Let’s just visit about Jesus today. Just Jesus. When we read the New Testament in the Bible, especially the Gospels, we are reminded of the many ways Jesus lived among people while on earth. For some he gave them love because everyone else had abandoned them. Then there were those who he personally invited to follow him on his journey to the cross. They visited with him, ate with him and walked with him every day. (That would be an amazing gift.) He also healed. He healed so many people. Some needed physical healing and some experienced spiritual healing. Most of all he took the traditions and the practices that everyone lived by and rearranged them. He changed the rules. There is freedom in rearranging and changing the rules.
This week, I learned how the Gospel of John is different from the other gospels. One of the reasons it is different is because the writer of John wanted people to BELIEVE in Jesus. He wanted people to take a leap of faith and truly BELIEVE instead of only doing things right. John 5:1-9 is a great example of how we need Jesus. In this passage, a crippled man had been sitting by a pool of water for years waiting to be healed. Because of his condition, he was never able to enter the pool of water to be healed. After 38 years of being crippled, Jesus came and healed him. He did not have to enter the water. He simply had to BELIEVE. The rules no longer applied.
I wonder how many of us (or how many people we know) are sitting near the healing power of Jesus, but silly rules are keeping us away from Jesus. Too many “should-ofs” and “could-ofs” keep us sitting by the pool waiting our turn. Jesus works differently when we BELIEVE in him. There is no waiting period or line to stand in to reach Him. His rule is simple…BELIEVE without a doubt and you can exchange your chaotic day for a day of peace. You can drop your anger and pick up pure love. You can find joy even in difficult moments. His way of life takes less energy and offers more fulfillment.
We believe in a lot of things. It is nice to be reminded that it is important to renew our belief in Christ. When we do, everything else just makes sense.
Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.
My word of the week is shalom. It is a wonderful Hebrew word and is defined as both a state (the absence of war) and a process of living in wholesome relationship with others. It has also been called the “ultimate purpose” of the first five books of the Bible. You probably also know it as peace.
This week as I have been driving more than usual, shalom has been floating through my mind as I listened to the news and global stories on NPR. I listened to a talk by Lynne Hybels about peacemaking and she shared her work in making peace. When I was frustrated with my husband (it happens), I wondered when our shalom slipped away and how we can bring it back. When my daughter learned a new word on the playground this week, I wonder if the young student that shared it with her knew about the word shalom. And at night, when the house was quiet with everyone tucked in bed, shalom became a feeling instead of just a word. At the end of the week, I could not believe my eyes when I saw a parked car with the word, “SHALOM” across the back window! Like I said, it has been my word of the week.
I have more exploring to do with this word. It feels like I have been given a new gift, but it didn’t come with instructions. I can see it and say it. I can feel it when I touch it. I can tell that it has a lot to teach me and I am curious to know more. A new relationship has started.
My conversations with God this week have been about shalom as well. I have wondered why it is missing in so many parts of the world and why it is easy to see in others. I have wondered about my role of bringing shalom into my home and relationships. And mostly, I wonder how I can design my life and decisions to experience more shalom and less stress.
What about you? How well do you know shalom? When was the last time you experienced it?
“Seek peace and pursue it!” Psalm 34:14
When the New Year rolled through our tent, we were playing Clue. Earlier that day, we found the game. My daughters asked me to teach them how to play and before I knew it I was trying to decide if it was Professor Plum or Mrs. White that committed the crime with the lead pipe in the library. The best way to find out the answer was to ask the right question.
When you were six, what did you want to be when you grew up? Do you remember someone asking you that famous, dreamy question? I remember saying that I wanted to be a psychologist. Honestly, I am not sure if I knew what a psychologist did, but it sounded fancy. Steven wanted to be a crop duster. One of our daughters wants to be a veterinarian and the other wants to be a spy. (She enjoyed Clue!)
Questions can make a big difference. It happens in our relationship with God too. One question to ask yourself often is, “Where have you seen God?” Was it at the grocery store? The school? The park? Your home? The answer to that question might surprise you. Often we think of God being in the church. God is in the church AND God is a lot of other places too.
Another good question is, “What do I see God doing and how can I join God in that mission or work?” Is God working to care for those who lost their homes in a tornado? Is God working to encourage teachers who teach our children? Is God working to free someone we know from a difficult situation? Does God want to remind someone how they are wonderfully created by God? What is God doing and how can we help?
