Saturday, January 21, 2012

In the World, God in Us...Update #2

Soon after I wrote about my goal for the year I got an email from a friend with this quote:

Every time I say no to the birthing and dying that is set before me at the table of daily life, I seem to hear the echo of Jesus' words to the woman at the well, “If you but knew the gift of God.....” Whether God weeps at the beauty and potential of our lives at birth or the lost potential of graced moments along the way, I hear that voice urging us to claim our splendor and our glory.” If you but knew the gift of God...”
The gift of God is the Divine Indwelling. It comes quietly into your frailty at baptism. You become a tabernacle of the Source of Life. When you come to understand this old yet forgotten truth, you will know what is meant by the words heaven on earth. This is it! You are beginning to live heaven on earth in the Divine Indwelling. You, frail earth-creature, having given your frailty over to God, have created a place of splendor within the depth of your being, a holy and eternal space where you meet God face to face. Cherish this truth. It is costly grace.
--A Tree Full of Angels by Macrina Wiederkehr  

The question I've chosen to ask each day starts with me.  "What am I doing..." 

God's Kingdom (heaven) comes to earth because of God in us, and part of the answer to the question includes nurturing that mystery in me.  The question has to include this reality somehow. 

Today I was reading Sojourners magazine, the February 2011 issue.  An article by Marie Dennis, called "Toward the Fullness of Life" speaks pretty directly to this.  Two quotes from the article placed next to each other illustrate this.

One of the most powerful and disturbing experiences of my life was realizing that I could neither see nor hear the word of God as long as our family's life was isolated from the broken reality that shaped the experience of the majority of people in the world.

and

In one way or another, we who are trying to catch the rhythm of God's voice and allow it to set the direction of our lives need to create spaces to be present and attentive.  The stirrings of the Spirit are often drowned out by our daily routines that are packed with even very good activities.  Unless we are still enough to see (really see)) what is going on in our broken world and to our broken earth, we will never have the will or courage to accept a vocation that participates in healing (which is, of course, where vocation---if it is of God---will lead us).

So it is both of these things:
  • Get immersed in the brokenness of the world in order to hear God's voice most clearly
  • Pull back from the busyness of the world in order to hear God's voice most clearly
It is God in us who spreads the kingdom in the world like yeast, like a mustard seed...

For this to happen we need both God (in us), and we need to be invested in the brokenness of the world.  I would add that we need a third thing closely related to the first.  We also need God (in others).  So much of what I have learned and done is a result of interactions like this with my friend and with this writer...my thoughts and their improvements/their thoughts, and my interpretations of how those ring true in my life.  It's too easy to get off course alone.

* * * * * * *

I know for myself that as I have invested myself in the brokenness of the world, humility has been my biggest lesson.  It has also been the lesson most necessary in order to allow God to work.  

I started out full of confidence, pretty close to arrogance in my certainty that I knew what was needed and it took some pretty hard knocks to free me from that arrogance.  I wish I could have given it up more easily, not for myself, but for those who were hurt by my arrogance.  Learning to know that I don't have the answers has been the most important lesson of my life.  Learning to be comfortable with the questions has been somewhat of a relief.

Being comfortable with the questions has allowed some measure of healing to begin where I thought none was likely.  It is a mystery unfolding with plenty of steps forward and back.  At any rate, healing is part of the kingdom of God.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Here on earth (update #1)

My life lately has been focused on receiving.  It is interesting that God gives me a time of receiving immediately after I set a goal about what I will be doing differently.  Each day ask the question

What am I doing to work toward God's kingdom coming and God's will being done on earth today?

And then answer is "receive".


I had a hysterectomy ten days ago. Today was my first day back to church, and this  afternoon I was  able to walk over 1 3/4 miles with the dogs and still feel good when I was done.

