Objects in Motion

If you ever spin really fast for a long enough time that you get dizzy, lying down does not immediately return your equilibrium.  In fact, lying down is the first moment you really feel the impact of the dizziness and it is awful.  You have to stay perfectly still for the motion to stop in your head and the calm to return.  Getting sick, and for a second time in a week finally staying put in my bed yesterday, provided this very sensation.  My life of sprinting on a moving sidewalk was forced to a jarring halt and I was struck with how difficult slowing down and even stopping can be.

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  Mark 4:39



The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. Luke 8:24
 
I like the idea of Jesus’ saying “Quiet!  Be still!” and that the waves weren’t just the fun, summertime, boogie board variety but were “raging waters”…and all was completely calm in an instant.  There is no human invention that can do that with wild, raging water and I most certainly can not do that with my wild, raging soul.
 
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matt. 8:23-27

Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”…The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”  “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.”  Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. Jonah 1:4-6, 11-15

Jonah was not an innocent man, yet he foreshadowed the One who would calm the storm by giving His life.  The raging waters that first wiped out the world in judgment would never again wipe out all those who fully deserve it, because the only One who knew no guilt bore their wrath and replaced their victory with His.
Even as I am spinning and wanting to throttle back, to be more present in the moment than running wildly to some distant finish line, I find I cannot calm myself, simmer myself down nor effectively command my heart, mind and soul to be quiet and still.  I try all sorts of cargo dumping, list making, and task completion efforts all to no avail.  The sea sickness continues.
 
“At that time,” declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.” This is what the LORD says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.” The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jer. 31:1-3
 
I love that I am among those who “survive the sword” not because of my swift feet and agile moves, but because and only because Jesus took the sword in my place!  And then, even in the wilderness (not just the promised land), He will give me rest.
 
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thes. 3:16
 
He is the Lord of peace – not my unpacked boxes, not an orderly new house, not walls with baseboards nor finished paint or kitchen countertops or hot showers (none of which we quite have yet).  The accomplishment of these things, and the host of others on my ever growing to-do list, will never calm my busy heart nor bring to rest my soul in motion.  But His presence reminds me that He is rest, He is peace, He has the power to say, “Peace, be still!” and it will be so.  Even tonight as I close my eyes, oh would He quiet me.
 
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1

Attachment

In the midst of our sheet rock dust, no closet hanging rods or shelves yet only two rooms with doors “excitement”, our kind and gracious social worker came to visit this week to update our home study for Uganda.  I’m grateful for his ability to see what isn’t quite yet visible.  As we met with him, Elijah our four year old neighbor came on in the house on his own and checked in with us periodically in between costume changes while playing Ellie and Chad.  A friend also stopped by with dinner, my dad dropped in after visiting with our other neighbor about their house plans and he got a glimpse of the open door life in our neighborhood.  In some ways, as we talked about Uganda and adoption in this environment, it provided a wonderful “big picture” view of where God has us and is taking us.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  John 10:27

In going back over some basic things about which we need to acknowledge our understanding in our home study, we discussed attachment issues.  A child who has lived life without a parent may at best have bonded with a particular care giver, but at worst seeks that intimacy with anyone and yet feels accountable to no one.  As I’ve sure mentioned before, I can see this tendency in my own orphan inclined heart.  I want anyone I encounter to approve of (and marvel at!) my thoughts, choices and actions while I may whither under the criticism of just as broad a spectrum of people.  All the while, there is only One voice that I should be tuning in to hear and recognizing as my authority and place of safety.

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.  Ex. 20:2-3

There is only One who has the power to truly rescue me (from my sin, from the judgment of others, from a broken world, etc.) and only One I am to call Abba Father.  Every single person who sets himself or herself before me should not command the same authority as my creator, redeemer, sustainer and lover of my soul.  When I, like a legal orphan, become properly attached to One Father, I do not have to madly seek out the affection of others, but can rest securely in the arms of One.  In a house full of people coming in and out, or a community of family and friends, there is only One voice which should capture my attention.
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  John 8:44

The seeming chaos of our house, with people running in and out amidst tools, furniture, paint and toys, is not so stressful when I know whose voice to focus on or upon which one thing to focus.  While I have absolutely spent a good amount of time staring like a deer in headlights at the endless tasks which each demand my immediate attention, I have also experienced a surprising amount of peace even in the setting of this disorganized place.  Because a visitor wonders why we haven’t landscaped yet or the plumber tells us how easy it would be to replace the latch on the crawl space, everyone else’s urgent does not have to be mine.  In the broader context, all the voices which demand my attention or obedience can be quieted by His One voice to which He draws, tunes and attaches my heart.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. 
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic. 
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.  The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.  The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.  The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.

