Browsing "Devotional"

The Mercy of Confusion

I have been co-leading a Sunday School class this semester on hermeneutics, or the interpretation of scripture. It has been a delight to read theological material again, discuss ideas in the Bible, and basically getting my mind blown weekly by our analyzation.

Last week we were diagramming Genesis 11:1-9, the Tower of Babel scene, which moves slowly inward, has a sharp turning point and then widens again. See if you can identify the shift:

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

This passage is familiar to many, but we saw something new in it. In the beginning, everyone had one language and they were seeking to draw everyone together and make a name for themselves. By building a tower to reach heaven, they were trying to be in control of their future.

But the Lord came down. This is the turning point of this chiasm and story. He interrupted their work, confused the language, and scattered the workers. It seems  a shame. They had worked so hard. No doubt they had the best architects of the day for this project, but they were working for their own names, not for the Lord.

The Lord interrupted them; He saved them from themselves.There is some good that would happen if we all got together and spoke the same language, but there is a great likelihood for evil as well. Through His work and language changes, He spread the people over the whole face of the earth, created cultures, clans, traditions and rituals that would not have existed if we all spoke the same language. He prevented us from trying such a building project again. He reminds us that He is in charge.

This is the mercy of confusion. God interrupts my plans, he breaks down my tower, he confuses my language. I may be frustrated in the short-term, but I cannot see what He is protecting me from or how He is intervening to make something even more beautiful in the future. He is merciful. He is good. He intervenes even in my small building projects with grace and love. I often worry about the future, but I’m trying to reframe my thinking and realize that my current confusion, might just be the mercy of the Lord.

May 14, 2017 - Devotional    1 Comment

You Are Seen

Mother’s Day is complicated and full of contradictory emotions.

There is the joy and celebration of new moms, proud grandparents and generations brought together. Tiny snuggles. Milestones recorded. Love abounding.

I celebrate with you.

There is the disappointment of strained relationships between parents and children. Poor communication. Regrets and resentment impacting relationships.

I forgive with you.

There are women longing to be mothers, but because of infertility or lack of a partner, they wait in longing for their own little miracle, keeping track of the passing of time.

I hope with you.

There are women who have lost mothers through death or abandonment. Who long for the perfect family, but experience an empty seat at the table.

I grieve with you.

There are mothers who have lost children. Little lives gone too soon. Empty cribs and unused toys remain as reminders of their tragic loss.

I lament with you. 

If Mother’s Day has been joyful or sorrowful, I see you. I want to be able to celebrate the mountain tops of the joys of motherhood, to say a hearty thank you for all the immense self-sacrifice that moms do everyday without recognition. You are amazing. Thank you. And I want to acknowledge that this is not everyone’s experience. Some dread Mother’s Day. Some are reminded of what is not more than what is.

I see you.

No matter the age, stage, or situation for you this Mother’s Day, I wish you a day of hope and love and the sense that you are seen and known by the God of the universe in your joy and your pain.

You are seen. You are heard. You are loved.

Mar 14, 2017 - Devotional, Writing    No Comments

The Story of Life

How many people would want to read a book that started like this?

“Once upon a time there was a princess. She was beautiful and everyone loved her and life always went her way all the time…”

Where’s the conflict? Where’s the reason for the story? Where’s the character development?

Plus, if this princess had no struggles or conflict and always got what she wanted, I doubt her kingdom would continue to love her for long.

And yet, that’s what I always imagined my life story would sound like. I imagined that I would work hard and enjoy things in life that were good and be loved by all those around me. I’ve had to come to terms first with the fact that this is not my life story and secondly that I am thankful that it is not!

Struggle is part of the story. It should be. Struggle makes us grow, change, persevere, show grit, and develop as people. Authors know this well. Every character needs a conflict, rising action, and a climax in order to become the character they were meant to be. Why would I expect a different plan from the Author of my life?

The struggle is an integral part of the story. I benefit from some struggle. I become a fuller and more developed character when I am stretched, pressed, disappointed, persevering, courageous, and vulnerable. Struggle allows me to be refined into something even better. My goal is to struggle well. To be honest with the struggles and share them like my pile of beans! To know that God does not waste pain or time or barriers. Characters need a contest, a conflict, a barrier or a strain to overcome. It makes for strong literature. It makes for strong people too.

