Browsing "Devotional"
Aug 15, 2015 - Devotional    1 Comment

Stillness and Massage

I struggle with stillness.

I love productivity and efficiency. I think these things define a good day. I love checking thing off of my list. But I’ve been slowly changing my definition of a good day.

I thought about this today as I got a massage. It is a treat that I budget for and enjoy thoroughly for many reasons. One, between running long distances, working long hours, and being otherwise productive, my muscles tend to get angry at me. Two, it is a way to receive positive touch. As a single person, my “touch meter” is often low. And most importantly, three, it is training in stillness for my heart. I have to lie still for an hour, listen to soothing music, smell aromatic fragrances, and do nothing.

And I find this difficult!

I’ve been studying the Sabbath for years now. I’ve grown to love the beauty of this day designed from the beginning for our good and God’s glory. We need stillness. We need rest. We need rhythms in life. They are good and necessary. But they don’t always come naturally. We think we have to do it all and be responsible for everything, but that is a lie.

My soul needs further stillness training. To paraphrase Augustine, it will be restless until it finds its rest in the Lord. And how joyful to seek rest in a God who knew I would long for such rest and provided a weekly reminder to seek it.

Perhaps I should increase my massages to weekly too for further stillness training!

come to me and i will give you rest

Jun 25, 2015 - Devotional, My Story    1 Comment

Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition is one of my favorite words. It ranks in my mind alongside onomatopoeia, hyperbole, and synecdoche both in multi-syllabic rhythm and definitional genius! Juxtaposition is the perfect term for certain situations. It is a noun meaning “an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.” 

Two things that shouldn’t exist alongside each other suddenly thrown together. It can have quite the effect. I experienced this in a fun way a few weeks ago while I was bowling in the library.

Yes, that’s not a typo.

I went bowling in the theological library. My roommate, who works there, set up a game night for the students and their families. It was hilarious to me to juxtapose the expectation of quietness and reserve of the library with the noise and activity of bowling. I had a grand time. And not just because the shelves acted like bumpers nearly guaranteeing a strike every time!

library bowling

library bowling

library bowling

It got me thinking about other contradictions which are pushed together in my own heart. I am a jumble of contradictory emotions and experiences. I both pride myself on being introspective and high on self-knowledge, but am also blindsided by things about myself that I’ve somehow missed for decades. I am a curious mixture of joy and sadness, hope and fear, knowledge and ignorance, anxiety and adventure. I do not understand how all of these feelings can coexist in one person. And that is the adventure of life. It is full of peculiar turns and extraordinary mash-ups, just as unexpected as bowling in a library.

What juxtapositions have you experienced lately?

Indiana Jones and the Mamertine Prison

No, this is not an anticipated fifth Indiana Jones movie. It’s just what I thought about when I was in Rome.

(I promise the analogy will make sense in the end!)

I traveled to Salerno on a mission trip and we worked hard for a week helping a church plant get set up in their new worship center.

And then we celebrated! Celebrated our work and what God had done over the week. We walked fifteen miles in Rome and saw so many notable sites: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi fountain, the Roman aqueducts, the Spanish Steps, the Forum, Senate and Colosseum. These were lavish, sites bursting with historic significance, glamour, and intrigue.

But the plainest, most understated sight was my favorite.

The Mamertine Prison, a single, drafty, underground room near the forum, was the site that most changed my life. The room was small, dim, and understated, but it is the room where Paul dictated (likely through a grating in the ceiling) many epistles which have altered the course of history. This could have been the room where Paul wrote Philippians, four small chapters that changed my life. But whether in this room or under house arrest, the language of guarding jumped off the page in new ways to me. I was near tears as I thought about Paul talked about the joy he had in Christ while imprisoned.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-424 mamertine prison

And then I thought about Indiana Jones.

Specifically, I thought about the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where he is forced to choose the holy grail. Initially his nemesis chooses the golden, bejeweled chalice as the cup of the King of Kings. Afterwards, Indy chooses the understated, scratched, clay pot saying, “This is the cup of a carpenter.” This is a powerful scene that in a way highlights both the transcendence and imminence of Christ. Yes, He could have chosen to drink from the golden cup, to exert authority and power, and would have been within His rights to do that. What is amazing is that he condescended himself, took on flesh, experienced temptation and pain, and drank from the plain clay pot. I had seen extraordinary and beautiful things in Rome that day and the unexpected “clay pot” was my favorite.

