Some people are scared of heights. Some people are scared of spiders. I am scared of space (the universe). One time we were visiting a science museum and we watched an IMAX movie about space. I had to get up and leave after a star was born. (Of course my excuse was that I needed more popcorn.) I had to leave because I could not believe what I was seeing. The size and scope of space does not fit into my categories, my paradigms. It is too big…too different…too vast.
This week, I heard a great story on NPR about how our understanding of space has evolved over time. Nicolaus Copernicus (d.1543) claimed that the center of the universe was the Sun instead of the Earth. Edwin Hubble (d. 1953) discovered more galaxies like the Milky Way. News sources today share that Stephen Hawking plans to send postage-stamp-size probes into our solar system to make way for Interstellar travel. Wow! Not only are we NOT the center of the universe, but we are only tiny specs in the universe.
When things do not fit into my categories or my paradigms my natural response is to walk away (or use my “need more popcorn” excuse) simply because it scares me. Life is comfortable when our world and events fit into our categories and paradigms. We have a (false) sense of control. But when our world and events do not fit into what we determine as “normal” or “right”, we get uncomfortable.
A funny thing about being uncomfortable…God is there. In that space between being comfortable and changing paradigms, God rushes in and molds us into something new. We are just like a new star that is born in God’s universe. In our new birth, God can use us. Our focus is moved away from ourselves and back on God’s work in the world around us. Right where it should be.
Saint Anselm of Canterbury (d.1109) believed that God is a being than which nothing greater can be thought. He proved that God exists simply by arguing that God is the essence of every thought because God is the creator of all things…including thoughts. Basically, God does not fit into categories or paradigms either and the more we move away from our need for such things, the closer we move toward God.
As families, what would this world look like if we walked towards thoughts, events and people that scare us instead of away? I imagine there will be a lot of bright lights that look like stars shining out of our homes.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2
My grandmother hand painted Easter eggs. She began the process well before Easter. She would make a small hole in both ends of a raw egg and blow the yoke out. After the inside of the egg was empty, she would paint beautiful designs on the eggs. Flowers and patterns were painted with Easter colors and glittery paint. They were beautiful and delicate. She also loved a party and Easter was a wonderful party. While we enjoyed a delicious lunch after church, dyed, hardboiled eggs were magically hidden around her yard. (Sometimes these eggs were found months later in the back of my closet due to a smell!) Her Easter celebrations still remain with me.
It is no surprise that I remember her on Easter. I also remember many more who already live in eternity. Those who once sat with me around a table to celebrate our promise of a resurrection because of Christ. My grandfather who gave me a corsage to wear on Easter morning on my wrist. Another grandmother took a picture of my sisters and me in her Iris garden while wearing our Easter dresses.
For me, Easter is where two worlds collide. Those who live on earth and those who live in eternity come together at the foot of the cross. There we see a glimpse of eternal life. There we feel peace. There we lean into hope. There we remember that all our struggles on Earth will not last forever. There we see God’s plan unfold before us. At the foot of the cross we rest on Easter and then we go on living as resurrected people for our remaining days.
When my grandmother was dying, I remember sitting in the hospital hallway on the floor opposite her door. Some of my family were sitting along the wall with me. We were talking and remembering together. We were waiting for what we knew was coming. She was about to die. And then I had a strange thought…I looked across from me and imagined another family waiting on the other side of the hall. A family that was waiting to welcome my grandmother home. A family who had once sat around a table with her on Easter. A family who taught her to paint beautiful eggs. A family who had been patiently waiting to be with her after a long absence.
I found comfort in that image where two worlds collide. It was as if the promise of the cross was standing between us in the hallway. On one side we sat experiencing the mystery of death and on the other side they sat experiencing eternal life.
As you gather around your table this Easter, I imagine there will be others there with you that you can see and some you cannot see. Enjoy the promises of Easter.
He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you. Luke 24:6
P.S. One of our favorite activities in our tent at Easter is to make Resurrection Cookies. They are simple, fun and full of meaning. Enjoy!
