Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Rest Is Noise

It has been one of those weeks.  We've had a stomach virus at our house this week.  It's always made worse when mom has it. :)  My patience is thin and my capacity is lessened.  My poor kids.  I had my two youngest home from school with me today after a night of all of us being sick.  They were hungry and the thought of having to make them food literally sickened me.  But, they had to eat so I pulled a can of chicken noodle soup out of my fully stocked cabinet.  I opened it, dumped it in the pot and turned the sink on to fill up the can with water.  I stirred it and set it on the stove.  In a few minutes it was done and I pulled a few other things out of the fridge, filled some glasses up with water and lunch was served.

I grabbed some medicine out of the cabinet, popped a few pills and went and laid on the couch while my kids ate.  A while later I picked up my laptop to do some work so I wouldn't get too far behind.  All the while, I was inwardly (okay, and outwardly too!) complaining.

But then I started thinking about some of my neighbors in other parts of the world.  I started thinking about what their day would look like if they were sick and their kids were home from school hungry.  I walked myself through each step I had taken at lunch time today and pictured what it would be like for them...

My neighbor in Africa would wake up sick and weak, with lessened capacity just like me.  But likely she would wake up that way every day due to lack of nutrition.  Her children wouldn't be home from school for a day because they had a 24 hour virus.  Her kids would be home from school because she couldn't afford to send them  or because they were seriously ill and too sick to go.  When her kids told her they were hungry, she couldn't just wander over to a fully stocked cabinet and get them food.  She'd have to look in their eyes and say "We don't have any.  Let's go try to find some".  If she happened to find some food to cook, she'd have to walk a long distance (perhaps miles) to fill up a container of dirty water to boil to cook.  She'd have to collect wood for a fire.  She'd take her children with her while she searched for what she needed, likely carrying the little ones on her back the whole way.  What took me five minutes to do would very well take her half a day at the very least.  And if she was lucky enough to feed her children, they would be hungry again soon after. 

While I take my medicine for my poor little tummy ache, she lives with her pain.  I open my laptop from the comfort of my couch and do work that provides me with more income in a month than she'll ever see in her lifetime.  She doesn't know where her next penny or meal is coming from. And yet...I complain.  God must want to sigh and hang his head at me sometimes. 

I am SO stinking comfortable in my life.  Even after three years of God prying my eyes open to finally see the poor and vulnerable...I still find myself so wrapped up in ME.  Yuck.

I look around at all the things that I have and all the ways that I protect myself from even the slightest discomfort and I'm sick all over again.  I was listening to Tom Davis speak this weekend at a justice conference and he was talking about how we RUN from vulnerability.  We view vulnerability as weakness.  We numb ourselves from grief and pain.  We make it so that everything in our lives is protected and stable.
We have life insurance, home insurance, car insurance, our kids wear helmets every time they get on anything that's Protect, Protect, Protect.  Shield ourselves from anything and everything that might cause us pain.

And yet, God doesn't ask us to protect ourselves.  In fact, He says the opposite.  He says to get vulnerable.  He says to give up everything we have to follow Him - including our safety and comfort.  He says we may not have a place to lay our heads at night if we follow Him.  He says we might be asked to sell all our possessions and give them to the poor.  He actually PROMISES us that in this life we WILL have trouble - it's not if, but when!

And yet, I go about my days far from dependent on God.  When we have SO much stuff in our lives, our need for God can tend to slide away.  I heard someone say this week that we don't pray for our daily bread because we have cabinets full of it.  We know where our next meals are coming from.  There's no need to ask for it.  Wow.  Isn't it God who gives us the ability to work so we can earn a living and put bread on our table?  At the end of the day, isn't everything we have a gift from God?  When will I start living fully in the realization that God will always, always give me what I need and that I can let go?  I can hold the blessings in my life loosely and recognize that there may come a day when some of them will be gone.  And it will be okay.  Because at the end of the day, God is always good.  And He has only asked two things of me - to love HIM with everything I've got and to love people like I love myself.  The rest is noise.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Smelling Salts

