"Twick o Tweet!" (updated w link to photos)

My youngest child, Brooks, still can't say his "R" sound. It was the homework letter for Monday, and he had no problem writing all his upper-case and lower-case R's, but then he had to list 5 words that started with R, and spell them with my help. It was hard!

"Mom, what sound does it make again?"

"Like the sound 'ra' in 'red', Sweety -- like 'ra', 'ra', 'ra'. What words start with that sound?"

Thinks hard and says "wa" "wa" "wa" . . .

"I know! Worship!"

. . . .

Well we got through the "r" words that day, and he was evaluated by a speech therapist today, and tonight we went trick or treating . . .

I posted pictures here: Halloween 2007

But, for tonight, imagine 3 hours of a very cute little boy and his cute bigger brother at house after house, greeting the open door with "twick o' tweet!"

Life is such a balance between truly enjoying all that God gives me to enjoy and longing for all that I have not been given but am compelled to go after . . .

And that is the source of motivation, I believe: both halves joined into a whole. If I fail to enjoy today what I have been given, or if I fail to long after and work toward my callings and passions that are not yet in my grasp, I miss out.

Happiness is not just enjoying what I already have. It is that, though, most certainly! But happiness is also having something to look forward to that I do not yet possess and must pursue.
Our Triune God seems to have that one down well, don't you think?


Doing Life Together

This is a month of the wisdom literature and of music for me . . . and by "wisdom literature", I guess I really mean just Ecclesiastes.

The Hebrews knew we are created, physical beings, and that our consciousness and our will and our passions and our bodies are not meant to be separated. And, in the end, we will be healed in new resurrected bodies that are fully integrated with a healthy psych and healthy actions and relationships. But, for now, with all creation we wait for that final day in a world that is far from perfect and in selfs that are far from what they will be in the fullness of His Kingdom.

Yet He tells us that the Kingdom is here now, in us and among us . . . and I do believe Him. Living and being in that reality is a whole other matter. "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven!"

But life is good and God is good. He is integrating the "not yet" part of the Kingdom in my theology and practice with the "right here, right now" part. And Ecclesiastes is a big part of that integration, as are Paul's letters and Jesus' words in the gospels.

I spend an awful lot of energy trying to plan my actions and then being perplexed with myself for not executing the carefully wrought plan. That's come clear this month, too -- the "solution", that is. My motivations and actions reflect my strong intuition about what the real plan should be, and completely override the cognitive plan when my cognitions are ignoring the intuitive side of things. And that is good. So I am learning to honor my sense of "what is right", even when it doesn't fit with a systematic theology or with my own legalisms or with my desire to please any particular person or people.

God made me with huge drive and intensity when I am after something I am actually after, and huge brakes when I'm being pushed toward something that feels wrong or with a timing that feels wrong -- whether it's me or not doing the pushing. This month has been a month of coming to honor that internal control instead of fighting it. That just took a recognition that the Holy Spirit has consistently used that huge power that the Triune God created within me, and that I honor His control by sitting on my hands when that is what I must do and by running when that is what I must do.

I heard the talk that Henri Nouwen gave years ago at the Crystal Cathedral on Communion/Community/Ministry twice last weekend, and it was precious. I do live in communion with my dear Lord. I do practice the kind of intense listening that is the source for the word "obedience". And so I will relax into my practice of communion with my dear Lord, into participation in my community of faith, and into ministry in all the ways He leads me to step outside myself each day.

Ethics boils down to abiding in Jesus and to living in community and to exercising my giftedness in the world as all of the other members of the body exercise their giftedness and as we learn to submit to each other in love. Together we will be the Bride and be used by our Groom to bring the here-and-now Kingdom.

And as I listen to all my music and work on getting my home ready to be a place to entertain you, I am learning to relax.

I wonder how long it will take? But it doesn't really matter . . .

We all have millions of years to see all the "right here, right now" moments blur together into the glorious story that only He could write . . .

And all I'm ever called to do is live this moment with joy that He is in me and causes me to run when He wants me to run and to learn to rest and wait patiently when that is what He wants for now.

