Friday, August 22, 2014

I've Gotta Get Outta the Kitchen

As last December approached, I began my annual choosing of my word for the next year.  (I choose a word for the year rather than doing New Year's Resolutions).  Some years, this is harder to land on than others.  But, the word for 2014 was clearly and unequivocally to be love.  I felt a stirring to learn to love better.  

This was fueled by the loss of sweet Mamaw last year, as I have come to realize more and more that her legacy is a life filled with loving well.  Mamaw loved Jesus well, and from that love, grew a gracious and selfless love for others.  It's perhaps one of the finest traits she passed on to my husband. 

Losing Mamaw and reflecting on her life sharply highlighted my own need to focus on love.  Because, to be brutally honest, I tend to consider my own needs and wants more than that of others. I tend to ask, "What's in it for me?"

Yes, score one for God's uncanny sense of timing as the last sermon for 2013 was all about loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Illustrated in Luke 10 by the story of Mary and Martha.

Oh, Mary and Martha.  The sisters.  Yes, it's a story I've heard a million times.  I used to have trouble remembering which sister was which until I realized Martha was like Martha Stewart.  Ever the busy entertainer, caring for the tiniest of details.  I've always related more to her.  Like my Granny, who used to set the table for Christmas dinner the day before, ensuring that every place setting was perfectly set.  Complete with the place cards she had me make, using my calligraphy skills.  These were dinners for family only, mind you.  Because in Granny's house, you weren't to be included in Christmas dinner unless you'd officially married in.  My husband being the exception (see above note about his incredible love for others).

Martha, Martha, Martha.  How I relate to you!  Because Mary always taunted me with her laissez faire attitude.  I picture her twirling in the meadows picking daisies while Martha is busy taking care of business.  

The story in Luke 10 obviously finds Jesus praising Mary's choice.  So I once forced myself to attend a Bible study called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.  Epic fail. I'm afraid I was trying to shove this square peg into a round hole, trying to be Mary.  I found myself striving to become very cest la vie in attitude, when frankly, that's not who I am.  Like an ill fitting dress, it just didn't work.

Fast forward about twenty years and I'm listening to this sermon about Mary and Martha.  Yet, this time, the light bulb came on.  I realized that instead of trying to be who I am not, I should instead consider my tendency to task lists and try to rewrite my task list to resemble Mary's.  Don't try to be Mary.  Simply try to do what Mary did.  

And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving.  And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me."  But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
Luke 10:39-42

There she is.  Mary.  Sitting at the feet of Jesus.  The picture of her posturing herself, humbly, and making the choice to pause her heart to listen was an epiphany for me.  I'd been in a long season of asking myself, "What am I doing here?"  What was I busy doing in my life?  And God kept asking me instead to consider where I was staying.

Where I stay?  I should be training myself to stay at the feet of Jesus.  How to learn to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?  There you have it folks.  By learning the sacred practice of sitting at the feet of Jesus.  By practicing, all day long, even as I go about my tasks, how to still my mind to sit at his feet.  Mentally picturing myself there, humbling myself, to listen more carefully.  In between the noisy cacophony of life, training myself to tune in to his voice.  

Mary stayed.  At the feet of Jesus.  She is living out the commands of Hosea 6:3: 

Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
    his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
    as the spring rains that water the earth.

She is pressing on to know the Lord.  Choosing carefully when to weed out distractions and doing so in order to sit and listen.  And it can be hard work.  There's always so much to do in a day.  Yet, there are always pivotal moments when we can either be distracted and busy or we can choose to still ourselves to listen.

This is the rhythm of Sabbath living.  Learning to weed out the unnecessary distractions, be that social media or certain activities or television, so that we have margins to stay at his feet.  Learning to choose the good portion.  Going to bed earlier so that you can rise to pray and read the Word.  Turning off the radio in the car so that you use your drive time to pray.

We can still go about our days, busy as they may be, and learn the sacred practice of sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Learning to breathe him in more deeply leads to Sabbath living.  It leads to a deeper connection as we make these sacrifices to make it happen.  There, in that intimacy, we are loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  And it changes us.  It overflows to how to love others.

Martha tried to show her love for Jesus by doing.  She was distracted by much serving.  Sounds like the story of my life.  I wonder about you.  I wonder what distractions keep you so busy that you never find time to soak in God's teachings, sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Here is what we learn from this passage. Mary had a consumerism faith.  She lived her busy "doing" life within the confines of a transactional relationship with Christ.  Here, she is all about what she is giving and what she can get in return.

Meanwhile, Mary is learning the unforced rhythms of grace.

Mary chose the good portion.  She listened to Jesus.  She turned her attention to Jesus.  We don't know if this came naturally to her or if it was a great act of discipline to do so.  But either way, she made that choice.

Martha was distracted with much serving.  She missed out on his teachings because she was busy in the kitchen.  Her activity for God led her to make demands of Jesus.  Making demands of him is an extension of a consumerism faith that continually asks, "What's in it for me?"

Look, bloggy friends.  Both sisters were loved by Jesus.  We know that within the context of Scripture.  It literally says so within the gospels.  

We see this love when Jesus answers Martha's demanding question.  He didn't rebuke or scold her.  Scripture says he answered her.  I see a gentleness here.  Jesus is gentle with Martha, no matter her approach to him.

Both sisters were loved servants of Jesus.  Jesus chose to visit them multiple times during his earthly ministry.  So we know that a consumerism faith is not necessarily a grounds for being rejected by God.  No, the bigger question here is this.

How richly did each sister get to experience Jesus, based on their experiences?  How free and refreshing were their faith walks?  Which sister seemed to live with the knowledge of living more abundantly, choosing more carefully?

It seems to me that this passage shows us an important principle. Abundant living boils down to Sabbath living.  Experiencing Jesus as deeply as possible comes from learning the sacred practice of sitting at his feet.  Knowing when to let go of tasks for the greater portion of choosing fellowship with him.  Posturing ourselves as a student would to their teacher in ancient days -- sitting at his feet, listening.  Soaking in every word.

I've always tried to be Mary, jealous of who she naturally seemed to be.  I've always thought I must just be doomed to be Martha because I love a task list that I can mark from as I accomplish and perform.  

But maybe Mary was a girl who loved task lists, too?  And she just disciplined herself to make the priority on her task list become sitting at his feet. 

I challenge you to consider.  Which sister are you?  How do you live out your relationship with Jesus?  Are you in the kitchen?  Doing?  Thinking you've earned brownie points and God owes you a favor because of all that you do?  Or are you sitting at the feet of Jesus?  Choosing to posture yourself to listen?

I'm not talking about all of us changing our schedules so that we have hours upon hours a day to sit and read Scripture and pray.  That's not realistic.  

What I am talking about is making the focus of our attention and our thoughts and our mindset become a humble position of listening to Jesus.

Would you rather live out your days with a demanding, doing, consumer faith?  Thinking constantly about what you can give to and get from God? 