And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. 
The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.
Psalm 29:3-11

Community, the Church

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

We are now living in this house, even without a kitchen (which I hope will begin to be installed today), or hanging rods in any of the closets, or a door on the one bathroom with a working shower.  I decided last night, even with half a bathroom unfinished as well as doors, two hallways and who knows what else, that I don’t ever want to paint another stroke again or clean another brush or bucket, or run to buy yet another five gallons of paint.  The wrist brace that Anne lent me is no longer overcompensating for my manual labor injury and the blisters on my hands are outward indicators of the swollen joints inside.  At one point last week, I noticed that in my exhaustion, my face felt numb.  That is normal, right?

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Gal. 5:13-14

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12

No matter what we as Americans try to do with it, no matter how my ego-centric heart presumes autonomy, the Gospel can never be individualistic, self-serving, or separatist and retain the integrity of it’s GOOD news.  I have experienced this most beautiful “body of Christ” on earth in the process of this move.  From Scott, Eric, Wyatt, Drew and Ted constructing a new hallway in the back of our house to Jim installing sinks in our bathrooms, to Sarah removing the nastiest carpet ever, to Stephanie, Amy, Meredith, Hannah, EA, Karen, Melissa, Jenn, Mom and Diane painting, to Dad installing light fixtures and sink cabinets, to Walter hanging our bedroom door perfectly, to Carolos and LaTonya chauffeuring my children over to Elisabeth who graciously allowed them an escape from the madness for a few hours, to Liza cleaning the bathrooms not once but twice in a way that makes them safe to eat in, to the Westside Church volunteer moving crew, to Anne sorting through our piles of clothes in closets without hanging rods to bring order anyway, to Karen and Sarah letting us walk down to their house for breakfast Sunday and use their dryer,  to Beverly bringing us dinner, to Hannah hanging shower curtains, paper blinds and bringing a smoothie today as I’m finally in bed sick…I have experienced what it is to be part of the body of Christ and the joy that I am not left orphaned or alone.  It is astonishingly beautiful, unnatural and such evidence that Jesus is alive in this community.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

It was not good for Adam to be alone, it was not complete.  It is only in my pride that I convince myself I don’t need others.  Quite honestly, it seems impossible to say “I need God” and think I have no need of His people.  I hate feeling indebted to people, and yet I have found that my dependence on others is inextricably linked to my dependence on God.  What I mean is that as long as I feel reasonably self-reliant in relation to others, it can’t help but make me feel self-reliant in relation to God.  On the flip side, surprisingly, as I acknowledge my needs before God and my need of others, it actually tears down walls and draws me closer to both.  I was not made to live unto myself, independent of either God or man, but rather belonging to both.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5

Belonging means that once my season of extraordinary physical need comes to an end, which I hope it will soon, the goal is not to hibernate in this new home behind shut doors and drawn windows.  His love compels me outward and to allow others inside freely.  I am called to suffer with others as Jesus has suffered for and with me, ultimately in His living and dying but also through His people even in this past month.  I am also called to share in the celebrations of others.  The problem is that naturally, I don’t really want to do either.  Naturally, I want to serve myself first and only, which I will do unless His Spirit is at work in me and overrides my strong, self-centered will.  And He promises to do just this!

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Romans 7:22-25

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Cor. 12:9

Normal Life

I have found myself repeatedly saying that I’m ready to get back to “normal life”.  My days being so consumed with painting, trips to salvage yards and home improvement stores, decisions about flooring, light fixtures and paint colors have taken me away from the things I would rather spend my time and energy doing.  For one, I really like to read books that direct my heart to the Gospel and remind me of the many ways I drift away from trusting Him to trusting myself instead.  I like to have more space and time for thinking through these things, teaching them and in general, being more intentional with my children and in my relationships.  I enjoy relationships far more than tasks, (even though tasks can be far more simple and straight forward).  As each of these things have fallen off the map, I feel at the mercy of this whirlwind of a season I’m in and I want to return to “normal life”.

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.  He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.  He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.  Daniel 2:20-22

What I apparently mean by “normal life” is a more predictable daily routine in which I feel control over my schedule and environment.  When seasons of life come in which I feel out of control and the intentional living is replaced with either survival or the overwhelming immediate, I consider that abnormal.  Interestingly, God had to remind me that normal life isn’t about my control, but His.  When I feel unintentional, He is still totally intentional.  There is no season of my life or the history of human life in which He is not exhaustively intentional and in beautiful, life-giving, redemptive control of all things.

Then Job answered the LORD and said:  “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’  Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Job 42:1-3

I am so quick to assume that my children will turn out well if I am intentional, that I will have effective ministry if I am focused and disciplined, that life will be smooth if I can be organized and that I am “with God” more in seasons where I am doing all these things than the ones that find me dragged by my circumstances like a cowboy being dragged on the ground by his horse through a desert.
 