God has a way of making ordinary things extraordinary. A stable. Bread and wine. Even a prison cell in Rome. I was struck as I thought about the beauty of this often overlooked, understated, holy room.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-423

What ordinary thing has God made extraordinary in your experience?

Apr 22, 2015 - Devotional, My Story    No Comments

Valuing Your Future Self

I think about a special someone often. I care deeply about her. I want her to do well in life and be set up for success. She’s kind and funny and warm and (hopefully) more wise, stable, and adventurous than me!

I’m thinking about Future Kelly.

I know that all my decisions affect my future self and I take that seriously. I want Future Kelly to be set up for success. I want my hard work and efforts to pay off. I think about my future self when I contribute to my 401K. And when I say no to a second serving of dessert. And when I push myself during a work out. And when I invest in relationships that matter. And especially when I think eternally.

 

Future Kelly benefits from me eating vegetables, having a healthy cardiovascular system, and a growing nest egg, but what she really needs is an eternal perspective. More than healthy eating and wise investments on this side of Heaven, she will benefit from eating the bread of life and investing in eternal matters. I care about Future Kelly and I want to focus on the things that will be important to her.

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Matthew 6: 19-20

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[e] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

How are you valuing your future self?

Apr 13, 2015 - Devotional, My Story    No Comments

Seeking Aquila

I have little experience with personal ads.

I don’t troll the newspaper or the internet for a date. I tend to go about my life and work and ministry and just expect someone to suddenly show up.

But maybe that’s wrong. Maybe I need to make my wishes for a mate known more widely. I was listening to the sermon at church yesterday and heard of the fame of Priscilla and Aquila, a couple who labored tirelessly in the early church. Aquila was a tent maker and worked alongside Paul the Apostle. They hosted a church in their house in the fledgling phase of the church. They were thanked repeatedly at the end of epistles. They even sought out an evangelist, Apollos, to correct him and give him a fuller understanding of the Gospel.

They worked hard. They were a team. In short, they rocked. 

After studying more about this dynamic duo, I’ve been rethinking the personal ad idea. So here goes:

One single female, we’ll call her Priscilla, who enjoys at caregiving, teaching, study, writing, laughter, and the obligatory long walks on the beach, seeks male for the following line of work:

I want a partner in mission and ministry. I want someone to keep me focused on what is truly important. I want someone who works hard as a tentmaker and a disciple-maker. I want someone who can exhort and correct me in love and show me the bigger Gospel that I sometimes miss. I want someone who is hospitable and will host others joyfully sharing his home and his life with them. I want someone who will recognize and encourage my gifts as well. I want someone who is adventurous for the right cause.

I want a vision caster.

I want a servant leader.

I want a team.

I am Priscilla. I’m seeking Aquila.

(applicants welcome).

Space Available

References of Priscilla and Aquila: Acts 18:1-3, Acts 18:18, Acts 18:26, Romans 16:3-4, I Corinthians 16:19, II Timothy 4:19.

Apr 4, 2015 - Devotional    3 Comments

Easter Saturday

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 Max Lucado book that I read a few years ago. He 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.

Jan 24, 2015 - Devotional, My Story    1 Comment

My Empty Shelf

I have one empty space in my room.

Just one.

empty shelf symbol borders boundaries

I am a natural Tetris player and I swear I can fit more in any given space than the average human. So, needless to say, I have a ton of stuff. It’s all neatly put away, tightly packed, and sometimes vacuum sealed! After cleaning up and putting away the Christmas explosion of decorations, I left one shelf unadorned. It is not because I didn’t have anything that could go there. No, this decision was purposeful. I wanted a daily reminder that my life needs borders and boundaries. I’ve discussed this in a previous post. I learned from Leviticus that margins in gleaning and in life are incredibly important. I have the tendency to fill my time and space to capacity. Truly, I fill it past capacity! If I have something cancel on a Saturday evening, I often have two alternatives which can easily slide into the newly opened space.

My life is full  of both good things and responsibilities. It can seem as though it is filled to capacity with no room for change or chance or imperfection.

I’m giving myself one empty shelf as a symbol.

I long for margins in the midst of expectations and for breathing room to be able to enjoy where I am. My empty shelf will help with that. I won’t fill my life, time, and schedule to capacity. I will leave space for the unexpected and delightful.

What about you? How can your space help define your life?

Dec 2, 2014 - Devotional    1 Comment

Life Margins

Leviticus changed my life.