And love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control grow out of that kind of dance of obedience . . .

And it doesn't look anything like being a good little girl or like being the image I used to have of a "godly woman". I get to be real and full, and leave shallow legalisms and cultural handcuffs behind . . .

So watch out!


Music and Faith

My faith and practice have been shaped by the music that provides the soundtrack of my life. I love the music of my generation -- good old secular rock-and-roll and modern rock, flowing from the 50s to today -- but I love even more the music of faith that fills my mind and has filled my homes and my cars as long as I have been my own disc-jockey. That music includes Handel, Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach . . . and all the wonderful old hymns of our faith . . . and many special modern artists and groups, spanning the years from the birth of Christian Rock to the many varieties of Christian music of today.

One of the things I really like about being alive today, in this place and with the resources available to me, is that I can turn on my computer, open itunes, find the song from 20 years ago that's flowing through my mind unexpectedly, and download it, sync it to my ipod, put my ipod in one of the ipod players around my house, and be surrounded by the music that was so significant in the work of the Holy Spirit in my life to make me who I am today. Some of that music isn't available on itunes (like the best Larry Norman, or Lamb, or Glenn Kaiser and the Rez Band), but it is available somewhere when I google it, and so I can buy it on CD and then put it into itunes and onto my ipod through that effort. It isn't instant, like my itunes purchases, but with today's quick internet orders and shipping, it is less than a week usually.

Music and lyrics set to music work their way into my being in a whole different way than does something I read or something that I hear in a lecture or sermon or conversation. Music seems to bypass the cognitive filter that all of the written and spoken words need to go through, and go straight to the core of my being. Music is a drug with which I can manage my emotional state, and calm myself down, or speed myself up, or focus myself on something specific. Music is the best way to worship and praise the Triune God, short of a life lived in obedience and intimacy -- and, indeed, is a key part of being shaped into that person who can live a life of obedience and intimacy. Music is the best way for me to truly comprehend great spiritual truths. Music possesses the power that God intended it to possess.

All of this is supported by what we know scientifically and medically about our brains and their chemistry, of course. And it is supported as well by what we know from experience and history and culture, and by all world religions, but most especially by our own Christian faith and tradition.

One who is attempting to walk after God and to know Him better must pay attention to this channel of communication and this means of intensifying the spiritual disciplines. To neglect the use and appreciation of music today is like ignoring all the wonderful bible-study aids and failing to study the scriptures, or like failing to build a life of prayer. God has given you your tastes in music in an age where that music is available at a click . . . and He expects you to learn about yourself, music, and life, just as He expects you to study His Word. Indeed, one of the best ways to meditate on His Word is through music built around some passage!

Today I had songs by John Michael Talbot running through my head. I used to listen to him and his brother when I was in high school. The Lord's Supper(1979) and Come to the Quiet(1980) had a huge, huge impact on my faith. So I downloaded Come to the Quiet from itunes, and am now listening to it. Even though I haven't heard those songs for probably 15 or 20 years now, I still know every word and can sing along. They are powerful, and I recommend them to your enjoyment and spiritual walk. If you click the amazon link above (Come to the Quiet) the album is also available as an mp3 download there.

But mostly I recommend this: that you track down music that is significant to you and enjoyable to you, and that draws your mind and heart nearer to God today, and find times and ways to let it flood your world with TRUTH.


The right place and the right time

Two weeks ago I taught the Bethel Series New Testament lesson on "In the Fullness of Time". God worked toward our redemption throughout history, and in the fullness of time brought Jesus into the picture -- God incarnate, to live, die, and be resurrected in order to restore fallen humankind. I commented that, if it were up to me, I would have had God provide immediate restoration, right there in the garden! But relationship takes its own necessary course, doesn't it? Relationship requires "the fullness of time" on both sides. Authentic love never ignores reality on either side.

