveled at his laughter, picking up random toys on the floor along the way.

– I grabbed the pencil…

bathe kids

pick up clutter

-I returned to the keyboard and gave thanks for fresh ears and propped-open eyes.

– I heated hotdogs for lunch and threw some ingredients into the crockpot.

– I drew a line through:

start dinner

– I snuggled my baby close, singing a lullaby, then laid him sleepy-eyed into his crib for an afternoon respite.

– I sat for a final session at the computer and listened.  I recounted all that Jesus had for my tired soul in one short morning…

write blog-post

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“I’m learning a lot about God from my kids.”  I think every Jesus-following parent says it at least once.  It is true.  Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18: 3-4).

This morning when darkness still loomed over the house, I rose to my oldest daughter already awake.  She had set her alarm for 5 AM so as to not miss the much anticipated lunar eclipse.  It was supposed to be first visible at 5:25 AM, but in an effort to not miss any of it, she was awake nearly a half hour early.  The rest of the family wasn’t that interested in the phenomenon, so she planned her rising all on her own.  She could hardly sleep last night, so it was not a surprise to me that she was already awake when my alarm went off at 6.  The time she chose to wake up did not startle me. What did shock me was the place she chose to watch.

I assumed that she would venture out on the front driveway or walkway and peer into the moon-lit sky.  I figured she’d take it in for a minute, get tired, and head back to bed.  But, no, my child knew better than me…

She pulled a chair and pillow from the living room over to the front door.  She made herself comfortable and sat, marveling at the moon through the glass insets.  Any reasonable adult would say that chair was an annoyance and was placed in a dangerous spot, in the line of doorway traffic.  But it was the perfect venue to focus on something almost magical, something that my mature brain can’t wrap my mind around.  The sun, which we can’t see at night-time is yet right behind us–behind her in that chair.  Its strong rays of sunlight reflecting over our heads on the surface of the moon millions of miles away.  The earth, on which we stand, on which she sat in that chair, mysteriously floating in the space in between.  The orbits of the moon and the earth in such synchronization and alinement that before her very eyes, the shadow of earth, orb on which she sat in that chair, appeared before her over the face of the moon–it’s light slowly burning red.  What an amazing event that is so much grander and substantial than a walkway ridden with chair.

As we went on with our day and I returned home from morning errands, I saw the chair unmoved from the wee hours of dawn.  The sunlight, now cascading through the windows bore such sweet light on that seat, on that place of tiny miracle.

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My daughter has taught me something today.  I have learned, and have been told over and over again, that I need to sit and marvel at God.  Others may be annoyed with me.  Others may think I am in the way.  My resolve to sit and take in Jesus as I see Him throughout the day may irritate those who think it odd and silly.  Some might deep down feel the sting of resentment that I have gone to such measures to encounter God.  But I long to be like the carefree and uninhibited children.  I no longer want to be an adult with to-do lists, logical answers, and cynicism.  Jesus, teach me, like you taught the disciples, to humble myself, turn, and become like the child.

I have for far too long walked with the shadow of reason and logic hiding my heart from the everyday glory of Jesus.  How can I follow His Spirit, if I shield my eyes from seeing Him?  How can I soak in His words and ponder His parables if I block my ears from hearing Him?  How can I sense His presence and act on His urgings if I cover-up my feelings with puffed up arrogance and pride?  I, and most “Christians”, have been walking around in a “total eclipse of the heart” religion.  We have covered ourselves with our performance and success, rather than being “hidden in Christ”  (Col. 3:3), reflecting His glory, not our own.

Last night, my eleven-year-old delighted in asking questions of astronomy and selenology, of the heavens and their movement, just in anticipation for what she hoped to see.  She didn’t presume to have all the answers.  Her eyes doubled in fascination with the size and wonder of it all, even before witnessing.  Are we adults even asking questions anymore?  Do we think we have it all figured out?  The mysteries of Jesus are beyond any human mind.  His wisdom and knowledge deep.  We will never exhaust all that He has for us.  How boring and mundane to be the one who has forgotten this simple truth!  What a dull and joyless, responsibility-driven, task-filled adult life!  We need not live this way.  He wants us to have life to the fullest, to marvel at His love and His Spirit, to wait in eager anticipation for just a glimpse of Him.

The chair will remain in it’s new home today.  I want to be reminded to seek out all of the wonder and joy Jesus has for me.  Even amidst my daily work, I will pass by and catch a glimpse of the Spirit’s reminder to me.  He loves me so well to know that I need reminders and nudges.  He understands my failing heart and fleeting zeal because undoubtedly, I will trip over it at some point.    Thank you, Jesus, for telling me again.

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