Mar 5, 2017 - Devotional    1 Comment

The Inefficiency of Self Care

Efficiency is my love language.

I jest.

(But it’s also true.)

I am a do-er. I work hard at my job, and in school, and take care of other tasks along the way. I get more done than the average person. I am learning to take care of myself with the same intensity.

Self care is important. I rest and pull away from tasks in order to remind myself that I am valuable not because of my doing, but because of my being. But somehow I still want it to be efficient!

Recently I went to the beach for a day of rest in between the madness of life. I laid on the beach;  I read some, listened to the surf, and just existed for four whole hours. And as I drove home, I felt, approximately one hour better. I wished to feel four hours better! I didn’t want it to feel like wasted time that somehow could have been used more effectively.

Self care is inherently inefficient.

I cannot rest at the same pace that I run. They are inherently different activities and will got at different paces. But self care, rest, Sabbath, and being are essential. They are healthy and they give purpose to the doing and the tasks that I am so good at.

Self care may feel inefficient, but it is not optional.

Feb 22, 2017 - Devotional    2 Comments

Pile of Beans

Life is tough.

Grief is real.

Blocked goals abound in life.

Though it comes in many forms– broken relationships, missed opportunities, or dashed expectations — we are confronted with a life that is not the way we thought it would be.

So what do I do when I am confronted with this feeling? Do I bottle up my emotions and avoid sharing my needs for fear of sounding needy? Do I spill all my feels on anyone who will listen?

I don’t believe either of those two options are the wisest choice, but a balance of sharing with safe people is essential. I am currently in the midst of a season of blocked goals. Sometimes tears escape my eyes. Sometimes my mind wanders, full of “what ifs.” I was recently sharing these feelings with a coworker who is walking through her own valley of the shadow. We commiserated on the need to share our emotions without feeling overwhelming. She shared this analogy with me.

It’s like I have a giant pile of beans representing my lament. This pile is so large it could crush me. I cannot keep it to myself or bear underneath the weight of it, but I also can’t back up a dump truck and dump my beans all on someone else or it could crush them. So I’m trying to pass out my beans one at a time to loving friends who care about my heart. Slowly my pile will disperse and I can breathe again.

I responded, “Yes, friend. I’ll would love to take a hand full of your beans. And thank you for helping me carry mine as well.”

I imagine we are all familiar with the crushing weight of a pile of beans. The situations look different, but the feelings are recognizable. Hoarding my beans crushes me. People want to help me carry my pile of beans. Disappointments in life are so much easier in community where many hands help carry the weight.

If you are in a season of disappointment or blocked goals. If you have a proverbial pile of beans threatening to crush you, don’t hide; ask for help.  Look to your community and share your beans.

 

Aug 21, 2016 - Devotional, Uncategorized    3 Comments

Ocean Object Lessons

Life.

It is a crazy, wild ride at times. I feel as though I am just starting adventures on multiple fronts and have had moments of panic lately feeling unready for the road ahead.

But I’m sure I’m alone in this feeling.

No one else feels unready, unsure, unorganized, or undone by life’s little adventures.

Oh, you do? Man, am I glad to hear that.

I took some time for self care today and went to the ocean. There are precious few places in this world where I can sit, be, rest, and not feel the need to do anything productive. Luckily the beach is one of those places. I fully expected to arrive at the ocean, sit, think, and cry. But as I drove toward the shore and tears were already fighting their way forward, unwilling to wait until arrival. I cried and prayed and thought and talked to the Lord in my anxiety and fear. I floated in waves, laid on the beach, watched fellow beach-goers. I was still — for the first time in weeks, truly still and able to listen to my Lord.

kelly beach feet

The ocean is magic in my life. I burn easily, don’t love the sand, and hate swimming in water that I can’t see the bottom of, but somehow none of that matters when I’m at the ocean. I always come away with a memory, a story, or a song that is important to my soul. Here was today’s object lesson from the ocean:

Life is like an ocean. It is never stable or still. Large and small waves hound me at every moment just like adventures, problems, and changes in life. Sometimes a wave is larger than anticipated and I get a mouthful of unexpected seawater. I have to decide whether this unexpected sodium intake will ruin my experience or if, instead, I’ll laugh it off. Sometimes the waves roll right over me, dragging me under, surrounding me with their weight. What will I do when life is overwhelming and I feel as though I’m drowning? Where will I turn? I could never see what was behind the especially large waves. I could only see the immediate ridge. Sometimes I tried to turn around and look toward the shore of safety, and unseen waves beat me up, smacking me in the back. I learned that life is never steady or stable, it is always a moving target… but it is also an adventure. I can try to run away from the waves and retreat back to the relative safety of the shore. Or I can face the great, wide unknown, place my trust in a known God, raise my hands and dive in.

I’m choosing to live life as an adventure.

I’m shore glad too.

Apr 2, 2016 - Devotional    No Comments

Sinful Food

I went to the grocery store this morning and was confronted with sin in an unexpected way.

No, I didn’t covet someone else’s cart full of goodness.

No, I didn’t get irritated with the bag boy.

No, I didn’t pocket something extra without paying for it.

I bought sinful produce. At least that is how it was advertised.

sinfully sweet tomatoes

What? How are these tomatoes sinfully sweet? When did decadence and sweetness become synonymous with sin? It concerns me that we use powerful, meaningful words to describe flippant things.

Sin exists and includes all thoughts and actions that sadden the heart of God. Sin is not the enjoyment of pleasurable things. God gives good gifts and wants us to enjoy them in the best possible context (James 1:17). Sin is not the enjoyment of life, food, togetherness, or intimacy. Sin is the ugliness that separates me from God. I sin when I stubbornly think I can live without God. I sin when I try to enjoy God’s good gifts in ways He doesn’t allow. I sin when I do not love others or live sacrificially. I sin when I live out of unbelief and doubt God’s goodness, sovereignty, and holiness.

I sin, yes, but I can assure you that it has nothing to do with the ripeness of my tomatoes.

Tomatoes are not sinful. Chocolate is not sinful. People are sinful. My heart is sinful and daily in need of a Savior. I am thankful that there is a cure for my state. A sacrifice that has cleansed my heart. Jesus’ work is more powerful than any sinful thought or deed I could ever commit.

And that work is far more satisfying than the most “sinfully sweet” produce in the world!

Mar 26, 2016 - Devotional    No Comments

Easter Saturday

[I’m reposting this. It is one of my favorites!]

I love books.

Just one visit to my house will confirm that fact. I love re-reading and re-living a beloved novel. I love the pages which have become wrinkled with interest and vigorous page-turning. I love the crease in the spine which allows the book to lay flat, opened to my favorite scene. I love knowing how the story will end.

I’ve found that as much as I enjoy experiencing books for the second or third or fourth times – there is something special about a new novel. I read it differently because I cannot anticipate the ending. When I don’t know the ending, I live the highs and lows of the characters a little bit deeper. When I can see the finish line so clearly, I read a little bit faster to get to the “happily ever after.”

I do the same thing with the Bible.

I think we all do. When we’re familiar with the stories, we can skim past the painful times of waiting to get to the good parts, the periods of resolution, celebration, and praise. The intention is good, but I think we miss out of the fullness of the story and all the emotions when we skip to the end.

As I thought about this tendency, I remembered a book that I read a few years ago which discussed the crucifixion and resurrection and how we celebrate them today. We have Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services to focus our hearts and soak in the mourning and darkness of the death of Christ. But then, reading the Scriptures like a well-loved and well-known novel, we jump straight to Sunday and celebrating the resurrection.

orlando grace church easter2007 Good Friday. Resurrection Sunday. But What About Saturday?

But what about Saturday?

We have to stop and think about the familiar story, not just skip to “He is Risen!” (As amazing as that knowledge is!) What did the disciples feel on Saturday? Sorrow? Numbness? Disbelief? Hope? Did they intuitively know of the grandeur coming on Sunday? Did they think the past three years of their lives were a loss? Did they yearn for a miracle? I think there is something healthy to think of Saturday- to know of the sorrow and the disappointment and, above all, the waiting.

For in a larger way, we live in Saturday.