Asking good spiritual questions and taking time to discern the answer may just be what we need. The answers will give us a clue for how we should best spend our time and resources this year.
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” Luke 24:13-17
My new hiking boots are covered with mud. After the snow fell on our ranch last week, we went to feed the cows. They were hungry. While deciding where to drop the round hay bail off the back of the truck, we got stuck. The snow had begun to melt and the mud was thick. One grandmother, two daughters and two granddaughters stuck at the ranch. The cows found us entertaining. They looked at us between the bites they took of their cubes that we scattered away from the truck so they would not be in the way when we got unstuck. This moment could have gone from bad to worse or bad to hilarious. It went from bad to hilarious. We talked about how much food and water we had on hand. No water. One pancake. Hilarious.
As we lean into a new year, we lean into the unknown. In 2016, some of us might drive right into the mud this year and get stuck. We may find ourselves bored with life and relationships. Or maybe we will rediscover some fun things in life like making mud-pies. Some of us might be like the cows. We will watch what is happening around us with one eye, while we have our other eye focused on what really matters, food! As long as no one bothers us, we won’t bother anyone else. Or some of us will throw our whole-selves into the work of getting the truck out of the mud. We will sweat, collect rocks, sticks, and over analyze the situation until we are silly.
No matter what the unknown holds for us this year, it is worth our time to stop and listen for God’s voice this year. A voice that sometimes wants us to be stuck so we remember who is really in control. A voice that wants us to focus less on our needs and more on the needs of others. A voice that reminds us of the sabbath so we can rest from our work at least one day of the week.
After we laughed ourselves silly and took plenty of pictures with our phones, we settled down long enough to think clearly. We needed help. We made a phone call and waited. (We also took more pictures.) Then one of God’s angels drove down the road and through the gate right to us. He connected our truck to his truck and pulled us out. The hay was lowered to the ground and we drove home. Happy people. Happy cows.
This year (in our family tents) let’s listen for God’s voice first, a voice that guides us, loves us and saves us.
All these blessings will come upon you and find you if you obey the Lord your God’s voice: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the field.
Happy New Year from Happy Tents!
We are busy in our tent preparing for Christmas. I am sure you are as well. Just this week my daughters rehearsed It’s a Wonderful Life for 3 nights and preformed in it as Carolers for 2 nights. Elf on the shelf has been playing with laundry. Actually, we have an Elf on the shelf family. Elfie, Elfina, little Tom and an Elf reindeer (Don’t ask!). As a team they can get into a lot of misfit in my house. They all played in the laundry one day, which meant I had a day off. They also kicked off our Advent tree. We read a scripture each morning and clip on a new ornament. Plus, this week the Tooth Fairy visited our home twice!! It has been a busy week in our home. And I forgot to mention that our two show pigs came down with pneumonia (who knew this could happen??). They are on the mend now after shots and meeting an angel who gave them the shots. (Even I know when to acknowledge my limits…giving pigs shots is not one of my talents.)
In all of the chaos that this week brought (or season brings), it makes me more determined than ever to not give in to it. I don’t want to give into consumerism, over-booked calendar (this is where I need to work the most), or Christmas expectations and unnecessary traditions. When I shop, I want it to be fun. When I attend a party, I don’t want to worry about what I am missing. When I pull out the Christmas decorations, I only want to decorate with those things that need to be in our home this year. I am not going for perfect. Just enough.
Here is the way I made it through this past week still intact and with Christmas spirit.
Engage Scripture–I found a this cute daily reading on Facebook this week and it has been a perfect reminder of the power baby Jesus brought with him when he was born and placed in the manger. Read scripture every day this next week with expectant eyes. What gift will God give you through your reading?
Listen for God’s Voice–The scripture you read will move in and out of your thoughts all day long. The voice of God will be close beside them. We have been collecting money in a jar all year to give to someone this Christmas. Just this week I found out who that person is through an email. We heard God’s voice and we are so excited to give our gift. What is God saying to you this week? Listen.
Expect Miracles–Jesus’ birth was a miracle. John the Baptist birth was a miracle. Zechariah (John’s father) received his voice back just in time to name John the Baptist. That was a miracle. There were so MANY miracles popping up around the birth of Jesus. Guess what? They still happen today. I heard a young adult speak today about his recovery from being hit by a car at the age of 13. He was asked by the audience, “What are you so proud of in your recovery?” He quickly answered, “That I am alive!” A miracle!