I've been trying that route for 39 years.  It doesn't mean I'm not a follower of Jesus.  But, my consumerism faith has been interrupted by a God who says I'm missing a love and grace that will blow my mind because I've been too busy doing.

I am becoming ever more hungry for a faith based on the unforced rhythms of grace.  I'm desperate to learn to live freely and lightly.  To truly accept Jesus as my Sabbath.  And to learn to cease and desist and revel in His love.

Even within the confines of a busy, crazy, chaotic world.  

I'm learning to pose the question to myself repeatedly throughout the day.

Where I stay?  Do I trust Jesus to handle the kitchen duty so that I can sit at His feet?

Oh, that I may learn this sacred practice well.  That I may choose the good portion that will never be taken away. 

Blog post #6 in a series on Sabbath Living: the Sacred Practice of Sitting at the Feet of Jesus. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Sunday Kind of Love

My Granny used to tell me that the older I got, the faster time would go.  My twenty-something self scoffed at her, but chose to nod and smile politely at her nonetheless.  Listen, twenty-something self -- you should have paid more attention.  And asked more questions.  Because at forty-something now, I wish I had taken the time to glean more wisdom from Granny.  Like asking her how to manage this fleeting time.  How to make the most of the years that fly by--even when the days may drag.  If only I had asked her what she wishes she had known at MY age and what she might do differently.  

I have a feeling that the book she gave me just a few years before she died might be an indication as to her regrets.  It was called Don't Sweat the Small Stuff:  And it's All Small Stuff.  

Oh the irony of this gift from this giver.  This book from this woman, who managed to make an art form from micromanaging.  I distinctly remember our first time to host Christmas at our house, as newlyweds.  Granny leaned over my husband's shoulder as he made the gravy, giving directives as if he were performing life saving surgery.

I think Granny might just say that she wished she had learned more about living on the unforced rhythms of grace.  Believing His grace was big enough that she could simply float in it, be changed by it, extend it.  Be moved by it so that she wouldn't sweat the small stuff.  

In other words, I think, while my Granny did love the Lord and was a prayer warrior like none other, I don't think she ever learned Sabbath living.  Oh, she practiced Sunday rituals like a boss, and we were all made to follow suit.  But she never learned the secret of a daily life that found rest in her Savior. She never leaned the freedom of a Sunday kind of love with Jesus.

Perhaps those tendencies that I inherit from her are the very reason I am so moved by this passage.  (Yes, the one I keep referring to in this blog series).

Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you'll recover your life.  I'll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me -- watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 10:28-30 MSG

Yesterday, I explained how I stumbled on the revelation that all that God has been teaching me can be summarized with the idea of Sabbath living.  So, as I said, my analytical mind dove into the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary to better understand Sabbath.

Okay.  Mind officially blown.

Because as I kept reading, I saw how the Wycliffe explanations for Sabbath perfectly align with the above Scripture.

1. "In keeping with the purpose of Sabbath, burden bearing was forbidden."

...I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. (MSG)

...take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (NIV)

2. "The Jewish Sabbath was also to be observed with holy assembling, doubling daily offerings and placing of show bread in the holy place.  This made it a day of gladness, for it provided an opportunity to put aside the duties of life and concentrate on the spiritual activities for the refreshing of the soul."

...get away with me and you'll recover your life.  I'll show you how to take a real'll learn to live freely and lightly.  (MSG) will find rest for your souls. (NASB)

3. "For Israel, the Sabbath commemorated God's creation and deliverance from Egypt.  For the believer in Christ, the Sabbath rest of God in creation is made an illustration of the rest into which the believer enters in the new creation when he 'also hath ceased from his own work' by trusting in Christ."

...come to me...wear my yoke...and let me teach you.  (TLB)

...are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me.  Walk with me and work with how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you.  (MSG)

...come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden...take my yoke upon you.  (ESV)

I have said in this blog series that Sabbath is the pattern set for man to follow.

The Old Testament practice of Sabbath and the commands for Sabbath keeping are all foreshadowing of the most freeing truth we could grasp when it comes to Sabbath.

In Christ, we can find the very definition of the Hebrew shabbat, which means to cease or desist.  

Jesus came so that we can cease from our striving.  So that we can desist from our doing.

Jesus is our Sabbath.  And I don't mean our Sunday focus.  I don't mean our once-a-week worship and nap time.  I mean our daily pattern of living, our freedom to live without burden bearing and to find refreshing for our souls and to be delivered and freed from our own works.

When we grasp Jesus as our Sabbath, we can throw out our busyness and forsake our fast paced culture...we can cling to the most relevant principle for today's chaotic world...the idea of REST for our soul despite any circumstance.

Legalism and ritual lead to a religion that burns you out.

This is not what Christ came to enforce.

My Women of Faith study Bible says, "The finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross makes it possible for you to enter his rest.  There's no need to struggle, no need to fill your life with busy work.  You can rest in Christ."

But how?  We women, particularly, tend to be doers by nature.  People pleasers.  Jugglers of all things home and family and work.  We who grew up in the church tend to carry the burden of rules and duty and activity and expectations.

So, how do we move from asking what are we doing here, with all these plates to the question of asking where we stay?  And how do we stay and yet still keep up with all that must be accomplished?

How can glean what I think my Granny never realized until it was too late?  How can learn to not sweat the small stuff?  To realize my angst of obligation and activity and deadlines and tasks and to be FREED to experience a soul rest.  To find a refreshment that God intended for my every day life through the gift of Christ?  Christ -- whose life and death and resurrection blew open the idea of Sabbath from a weekly ritual to a way of daily life, living freely and lightly?

Because Christ promises that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.  He assures us that he does not lay anything heavy or ill fitting on us.  His heart beat for us to find rest for our souls through the unforced rhythms of grace even as we walk through a busy life and crazy world.  Even there.  To find the miracle of Sabbath living because we have thrown off unbelief about the rest Jesus offers.  

How indeed?  Who can teach us this way of walking in freedom? 

I think my Granny could have learned a lot from the woman we are about to study.

Our heroine and role model for this Sabbath way of life is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

Mary is our forerunner in Sabbath living.

She has much to teach us.  May we lean in to listen well in the days ahead.

Blog post #5 in a series on Sabbath Living: the Sacred Practice of Sitting at the Feet of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

LIving at Warp Speed

The problem in our Western cultures is that we are out-of-sync.  We are like a record playing on the wrong speed.  When I was younger, I would play a song on my vinyl records at too fast of a speed just to hear how funny it sounded.  It did not sound as it was meant to sound.  It was not what it was meant to be.

And neither are we.  This is us.  We are settling for a life on warp speed when we were made for so much more.  I believe with increasing conviction that it is in the DNA of all mankind to live in a way other than the current cultural norm.  It is not how we were wired. It was never God's plan.

And like an iPhone that you haven't synced to your computer lately, you will lose all your data if you don't sync correctly.

