The Pursuit of Seeing: The Glory Network

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I have less than a handful of sister friends across the states who I can turn to via text message or phone call. It can be 2 words or 2,000, a stuttering and spluttering of what life is like in a day, and how deeply I need communion with God.

And then I’ve got tangible, right down the road friends who are becoming nearer and dearer family to us every day, and if I called, they’d answer, too, and pray, too, and love me out of the deep bellowing of grace in their hearts.

It’s an intricate network, this connecting woman to woman, soul to soul across all sorts of boundaries and lines– geographical, economic, social, spiritual– it’s a deep bond that shoots, like healthy blood through big veins.

I read about it in Acts, but perhaps it spans all the way back to Eve and her friends, to Ruth and Naomi, who cared for each other in their deep need.

I lay on the floor and watch the fan blades spin, air circulating up and down and through my lungs and back out again.

Isaiah pokes me in the eye and Eliot reads pretend thank-you notes.

I breathe in and out and watch the bleach-white blades, and all is time, spinning.

“The kingdom of home is the place of refuge, comfort, and inspiration.

It is a rich world where great souls can be formed, and from which men and women of great conviction and dedication can emerge.

It is the place where the models of marriage, love, and relationship are emulated and passed on to the next generation.

One of the great losses of this century is the lost imagination for what the home can be if shaped by the creative hand of God’s Spirit.” –Sally Clarkson

If the intricacy of a home can contain all of this, my place as a mother is, indeed, most intricately designed.

But the other day, Isaiah was sick and Travis and I cancelled a date we’d planned on for weeks. And my heart broke because I couldn’t walk arm-in-arm into a room full of colleagues with my husband, kindly beaming beside me.

And on that same day, a friend text me and asked questions that dragged the worries out of my heart and into the open air.

And another friend just said she was sorry, and still, I remembered that I’m not alone. Sitting on the chair, crying, watching those fan blades, breathing, but not alone.

The network is response and feedback. It’s encouragement and movement, constant heart-beating and life-sharing. It’s imagination that gives birth to newness here in my heart and here in my very own home, in my very own interactions with my boys.

And on the hard days, it’s actually God, spreading Himself into all of us, through the kindness of each other.

It’s a beautiful kind of glory, indeed.

 

 

Once a month, we’re pursuing sight and viewing the dailyness of our lives with fresh vision and fresh spirit.

To read more from the series, click here.

Join me by posting the link to your journey of seeing in the comments section below…

 

 

A Lesson in Christmastime Consumerism: The Re-gift of Ourselves

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End the Regift Cycle. Give Them What They Really Want.

On the Arvest Bank homepage, A blonde woman with shining white teeth and a barely-stubbled brunette man say, “Merry Christmas, baby! Love you,” with their eyes as he hands her the pre-packaged gift.

And I was not okay with it.

Once someone handed me a stack of cash as a gift, because they felt like it would make up for something, like it would bring endless joy and fix a lot of brokenness between us.

I was offended, and I went to TJ Maxx and spent most of the money on clothes and other useless things, thinking, If he can so thoughtlessly give this, I will thoughtlessly spend it.

– Bad logic, I know.

But I have received re-gifted items, too. I have been given pieces that sat on someone else’s mantel or in their children’s rooms, objects with stories and memories attached to them that show me a depth to relationship.

We are able to share with each other when we give pieces of ourselves in things that are pulled together with our creative hands and big hearts.

Bonhoeffer said,

“The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty. A human life is worth as much respect as it holds for the mystery. We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery. Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes, because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery. They are not yet finished with this world; they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do. We destroy mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary of our being, because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal, and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…

Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life, nothing of the mystery of another person, nothing of the mystery of the world; it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world. It means remaining on the surface, taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation.

Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of life at all and even denying them.”

This is beyond just the money. It goes deep into the veins of what we treasure in giving, deep into the spirit of this particular season.

We can give gifts, certainly. When I am browsing Target’s Christmas section with the boys, I want to buy every glittery Christmas tree I find, fill my shopping cart with everything red and green and give each of my sons a dancing fox or sock monkey that sings Christmas carols. But I have to hold something still in myself, something anchored to the mystery of baby born holy who ignites life into the world and into me.

But the Arvest ad is a piece of plastic, a stack of cash begging to be used at the nearest TJ Maxx. And there’s no mystery in it, and certainly no wide-awake, childlikeness.

It’s Advent, right??

Jesus brought Himself to us, human and holy, and He brings Himself to us every day in the most creative ways, in the most mysterious.

Re-gifting is re-creating, with our hearts open wide to generosity at its purest. It’s taking the child-wonder again and keeping it close as we celebrate each other.

And I’m okay with that.

The Future For Our Children

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Travis came home with a momento for Eliot, a sign from the silent protest that took place on campus just hours earlier.

He grabbed the tape, opened the folded white computer paper, and told Eli to spell it out.

“B-L-A-C-K  L-I-V-E-S  M-A-T-T-E-R.”

We’ve told Eliot at the dinner table that a boy died, that another man hurt him. And, trying to understand what death actually means, he sat there, quiet for a few seconds.

Here, we ask ourselves as parents how to share this world of hurt with our children, who are being molded and shaped to learn empathy and compassion.

At that same dinner table, Eliot said, “So they’re just lost, and they need to find the way home?”

Oh, Jesus speaks from the mouths of babes.

All of this, broken systems, broken people, the injustice of shattered lives and class divides– it’s history that’s happened, and it’s future happenings, too.