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  Gal. 1:6-7
 
The different gospel, which is really not good news at all, is that it is by grace I have been saved and by works I can remain.  Carson Pittman spoke about this yesterday in his sermon at Atlanta Westside.  When my security in Him (which includes confidence not only in His pleasure with me but also that He will produce fruit for my life to bear) shifts from the person and work of Jesus to the person and work of me, I have once again “fallen from grace” – or abandoned grace as my lifeline and grabbed hold of something else entirely.
 
Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Cor. 3:4-6
 
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

This season I am in now, and have been in before (between schools, between jobs, with a newborn baby, with two children under three, selling a house, renovating a house, moving, the death of a loved one, etc.) IS normal life in God’s kingdom and in His economy.  There is no intermission, time out, off track or otherwise distinction in seasons when it comes to the Gospel.  Not one circumstance is outside the reach of His redemptive presence nor outside the realm of His redemptive purposes.  My distractedness, the physical exhaustion which accompanies the demands of the moment, the limitations of time, or the unpredictable nature of certain season are all incapable of thwarting His plans and purposes. 
 
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3
 
Oh this is indeed such GOOD news!  In this I can rest, with confidence in the security of His accomplishments on my behalf rather than the ebb and flow of my sense of self-reliant “normalcy”.  Normal life stops being defined by my control over circumstances and some ideal of stress free living to knowing Him.  What season or circumstance exists that cannot draw me deeper into the knowledge of Him and intimacy with Him?

Do It Yourself IS for Dummies

So, this house renovating is killing me for a reason.  I am not skilled, I am not knowledgeable, I have only little increments of time and decreasing stamina.  Yet, I continue to do it myself and do it poorly.  Now,  don’t worry, this is not a pity party…there are chuckles in my words as I say them.  If you could see the walls I worked on this morning, I hope you would laugh too.  We were supposed to mud and sand three times to get it smooth and exact.  We did two rounds of mud, one relatively good sanding and a second lame attempt at sanding and then I started to paint.  This particular wall has a textured look like you may find in a third world stucco exterior.  So, we’ll just call it our “nod to other cultures” wall.  I’m not sure how to re-package the dried drips or paint lines on other walls or the holes I still haven’t spackled but have painted over anyway…moon crater-esque?

When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. Acts. 3:12-16

There are some things that are just easier to identify as “clearly the work of the Spirit”, though we as believers claim all good gifts are from Him.  But, I for one still think I’ve got what it takes to get the job done independently.  My stubborn yet sloppy job on the walls of our new home is simply a visual aid for what my do-it-yourself righteousness is really like.  While an initial glance may only give the impression of the chosen color livening up the room, any further observation reveals the extensive (and in places obscene) mperfections.  Not only is the job not completed in a remotely satisfactory way, but all of my muscles ache, my hands have blisters and my joints feel swollen.  I am exerting all the energy I have to do a job poorly which professionals could come in and do well and more quickly.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— Gal. 3:1-5

I want to be more loving or more patient or more generous or more…and so I decide to do it myself and wonder 1)why it isn’t working, 2) why it is so exhausting and taxing and 3) what I need to do to get it right the next time.  It was God who began the good work in me, it is God who wills and acts in me according to His good purpose and it is the fruit of the Spirit that I need in greater abundance.  How exactly is it that I think I can produce in myself what is only His to cultivate and grow?

I was reading the parable of the prodigal son to Chad today and it occurred to me how deeply I still don’t “get” the Father.  I continue to believe I am on a merit system with Him, earning blessings or clearly deserving the consequences of my laziness, selfishness and so on.  But the father doesn’t give this son a lecture, doesn’t make it a teachable moment to shame him and bring the spotlight on who was right and who was wrong and He doesn’t tell his son to live with the consequences of the hole the son knowingly dug.  He clothes His lazy, greedy and selfish child with His robe, orders up a feast and celebrates His son’s safety and returned presence.

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Gen. 3:21

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Is. 61:10




for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Gal. 3:27

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Cor. 4:7

My righteousness in Christ is completely earned/paid for/merited by Jesus alone.  It is like a debit account kept full by Him and at my disposal.  Then, rather than my cheap attempts at doing it myself, He sends His Spirit to plant, tend, grow and flourish His fruit in me.  His renovation of me is professionally accomplished and will not have to be re-done.  It cannot spoil, perish or fade.  It doesn’t require marketing or spin to make it appear right.  He doesn’t ask me to blister my hands to attempt what His hands have already been pierced to accomplish. 

I’m ok with the horribly unprofessional job I have done on the wall if only because it may serve as a physical reminder of a significant truth.  Being made holy, being conformed to His image, being transformed from fallen and broken to “perfect, complete, lacking nothing” is a job only possible for the person and work of Jesus.  May this truth not only give me rest and peace in the process, but also increase my patience with others who are also in His process.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.  Zech. 4:6