If we don't sync our lives in that way that we were intended, then we will lose out eventually.

Because we, the human race, were made in God's image.  The God whose original pattern for mankind was not to go faster, do more, strive harder, perform better.  But rather, the original pattern for mankind since the beginning of creation was to live in the rhythm of Sabbath.  I believe that ALL that God has been revealing to me as of late boils down to this idea of Sabbath living.

He gave us a key instruction when he instituted the Sabbath as an integral part of life.  And by Sabbath, I don't mean Sunday afternoon naps and the old laws that made stores close on Sundays.  

I mean so much more.  If you will stick with me through this entire series on Sabbath living, then I promise you will be blessed by the fresh word from the Lord. Because I know that what is turning my life on its head can have the same beautiful impact on you.

Here's where we start.  Before we can consider our transformation to Sabbath living, we have to define Sabbath living.  

I did my research through my handy dandy Wycliffe Bible Dictionary.  And boy, was I pretty amazed at what I learned.

First of all, the word Sabbath derives its origin from the Hebrew shabbat, which means to cease or desist.

We know from the very beginning--literally, in Genesis 2, from the beginning of time, God himself modeled for us a rhythm of life that included rest.

It is the pattern set for man to follow since the day the world was spun into motion.  We know from Genesis 2:2 that God rested on the seventh day.  In other words, He ceased working.  He desisted from his efforts.  He paused.  

God himself.  Who does not sleep nor slumber.  

Listen, He did not rest because he was tired.  

He rested to make a point.  To set an example.  To show us how to sync our lives and live as he intended for us to live. 

Bear with me as I lay some foundation to the blog posts to come on this idea of Sabbath living.  We are going to do a quick history lesson as we define what is even meant by the idea of Sabbath living.

1.  Receiving his provision.  In Exodus 16:23-30, we see that God's people were given manna for their Sabbath on the day before.  In other words, part of Sabbath living is leaning on the provision that He grants us, not by our efforts, but by his goodness.

2.  Remembering his covenant.  In Exodus 31:12-17 and again in Ezekiel 20:12, we see that God ordained Sabbath keeping as a sign of his covenant relationship with his people.  It was a seal of the Mosaic Covenant, as he delivered, rescued and redeemed the Israelites--his chosen people. Every one of us were grafted into this covenant through Jesus.

3.  Remembering his atonement.  In Leviticus 16:31, 23-32, we see the practice of the Day of Atonement, or the day of complete rest when God atoned for the sins of his people.

4.  Precursor to fruitfulness.  In Leviticus 25:2-7 and again in Exodus 23:10-11, we are instructed about the seventh year when the fields were to rest in order to recover from their years of crops so that they could again be fruitful.  In order for us to be fruitful, we must include the habit of restfulness.  

These are some of the Old Testaments purposes and definitions of Sabbath.  Unfortunately, we tend to stop here and get tripped up, seeing Sabbath as an outdated practice.  But we must stop and be mindful of the fact that the Old Testament paves the way and points us to the full gospel offered in the New Testament.  It is not outdated at all, but rather full of purpose and rich in meaning when we take time to appreciate it and to decipher how it applies to us today.

The problem with Sabbath practices is that during the time between the Old and the New Testament, when God was silent with his people as they waited for their Messiah, the people began to attend synagogues.  Sabbath became a time for the study of the law, and not just a time for rest and worship.

Like all GOD THINGS, when people begin to add to it, it's no longer a GOOD thing.

And thus, with the restrictive and choking legalistic practice of the Sabbath, we have come to disregard the idea of Sabbath living altogether.  We throw the baby out with the bath water.  

Fast forward a couple thousand years, and we have a people calling themselves Christians but living completely out of sync with the rhythms of life that God intended all along.

Jesus had much to say about man's legalistic bent and man's tendency to twist what God originally intended for his people.  Repeatedly in Scripture, we see Jesus pointing the people back to the original intent of Sabbath (see Matthew 12:5-7 and 10-12, Luke 13:15, Luke 14:1-6). 

What Jesus was doing was actually underlining is the fact that HE is our Sabbath.  He is our rest.  He is the reason we can cease and desist.  

Yet, like the stubborn Pharisees, we don't see the freedom sitting right in front of us.

Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus pointed us time and again to the idea that mercy and grace and the rest found within them take precedence over legalism.  THIS is the heart beat and bottom line of all that I want to share about Sabbath living.

Because, as I said, we are a people living out-of-sync.  Running on a treadmill speed too fast for us, dangerously close to being thrown off completely.  We have disregarded Sabbath as an outdated practice or a pie-in-the-sky ideal.  Who has time to actually find a pattern of rest?  

Instead, we live out our faith in warp speed, crashing and burning for vacation times that emphasize how out-of-sync we are because we have no idea how to function without a mountain of tasks to complete.  We've traded God's idea for an abundant life for a life filled to abundance with tasks, events, technology, distractions, and places to be.

We've bought the lie -- hook, line and sinker.  We've been numbed by our fast pace into believing that a productive life--even one lived for Christ--is one that is overflowing with activity.  We work to maintain a standard of how-to's, taking on a religion that burns us out and constantly accuses us of not doing enough.  

It leaves us weary and worn.  Frazzled and frayed.


All the while, God has shown us a way since the dawn of time.

Sabbath living.

Learning to cease and desist.  

To find rest for our souls through the One who invites us to the unforced rhythms of grace.  The One who is the Living Water to refresh us.  The One who provides through His covenant of love and redemption to guide us to a fruitful life.

Which does not mean a busy life.

Quite the contrary.

I'm learning that taking the headlong leap into a deeper life of thriving with Him is actually learning the harder discipline of slowing it down.  Being still.  Resting in the arms of the Savior who made a way.

Not so that I could spend my days toiling and straining.

But so that I could spend my days learning the practice of staying.  At the feet of Jesus.  Where Sabbath is the call by a God who spun the world into motion.  And this is not a call to some outdated ritual.  It is as relevant today as it was on the day the earth was created.

It's a call to a rhythm of abundant living.

Living freely and lightly.

We have so much to learn.

Blog post #4 in a series on Sabbath Living: the Sacred Practice of Sitting at the Feet of Jesus.

Friday, August 15, 2014

It's Not in What You're Doing

Yesterday, I talked about the question I began to ask myself--what am I doing?  Today, I want to move us forward to the bigger question.  The question that I am coming to see holds the key for this yearning to learn how to live on the unforced rhythms of grace.

As I repeatedly heard words from the Bible like rest, sit, abide, dwell and remain, I began to see a pattern.  Honestly, this whole journey into a faith deconstruction and rebuilding has often times felt like putting puzzle pieces together without the picture to guide me.  It's led me to repeatedly ask for God given wisdom to understand what he wants to teach me.  That's always an answered prayer.  And He is faithfully guiding me on how to place this pieces and make sense of them.