We Prepare the Way–Our task this Christmas…share the story. Share the joy, hope and peace of the season. Our job is to bake cookies so we can have a moment to share our faith story with the person we give the cookies to enjoy. Our job is to serve a delicious meal so we can invited the Holy Spirit to be present at our table and breath life into our families. Our job is to give more so that others will have the opportunity to move from poverty into stability. Our job is to prepare the way for Christ to work in the lives of the people we meet this Christmas.
Let’s trade the crazy and the chaos of the season in for the calm presence of Christ that lives with us every minute of every day!
I was in the FFA barn the other day when I came across a very large Mantis (otherwise known as a “Praying Mantis”). I was startled at first (because the big guy was literally just inches away from my face… he could have killed me!), but then after shaking it off I decided to snap a picture. Praying Mantids are exceptional insects. They have very strong forelegs that fold together, allowing them to capture their prey, and hold on tightly to it (while they eat it). Because of this, they are able to continue their existence.
Human beings have something very similar to this in our lives. We have prayer. Prayer is strong, and as we fold our hands to pray, this act of faith becomes the very thing that allows us to hold on tightly (when life gets rocky, or in any season for that matter). Because of prayer, we are able to continue our existence. Life will go on because God is present with us – and we truly feel the presence of God as we pray (and as others pray for us!). That’s why Paul encourages the Church to “pray without ceasing,” and why Samuel Shoemaker reminds us that, “prayer may not change things for you, but it for sure changes you for things.”
So fold your hands, hold on tight, and become a Praying Mantis (or Praying Womantis)!!
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
While in heavy traffic this week, I saw something remarkable. I was driving behind a truck near a car wreck. As an eye witness (I was right behind he truck), I watched as the driver of the truck stepped and pulled on a work glove. He then stepped into the next lane, bent down and picked up a tire sitting all alone in the middle of the lane. He threw the tire onto the side of the road, got back into his truck and drove away.
The remarkable part of this eye witness report is that the lane, where the tire had been, quickly transformed from a crawl back to normal. Then my lane did the same thing as the driver of the truck drove away, we all followed him. Everything was back to normal! In one simple act and one simple moment, frustration turned to peace. What was stopped, started again. It just took one person to step out, take care of business and then keep going.
We remove “tires” all the time in this world. Hearts are restored with stints, toilets are fixed with plungers, and lent is removed from dryers every day. So why do we let some things stop us from moving forward or slow us down to a crawl? Why do we let harmful relationships keep us from moving forward? Why do we let stressful jobs prevent us from living healthy? Why do we let people define us instead of God? Why do we live in chaos when we can live in peace?
One reason is because we have been moving around in the chaos caused by the “wreck” so long that we forgot what it feels like to drive the speed limit. It’s time to remove the “tire” in your life. That thing that is keeping you from having a full life in Christ (John 10:10). You can decide if you are going to remove the tire from your lane or if you need help from a fellow driver (call your bravest friend and borrow their courage and faith). Either way, it’s time to move forward.
Happy Tents is dedicated to helping people imagine more. Can you imagine what life would be like without that “tire” in your way stopping you from being the person you were created to be? God can. I’m not suggesting the removal of a “tire” is simple and easy. My eye witness report comes from Central Expressway in Dallas, Texas! But if you slow down, turn on your hazards, and put on the right gloves (or the Armor of God), you will experience a successful removal.
And the gift is that life will not only feel normal again…it will feel better than normal. That is just how God works.
Last Halloween, I had the most fun! Night crawlers (fishing worms) had been living in our refrigerator for a while. There was not a fishing trip planned for the near future. When my husband and friends headed out the door to begin the trick-or-treat ritual, he yelled over his shoulder, “Why don’t you give away the worms!” Then he laughed and walked out.
I was very tired of looking at the worms every morning to get the milk, every time I needed to make a sandwich and every evening when it was time to start dinner. (I wondered if anyone else had worms in their fridge. Probably not.) Once he left the house, I thought, “Maybe I should give them away…why not?”
That is when the fun began. When children came to our door, my friend and me would ask them if they wanted a TRICK-or-treat. Most of them said a treat, but there were a few curious ones that said a trick. That is when I handed them a worm with a piece of candy. A real wiggly worm. Screams were heard. Laughter was everywhere. Some worms were dropped. Some became new pets. Some moms came back very upset and gave the worms back. That made ME laugh. Up and down the sidewalk, the news spread about the worms. We became famous. The best quote was from a 6-year-old boy. He said, “I heard you are giv’in away worms…there is something WRONG with this house!” He will probably be a preacher some day.