We have experienced the mourning and the grief of the brokenness of the world in many ways and we know that God wins in the end! We have an amazing hope beyond all that we can think or imagine (Eph 3:20). But today, in many ways, we are waiting for the miracle, waiting for the resolution, waiting to see and understand the larger story. In this life we get glimpses of heaven and glimpses of life without God as well. This is our Saturday as we live in constant sadness for the state of the world and hope that it is not going to remain this way!  We are challenged and refined on Saturday in the midst of the waiting. It contains truth and encourages me in the midst of my Saturdays to continue to wait on the Lord who is constantly at work!  May you too experience an ever-present hope of the coming Sunday, the eternal Sabbath, as you wait in the Saturday circumstances of you life today.

“Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!”
Psalm 27:14

Wishing everyone a very happy, and hopeful, Resurrection Sunday.

Iceberg

I feel like an iceberg.

Not because I’m cold, remote, or danger-prone, but because people only see about 10% of me. Icebergs barely pop their tops above the water-line. They look small, cute, and manageable. But people miss the 90% lying just below the waterline.alaska glacier ice

For me, this is especially true at work. I am an occupational therapist in pediatrics. I work with babies to help them grow, strengthen, and develop. To the untrained eye, it looks like I have a pretty cushy job: I cuddle babies, change diapers, attend meetings, and do a lot of typing. But this is only the above-the-water-line-ten-percent! But I work hard! Beneath the surface I research and think about joint stability, muscle tone, bone mineralization, neuronal connections, calorie conservation, and neuroprotection. I know that each child’s brain is literally maturing in my hands and that brain wiring is for a lifetime and I take that job very seriously. Yes, I snuggle babies, but with so much purpose! Some days are difficult. I feel undervalued or overlooked because 90% of my skills, mass, interests, and work is unseen.

But I am not alone in this! I believe the iceberg-phenomenon is true of so many people and professions! Doctors don’t just give prescriptions, accountants don’t just balance ledgers, teachers don’t just give grades, moms don’t just feed their kids and attack the ever-growing pile of laundry. You are more than the 10% that people can readily see. You cannot be reduced to a productivity percentage, or sales quota, or salary, or GPA. Those numbers are just the 10%. Take pride in the knowledge, passion, skills, and purpose you have. That is the weighty and important 90%.

If you can relate to this, then you are an iceberg.

Be an iceberg with purpose! Work hard. Be aware of the 90% that people often miss, but don’t rely on their approval or understanding of all your work. Work for a higher purpose. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Cor 10:31). Work for the Lord, the only One who can truly know and appreciate both the 10% that everyone sees and the 90% that is hidden.

Or as Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.”

Be an iceberg. Work with purpose. Do your job, whatever it may be, well. That’s the best way to show the importance of the 90% that drives you daily.

IMG_2850

How do you feel like an iceberg either professionally or personally? Do people see or understand your 90%?

 

Feb 5, 2016 - Devotional, Running    1 Comment

Magic Shoes

I own magic shoes.

They can’t take me home if I click them three times like Dorothy’s.

They don’t have braces to straighten out my back, like Forrest’s.

They don’t bring Princes searching for me, like Cinderella’s.

My shoes are magic because they remind me of the power of small steps all added together. For the past three years, since I started running long distances, I’ve purchased a reward in the form of special shoes. (RunDisney had a big part in this when they started designing Disney running shoes!) Every time I wear them, I am reminded that I ran a really long way… and survived! They are little markers of my own bravery. They are mobile altars of remembrance which prompt me with each step, “Run with endurance the race set our before you.”

Before every race I silently recite Hebrews 12:1-3 to myself.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

My shoes talk to me. “Run well, Kelly. Run, not just this race, but life fixing your eyes on Jesus.”

Yes, like I said, magic shoes!

I like having things which have greater meaning that they first appear. I like sentimentality and purpose. I love wearing these shoes. These are my magic shoes. They are powerful because they remind me of the power of Jesus.

ariel new balance running run shoes

PS – they are extra magic as I wore my Ariel shoes exactly once, got sick, and lost my voice for three days. Coincidence? I think not!

What, in your life, helps you recall where you’ve come from and refocuses you to move forward?

 

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