Here's what I felt was being whispered to my soul: Yes, consider what I have been doing here--in the church, in the world, with God...all these years.  But the truth is, it's not in what I'm doing that is the problem.  It's what I DON'T do that's the problem.  It's these forgotten verbs of the Bible.  Forgotten in light of easier-to-complete verbs like go and do and make and build.  Because I am a do-er by nature.  I am driven and task oriented.  

Yet, the startling fact could not be ignored: I have built a life so far fetched from Sabbath living that I have needed to be shaken up.  Because what I don't do is "be still."

Being still is not my thing.  My value and worth have always been tied to my productivity.  I would rather dig into a how-to have authentic faith in ten easy steps than spend time slowing down.  I think this is true of our culture in general--even or maybe particularly--in our church culture.

We are an on-the-go at breakneck speed society.  We can multitask like nobody's business and all this technology that is supposed to make life easier has actually made life busier.  More complicated.  Full of distractions.  Information flying at us through the speed of the internet.  Calendars and schedules full of activities and tasks and events and such.  Then piled on with the frenzy of social media and keeping up with everyone else's activity in real time. 

I had been asking myself what am I doing?  Meanwhile, God is in the process of undoing me...because He has a much more important question for me.

The best way that I can phrase it comes from a term that I first heard from some New Orleans friends.  When they came to Texas after Hurricane Katrina, they would ask me this question.

Where you stay?

They were asking where I live.  But, I think the question "where you stay" is such a profound one to ponder.

Where does your mind stay?

Where do your emotions stay?

Where do your thoughts stay?

Where does your energy stay?

Indeed, the question of what am I doing evolved into asking myself where am I staying.

Because the answer to that tells us everything we need to know about living on the unforced rhythms of grace.

This blog series is all about diving into this question.  Discovering these forgotten verbs of the Bible like rest and abide and seeing how they connect to Sabbath living. Because Sabbath living is God's design and pattern for all of mankind since the creation of the world.  And if we aren't Sabbath living, then we are missing the rhythm of life that God intended for us.

You see, our undoing actually comes in UNdoing.  In not "doing" but pausing.  Not working but resting.  Not striving but trusting.  

Let's look again at Matthew 11:28-31 from the Message, which we first considered on our first day of this blog series.

Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you'll recover your life.  I'll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.   

Sarah Bessey said she knew that no one needed to tell the women at the IF Gathering to keep striving.

Likewise, none of you needs to have more added to your calendar or tasks.  If there's anything that we crave in our overscheduled, overstimulated culture it's rest.  True rest.  Not just sleep but a refreshment for our souls.

But, if there's anything we don't do well or willingly in our overscheduled and overstimulated culture, it's rest.  We have a co-dependent relationship with the go, go, go.  We hate it, but we can't seem to stop it.  

And so it's filtered down to our church lives where we've lost the rhythm of Sabbath.  This has led to our loss of connection to a Jesus who simply asks us to take on his light burden and his easy yoke.  We've traded staying at the feet of Jesus to being busy trying to earn the freedom that has already been granted us.  

The Casting Crowns song All You've Ever Wanted sums up our modern day Christian angst well:

I was chasing healing when I'd been made well
I was fighting battles when You conquered hell
Living free but from a prison cell
Lord, I lay it down today

Does this sound like you?  Are you working to attain that abundant life, striving hard in hopes of thriving?  Spinning plates and working and straining forward?  Asking yourself what you're doing and what more you need to be doing?  Because you are running like a hamster on a wheel, seeking the elusive peace and rest that your soul was made to enjoy?

Listen, this is me.  This is how I've approached my faith all of my life.

And Jesus is telling me ENOUGH.

He's telling me to quit asking what I'm doing and boil it down to this question.

Where you stay?  

Because if it's not firmly at the feet of Jesus, learning the rhythm of Sabbath life, then I'm on the wrong path.  I'd love for you to be my company along the way.

Blog post #3 in a series on Sabbath Living: the Sacred Practice of Sitting at the Feet of Jesus.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What Are You Doing?

In a moment of epiphany about three months ago, I wondered why I had missed it for so long.  I felt grieved that I had been doing this church and Christian thing for most of my life, but I didn't get it. I had never really gotten it.

I had, as of yet, never really understood the gospel.  I was following a plastic Jesus.  To be brutally honest, after spending this last spring in the book of John, I realized I'd been living like the Pharisees and Saducees.  So caught up in the rules and ritual and striving and performing, that I missed the Jesus right in front of me.  The Jesus of love and grace whose gospel is freedom.

I grew up going to church, since pre-birth.  I decided I wanted to follow Jesus at age four, after a conversation with our pastor, Billy Graham.  (Not THAT Billy Graham).  My parents questioned my understanding of this decision at such a young age, but Pastor Graham affirmed that I was as aware as anyone of my need for a Savior.  

From then on, I lived a rather Beaver Clever childhood as an Army brat, with parents who loved each other with an older sister who patiently tolerated me.  I was a people pleaser and nothing made me happier than earning those gold stars on the Bible memorization chart in Sunday School.  You know the one--the chart where you also earned stars for bringing your Bible and being present.  

And present I was.  Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights.  Church attendance was mandatory in my family.  I distinctly remember my seventh birthday when I got a pass for church--because I'd been up all night with a stomach virus.  

On top of Godly parents, I had Godly grandparents and uncles.  I avoided serious rebellion as a teen--greatly assisted by the fact my dad was a pastor by then in my tiny hometown. There were eyes everywhere for my every move--everyone knew I was Pastor Murray's girl.  

I chose a Christian university, put the Christian fish on my car, and went to Christian concerts such as Carmen, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith.

I knew the lyrics to all of the hymns--except for the third verse, as I was raised in a Baptist church.  I knew the church lingo, prayed regularly, and towed the line.  

Adulthood was thrust upon me at age 19 when my dad died and for many reasons, I found myself very much left to my own financially and emotionally.

Still, I clung.  To a faith that I was desperately hoping would be enough.  And it was.  In that season of life, I came to know God as my lifeline, my strength, and my Father.

But, until recently, I didn't realize that I viewed God as a distant God, bent on cracking the whip to keep me in line.  Throughout my adulthood, I've come to see that I don't believe that He's really FOR me.  Instead, I've settled for an idea that if I perform well enough, he might be persuaded.  I haven't really believed He loves me.  As in a personal, passionate, crazy for me kind of love.  More like a tolerance of me.  There are walls that I've built around my heart and boxes that I've built around my ideas of God, perhaps for self-protection.  Until recently, these walls and boxes have kept my faith safe because I wasn't sure I could trust a God who sometimes didn't feel safe.

These walls began to crack two years ago, when my husband and I suddenly found ourselves at a crossroads with an unexpected circumstance that sucker punched us.  

And it caused us to ask--what are we doing here?  

I mean, really?  What are we doing here?  Hitting forty years old and what are we spending our days doing?  

How about you?  What are YOU spending your days doing?

I mean, really think about that.  Mentally go through your day, and think of the verbs that describe your actions throughout the day.