It happened to me yesterday talking to my mom. While she was talking, I remembered something to tell her. When she finished talking, I had completely forgotten what it was that I wanted to say. I waited a minute thinking it would come back to me and it didn’t. I still don’t remember. Ugh! I have witnessed this in many people before, but I never expected it would be happening to me. (Please, don’t share about other things like this that are waiting on the horizon.)
This happens with me in my relationship with God too. I forget what God said to me during a prayer. I forget how God guided me during the day by the time I go to sleep. I forget an important part of a sermon (sorry Steven!). I forget an adorable thing a child says to me or an important thing a friend says to encourage me. I simply forget way to many important things.
The solution…write it down. I love the little “Field Notes” that are small and fit inside my purse that capture my thoughts before I forget. I love to buy pretty journals to carry in my car to capture my God sightings. I love to text someone about something that just happened with God. I also use my notes on my phone. All of these small tools help me to write it down.
The blessing…when I take time to write it down, I am able to enjoy it later when I read over my words. God is so active in our days. When we take time write it down, we are reminded that we are not alone. We are not alone on the good days or on the bad days. We are never alone. Mother Theresa put it beautifully when she said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”
Find a good place to write your God moments, prayer time insights and devotional thoughts down this week. Encourage everyone in your tent to do the same. At the end of the week, share what you wrote and where you saw God. It is a gift to yourself and a gift to those you love.
We went for a walk today, down a sidewalk right after lunch. The temperature was perfect and the sky was blue like Caribbean water. It was a day that feels like God is showing off. The plan was to walk a little bit before we headed back to the car to go home. And then one daughter stepped off the sidewalk and shared that she was just going to walk in the grass…off the path and into open space. I kept walking until daughter number two said, “Let’s go with her.” Before I knew it, we were sitting in the middle of the grass in the park.
That in itself would have been fun enough, but our day turned into an adventure when we started to notice all the creepy crawly things around us in the grass. It was as if we had just sat down in the middle of a city of bugs all very busy with their tasks for the day. The spiders scurried, the black things climbed over and under blades of grass, the ants quickly moved about and the ladybugs found their way into our hands with grace.
We were having a LADYBUG MOMENT. A moment in our day when we just stop doing what we planned to do and take notice of what is going on around us. It was a moment we would have missed if we would have stayed on the path trying to get more steps on our fitbit. It was a moment where we sat together and just enjoyed each others company and the company of the creepy crawly things.
Over lunch we enjoyed a LADYBUG CONVERSATION. A conversation that invited all of us to think more deeply and share. We asked questions that mattered. We asked things like, “If you were in my shoes, how would you handle the situation.” “Where do you see God in this?” “What would you like for dessert?”
And how did we do all of this in the middle of the week? Well….we had a LADYBUG DAY! We played hookie from all those things that we were suppose to be doing and we did something else. Something life giving! We took all the should of’s and could of’s in our day and just put them away so their friend guilt would go away too. Gardeners and farmers love the ladybug because it helps control pests. It controlled the pests in our life today very well.
As the sun sets on this day, I know it will be a day that I will remember. God was all around us this day because we took time to notice. When was your last LADYBUG MOMENT, CONVERSATION or DAY? It’s time to step off the path and experience an adventure. Your backyard is a great place to start!
Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33-34
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
Strawberries in water. A comfortable and warm bed to sleep in. Soul conversations. Laughter. Open doors. Delicious meals. Simple hospitality. All of these experiences simply say, “You are welcome!” It is a wonderful feeling to be welcomed into someone’s home and life. It warms your heart and releases your anxiety. It feels you with peace that can only come from God.
Some of my favorite memories of hospitality took place around someone’s table. My conversations with my grandfather (and best friend) always took place at a table with a bowl of strawberries and sugar. All teenage worries disappear with strawberries and sugar. My grandmother’s table would often be decorated with a beautiful holiday arrangement and she would offer me a quick sandwich. Challenges about the future seemed to feel smaller at her table. Coffee, while sitting at my mother’s table looking at the hummingbirds, always tastes better and replenishes my soul. The back porch of my in-laws home always makes me thankful to be a part of a loving and supportive family. An afternoon cup of hot tea ,with a friend traveling the same parenting roads that I am on, gives me time to pause and be thankful for the children God has placed into my care for a short time. Strawberries and water with a nice lunch after a super stressful morning reminds me why friends are important. And a key to the front door of a friends home makes me grateful for friendships that are deeper than I can even understand. All of these moments simply say, “You are welcome.”