Well, I'm totally stealing this from my awesome friend Jody's blog

“Jesus hates suffering, injustice, evil, and death so much, he came and experienced it to defeat it and, someday, to wipe the world clean of it. Knowing all this, Christians cannot be passive about hunger, sickness, and injustice. Karl Marx and others have charged that religion is ‘the opiate of the masses.’ That is, it is a sedative that makes people passive toward injustice, because there will be ‘pie in the sky bye and bye.’ That may be true of some religions that teach people that this material world is unimportant or illusory. Christianity, however, teaches that God hates the suffering and oppression of this material world so much, he was willing to get involved in it and to fight against it. Properly understood, Christianity is by no means the opiate of the people. It’s more like the smelling salts.”
- Timothy Keller

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Resting, Dwelling & Feasting

REST.  Why does just typing that word make me anxious??!! Ha! Well, I couldn't possibly rest. I have a company to run, three kids to care for, a marriage to nurture, groceries to purchase, laundry to do, a house to clean, a body to get in shape, African orphans to advocate for, a church to be involved in, friends to see, bills to pay...I could go on for hours. The New Year is often a time of resolutions...most of mine have never been kept because of the reasons mentioned above. :)  So, as I've been thinking and praying about what this year might look like, I think it might look like REST.  How's that for an ambitious goal? Sadly, it IS!!!  

We have been through so much change as a family over the past year. It has been non-stop transition. We have had some of our highest highs and lowest lows this past year.  Through it all, we have felt God close, but man, we're emotionally and physically tired!!  We are also very excited about what 2011 might look like for us and the things God has in store.  But I keep coming back to this idea of rest.  What does that even look like and how do I do it??

Psalm 91:1 says "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."  I find it interesting that the privilege of resting in God's shadow comes as we DWELL in His shelter. 

The dictionary defines the word "dwell" as the following:

1. to live or stay as a permanent resident; reside.
2. to live or continue in a given condition or state: to dwell in happiness.
3. to linger over, emphasize, or ponder in thought, speech, or writing

So when I say that I want to rest this year, what I'm really saying is I want to DWELL.  I want to RESIDE in the shelter of the Almighty.  I want to STAY there.  I want to LINGER in His presence and PONDER who He is.  Dwelling with and in Him naturally leads to me resting in His shadow.  

I love the imagery of resting in God's shadow.  It's as if it's an unbearably hot and humid day and just when I start to feel faint He's there hovering over me...this amazing, strong, refreshing, reassuring presence.  I can let down.  I can breathe. I can REST.  I can be re-energized and at peace.

This's available at every moment of every day if I seek it.  I don't need a New Year's resolution to rest.  I can find it this very second.  But this year, I want the act of dwelling to become more natural and instinctive.  I want to be where God is, to experience His presence more fully so that I can share it with the people around me.  I love the idea of lingering in His shadow...just like the evening light lingers as the sun sets.  

Our culture doesn't rest and it doesn't linger over much worthwhile that will be my struggle.  But I trust that as I seek Him out more diligently and learn what it means to truly dwell in the shadow of the Most High, that the beauty I find there will be no match for the things that compete for my time and my thoughts. 

The second thing I long for this year is to FEAST.  I know how to pick em, huh? Resting and Feasting.  Sounds rough! :)   When I think of what it means to feast I think of coming to a huge banquet table that is overflowing with the finest variety of foods.  And I want to come to God's table to feast.  When I looked up the definition of "feast" (yeah, I was on a dictionary kick today) it said this: "to dwell with gratification or delight, as on a picture or view".  There's that word again.  DWELL. How cool is that? 

God's invitation to us all is to come and feast with Him.

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.  Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.  Give ear and come to Me; hear Me, that your soul may live." - Isaiah 55:1-3

I want to sink my teeth into the things that will feed my soul.  I want the days of spending money and time on things that don't satisfy to be over.  I want to go deep.  That's my craving for this year - to dwell with and be delighted by the lover of my soul as never before.  Not a bad way to start a New Year. :)