No really, I learned a valuable agriculturally-based life lesson from Leviticus last week. Lev. 23:22 reads, “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.” Life changing, right? Okay, maybe it needs some explanation. Leviticus is a book of rules and guidelines for life which God is giving to His people, the Israelites. He is showing them how to care for themselves and how to care for others. Since most of the Israelites were farmers at this time, agricultural laws were widespread. This one in Leviticus 23 encourages generosity by having the owners of the fields not reap every square inch of their fields, but instead to leave a margin for the poor. And what was the reason given? Becuase “I am the LORD your God.” This was a way to show that your loyalties lay with the Lord instead of on your own productivity. This thinking was training them to leave margins in other areas of life: in their finances, time, and energy.

Light and trees

This is where the message really hit home. I’ve gone to financial classes before and I’ve been trained on how to provide financial margins. I support my church, missionaries, and non-profits. I’ve worked to create margins in my giving. But I have no margins in my time. I try to squeeze as many hours out of the day as possible, (and then have two alternatives for when an appointment falls through.) I joke that my life is one large Tetris game. I am a strategist and a maximizer at heart and I want to wring every last moment of productivity from my allotted 24 hours. But this thinking has me exhausted, constantly wanting to wring out just a little bit more, and trusting in myself to provide instead of God. I’ve realized that my life is inhospitable to spontaneity and I have no margins in my time.

To put it another way, “I can do anything I want, but I can’t do everything I want.” I can write, work, speak, craft, cook, clean, run, and go to Disney. But not concurrently. I keep re-realizing that I have a finite amount of time and that I have to create boundaries which are narrower that the very edges of my life. I need margins in my life. Perhaps you can relate. I am determined not to glean to the very edges of my time, but to leave some for those who need it, and in doing so to trust in the Lord.

See, I told you Leviticus could be life changing!

Nov 25, 2014 - Devotional    1 Comment

A Spasmodic Hercules

I read a quote this week that was amazing. It taught me a lesson I learned many moons ago with new language. It was affirming and encouraging and provided some much needed perspective.

Are you ready for it?

“A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.” Anthony Trollope

I love it. I want to read it again. When else in your life have you been able to work in the phrase “spasmodic Hercules” into a conversation. This one I’m sticking in the memory banks.

Mr. Trollope has found a more fanciful way to say, “Slow and steady wins the race.” and “Pace yourself to reach the finish line.” He’s succinctly summarizing the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, and I love it.

Sometimes I get bogged down in the everyday. I think of the repetition of tasks: laundry, cleaning, evaluations, treatments, or explaining what occupational therapy is for the umpteenth time. I sometimes long for something exciting, for a surge of energy or attention. There is a part of my heart that wants to be Hercules — to save the day, to rescue the damsel, to be the hero, to get the applause. But all too often in life, those who patiently and faithfully labor at important tasks aren’t the attention-getters. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t a hero. Heroic efforts can occur every day. Every time you wake up early to make your kid’s lunch, every time I lovingly care for a patient, every day that you go to work to provide for your family, every time you lovingly and patiently repeat what you said to an elderly family member, you are a hero. And daily heroes, though often unsung, are worth much more than a spasmodic Hercules.

Be faithful. Show perseverance. Be Hercules.

Nov 22, 2014 - Devotional    3 Comments

Delaying Christmas

I try to delay Christmas as long as possible. Or at least until December.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I love the decorations and gift giving. In fact, I joke that in Florida we have two seasons: Summer and Christmas. Because our weather is often unhelpful, I need these external markers to show me that the year is indeed moving forward! But, it irks me every year that it seems our retail world has no room for Thanksgiving. October 31st leaves with it’s pumpkin and face painted fanfare and Christmas sneaks in overnight to stock all the shelves for November first.

Am I alone in this?

What happened to Thanksgiving?

Why do we skip it?

Except for your local supermarket, stores don’t seem to cash in on Thanksgiving. And that’s one of the things I love most about it. Thanksgiving to me is Christmas without all the pressure. It’s all the goodness of travel, family time, togetherness and, of course, food without the pressure to mail letters, attend a dozen of parties, go to the post office, buy and wrap gifts, and have the perfect holiday outfit.

Plus it focuses my heart on what I already have, before the frenzy of Christmas urges me to long for more. I’m committed to delaying Christmas, to leave room for the giving of thanks.

Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving!

photo

 

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