The Daily Grind

 

keys-525732_960_720 unsplash stevepbHave you ever experienced inexplicable peace in the midst of a crisis? Probably. Indeed, I hope you can say “yes.”

Next question: Have you ever experienced inordinate strife in the midst of a minor inconvenience? Even more probable. Like you, I have to answer, “Yes, many times.”

Tish Harrison Warren says this in her book Liturgy of the Ordinary.*

“The call to contentment is a call amidst the concrete circumstances I find myself in today.” A few lines later she writes, “I’d developed the habit of ignoring God in the midst of the daily grind.”

Those somewhat heady thoughts are offered within the tale of a typical morning in which the author awakened with joy, headed out with happy anticipation and then crumbled into frustrated despair when she couldn’t find her car keys. (Don’t judge. You know you’ve been there!)

She goes on to say that she maintained a more consistent peace when living for a short while in the tension and danger of a war-torn part of the world than she often does during a typical week in Average America. I can relate. Can you? Have you learned to abandon yourself to Almighty God when the stakes are clearly too high for you to manage, yet somehow forgotten who is in charge when life’s little irritants and inconveniences assail you? (Too often, perhaps, we still hold on to the silly notion that, in some smaller things, we are actually in control.)

I suspect our Enemy knows where to find our weak spots, sometimes better than we do. Fortunately for us, we are created by the same God who is also known as the Comforter. We can run to him even when we are brought down by something as petty as a lost set of keys. So run! Right away! Whenever anything brings us down, may it bring us all the way down to our knees, to a reminder that we serve the Mighty One. And then, may we rest content in the middle of the daily grind. (“Tune in” next week for a rubber-meets-the-road follow up, a tale of when I had to take my own advice!)

*Warren, Tish Harrison, and Andy Crouch. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. IVP Books, an Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2016, p. 55. And thanks, Madeline, for recommending this excellent book!

Photo by stevepb via Unsplash.com

 

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Philip Yancey Part 2 OR The Mystery Man

 

money yancy SCR3AMFR3AK via pixabay Here’s a second highlight from the talk Philip Yancey gave called “Rumors of Another World.” You can find it here: ,and I hope you’ll find the time to watch the whole thing for yourself.

This is the story of an enterprising young man who was already well on his way to wealth by the time he left high school. You see, he’d paid the front office secretary to provide him with the birth date and home phone number of every student in the school. Then, as each birthday approached, he’d call the parents of that student and pitch this idea: donate $5, and we’ll bake your darling son or daughter a cake. Then we’ll have the whole school sing “Happy Birthday.” (This was back when $5 actually amounted to something. However, I got the impression that the cakes and songs never materialized.) 

That same young man went on to college, then law school. His income reached a whole new level, though, when he invented a cushion to alleviate the discomfort of those who were painfully bouncing around in the metal seats of Ford tractors. Life was good? Actually, no, life was falling apart.

The unhappy millionaire hopped into a cab in New York City and began to talk. By God’s grace, the cab driver paid attention to the conversation and had the courage to interject with some unsolicited advice, “I think you should go see Clarence Jordan. He can help you straighten out your life.”

The man in question took the cabbie’s advice and went to see Clarence, a radical Christian living on a commune. Mr. Jordan listened to that troubled soul and said, in so many words, “It sounds to me like you have entirely too much money. Go give it all away and then come back.” 

Perhaps to the great surprise of his friends, that’s exactly what our mystery man did, giving away 2.3 million dollars, a lot of money today, and an even more considerable sum all those years ago. His next conversation with Clarence Jordan went something like this:

  • “Okay, I gave away my money.”
  • “All of it?”
  • “Yes, sir, all of it.”
  • “In that case, I guess we need to find you a job.”
  • “What sort of job, sir?”
  • “Well, what do you thing makes God unhappy?”
  • “Lots of people have nowhere to sleep at night. I don’t expect he’s very happy about that.”
  • “Then why don’t you go build a house for each person who needs one.” 

And then that man, Millard Dean Fuller, founded Habitat for Humanity.

What a great reminder that God has ways of using each and every one of us!

