Wednesday, April 23, 2014

the in between

People who know me in real life and see my Instagram feed often comment about how much I love coffee. It’s true, I really do. I think though that a lot of people think I constantly drink coffee, always with one cup in hand-like a chain smoker going from one drag to the next. In truth, I only have 2 cups a day. I do love coffee, and could drink it all day long. But I choose not too. However, I do make a choice to be intentional about my coffee. I don’t make a cup just because it’s there. I make a cup when I can take a moment to sit with it, either with a friend or over a good book. It’s a literal coffee break for me. For me, it’s about slowing down and taking a moment to pause and be refreshed when I can sit still with a steaming cup. 
I shared the other day about my need for slowing down. It goes without saying, for me slower is better. It’s a standpoint that doesn’t always receive much validation in today’s fast paced world. We thrive on multitasking, at least we think so, but we often get more than we bargained for in the process. That more is not necessarily a good thing.
Jeff Goins recently talked about the in-between, the places of waiting from getting from one thing to another. In a way, we’re all living in the in between. Whether it’s in between jobs or simply in between the school drop off and pick up, there is always an in between that finds us waiting. In fact, a lot of our lives are spent here in this in between.
Pursuing slow gives meaning to the in between. It’s why I like my coffee slow and deliberate. It makes me slow down, and that daily pause is more than a simple consumption of coffee. It becomes a ritual, sacred almost, where I intentionally slow myself. I rest in the process. From grinding the beans with a manual grinder, to waiting for the perfect temperature of the water, all of it.
“Our cultural impatience runs so rampant that we dress it up in terms like “productivity” and “efficiency.” But what’s really happening is we are conditioning ourselves to get what we want now, all the time. Such a mindset robs us of the lessons waiting can teach us, causing us to miss out on the slow but important stuff of life.”
The important stuff is almost always appreciated by taking it in slow. When I slow down to look my husband in the eye, and deliberately give him my attention I validate him and end up receiving that same validation back. When I’m okay waiting in the long line at Starbucks, I might be able to have a moment of connection with the person behind me. And who’s to say that those moments aren’t actually God ordained moments that he gives for us to share him with others? Could we be missing those because we aren’t okay accepting the slow way?
Accepting the slow, the waiting, and the in between allows me to focus on what’s in front of me. The sacred, holy, everyday life that unfolds around me is likely to be missed when I am distracted. We grow slowly, over time, and that takes a lot of waiting. Maybe God established things like that so that we could learn to see him in the small things just as much as in the big things. Maybe he wants us to see him even more in those small, waiting spaces?

Monday, April 21, 2014

why I pursue slow

Every life has it limits and each of us is different and unique. Outside the basics of how God made man to know him and be in right relationship with him, there is not only one way to live a life. Your life and pace might likely kill another person, just as another person’s slow and methodical life might drive you insane.

We all have limitations though.

I was diagnosed with a chronic condition in 2012. It’s name is Meniere’s Disease, and if I’m not careful it’s name really could be “dizzy, black fog, barely functioning days.” It’s not a fun place to be. But there’s always hope, and with lifestyle changes I’ve been able to keep my symptoms at bay and live life mostly uninterrupted by Meniere’s trademark symptoms. 

I’ve sat with this pesky friend for a while now, and she’s come and gone through the years. But she’s pretty faithful to show back up, often at the worst of times. She’s selfish and demands a lot from me, her presence has forced me to make a lot of changes in my life. At first this was hard, I don’t like change and I didn’t really like not feeling like I was in charge of my own body. But really, are any of us in charge of anything when God is sovereign and moves how he will?

Learning to live with this chronic condition has taught me a few things, and I’ve realized that the limitations of it are actually the best of gifts.

Since my diagnosis I’ve become more healthy, I watch what I eat and am careful to avoid certain foods that trigger my symptoms. Since my diagnosis I’ve learned to eliminate stress and take better care of myself. I get more sleep and allow for more margin and downtime in my life. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t do these things I pay for it in days lost to fog, fatigue, and the constant sensation of living on a merry go round.

However, I think the best thing about this is that I’ve learned to be okay living slow. I guard my time and have become okay with doing less, because I’ve learned that pushing myself beyond my limits of busy only backfires on me. I say no to lots of extras and that causes me to be really intentional about how I spend my time doing everything else. I know God has given each of us a finite, limited amount of time to do his work here on earth. Knowing my limits has forced me to be very intentional about how I spend that time, learning to make the most of each opportunity. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to say yes to every opportunity that comes my way.