I love the mystery of relationship, and the glimpses I get of reality -- how things really work -- in the stories of scripture and in the stories of my own life. "Right here and right now" kind of living requires understanding the process and the goals of relationship . . . and the starting relationship is the relationship between God and each one of us. He created me, formed me, birthed me through my mother, raised me through the circumstances and people of my life, gave me freedom to be me and make my own choices, and loved me enough to redeem not only me but even the fruit of those choices. His goal is relationship today, and relationship tomorrow. He never ignores the reality of who I am right now. He never ignores the reality of who He desires me to be tomorrow and in 500 years. And He never ignores the reality of Who He Himself is -- yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

I am glad for the yearning and drive and impatience I possess, because it shows that I get the ultimate goals, and that I am poised to enjoy those goals as they are fulfilled. I am also glad that He is teaching me patience and appreciation for the process . . . because that patience and appreciation lets me not only enjoy (and grieve) the milestone moments like the birth of my last baby or the last time he nursed at my breast or his graduation from pre-K and advancement to kindergarten -- or, in the more distant past, Mike's 10th birthday almost 13 years ago -- but also savor the little moments like overhearing a spontaneously composed song of worship as Brooks sang alone in his room yesterday or enjoying Mike's 3 emails to me at 5 a.m. this morning. (If relationship is the most precious possession anyone has, then I am very blessed!)

So today I am holding precious things in both hands . . .

In my right hand I hold today, with all of its joys and frustrations. May I live it fully and feel it fully!

In my left hand I hold my longings for the future, and the wish (and fervent prayers!) that I could make some of those things happen "right here and right now"!

In the right place and at the right time, God gives wonderful things to those He loves!


Daily Obedience and Routine and Ritual

Relationships require time to connect emotionally and with words. They require face-to-face time, and paying full -- complete -- attention to one another. I am good at that. Just ask my husband, boys, and friends.

Relationships also require the ability to do what we each have promised we'd do for each other . . . whether that be prayer, or a phone call, or a task, or just showing up when and where we agreed. All the ability in the world to make face-to-face or voice-to-voice time with you a priority and to give you my full attention when we're talking just won't make up for being someone you can't count on to follow through with what I've said I'd do.

As I have written earlier, my boys are at their best when I have fixed and faithful routines for them to follow, and when I am disciplined myself in keeping them on these routines. Then obedience is something they just "fall into", for the most part. But when I become lax about routines and my part in keeping them on those routines, then the whole day can become one long power struggle, and obedience is hard won on my side. My will is stronger than theirs -- so I do win. But life becomes painful and stressful for us all, and the relationship of love deteriorates.

God gives us adults the freedom of routine and ritual, too. Although we have great freedom in Christ, we also need ways of organizing that freedom so that life becomes easy rather than one long power-struggle with our Rabbi. Just as with my kids, some of those rituals and routines are very arbitrary, and could accomplish the same goals through many different ways of ordering the same events or even through completely different events. (For instance, my time of prayer and teaching them doesn't have to be at bedtime or structured as it is. We could have evening baths and morning worship time just as effectively. But we don't. We pray together and read together at bedtime, and bathe in the morning.)

I have been noticing that many adult Christians have big gaps in their spiritual practice because they do not have enough ritual or routine built into their practice of the spiritual disciplines. They need a time and way of practicing all of the classic twelve. They need to realize that spiritual formation is indeed as important as career or personal hygiene or family relationships. (Yes, it really is! We were created first to know God and enjoy Him, and everything else is a distant second in importance!)

Then I notice those Christians whose whole spiritual practice is routine and ritual, and they've lost the fruit of those rituals and routines, because they've lost sight of the One that those rituals and routines are all about. This is not unlike being a neurotic hostess who is more concerned about her beautifully decorated home, wonderful meal, and personal appearance than she is about her guests. The best hostess has all that in place as well as she can manage, and then makes everything all about her guests once they walk in the door . . . and, indeed, even has them as the center of her focus as she prepares the home and food and dresses herself.

May I have a life with my focus on loving God and loving all those He brings to me, and put in place all the routines and rituals that let me easily and effectively accomplish a life that's all about them!