For a bit more of the story, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Millard and Clarence. 

Millard Fuller was the recipient of numerous awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. In September 1996, United States President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and said, “Millard Fuller has done as much to make the dream of homeownership a reality in our country and throughout the world as any living person. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Millard Fuller has literally revolutionized the concept of philanthropy.”

Accessed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millard_Fuller 

Clarence Jordan (July 29, 1912 – October 29, 1969), a farmer and New Testament Greek scholar, was the founder of Koinonia Farm, a small but influential religious community in southwest Georgia and the author of the Cotton Patch paraphrase of the New Testament. He was also instrumental in the founding of Habitat for Humanity.

Accessed at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Jordan

I Forgot!

remember I forgot k-images via unsplash

I had a tough day. Not tough by global standards, mind you. I still had clean water and plenty to eat. Not even tough by normal standards. I wasn’t sick. My husband still loved me. My kids were doing well…But it was one of those days when the world overwhelmed me. A busy week had worn me out. I had a few hard issues to face, and business conflicts, and, by golly, my printer wouldn’t even work! By mid-afternoon, I was in bed weeping, then slept for a good long while. I had forgotten—

  • That, while it really is okay to cry, and to be sad on occasion, there’s an infinite Source of joy and support standing right beside me, available if I’ll just stop to notice.
  • That our troubles really belong to Him, and he’s able to handle them all the time.
  • That prayer truly does change things, within and without.
  • That sometimes all we need is rest, and quiet, and a moment to remember…

They say, whoever “they” are, that the best way to learn something is to teach it. In a way, I teach when I write. I have learned these lessons before, but on that difficult day, for a few painful hours, I forgot them. Perhaps you forget them now and then as well. So, here are a few reminders, for both of us, blogs I wrote long ago based on the words of writers I respect:

‘Hope you’ll take these reminders to heart, both today and on the next day that life threatens to overwhelm you. We serve a mighty God, and he can handle whatever comes our way. We may have pain or hardship or even just plain old irritation, but even then we can take a breath and let our spirits rest in him.

The Best Things in Life…

plane chuttersnap @ chuttersnap unsplash

The best things in life are almost never the ones we plan. Maybe that’s because then we can’t even be tempted to take the credit. I’ve been looking through an old journal lately. It’s filled with descriptions of the bumps and surprises of life. If I look closely between the lines, I can see God’s hand in both the ups and the downs.

•           August, 2015: Steve and I headed to Colorado for a mountain retreat. (And to attend the Palisade Peach Festival!) Somehow, Steve’s backpack was left behind on the kitchen floor, its absence discovered far too late for us to go back and retrieve it before our flight. But our discussions were better, our rest deeper, because the stack of papers and the work they represented were replaced by an open ended freedom made possible only by our having forgotten that bag. 

•           During that same trip, I discovered that Elizabeth was sick and at home alone. My mother’s heart yearned to go and care for her. My loving husband made it happen. She recovered quickly. Steve experienced an unexpected but much needed silent retreat and spent hours praying and meditating on God’s plans for our family for the following several years.

•           As we travel, we often wind up at an odd but charming little hotel or “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant because of an inner leading to stop. How we delight in those surprises!

I seem so much better at letting go of my control habit when we are on the road. Perhaps that’s because, away from home, I finally come to terms with how little is within my influence anyway. And when I relinquish control, I become much more consistent in my prayer for God to guide me, a prayer I believe he delights to answer.

Where are you on the control continuum? We can’t be on vacation all the time, but we can travel with a great degree of abandonment on this road of life. Do I mean that all preparation and organization should be thrown to the wind? Heavens, no! But there is a place in my heart where I need to be reminded every day that my loving Lord has things well in hand. My greatest responsibility and desire is to seek his plan each day and to turn my worry into trust and all my anxious moments into times of praise.

Join me! Hand over the reins. I think you will find that adventure awaits.

Click here to comment and to join in the conversation!