Perhaps the most important thing is that I’ve learned is that embracing our limitations frees us to do the work we are really meant to do.

Chronic condition or not, I think that’s something we all must learn. We are not meant to do it all. But I believe we are meant to do a few things, and do them well. God created within each of us a specific purpose, but we often allow it to get muddled because we simply do too much. We stretch ourselves too thin, and overextend to the point that we’re not really effective in the most important of things. Sometimes we even sacrifice our health or sanity in the process. I don’t want to live my life that way, and I bet that you don’t either. 

I think a lot about something Mark Batterson said, “We can do the work of God at a pace that destroys the work of God in us.” Today can I give you permission to do less? I’m talking to myself as much as anyone here, because the Monday morning list seems long and the temptation to take on too much is so real. But let’s be okay with living slow and intentional. Let’s allow God to narrow our focus to do only what he’s designed us to do. Let’s not destroy that work of God in us.

Friday, April 18, 2014

the giving up life

So, about this Lent thing?

As I sit here on Good Friday it turns it out was harder than I thought. The life Christ asks me to live takes sacrifice. It’s the same thing he asks of each of his followers. And yet, so often we are only willing to sacrifice when it’s convenient for us. When there’s wiggle room in the checking account, then, I’ll tithe. When I get through this school year, then, I’ll serve. When I’m fully rested and living my life with clear margins, then I’ll give of myself. 

Unfortunately, as Christ followers we don’t have the luxury of those options. Jesus was very clear when he talked to his followers about this. He said when you give, when you fast, when you pray. (Matthew 6) It wasn’t an if, it was a when. He knew these were not optional exercises for those who follow him. They are the essential disciplines of a life hidden in Christ. 

As Lent began this year I pondered how God wanted me to observe it. I asked him to show me how I could mark this season. He didn’t give me an audible answer. Instead, he gave me a teenager. She showed up at the door on the night before Lent began, sundown to be precise. She brought her tears and her running shoes and a tender, fragile heart. 

As I opened the door, I allowed my heart to expand. And now this girl, she’s one of us. We call her an honorary Detweiler. Even though she’s returned home, she is forever a part of our tribe. 

Just so you know, this isn’t about what we did as a family during the Lent season as much as it’s about hearing the words of Jesus and acting them. He said whatever we do for others, we do for him. He said to care for each other, a concept that is echoed over and over again throughout Scripture. He asks us to lay down our lives, get humble, live for something greater. None of these are overly easily. 

Sometimes we don’t really know what we’re asking for when we ask God to pour us out. I’d like to think it’s about doing the work of God, at my convenience. But God’s directions for his followers don’t work that way. I’m asked to give, even when I don’t want to. I’m asked to share, even when it feels like there’s nothing there to offer. God asks this way because it is in those thin places that he comes in and opens up new ways of blessing us. In our lack he is able to meet our needs, and then often surpass them. But he asks us to open up first. 

Joyce Meyer said once that if you’re lacking in an area of your life, you must give that very thing away and God will come in to return what you’ve poured out. If I don’t have money, he asks me to give money away. If my time is stretched thin, I give away my time. No food in the pantry? Make a meal with what’s left, and then watch God go in and give back what you’ve offered up.

And what does this have to with Lent? It’s the giving of ourselves that makes a way for God to deposit into us. And it’s not giving the minimum. It’s giving it all away. It doesn’t make sense, but I dare you to try. God asks us to give and he tells us he will throw open the floodgates, and deluge us with blessings. (Malachi 3:10)

I didn’t feel like I had much to give when our newest family member came, but on the other side I see that I am overflowing. It wasn’t easy, not because of her but because of my own selfish nature. My longing for routine and my desire to keep the boat steady made it hard to have another person around. But Jesus allowed storms to rock boats, and then he always came and brought peace in the midst of it. He supplied the lack. He brought the overflow. He died so we can not only know and love him, he died and rose again so that my gratitude filled life will make an impact on those around me. That’s his kingdom in action.