In the meantime my life has revolved a lot around gratitude.
  • Before my surgery I had several calls and messages to let me know I was loved, that I was prayed for, that there would be food, etc.  I was a bit awed by it.  I was taking the surgery pretty lightly, I think, and having people call to say they loved me felt like such a huge gift.
  • I had wonderful care at the hospital, especially from Chuck.  It reminded me of when our babies came...he was so attentive to anything I might need, so gentle, so ready to set his needs aside to take care of mine.
  • Becca arrived home the day after surgery to take care of me and to celebrate our family Christmas.  Her being here now has been such a gift.  Having the family gather here for a whole day including two meals seemed like no big deal thanks to  Becca, to Chuck, and to Ben, Andrea, Laura, and Greg for all helping to make it happen around me.
  • Meals were provided by family and Sunday School class members for a week, with leftovers enough to feed us for several more days...and flowers also came, along with hugs and phone calls and other expressions of love and support.
  • I had a da vinci robotic surgery, which means recovery time is very short.
  • I am finished with all the health issues that I tolerated!  Every morning I wake up and remember that never again will I have to deal with that.  I didn't realize how much I resented it until it was over...I'm assuming that the huge sense of gratitude equals in some measure how frustrating it was before.
  • Wes loaned us his brand new xbox 360 for my recuperation time.  I have NOT played games on it, but I have enjoyed netflix a lot. It will be going back to Wes sometime in the next day or so.
  • My parents have called repeatedly and come by several times with offers for help.  They fed us all day yesterday, and Mom is coming over tomorrow to help me take down Christmas stuff.
  • We got to skype twice with Tim since the surgery and I am so looking forward to seeing him in person soon.
There is more, but I want to move on to progress on the original goal.

I found in the last week that it is hard to remember each day to ask the question.  It is also hard, upon asking it, to have much of an idea of the answer.  It would be so easy to go back over the  day and look through my activities to either justify or condemn them, but that isn't how I want to live.

Today I realized that I'm going to have to ask the question on more of a minute by minute basis.  What do I do right now?

As for computer games---I have not played any electronic game by myself since making this goal.  I did play a game with Luke for a little while, and I feel good about that. It was a simple game that he wanted to teach me.  He taught me so sweetly, and then gave me turn after turn.  Each time I told him it was his turn he would push it back to me and say, "You do it again."  I think the time was well spent letting a three year old take care of his Gammy for a bit.

I've had several people write or talk to me about the goals and make suggestions or ask questions or offer perspectives.  Each of those has been helpful and I will include them in future posts.  Those comments really get me thinking so if there are any comments you would like to add, please put them here or give me a call or email.  It refines my thinking and I so appreciate that.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year's Goal

This is the traditional time to take stock and make goals.  Our small group used to take most of January and maybe longer for each of us to have an evening to review the past year and make goals for the coming year.  It was part of our desire to be held accountable.

But it is part of my make up as well.  Most years I read over my journal entries from the last year, and review where God and life has taken me.  But I did an extensive life review last September, so I don't really need to now.

However, some ideas keeping coming to mind.

Chuck and I have been doing a lot of talking about the afterlife this year.  It comes up at least weekly.  We read "Love Wins" by Rob Bell.  Chuck read, "What Does the Bible Really Say About Hell?" by Randy Klaassen.  There aren't easy answers to the questions we have, but there are new things to think about, and new questions to ask.

What I come up with is this.

The more we try to put God into a box so that everyone can know who is 'safe' and who is not 'safe', the more we become Pharisees.  That is what they did...made tons of rules so that everyone could know exactly what to do and not do so anyone could see who was in and who was out.

When Jesus was born the angels came to shepherds, who, according to my Sunday School exposition, were such a scurvy bunch that they were not allowed to be witnesses in court because they were known to be so untrustworthy.

The star appeared to astronomers from far away who were not Jewish and who did not worship the God of Israel.

God doesn't fit into religious expectations.  God didn't then.  God doesn't now. 

Heaven is the Kingdom of God.  But Jesus told us to be making that kingdom happen here and now, as well as to be waiting for its fullness later.  The more I am part of spreading that Kingdom here on earth---on being honest about my faith, on being honest about my faults, on being part of justice and mercy and humility and love and forgiveness and so many other things---the more I will be ready for heaven when that day arrives for me. 

In that spirit, my goal for this year is to daily be asking a question.


What am I doing to work toward God's kingdom coming and God's will being done on earth today?

These things seem important:

1.  Live my life in such a way that I am part of "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". 

2.  Continue to get to know God personally, and act on what I learn.

3.  Be deeply involved with the church, for encouragement, for accountability, for my own nurture as well participating in nurturing the faith of others, for corporate worship.

Actually, I think numbers 2 and 3 are just more of number 1.

So anyway,

The first concrete and specific answer I've recognized is to give up computer games (namely solitaire) for this year.  I hesitated to write that in this blog.  I didn't want to share that such a silly thing is a problem for me.  But it is easier to follow through on this when I've made it public.

Other answers will be smaller, or bigger.  They won't always be about giving things up.  Sometimes they will be about doing less, and being more intentional.  Sometimes they will be about doing more.

I'd like to write about at least some of them here...maybe weekly or biweekly.  I need to test that a bit and see if it fits.  But it seems like a good way to be accountable for continuing to ask the question daily.