Photo by chuttersnap @ chuttersnap via Unsplash.com

Love in Many Forms

love unsplas renee fisher @reneefisherandco

 Love comes in many forms, and one year long ago it came as an abundance of gifts from a classroom of eager fourth graders. It was my third year as a teacher, and those gifts confirmed that I’d finally struck the right balance between disciplinarian and devoted mentor. After spreading my bounty out across our antique dining room table, I left with my husband for the warmth of Florida’s Gold Coast. We were new to the slightly chilly Houston weather and, not knowing any better, left our heater off. (Mistake!)

A week later, love came in another form, as a dear friend and relative cleaned up what was left of our dining room ceiling, which had collapsed onto that antique table. He then proceeded to mop up the water that had flooded our little house as frozen pipes burst. (Goodbye smashed and soaking teacher gifts!) We faced multiple hours of repair work, but it was all made so much easier because someone else had started the process before we even returned home.

Less than a year later, love came in the form of our first child. We moved to another city before she could crawl. Budgets and schedules had to change. Sleep had to take a back seat. I learned just how much I could give in the name of love. I also learned that God’s loving gifts don’t always look like blessings at first. Sometimes they look like chaos or hard work or a big mess.

Case in point: our first home was a small, dated 3/2 until the broken pipes brought down the ceiling and ruined the carpet and walls. Insurance money—and elbow grease—turned that same house into a newly renovated showcase that sold quickly, even in the middle of a housing crisis. The same friends that helped with the clean-up helped with the packing. The students’ gifts, even after they were ruined, helped give me the confidence I needed to teach my own children later on.

Yep, love comes in many forms, some a little hard to recognize at first. But look closely. You’ll find it. And dig deeply, because somebody needs you to share God’s love with them today!

 

Photo by Renee Fisher @ reneefisherandco vi Unsplash.com

 

From on High

high church-3024768_1280 pixabay

Name a Christian denomination, and chances are I’ve attended services there. Most of my years, though, have been spent in ever more casual worship services. Simple buildings. Small worship bands. Blue jeans acceptable for pastor and congregant alike. I began to wonder, in my never-ending struggle with unfounded judgement, why people bother with the expenses associated with what I refer to as “high church.”

Let me stop here and define my terms. Wikipedia describes high church’s hallmarks as “elaborate music, altarpieces, clergy vestments and an emphasis on sacraments.” I’m not referring to theology and doctrine here. I’m writing, in essence, about the outside appearances only.  

 On Christmas Eve this year, the Holy Spirit took me to task. Steve and I attended a service at a nearby Lutheran Church. Lyle Lovett was going to be the soloist. I didn’t know who he was, but the name sounded familiar, and I was curious to see what it would be like to attend a service that would be, yes, high church.

 And I learned my lesson.

 Organ, orchestra and choir? My heart soared and tears fell as I worshipped with all my heart. (Ask my husband, I’m not particularly prone to emotion. This wasn’t some drummed-up-by-the-atmosphere experience. It was me being drawn to worship by the music.) Bear in mind that, if you read much of the Old Testament, you can’t get away from the fact that music, sometimes elaborate music, is a big deal in the Bible.

 A processional entrance let by a shining metal cross? What a great reminder that Christmas isn’t just about the manger birth! It’s also about death and resurrection—first that of our Lord and later our own. We didn’t take communion, but that would have fit in quite well. 

A pastor in white robes? No, that wasn’t what I was used to, but it eliminated one more distraction. Admit it, haven’t you ever found yourself thinking just a little bit about the attire of the choir? (Oh, Susie’s blouse is beautiful. Sharon’s skirt is a little short…)

The building was huge, not particularly simple, and created with acoustics in mind. (See previous comment about music in the Bible.) And it was packed. Had we arrived 2 minutes later, we would have had to stand the whole time. So, was the building too big? We were at the third of five services, and most certainly not at the most popular time slot. Maybe sometimes big is good.

So, have you, like me, found yourself drifting toward that most ungodly stance of, “I know the best way to do church” from time to time? If so, join me now in rejecting all such notions. We serve a loving God who loves our worship. That much we know for sure. And that is enough!

 

(Photo from pixabay)