I have no idea who started the tradition of trick-or-treating on Halloween night. But it is a great idea. With all the stuff we have in our homes (that we look at every day) there is probably some stuff we could give away. Once it is out of the house, we don’t have to worry about it any more. On Halloween night, as you enjoy giving candy away, think about other things you could give away after Halloween.
Simplicity is a spiritual discipline. The more stuff we have the less we feel we need God. Possessions, over-loaded schedules, un-reachable expectations and clutter all serve as barriers to the relationship God wants us to have with God and others. What can you give away this week? What possession or ideas are you holding on to that need to go out the door. Take a leap of faith and experience something new…freedom from your burdens.
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him forward.” They called the blind man, “Be encouraged! Get up! He’s calling you.” Throwing his coat to the side, he jumped up and came to Jesus. Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you? The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.” Jesus said, “Go, your faith has healed you.” At once he was able to see, and he began to follow Jesus on the way. Mark 10:49-52
And if you want to have some real fun this Halloween, add some worms to you candy give-away. It will be your best Halloween ever!
Reality visited me this week (aka God’s clear voice). We are here to GIVE and not RECEIVE. That was it. Thankfully it was delivered gently from a friend over a delicious cup of hot tea. But it was delivered. It stung just a little bit too. Not because of the way it was delivered, but because of its truth. I know it was God’s voice, because first it silenced me and then it liberated me.
For some reason the words lifted burdens off my shoulders that I had been nourishing and feeding for a while. The burdens had become very comfortable right next to my ears. My burdens like to whisper little lies to me throughout my day, just to remind me that they are still there. Lies like, “I deserve something different” or “If I were in charge…”. Little secular lies that make me believe that I am in control instead of God and that tell me I know more than my Creator.
If suffering is “whenever we are not in control”, then you see why some form of suffering is absolutely necessary to teach us how to live beyond the illusion of control and to give that control back to God. Then we become usable instruments, because we can share our power with God’s power.
Ever since I clearly heard God’s voice, I feel that I have been like that rich young man that visited with Jesus about eternal life. The one that simply walked away after Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. Then Jesus turns to his disciples and says… As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.” Another visit from reality.
But instead of walking away, I have been squeezing myself through the “needle’s eye” simply to shave off all of myself that I need to leave behind. It is a painful process to give up control (again!) , but I know that I am not willing to simply walk away. I am walking around a little bit lighter now.
Do you ever feel that you just need room to breathe? Room to catch your breath? Room to remember that you are a living being wanting to experience life instead of just floating through it? I am always impressed with the birds that live outside my bedroom window. They are the first to celebrate the dawn and the best at thanking God for a brand new day. They get it.
A few weeks ago, I picked up a book that I have had for a while and began reading it. A Hidden Wholeness is an insightful book by Parker Palmer. I know I am late to the party concerning this book, but I believe the timing is right for me. I have been struck by the light he shines on the need for our souls to speak and be heard. One of my favorite quotes from the book is:
The soul is generous: it takes in the needs of the world. The soul is wise: it suffers without shutting down. The soul is hopeful: it engages the world in ways that keep opening our hearts. The soul is creative: it finds its way between realities that might defeat us and fantasies that are mere escapes. All we need to do is to bring down the wall that separates us from our own souls and deprives the world of the soul’s regenerative powers.
Over 7 years ago, I was pregnant with my second child. I was overwhelmed by work, marriage, being a mother and life in general. I had not heard from my soul in a long time. It was then that I discovered spiritual direction. During my first meeting with my spiritual director, I experienced hope. Hope that I could undo what I had made of my life. Hope that my life could be lived with a deeper, spiritual purpose. I have also found this experience in small groups. In his book, Parker Palmer explains how groups can be helpful to soul work. Soul work in groups changes lives.
If you are seeking to live more like the birds of the air that celebrate each day, then I encourage you to find space in your days to listen to your soul. Find a group to help you or meet with a spiritual director. The Holy Spirit is within each of us and guides us. Sometimes we simply need to take a breath, clear our heads and listen. What happens then? You watch as you are taken to places and experiences you could never imagine yourself. It’s even better!
Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. Rabindranath Tagore