I imagine God’s eternal home is similar. It is a place where all feel at home. A place where stress falls away and laughter grows. A place of community that replenishes our souls. A place where pain does not exist. A place where love is deeper than we can even understand. No matter if we sit at the kitchen table or on the back porch of God’s house, we know that we are welcome.
Until we personally experience God’s home, we each have the opportunity to open our homes and our hearts in a way that simply communicates, “You are welcome!” We each have an opportunity to provide a glimpse into eternal life through our hospitality to others. Just like God is always ready and available to hear our thoughts and prayers, we too need to be available to have meaningful conversations with others and welcome them into our home and lives. Your small, thoughtful acts of love and kindness will be remembered in the years to come.
You are always welcome in our home!
Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
Some events and moments in our lives give us a clear glimpse of God and God’s relationship to us. Scripture may describe the glimpse, your friends may tell you about their glimpse, but to experience a glimpse into the true purpose, power and character of God is a humbling experience.
On Monday, I walked my daughters into a new school in a new town. I know I was more terrified than they were. In the months and days leading up to this moment, I had completed the check lists like many of you. School supplies. Check. School uniforms. Check. New backpacks. New lunch boxes. Check. Check. New shoes that light up. Check. Meet new teachers. Check. Check. Check. Perfect prepared mom. Check. I had perfectly controlled the whole experience up until we walked through the doors of the school.
Then it dawned on me (the sleepy me because I didn’t sleep much the night before)…I am not in control of this. NONE OF IT! I am walking my children into a strange place and walking out. UNBELIEVABLE! I did not remember signing up for this the day they were born. On the way out, my supportive, loving husband asked me if I was breathing. I never gave him an answer. He didn’t ask any more questions as Niagara Falls poured out of my eyes.
That is when I heard God whisper to me…”See, it’s hard to love your children so much.” God created each of us. Knows the hairs on our heads. (The only time I was close to counting the hairs on my daughter’s head was during a lice episode…you are probably itching now!) God created us. Check. Provides clothes, shelter and food. Check. Gives us supplies for the journey that fill way more than a backpack. Check. Lights our path. Check. Sends us new teachers and friends daily. Check. Check. Check.
And yet, God does not control us. God let’s us be free to choose. Free to experience all that life offers. God basically says, “I’ve got this! Enjoy life. Watch and see how good life is when we are together.”
The rest of the week, I have been reminding myself that God truly is in control and present. God loves me and you so much that it sometimes hurts. And I have a choice. (Of course you do too.) I can live a life full of beauty, peace and adventure. Or I can live in fear, worry and obsessive control. It’s a pretty simple choice when you see it in writing.
Take a field trip (a walk, a conversation with a friend, a nap, a museum, attend church) this week to recapture the joy of life that easily slips away and toss all the negativity out with the garbage.
This week my mom sent me a text saying, “Every day is a miracle!” Perspective adjustment. Check.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17
A few years ago while I was a chaplain in a hospital, one of our instructors asked a group of us, “What makes a good day?” Because we worked in a hospital day after day and saw things we wish we could forget, we quickly escaped in our minds. Someone said, “A day on the beach.” Another one said, “A long hike in Colorado.” The one next to me said, “Time with my wife and kids.” I remember saying something like, “A airplane ticket to any destination.” We had a lot of fun with our answers. Basically it was anywhere but where we were.
That is what our instructor hoped we would say. He hoped we would define a good day with dreams, because then he gave us a follow up question, “Why does a good day have to be an extraordinary day…what about ordinary days? Aren’t they good too.” Of course he was right. Because isn’t it the ordinary days that we miss the most when we look back on our lives? Or if we are in the midst of grief…we miss the normal days. The days where we have a cup of coffee together with someone we love at the kitchen table. The days when we laugh because of something one of our children says from the back seat. The days when we read a good book or cook a simple dinner for our family to enjoy. Ordinary days. They are good days too…maybe even the best days.