Those cracks in my wall continued as I found myself knee deep in readings such as David Platt's Radical, Jen Hatmaker's 7, and Kisses from Katie--as I've mentioned here before.  Those people had a radical faith.  I saw a common thread of people so moved by God's love for them that they were acting like Jesus did.  Caring for the poor.  Bucking the system of the American Dream.  Trading convenience and comfort for the sake of others. 

Listening to Sarah Bessey at the IF Gathering, I realized something.

Those people were learning the unforced rhythms of grace.  They were living freely and lightly.  They were living out these forgotten verbs of the Bible that I was suddenly hearing from all sides, all sermons, all blogs, all readings.

Rest.  Stay.  Sit.  Abide.  Dwell.  Remain.  Cling.

They were learning this new task list.  These verbs that feel passive, but are actually quite powerful.

Because in the pause, in the quiet, in the stillness...these people had discovered who Jesus really was.  They had met the Jesus I had kept at a safe distance for all of my life.  They had taken the plunge off the cliff of religion into the ocean of grace and love.  

And they were changed.  Their lives looked different.

What they were doing looked nothing like what I was doing, sitting in my safe little church pew. 

And it led me to ask another question.  The question that is shattering my religion that has left me burned out, tired, and weary. 

The question that has become the launching point for a new journey of faith.  The question that summarizes all this deconstruction and discovery.

The question we will dive into tomorrow.

Stay tuned, bloggy friends. 

Blog post #2 in a series on Sabbath Living: the Sacred Practice of Sitting at the Feet of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Don't Keep Striving

Author's Note: This is the first in a prolonged series of blog posts outlining my recent class called "Sabbath Living:  Learning the Sacred Practice of Sitting at the Feet of Jesus."  By way of explanation, I was privileged to share a five day study at Moose Lake Gospel Camp (pictured below) in northern Alberta, Canada, in July 2014.  The precious ladies who shared their time with me have requested that I offer the information on my blog.  This series--these teachings--are a word first to me.  May they be an encouragement to you, as well.

"I sat bolt upright in my lovely hotel room at midnight with one thought in my head:  no one needs to tell these women to keep striving...."

These were the words of Sarah Bessey last February as she began her talk at the IF Gathering in Austin.   As she spoke about learning the unforced rhythms of grace, my heart cried out YES.  YES, I want to learn how to live differently.  I want to quit striving.  I want to cease working so hard to run on treadmill of performing and earning like some hamster on a wheel.  Sarah Bessey could have come all the way from Canada to Austin, Texas, to simply get this message to me.  Because it has echoed within me ever since.

There is more.  

Because there is less.

There is more that walking with Jesus is meant to be.  More than rule following and being a dutiful servant.  More than some distant God bent on grading and assessing my every move.  More than a heavy, burdened religion that weighs me down as I keep striving.

Because there is less required of me than I make it.  I complicate my faith by adding to the simple message that Jesus so emphatically preached with the bold exclamation of his death on the cross.  Less about me.  In fact, less of me.  

More of Him.  More of His love.  More of His grace.  More of His yoke, which is not heavy.  More of His burden, which is light.  

Less of that which makes me feel tired and worn out and burned out.  

Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you'll recover your life.  I'll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11:28-30  MSG  

This verse summarizes a journey for me.  A journey of the last two years as God has called me to deconstruct my religion and trade it all for relationship.  Daring me to truly embrace and believe GRACE.  Living it out.  For the first time.  After following Him for decades now. Challenging me to really--for the first time--seek to understand His love.  Not His rules.  Or a task list.  Or how to be a good Christian girl.  

But to understand the scandalous love of a Savior.  To study and dive into how He lived on this earth.  And to learn to rest in His love as I follow His footsteps to be an instrument of grace to the hurting world around me.  To begin to grasp the breadth and depth of His love for me...and to be so rooted in it and moved by it that it overflows to those I encounter.  

This.  This is my heart's cry these days.  To read through the Scripture passage above and breath in the hope it offers.  Because I am tired.  I am worn out.  I am burned out on a religion that offers burdens instead of hope.  

And I'm ready.  Ready to recover my life.  Hungry--no starving, in fact--for real rest.  Not just a good night's sleep.  But rest for my soul. Wanting to learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  Learning to live freely and lightly.

Will you join me in this journey?  Because my life has been declaring a truth of burden and performance and elitism. And I want to quit carrying the weight of being a servant and learn how to become a friend of Jesus.

To soak in, to the marrow of my bones, a Jesus who came to be Immanuel.  God with us.  

Unforced rhythms of grace.  May I learn to sync my life with this staccato. Slow and steady.

Blog post #1 in a series on Sabbath Living: the Sacred Practice of Sitting at the Feet of Jesus.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Babies Shouldn't be Getting Driver's Permits

Seriously. What is wrong with this country?  Or rather, this great state of Texas?  I mean, who do they think they are--issuing learner's permits to teeny tiny itty bitty baby boys? 

Does this kid even look old enough to be behind the wheel of a moving vehicle--that's NOT one of those cozy coupe cars that you peddle with your feet like Fred Flintstone?

It's ridiculous.  In fact, it's an outrage.  

I can hardly believe it.  

When I climbed into that mini-van last Tuesday and looked over at my oldest, THAT little boy above is who I saw.  Like that scene from Father of the Bride where Steve Martin sees his little girl announcing her engagement at the dinner table.  It was JUST LIKE THAT for me.

Because, for the life of me, I don't know where the years have gone.  And I sorta wanted to scream at the sharp pains I literally felt deep in my heart when I rode as the passenger whilst my son drove.

My son drove.

Y'all.  He drove.  Legally.  While I sat next to him, thinking I deserved an Oscar for my award winning performance as a perfectly calm and reasonable and relaxed mother of a driving teen.

Masking the inner turmoil I felt with the whirlwind of emotions and thoughts and memories swirling inside me like some horrible F5 tornado.  Wanting to hunt down every single mother I know who has already entered this season yet failed to tell me the utter angst I would feel when my first born drove.

Talk about torture for a control freak.  I felt the letting go like a rip across my heart.  Because there is no denying that the baby bird is ready to fly.  On his own.  Taking control for himself.  With my life in HIS hands for a change. 

While I sat next to him, consciously NOT stomping my foot on the floor board as if there was some invisible brake pad, calmly assuring him what a good job he was doing, I realized something.

He is doing a good job.  He is growing up with a wisdom and maturity I lacked at his age.  He is pressing forward, with his mind clearly focused on choosing God's narrow way, swimming upstream, moving toward his goals of attending the college of his dreams. Untethered from peer pressure or fleeting foolish things.  Undeterred.  Unstoppable.

And there it was.  The rising pride that spoke to the storm inside me.  That challenged me that if I was going to keep teaching this young man to trust the One who made him, then I better do the same.  

If I'm going to direct my children to let God in the driver's seat, then I need to do the same.  I need to embrace that passenger seat.  I need to find joy there.  I need to release the control.  Because the truth was, I never had it.