It's an invitation he extends to each us this Easter holiday, and everyday. To partner with him in his greater work of using us.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

how Holy Week shouldn't look any different from the rest of life

It’s Holy Week, that sacred time between Palm Sunday and Easter glory. I mark time thinking about the cross, the willing sacrifice, the love that motivated Jesus up the hill, the lashes he took for me, the blood spilled to wash me clean. He didn’t have to do it. Scripture indicates that he didn’t really want to do it, but he knew his mission. He knew I needed a rescue, he knew I was dead in sin from the beginning. It’s his death that makes me alive again. The joy of it is that Sunday morning found him alive again, victorious and ready to stand before God on my behalf. 

In light of Christ’s sacrifice, I asked my husband his thoughts about Holy Week, wondering if we should do anything different to mark this sacred time. He was quite for a few minutes, pondering. Then he whispered that perhaps the point is that it shouldn’t look different at all. What should look different is everything, every week, every day, every moment of this life in Christ. 

Christ’s death for me should galvanize my lazy soul to action, every single day. But there’s one little problem, it’s not always convenient to be galvanized. I like to wait before I take action. I like to think about things. And by all means, I should probably pray about the things before I do them. And there’s truth to that. But I know that I can spend far too much time thinking about the things and talking about the things, and far too little time actually doing the things. 

How often do we wait too long in life; we wait for the right timing, the right job, the right amount of kids, the right anything. In the waiting we never actually arrive anywhere. 

We’re watching Francis Chan’s Basics series with some friends. In one of the DVDs he shares an example about how we are really supposed to do what Jesus said. Not just listen and absorb it, but really live it. Chan shares a story of sorts about how he asks his daughter to clean her room. She comes back hours later and tells her dad she’s got it-she memorized his instructions: clean your room. But that’s not what she was asked to do. So he reminds her that the instructions were to clean her room. She sets off again. The next time she comes back full of excitement, she says started a small group and studied about how to clean her room, she has a system and a method and whole binder of ideas on the basics of room cleaning. She’s done all of this, but she’s hasn’t lifted a finger to actually make her room clean. 

I think all too often we do the same with Jesus, and with his words to us. We read his commands, love your neighbors, do good to all, and everything else. We talk about them, we pray about them. But, then something happens. Well, actually the problem is that nothing happens. We just read through it, and our actions don’t reflect the things that Jesus asks us to do.

My husband and I are reading through the book of James with our kids. Last night we landed on James 2, where James emphatically states that faith without works is dead. He goes on to say “you show me your faith by what you say, but I’ll show you my faith by what I do.” 

Maybe this Holy Week should look like action. Maybe this holy week should find us actually, really living out the words that Jesus said.

There’s an army chaplain who has a novel approach to reading the Gospels. He suggests we read through the words that Jesus said, and as soon as he commands us to do something  we go out and do it. We don’t keep reading. We don’t over analyze. We don’t form a focus group. We just get up and do the thing Jesus says. It’s a revolutionary way to read the gospel. I think he’s onto something.

What can we do this week to live out the simple command that Jesus gave to love our neighbor? What tangible, practical ways can we care for our literal neighbors? Not the missionaries around the world (though they certainly covet our prayers and support). Not the outreach the church across town is doing. But our physical next door neighbors. 

Can we share a meal? Can we watch some children? Can we mow a lawn? Can we simply sit and listen to their story? 

Jesus came to start something. He came to turn things on their heads. We can do the same, if we’re on the move. I don’t want to only sit and think about Jesus’ words, I want to live them. I know it’s not easy to do this; we risk persecution, misunderstanding, ridicule and more when our lives look different from those around us. But we gain so much more. We gain a partnership with Christ. We gain adventure. We gain community with other Christ followers. And most importantly, those we love like Jesus gain new life. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

how to kill time when you're waiting on answers

If I could have you over this morning I’d make a big cup of coffee, just for you. I’d want to hear what’s up in your life and what you’re learning. I’d want to know how you’re being challenged, where you’re struggling and where you’re finding victory. And I’d share the same with you. I’d tell you about how this season has been amazing as I’ve seen God orchestrate things in my life, and also very hard as he’s refined things in me along the way. 

Many of you know I spent last week waiting for some test results. By nature, I am a stewing kind of person. I mull over things, I internalize everything, I can’t shut my brain off even if I tried. This makes it difficult to wait for answers to the unknown. 