There is something that happens in life. It is subtle and silent. Through all the information we receive on a daily basis, there is a subtle message that says we have less than what we deserve. Our lives are not exciting enough. Our car, washing machine, grill (I have heard that the Green Egg grill is pretty cool), are out of date and we need a new one. Message after message, we start to believe these subtle messages. They become a part of our daily chatter. And before we know it, ordinary days loose their shine.
In my life, my delightful days begin with a to-do-list. I keep a running list in my kitchen and attend to it before I go to bed. That way I know what I need to do and I do not have to worry about it all night. Then in the morning, I make a cup of coffee and read a chapter or two of a book that enlightens me or gives me something to think about concerning my faith. I write my prayers down in a prayer journal. It is a gift to read back over prayers that have been answered. I choose to have a good attitude for the day. And then I work for God. I listen to the nudges God sends me to call a friend, write a note or serve someone. I work on our non-profit because that is my current mission.
And in all of this, my day turns out to be delightful simply because my day is less about me and more about God. I encourage you to find your rhythm. Find your recipe for a delightful day. Claim your place in God’s plan for this world and make things happen. If you are willing, God will use you.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
Driving down a road recently, our car passed fields and fields of sunflowers. They were in full bloom and all of their little yellow faces seemed to be smiling back at us. We smiled at them. In their own little way, they lifted our spirits and gave us something to think about the rest of the day. They created JOY. It made me think about all of those little moments in our day that offer us JOY. A phone call from a friend, a funny text, ice cream, unexpected flowers, a laugh, a good book, a nice meal, a hug…these are moments of JOY on my list.
My daughter’s favorite book before bed is Tickle Monster. It is about a monster that comes from planet tickle and tickles her from head to toe. She loves the book. It is not the best book (in my rational, boring, mom opinion) before bed because it does not really settle her down. Maybe it is the monster gloves we wear or the way the tickle monster grabs her boney little knees. She wiggles. She screams. She laughs until she cannot breathe. She is filled with JOY! Just JOY. No wonder she chooses the book night after night. I imagine that she probably sleeps best after having a day with JOY.
Leon Bloy said, “JOY is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” I am sure God loves to see us full of JOY in the same way I love to see my daughter laughing so hard that she needs a break from tickles. JOY lifts us out of the seriousness of life and into the presence of God. JOY reminds us to celebrate life. JOY puts us on the path to hope, peace and love.
One of my college friends lost her mother to cancer this past year. I spent time at her home in college. She was a gentle and loving woman. When I heard how she was walking through her fight with cancer, I was not surprised…she was Pimpin JOY. You can read about her JOY journey. She chose JOY over everything else. Since her death, her family has done the same. And I know they have experienced the presence of God all along the way.
As our country celebrates today, I encourage you to experience JOY. Make your own list of JOY moments that work for you. Share JOY with those you meet this week. And if you really want to dive into a day of JOY, there is always Tickle Monster at the end of the day!
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Psalm 98:4
When I was in college, I collected “Love Is…” comics by Kim Grove Casali. I found them in the Dallas Morning News. I cut them out and filed them in an old wooden box that had belonged to my grandmother. The comics were cute and they helped me to dream about a marriage I would enjoy one day. They were also insightful…love is a lot of things and it is not simple. But it is what makes life full. Some of the comics include love is…watching shooting starts together. Love is…protecting her when lightening flashes. Love is…picking up the dry cleaning. Love is…sometimes tough.
Every now and then I will pull one of these comics out of the box (that I collected almost 20 years ago) and place them by my husbands sink as a surprise. I enjoy finding one that reflects our relationship on that day. They remind me of how rich life is because I have love.
This week, love has meant a lot in a lot of different ways. When tucking my daughter into bed she reminded me that love is…reading her a bedtime story even if it is ten o’clock at night and I am so tired. My other daughter reminded me that love is…simply holding her because she is scared even if she is almost as tall as me. My husband reminded me that love is…moving forward together. My friend reminded me that love is…just spending the day together and enjoying friendship.
In my bathroom, I have a sign that reads, “Love is why we’re here.” It is a good reminder…all the other stuff that gets in the way of pure love is just stuff. This week, let’s focus on why we are here…simply to love.
So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:13