Not since the day he was being knit in my womb.  Not since the day I was told I would miscarry him and I was forced to release it all to One who was forming him.  And I knew it was my Father's goodness that turned the tide and sustained that tiny life within me.

And every day since.  Because any sense of control was only a facade.  As an infant, I couldn't make him sleep if he didn't want to.  As I toddler, I couldn't make him obey if he didn't want to.  I could only give consequences. As a preschooler, I couldn't make him read when he was still learning.  

He is not my own.  He was bought with a price.  The day he accepted that gift, he turned his life over to Christ.

And I must continually do the same.  Turn his life and the lives of my other children to Christ. Day after day.  Moment by moment.  

As my darling boy takes the wheel and chooses his own path.  Charts his own course.  Embraces the plans His Father has for him.

There is no better way. 

Because whether he is driving my car just down the street or taking his own car toward his future when he leaves home, the truth is that he's already chosen the best direction he can.  

And as he surrenders and follows the Lord, I must surrender.  I must continually do what I want that amazing young man to do.

Entrust my very life to our God who controls it all.  And the lives of my children.  To the One who loves us dearly.  Who guides us continually.  Who's got every one of us in His hands.  Pouring out His grace to cover us.  Leading us as our Good Shepherd.

Jesus, take the wheel!  Take it from my hands.  

And speak peace to my aching heart.  On this brutal, beautiful part of mothering.     

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Remember to Not Forget: Ending a School Year

A euphoria has swept my house hold.  On this, the last day of school.  My kids have been counting down for quite some time.  In fact, one child even created a daily count down with post-it notes, where each day can be ripped off.  

Yes, indeed.  It's a good day.  I personally am breathing a huge sigh of relief.  We made it!  Now, I can be freed from signing binders, obsessively asking my teenagers about their school work, and the daily grind of school pick-ups at three locations at three different times.  

In the words of the character played by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart...


Yet, as I find my mind immediately moving to the next things on the calendar--summer activities and camps and trips and such, I was reminded of something important this morning.

We must remember to not forget.  

We must remember to not forget the milestones of the last year.  The things that God has brought us through.  The struggles we survived.  The potential dangers that we (and our children) dodged.  The times we fell.  The times we got back up.  All the places we've been.  Whether you're completing a school year or a chapter of life, such as high school.

This is an important ritual for all of us.  The Bible is full of examples where God's people stopped, at the brink of the new thing, to pause in praise and worship as they remembered to not forget.  

Noah and his family, saved from the flood, walking on dry land, to build an altar of remembrance.  Abraham, narrowly avoiding the sacrifice of Isaac, pausing to name that place The Lord Will Provide. Jacob, building an altar at Bethel, to commemorate how God revealed Himself during his time of running from his brother Esau. The altar of remembrance by the twelve tribes after walking through the dry ground of the Jordan River, remembering how the Lord was bringing them to the Promised Land after wandering in the desert.

So let us intentionally stop and consider what God has done for us.  To look back and have our faith built by not forgetting the ground gained within the last school year.  I say let's do this with our children, to instill in them the important practice of pausing to remember to not forget.  Perhaps you can use this blog post as dinner conversation starter. 

1.  What were the things we feared or were anxious about for this last school year, before it began?  Did those things happen?  Were they better or worse than anticipated?  Maybe your child started middle school or high school, like one of mine did.  I remember the mini-panic attack as I walked the halls of that huge high school on registration day.  How was my son ever going to find his classes?  Would he adjust well?  For this mama bear, I was downright anxious about my little cub going off into that big unknown territory. 

Listen, my rather confident teenager told me in no uncertain terms as school began that he was going to be just fine.  In that little tone that reminded me that my anxiety was more about my own experience at a tiny high school and the intimidation I felt than it was about his perspective.  For him, it is perfectly normal to go to a large high school.  It's all he's anticipated.  He had very kind friends from church who showed him the ropes and reminded him they had his back.  Despite a rocky start with five (yes, 5!) algebra teachers within the first semester (hiring glitches! On my son's hardest subject), he has done well.  

There were other anxieties and concerns for all three of my children.  And because I am rather gifted at picturing worse case scenarios, all in all -- my fears were not the least bit realized.  Not even close.  Indeed, much to be celebrated!  May it remind me to stand firm on God's faithful track record rather than my own pessimism.

2.  What were some struggles and failures and trials that were survived?  During the last few months, I have frequently stopped by the Facebook page called Prayers for Blake.  When I consider the story of this fourteen-year-old boy who suffered a serious brain injury after a freak accident at gymnastics, I think, well...I got nothing.  I have found great encouragement in how this Facebook page has offered the details of a hard journey, with great transparency.  Specific daily needs were prayed for and then reported on.  And a dire situation, where Blake's very life hung in the balance, unfolded to the very thing his parents were specifically praying for from moment one.  

In the last few weeks, he walked out of the hospital. On his feet.  Just as his mom and dad had prayed for since the first day when his recovery was quite uncertain.

I cried like a baby reading those words.  

After that, he went back to his school to visit his friends.  And from reading the account of it, I'm pretty sure I would have been a weepy mess had I actually been there for THAT occasion.  

What astounded me throughout these last few months of keeping up with this friend of a friend is this testimony.  This family stood firmly on God's promises.  Continually asking for specific things in prayer.  Careful to note and celebrate and praise God for each tiny milestone.  They are the epitome of simply being thankful for what was survived.  For how they were held by a loving God through very dark days.  Embracing the light of the new thing, the new work, the new promises for the days ahead.  

Maybe your trials this last school year or season aren't quite dramatic.  Maybe, like our family, there were just the typical angst of being a pre-teen or teenager.  No worries.  Let us still note the very things that we survived.  That we are still here.  Still fighting.  Still taking steps.  And let's find hope in these things that did not undo us, learning lessons for the next journey.

3.  What were some surprises--good and bad--throughout the last school year?  Where are we now in these situations?  What ground has been gained?  What unrealized hopes still lie ahead?  Every season of life comes with surprises.  Good and bad.  For instance, we weren't familiar with my daughter's assigned teachers in the fall.  But, we found them to be fabulous and kind and encouraging and beyond anything we could have asked.  There were new students in her school, after a little rezoning in our district.  She has found some wonderful new friendships.  On the other hand, cliques and groups are forming, as these kids move toward middle school.  She has noted that she no longer spends time after school with certain friends.  Yet, she is rolling with the punches and learning a lot about friendship.  

For all of our kids, this last school year has included saying good-bye to the only pastor they remember and going through a season of transition.  We couldn't imagine anything different as our family prayed for the search for a new pastor.  Yet, God has brought our church family to a wonderful new season under a pastor whose sermons are drawing my kids to Him in new ways.

