Friday, January 18, 2013

When There's Room at the Table For Everyone

Every month we take a small group of students to a group home to share a meal and spend some time hanging out together. It's such an enjoyable evening. Our students always leave with a greater appreciation for their own homes, regardless of their present circumstances. They get to go home to a family, even if it's a dysfunctional one. I hope the students that we visit enjoy time with other kids and adults who want to get to know them. I hope they see they are valued and loved.

These nights can feel like a youth group event because several leaders and students are spread all around different tables and we end the night playing some game. Last night was different though. Matt and I just had two students with us and the cottage we visited only had four kids.

This time, we all got a seat at the kitchen table.

Our family had the opportunity to be with their family. They shared their space with us in a way that felt like home. We swapped stories and laughed together. The kids that we visit with are primarily middle and high schoolers, but this time there was a 7 or 8 year old little girl as well. I swear it could have been Em in a few years. One of her favorite things to do was hunt lizards. I'm pretty sure Matt couldn't help but fall a little in love with her.

I have such an appreciation for the house parents who work to make this place a home for these kids. I can't imagine how draining it must be at times. They give of themselves 24 hours a day. I think the national turnover rate is about 9 months. Some of the house parents at this location have been there over a decade. They provide the roots in a setting that is characterized by instability. We have a tendency to want to come in and fix brokenness. These people spend their time sharing in it.

They are the type of people I want to model my life after.

I went home and watched our children as they slept. For now, these are the two beauties that God has entrusted to our immediate care. My prayer is that they can rest confidently in our love, that we clearly display God's love for them, and cultivate a love for others in their little hearts. I pray that as a family we see the people right in front of us, securing the roots of deep love, freeing us to love even more.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What is Thinking Biblically? No, Seriously, What Is It?

"If you listen well, you can find the honest questions. If you don't listen well, you will only hear what you have answers for."

I don't have all the answers. If there's one thing that I've learned well it's that. The more I learn, the more I see just how much more I have to learn. I don't say that with some weird, false humility either, I say that because it can seem incredibly overwhelming to me sometimes. Ideally, the process of maturation is slow and steady. It's like raising children. You don't tell them everything there is to know about life right away. Difficult concepts should be unpacked in stages. Sex, for instance. Just because they ask where babies come from doesn't mean they need to know the ins and outs of sex any time soon. You give them what they can handle a little at a time and pray that you don't royally mess them up.

I'm trying to become more systematic in how I approach learning, organizing and building off of what I already know while acknowledging that the process is dynamic. I'm not saying truth changes, but our perspectives certainly can change. This can be both wonderful and terrifying. It requires a commitment to prayer and faith in a living God. It's easy to look at the early followers of Jesus and think if only we had the opportunity to walk with those that had been physically present with Jesus. Would it have been easier though? The teachings of the early church radically changed things. There must have been some seriously difficult conversations taking place between friends and family members. Do we follow or not follow? Is this truly the one we've been waiting for? The Jews were waiting for a Messiah that would deliver them, but this wasn't quite the deliverance they hoped for. Can you imagine grappling with the theological implications of a crucified and risen Lord? They didn't have New Testament explanations that we have but had to wrestle with what was written of Him from what we know as the Old Testament. How many of us would have had the faith to cling to Jesus instead of our system?

Where does that leave us now after a couple thousand years of trying to figure out God? Of thinking "biblically?" I know very godly people who come to very different conclusions on various passages of Scripture. So which is the proper biblical interpretation and how do we know? From what I've seen, people come to different conclusions not based on who is "being biblical" but based on their denominational framework. Baptists come to Baptisty conclusions, Anglicans come to Anglican-ish conclusions, and Presbyterians come to Presby conclusions. The theology they start with shapes where they end up. If you're a Calvinist, you look through that lens, Arminians through Arminianism. Not to mention all the other "isms" that we build. It seems to me that there should always be some sort of tension in this, however, because no denomination can possibly get everything right. Right? So, shouldn't we be having a whole lot of honest conversations within whatever framework we find ourselves and not settle for prepackaged answers? Why is that so scary? What are the benefits and detriments of forming our faith communities based on our particular system of belief instead of our common love of Jesus? Is there a difference between dogma and doctrine? Is there a difference between strong faith and strong doctrinal stances and can either of them stand alone? How can we cultivate a culture of learning that casts out fear and leads us into loving God with all our heart, soul and strength?

Can we drink from the deep wells of the mystery of God and trust Jesus above the systems while finding safe places to ask questions and be vulnerable in the fellowship of not having all the answers?

I don't know.

God help us spur each other on to know You and make You known. God help us to have a theology of weakness, where we look at the cross, and not our agenda, as our model. God help us live what we claim to believe. God help us be good listeners, seeking out where You are moving, and be faithful interpreters of your work in our world.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When Friends Sucky Words Are True

A couple months ago I was trying to explain a research project that I'd been working on to a friend when he stopped me and said, "Ok, this is just painful. Stop. Maybe you could just write it out for me."