So what do I do as I wait? I’m teaching my brain to meditate on God’s word when I find myself going down the path of worry. I wrangle my thoughts and place myself under God’s covering. I go to the Bible and drink in it’s comforts. But this body has to move while she waits. 

Often I pray and clean. I meditate on Scripture while I paint walls. The mindless motions of cleaning form a backdrop for the greater work going on in my heart and my soul. And now, this old house is cleaner than it’s been in a very long time. I’ve gone room by room and cleaned, cleared out, and touched up. 

Unfortunately, as a result we can hardly step foot into our garage. My husband is likely about to die over this, and I feel the same. I’m tempted to throw it all on the driveway and put a big sign on it that says “FREE!!!” But my husband feels like a garage sale would result in money, and since I’ve never turned down money I guess I have to agree. 

In the meantime I’m selling furniture on Craig’s List (any local friends need a giant mission style hutch?) and I think the kids are a little fearful that they’ll come home to empty rooms because I found a good buyer for their beds. Don’t worry-I won’t. But. The house? She feels good and clean and ordered.

So of course I must revel in her spic and span ways for just a bit.*

*Full disclosure here, the realities of two people working three jobs from home is that things get cluttered. And while I would love to show you a really nice photo of how clean our home is, that's just not the case. Yes, it's clean-but it is momentarily cluttered, which is why I would distract you with a large cup of really good coffee. And yes, there is big horned sheep laying down in front of the fireplace. And doesn't everyone have one of those? Also, it startles me enough to make me pee a little every time I walk by. Soon he will be hanging in his proper place. Also, we currently have a piano bench for a coffee table. As I have impulsively sold ours on Craig's List. And one more thing, I'm thinking of making white slip covers for the sofas. Thoughts? Suggestions? Am I crazy?

Anyway, it's spring cleaning time. I throw open windows and shake off dusty curtains and fluff up stagnant pillows. And it feels good. It’s like we’ve all taken a big, deep breath.

Oh, and those results? The doctor didn’t see anything that was cause for immediate concern. And we praise God for that. Because maybe there was and God took it away. I do know I’ll be seeking out a second opinion to deal with the cause of these unpleasant symptoms. Thank you for praying, thank you for the kind emails and prayers and thoughts you all sent my way. I feel them, and I’m grateful for sisters near and far who help carry the load.

Friday, April 11, 2014

what Grace teaches me

Today, in the real of life I struggle with so many simple things. I know that God has these standards, things like speak kind and love your enemies and all of that. It’s really easy for me to do great getting the big things right, stay married, don’t rob a bank, keep from murdering and so forth. But yet, it is so, so, so (and maybe one more so) hard to live out the most simple of things. 

Today, I remember that my words matter. 

Sometimes the Bible gets a bad rap. We see it as set of rules, a vague ideology, or just a bunch of good ideas. But the Bible, the gospel, is much more. It is a testament to grace. It is a song that we must tune our lives to. 

I’ve heard all the things, that Christianity is just rule following, doing right, and shunning evil. Sure we do that. I avoid what I know to be wrong, most of the time. I strive to do right, on the good days. I think there’s this perception that the Christ follower blindly follows rules, like a robot.

But Christ has a different story. His life is a testament to grace. A testament is simply something that serves as evidence of a specific fact; Christ’s testament or his story gives us evidence of his great grace. As a Christ follower I don’t follow the rules of the Bible just because they’re there. If I can be completely honest, I often don’t like following all the Biblical commands anyway. Do you know how hard it is to pray for those who persecute you? Have you ever tried to avoid godless chatter? And isn’t it incredibly difficult to allow no corrupt talk to come from your mouths?

I don’t walk those lines of rules just for the sake of following rules. I choose to honor the commands God gives in his Word because of grace, and grace alone.

Titus 2:11 and 12 says “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” 

The Biblical dictionary defines that word grace as the merciful kindness of God. I read that scripture again and say “For the merciful kindness of Godteaches me to say no to ungodliness and corrupt longings.” 

I don’t follow the rules because I’m afraid of God. It’s God’s grace and merciful kindness that teach me to live my life God’s way. And his grace motivates me to stay close to his truth. God’s grace and merciful kindness teach me how to live life safely. Because what it really comes down to is that I’m like a dumb little lamb. I end up in the wrong place (at least mentally) and I need a mercifully kind shepherd to put me back on track. His kindness and grace motivate me to make better choices in my life. His kindness and grace give me incentive to make choices that honor him. 