This last school year included a surprise surgery for me, during a surprise ice storm, that left my kids with the surprise of extra days at their "fake cousins" house, with their aunt and uncle by choice. We saw God's hand in every detail, as I was freed from two years of chronic pain.  And my family supported and loved me through my recovery and rejoiced to have the problem handled.

Other surprised this school year include long spoken prayers remaining unanswered, friends enduring new challenges, family being spared from a killer tornado, teachers who were challenging to work with, and my children enduring unexpected disappointments. 

Surprises, I'm learning, are a wonderful way for this planner mom to learn to surrender to the works of a constant God.  Such beautiful life lessons for my children.

4.  Looking back, what accomplishments are you most proud of or what blessings find you most thankful?  I love how the elementary school where my children have attended approaches success ceremonies.  Each child is encouraged to set goals and work toward them.  Each child is then announced across the stage with the thing they are most proud of from the school year.  I love hearing the individual "I did it!" moments that each child chooses.  Some are funny.  Some are mind boggling (REALLY?  PERFECT scores on that STAAR test?!).  Some are just interesting insight into the mind of that child.  

This year, my child said she was most proud of maintaining a good attitude when she became sick and had to leave the famous fourth grade Adventure Camp.  Indeed.  This memory stands out to me, too.  We cried the whole way home, unsure why she would miss out on this three day adventure that she had looked forward to since kindergarten.  Yet, my girl rebounded and pressed forward.  Hardly uttering a word for the weeks since when everyone dives into their "remember at camp?" stories.  She has achieved much and worked hard through an arduous fourth grade year.  But, I am with her on how she appreciates the prayers that were answered as she gathered her sad self together and determined to press on.

It's always interesting to hear your child's perspective on this question.  Because I'm guessing their answer won't match yours.  But every inch of ground gained should indeed be celebrated, with our eyes ever focused on the God who moves us forward.  

5.  What lessons learned have you gained through this last school year?  When I look back at my August, first-day-of-school self, I've learned a lot about my kids and my mothering over these last ten months.  Once I stop to consider it.  

I've learned my oldest has an inner strength that I need not doubt.  I've learned he has a quiet confidence and faith that will see him through even major disappointments.  And I can back up and let him fly.  (Or that looms around the corner).  He has a quick sense of humor, offering levity when least expected from this man of few words.  He is choosing friendships wisely and carefully, thinking through his future and not taking himself too seriously.  And he still lets me give him hugs.

My middle child never ceases to amaze me.  Once he sets his mind to something, he will get it done.  He tackled a whole new endeavor with playing football this year.  My heart nearly burst watching him rally his teammates on the field and run his routes with great agility.  He missed more school days than are even allowed, yet pulled out a grade point average higher than he ever has.  We are enjoying new ground in our relationship, as we discuss and navigate new paths of independence.  And I love how he shares funny videos or jokes or news bits with me, letting me into his world.

My youngest child is not a baby.  If you know her, this is not a news flash.  Since she is nearly as tall as me and her shoe size is already two sizes bigger than mine, despite the fact she is nine years old.  But this year, she has turned some corners of maturity and pushed herself harder academically and socially.  She has made big decisions, like leaving her volleyball team with all of her friends in order to learn piano and guitar.  Every time I see her with that guitar on her lap, strumming away, I marvel at her confidence to chart her own way.  It's evidence of answered prayers from a mom whose childhood was marked by insecurity.  

All in all, I believe God has been teaching me this year as a mom to be bold and confident and claim the big things He wants to do through all of my children.  It's all a reminder to release my doubts to God.  Because He's got me...and He has these kids.  Through whatever comes.  I must surrender them to His care, as they tackle high school or new sports or changing friendships.  I've cried about things that hardly phased them.  Oh, yes.  Perhaps I can learn from them to let things go.  

I've worked harder this year at being and staying connected to my children and leading them through grace more than demanding specific behavior.  Lessons my Father is teaching me about His love for me.  I've been challenged to choose my battles and bite my tongue and lead by example in how I speak to them or approach them.  Admit my mistakes.  Ask forgiveness.  Have grace on myself too, and trust Him to be big enough to fill in the gaps when I fail.  And I know that He has lessons He is trying to teach each of them, too.  As they navigate their own walk with their God.

I've got a long, long way to go.  But, I can look back and see that the tree of lessons learned is bending over with the weight of fruit for me to pick.  To ponder and consume and be transformed for the next steps.  

Lessons learned.  From an entire school year.  Or maybe an entire season of schooling.  More than just math or reading or geography.  Heart lessons.  Character lessons.  Faith lessons.  I often tell my children that no experience--good or really bad--is wasted if we can consider a lesson learned and move forward with that.

That we might all stop and pause there.  To look backward with thankfulness.  With an openness to being refined and molded.  With a heart of praise and worship.  With eyes to see all the many things that God walked us through.

Oh, yes.  We survived!  We survived fourth grade, seventh grade, and ninth grade.  But more than surviving...I can see how because of His grace, we have actually thrived.  

All thanks to Him for his steadfast love and faithfulness.  And afternoons NOT spent running car pools.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

This Crazy, Fast Paced Frenzy

Do y'all remember back in your teen years when you'd read Seventeen magazine and complete those little surveys?  You know, the ones that told you what kind of friend you were or what your style was or what kind of boy was best for you.  

I've always been a sucker for those kind of self-tests.  I think I'm drawn to the promise of knowing myself better.  I like things to fit nicely in little categories.  Simple formulas and step-by-step instructions toward a goal really work for my perfectionist, Type A personality.  

In the spirit of such surveys, I have one for you today.  Please complete the following questions, choosing the answer that most accurately describes you.  Then read on, bloggy friends, for my musings for today.

1.  When describing your overall pace in life, you:
a.  often find yourself sitting to ponder important life lessons.
b.  often find yourself busy doing things that need to be done.

2.  When describing your general mentality:
a.  you would say you are relaxed and particular about how you spend your time.
b.  you are in a frenzy, jumping from one thing to the next.

3.  Considering your emotional health:
a.  you would say you are refreshed and confident.
b.  you feel troubled and anxious about many things.

4.  As far as your approach to life:
a.  you are intentional and particular about your time.
b.  you have way too much going on to even think about having an approach to life.

5. When you consider your prayer life:
a.  you are thankful for the way you interact with God through prayer, learning more about him on a regular basis.
b.  you think of the million things you've asked him for help with, most of which feels unanswered.

If you answered "b" to most of these questions, then you are a normal American adult, busy juggling multiple plates.  And, if it's any consolation, you are very much like I have been for most of my life.  I'd like to say just my adult life, but who am I kidding?  I was a serious kid and high achiever from the get go.

Which has pretty much been my approach to my faith.  My entire life.  Yep.  Like the little Welcome Week wheel at my Baylor freshmen orientation week--working to find a balance between the spiritual, emotional, physical and academic.  You know--with Jesus at the center of the wheel.  Keep your spokes and pie pieces even and voile--a sure fire recipe for success!