Matt awkwardly divulged to this friend the other day how much this hurt my feelings, and we all joked about it and moved on. He'd already apologized and genuinely felt bad, but it's not that what he said was even a big deal. Most of the time I would just laugh it off because when it comes to storytelling, I sometimes lose my own attention and want to stop listening. No biggie.

The problem was in the timing of the comment.

Recently I'd felt like such a failure in this area, so it was pouring salt on an already open wound. And I know all about open wounds. Leading this Love146 stuff has made me feel like I'm standing naked in front of a crowd and instead of laughing, they're just looking at me with their heads tilted, saying, "Huh."

So awkward.
It's not fun. I'm vulnerable in all the ways I'd rather not be. Let me repeat, it's not fun. But it's good. I know it's stretching me in ways I don't want to be stretched and certainly making me operate out of a place of weakness, which more often than I care to admit, sends me to the god of chocolate instead of to the God of the universe. But, there's hope in the middle of it all. "Tomorrow's freedom is today's surrender," as I move forward, even when my feet feel like they're stuck in the mud.

Maybe there was more to what he said than just the painful truth of it. Maybe it was just what I needed to hear. The little nudge in a positive direction.

Because he's right.
I can write.
Maybe it's time to cultivate it. There's so many things I want my children to know. I never want them to  miss the heart of what we want them to learn because I couldn't speak the right words to them.

This is for my babies, so you may know your momma and as much as I can think of to pass onto you when I just can't seem to find the words. I hope all these thoughts that make little sense coming out of my mouth somehow find meaning through plucking at a keyboard. I hope you someday find joy in reading through this and hearing the voice of your mommy. 

So thanks, Nate, for finding my stories so painful. ;)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Imagination- 2013

The function of the imagination is “not to make strange things settled so much as to make settled things strange; not so much to make wonders facts as to make facts wonders.” G.K. Chesterton

2013 is already in full swing, as far as the calendar goes, but life has yet to go back to normal. Em heads back to school tomorrow and with that, I think, will begin another season of normalcy. I'm ready for routine and normal and am determined to jump into some beautiful rhythms in my own life and with my family. I don't know if it's the resolution call of the new year or what, but I remember wanting the same thing last year at this time. I want to enjoy the flow of life through structured time, in order to live more creatively. Matt and I were just talking last night about if we don't have specific time set aside for what's important to us, then it just doesn't happen. While I may shrivel up and die without a bit of spontaneity, I also want to live intentionally this year. 

I want to live from a deeper imagination.

I think that's my word of 2013.

[ih-maj-uh-ney-shuh n] noun
- the faculty of imaginingor of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses.
- ability to face and resolve difficulties; resourcefulness

2012 tired me out in many ways. Partially from not taking time to let myself imagine more, to think creatively, to face and resolve difficulties through concepts that are not actually present to the senses because maybe I've gotten too used to asking the wrong questions and expecting different solutions. My brain needs some muscle confusion this year.

I'm resolved to continuously, actively search for the beauty in the places where it shouldn't be. Instead of searching for better answers and solutions, pose better questions. Always go deeper. Challenge the typical frameworks that lead us away from the Point. To more fully understand the story of the history that I am a part of, my roots in an ancient Hebrew faith in a God that has been weaving His story throughout the ages. A God who continues to work today. 

I'm resolved for my children to know the Word of God as more than just a collection of stories, facts, or rules, but to see in it the invitation to know the God who woos and invites us into relationship with him, to worship with their lives, to chase him and see him work in all things. I don't want to manage my little ones; I want to be a vehicle that awakens their little hearts and minds.

I'm learning to phase out the old, tired words of relationship stiflers- fear, gossip, and self-interest and replace them with courage, vulnerability and loving others as myself. I can be so patient with my own foibles but fail to extend the same grace to others. My level-headed husband is broadening my imagination by helping me learn to let go instead of holding tightly to hurts that grip me. I'm sure we can imagine greater ways to love and serve each other this year as well. We recently unlocked some of the mysteries of the other with a personality assessment test. While it sounds completely lame, I think it will actually help guide us through areas that we haven't been able to figure out before.

And finally, as I navigate the waters of seeking God's mercy and justice, I can't help but be reminded of one of the greatest lessons I learned last year. My ears have been tuned to what God is doing in our world and has placed me on a path that will include times of loneliness and discouragement. That's okay though. I just need to keep walking, one foot in front of the other, being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, learning to pray as never before. I will fail at times. I will get things wrong. I will want to throw my hands up and forget it. But I won't. I won't. I won't. As Gary Haugen said the other day, "If you enter into this fight you will need Him, you will seek Him and you will find Him."

This year, as never before, my life will be washed in prayer that seeks, that longs, that boldly approaches the ultimate Artist and Imagination-Shaper.