When my kids were babies, Zac’s great grandma would often line her fireplace hearth with pillows. Every time we visited, we’d find that row of bricks covered. Her kindness to our small crawling babies caused her to employ protective measures to keep them safe. We all knew the bricks held potential for pain and injury, and we were always grateful for those pillows. The rules to stay away from the bricks weren’t there because she was mean, they were there because in following them my children had the best chance of keeping safe. 

It’s not really much different with God. His kindness and his grace motivate him to establish guidelines for our lives. We might not always like them, but they’re there for our protection. Because of God’s merciful kindness I am motivated to make the right choices, even when it’s hard to do so. 

His grace teaches me. It teaches me to make God honoring choices. It teaches me to shut my mouth when I’d rather gossip. It teaches to pray for those who persecute me, when I'd rather punch them in the face. It teaches me to give as a sacrifice, when I’d rather go buy new shoes. God’s grace, and his grace alone motivates me to choose better.

It’s not about just going through motions, following rules, and living right. Those are the results, not the cause. Today I remember that it is all because of God’s grace and merciful kindness to me. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

on finding refuge

I’m feeling wordless. I realize that’s an ironic thing to say, as I type out words and string them all together. But the truth is that there is a weightier thing on my mind.

Months and months of monthly pain and suffering found me on an ultrasound table last week. My nurse practitioner didn’t like what she saw. So I have an appointment to see the doctor to figure out what the next is. 

I have avoided Google and Web MD like the plague. And I just keep going day by day, waiting. It’s not really a fun place to be mentally. But I am so I’m thankful for God’s amazing timing in this whole thing, because just a few weeks ago he had Zac’s mom bring me a book on Psalm 91. I’ve been reading and meditating and memorizing these precious words since then. In the last two weeks I have crawled through the first four verses. And I stay there.

Psalm 91 is a promise and a prayer for God’s protection. And here’s where it matters to me today. I don’t know what’s going on with my body. At the most simple, it’s a minor issue and wrangling my hormones back into balance will take care of it. But then there’s the other side, and that’s what I don’t know. So today I have a choice to make. I can choose to dwell on the unknown and the possibility for something awful or I can choose to dwell on the Lord.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I get to choose today where my thoughts go. I can dwell on the negative, or I can focus on God’s goodness instead. 

I will say of the Lord he is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.

I can say today that I’m afraid of what’s going with me, or instead I can say the life giving truth that God is my refuge and my fortress. He is ever trustworthy and able to meet me where I am most needy.

It is he who delivers you from the fowlers snare. And from the deadly pestilence.

My God is the one who keeps me safe from the hidden traps of the enemy, and he is also the one who delivers me from disease and sickness.

He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge.

He protects me like a mother hen, who spreads her wings wide for her chicks to come underneath. He makes a safe place for me there when they enemy is swooping overhead. 

His faithfulness will be your shield and your rampart.

God’s faithfulness will be my protection. My safety doesn’t come because of anything I do or earn, it comes because God is faithful and he is good, and I have made a choice to dwell in his presence. He is a shield, used to defend against the enemy and he is a rampart. A rampart is often a structure that is on the city wall, used for looking out to see the enemy approaching and provide a place to take defensive measures. God is that defensive protection for me.

He is a refuge for you as well. Whatever we face, sickness or unemployment, loss or discouragement, God is our help and defense. Our response is simply to make a choice as to where we dwell and what we say. Do we choose to dwell on God and his faithfulness, or do we focus on our problems and lack? Do we choose to say that our problems are just too big, or do we choose to say that God is our refuge?

I don’t know what I’ll hear on Thursday. But I do know that God isn’t surprised. Because of these words I am at peace over it all. I am not worried because I know where my hope lies. I’ve known him long enough to know that he is always faithful, and he is always good, and I know I can say that even if I hear the worst. But at the same time, I know he is able to work in my body even at this very moment and deliver me from sickness and disease. And I choose to trust in that.

What’s your struggle today? Where do you need God to meet you, and can I pray for you about that?

The comments are open, or shoot me an email:

I’d love to pray for you as I wait.

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