Except, I've come to realize, it's not.  It's just not the formula to the type of life I'm becoming more and more hungry for--the life I'm in  the process of embracing.  Learning to be released from this crazy, fast paced frenzy.  My Granny used to say that the older you get, the faster time goes.  Truer words were never spoken, Granny.  
Absolutely.  And as the years fly by and my children grow up, I've found myself in this sorta reflective mode about the way I spend my time.  The way my days add up together to equal the sum of my years on earth.  

And it's all a rather frenzied mess of tasks and deadlines and calendar demands.  Listen, I want off!  I want off the treadmill going no where.  I want to run along some beautiful paths and soak in the experience.  I want to slow it down a bit.  Quit playing the LP record at a pace that sounds like the Chipmunks because the record player is tuned to a faster pace.  (I'm dating myself...younger generations missed out, I tell ya.) 

Do you know what I mean?  I'm in a serious season of regrouping here.  Trying to be molded and refined as only God can do to move my focus where it has been to where it needs to be.  To learn to do what Mary did, rather than succumb to my Martha ways.

And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving.  And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me."  But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." 
Luke 10:39-42 

Compare and contrast. Mary sat and listened.  Martha was distracted with much serving.  Mary humbled herself at the Lord's feet and learned.  Martha made demands of the Lord.  Mary chose the good portion.  Martha was anxious and troubled.  Mary invested in what couldn't be taken away.  Martha got herself worked up in a frenzy.  

The Lord loved them both.  

He answered Martha.  It doesn't say he rebuked her or scolded her.  He answered her.  Both women are noted as special to the Lord.  Listen, no matter which one describes you best--the Lord's love doesn't fail or falter.  His grace is extended to all.

But, I think if you evaluate the lives of both women, Mary enjoyed a deeper relationship with the Lord that led to being freed from anxiety and trouble and distractions.  Because Mary chose the one thing necessary.  

Mary wasn't juggling plates to keep her physical and academic and emotional parts of life balanced with her spiritual.  

She just chose the one thing.  

She sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things were added unto her.  She lived by first things first.  God can handle the rest.

Mary has been a fascinating character for me to consider this year.  And I have been mulling her life over throughout the gospels.  I have much more to say about her in days to come.  But, today, I want to talk about this secret.  The secret of avoiding the distractions and the busyness of serving that led Martha to make demands of the Lord and to be anxious and troubled.

Because I am, by nature Martha.  And for a long time, I've tried to be Mary.  

This year, as a person who does, I'm learning to instead set a new task list.  Instead of trying to be someone I'm not, I'm trying to DO what Mary did.

Dial it all back.  Simplify and cut out distractions and let go of some things so that I can be sure to literally sit and listen to His teaching.  And also figuratively do so in a spirit and posture of prayer and meditation throughout my day, literally picturing myself sitting at His feet, releasing all the kitchen duties to Him to fight my battles. 

It's no easy lesson for me, I tell ya.  I'm barely out of the starting gates.  Learning the sacred practice of sitting at the feet of Jesus and reorienting my life from doing and tasks to an approach of Sabbath living.  Sabbath in the original language meant to cease or desist.  I'm in a continual mode of asking for wisdom for what I need to cease and desist. Keep in mind, it may look different for you.  

This is how far I've gotten.  I'm still on that social media fast, hopping on to post my blog, send a specific message or check my sons' activities.  Cannot even begin to tell you how this has reoriented me to live for my audience of One and not even think of my life in statuses or posts.  

I've let go of couponing.  I'm in a season of trying to keep two teenage boys and one hungry preteen girl fed and full.  I'm also trying to feed my family food that is cleaner and not pre-packaged or preserved.  Couponing is not working.  So I've broken up with grocery game.  For now.  Because it gives me freedom to knock out my shopping faster and have one less task that makes me feel frenzied.

My meal planning is uber simple.  A meat and some (or one) veggie.  Generally, a meat I throw in the oven or have my husband grill and a veggie that I steam or broil.  Or I'm loving my crock pot recipes.  Listen, the dinner I fix my kids is only one of two they usually eat each night... they are like the Hobbits who eat a second breakfast.  They snack when they get home from school, eat my dinner and then fix another dinner about 8:30.  There's the kitchen kids.  Knock yourself out.  Because I'm not going to lose sleep about fancy meal planning right now.  

Overall, I'm changing my mentality to this:  one thing is necessary.  If I can find time daily to sit with my prayer journal, read the Word (I'm using the reading plan), and reflect on it, then I've had a productive day.  All else is gravy.  THIS is some major, major regrouping and redefining for me.  BIG TIME.  To remember that He wants my good portion that cannot be taken away.  Not my highlighted and completed task list.  

Another change I've made is I've quit doing my budget spreadsheets, tallying my receipts.  I realized something.  My bimonthly habit of trying to gather all receipts, input them into my monthly budget, and gauge where we are was making me feel anxious and troubled.  I have had this habit for approximately ALWAYS.  So, to let it go meant asking my husband incessantly about 3,229 times if he was okay with me NOT doing the spreadsheets this year.  Sure, said Mr. Type B.  Patiently.  Every time.  Because I married a saint.  

The truth is this.  Our budget never adds up on paper.  We should be majorly in debt.  But we have been debt free (so far) for over 6 years, other than our house.  We live on a non-profit salary and my irregular non-profit contractor work that is the little extra every time we need it.  We take out cash every paycheck and that's what we live on until the next paycheck.  So, really--I'm not being financially irresponsible or throwing all caution to the wind by not doing my spreadsheet.  I'm simply trying to live up to the challenge to trust my Provider and leave it at that. I guess, for me, I'm being challenged to quit micromanaging my Provider God.

Here's one last, more recent addition.  Cutting social media has meant I'm losing my appetite for television.  I'm finding that as I ask God to teach me how to choose the one thing and give me a hunger for Him, he is taking away the hunger for empty calories.  I'm simply more drawn to reading right now.  Oh, I'll sit to watch a specific show here or there.  Or a movie with my kids (Oh, YES!  Let's watch Frozen for the billionth time, sweet daughter!).  But the more I am intentionally trying to reorient myself, the more my longings and desires are falling in line.  

So, I'm jumping out there.  Choosing obedience first.  Asking God to help me do what Mary did.  To minute by minute, learn to plant myself and my heart at His feet.  Listening.  Ready.  Posed.  Surrendering the kitchen duties and battles to Him to fight for me.  Waiting for His direction.  

Interesting thing.  While it is incredibly uncomfortable at first (okay, and still), I'm learning to embrace it more and more.  To find joy in a slower pace.  In the difficult job of unraveling.  Unwinding.  Letting go.  Setting my sights on the one thing necessary.  Mindful of the extra unnecessary distractions that I can surrender.

The one thing necessary.  To sit at the Lord's feet and listen to His teaching.  

Tomorrow, I hope you'll join me for the next amazing glimpse of Mary at Jesus' feet.  I'll just say this. Mind blown... may we be like Mary!