So while we’re in this rigamarole of a revolving door, seeing the same hurts again and again, we’re faced with a challenge:

What is the future for our children?

I’ve been a wreck of emotions this week, trying to remember the families of Michael and Eric, trying to remember the Samaritan’s pursuit of justice.

But it doesn’t stop there.

I’m not going out to protest on campus. I am right here at home with two boys, making tents and picking up legos and vacuuming food off the floor. I’m washing dishes and closing my eyes for two seconds while they play together peacefully– for two seconds.

But even here, I am responsible.

Parents, we have a sacred and hard call to speak truth to our children, and to guide them in what is right.

But we also must give them the tools for the hard work ahead– courage and love for justice, a voice that isn’t afraid of conflict, but that issues respect in the midst of it.

We must teach them to find their own voices and walk the humble paths, under the light of the sinless Jesus and even the human heroes, like Dr. King, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, and Sojourner Truth.

“Black Lives Matter” hangs above Eliot’s bed, because he knows that someone was hurt, and that it’s not okay.

And tomorrow and six months from now and 10 years down the road, if I can’t remember what that sign means, what it was for, my boys won’t either.

And so the burden of parenthood gets heavier and more beautiful at the same time.

And we are asked to respond.

What will it look like at the dinner table tonight, with Advent candles glowing behind us and the very presence of Jesus bustling through the room?

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The Problem with Bystanding

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I found it hard to breathe today. Maybe there was something in the air all morning, something huge and hanging in the atmosphere that brought foreboding of what was to come.

A friend posts it over and over again on his Facebook wall: Christ, have mercy.

And it echoes in my heart and screams in my head and makes my stomach turn sour, because all of me and all of my friend are begging Christ for mercy over all of this.

On Sunday at church, we discussed the story of the Samaritan who brought his tired body to the bloodied one laying bare by the side of the road. It was the story of “the one who showed mercy,” while the bystanders scampered to the other side of the road and shielded their eyes from pain and from the body of a man who was destined for a kind of social leprosy.

I had to draw a picture of it, because my head wasn’t understanding it, my heart wasn’t fully grasping what was going on until I could see it in black ink. Poorly drawn, but with the facts sprawled out before me, Jesus’ heart for story was portrayed as little people on a steep road’s incline.

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In class, David called it a “leap from emotion to action,” like some sort of switch being turned on that causes gears to lurch, which brings about the hard breathing and the echoes and the screams. Even the souring stomach means that my soul is tired of bystanding– my soul and yours and all of ours, collectively.

If the story means anything to us, we cannot go about with no utterances. We must plead for help and mighty justice.

If I can’t at least stand at my kitchen sink and scream out for God’s mercy, what am I doing?

If I’m not tuning my heart to the constant ache of Michael Brown’s mother or Eric Garner’s wife, I am the bystander in every way, and my ignorance claims me.

It’s Advent, the season of preparedness for the Prince of Peace, for celebration of His coming once and coming again, fully robed in every promise made to every person.

If I am not digging my heels into community, gathering around others in prayer for all reconciliation to fall hard on us and to fall quickly, I am missing everything.

It is beyond reaction, but it is beyond despair. Hope gathers us in, gathers all people and all things.

But we mustn’t shield our eyes any longer.

A Lesson in Trees: The Truth About Presence

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I stopped and saw the pinecones, numbers beyond numbers of them latched onto the branches of the tall tree.

The pinecones will fall from the tree and plummet to the ground, where they are gathered by squirrels for sustenance, gathered by children for joy.

But before they fall, I can see them, and in seeing them, I see presence among the long, withering branches.

The truth about God is that His presence brings itself to us and we are never alone.

The truth about God:

FullSizeRender-83He sees our full horizon.

FullSizeRender-89He’s never so high that we cannot reach Him.

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Halellujah.

 

“A sincere man is not so much one who sees the truth and manifests it as he sees it, but one who loves the truth with pure love. But truth is more than an abstraction. It lives and is embodied in men and things that are real. And the secret of sincerity is, therefore, not to be sought in a philosophical love for abstract truth but in love for real people and real things– a love for God apprehended in the world around us.” —Thomas Merton

 

A Prayer of Advent

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When You were born,

Your blood covered us,

the huge masses of tiny people.

 

All futures and all pasts,

we were hemmed into Your baby cry,

the cry of all cries, promise of all promises.

 

Jesus, Your very fingertips held the DNA,

the beginning code for all holiness.

 

Those animals near You and far outstretched,

they saw Your radiance,

perhaps even the human onlookers missed.

 

The very grassy bed You slept on

rejoiced at Your touch,

those bristly tendrils

who awaited Your birth for so long,

who clung to You as to life.

 

Now today, dear One, we wait.

 

We imagine You, infant Son,

and then we fast-forward our hopes

to Your coming as full-bodied radiance once again,

but with holes in Your sides, hands, and feet,

with scars on Your brow,

with all of humanity’s history reflected in Your eyes.

 

And we will run to You,

“Savior, Savior! Your advent has come

and redemption brings us home.”

 

And You will smile and say,

“Oh, Beloved, you’ve been home

since the beginning,

and now you see as

I see,

all holiness

abounding.”

 

Amen.

The Post-Thanksgiving Thanks

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Thanksgiving Day has faded into a nearby memory, but all those things we spouted gratefulness for, they are still real tokens of thanks for us today and tomorrow.

And for some, family still lingers about the house, still reminding us of the meal shared around the table.

Maybe Grandpa bustles about in his fuzzy bathrobe, the turkey coma floating like a holy aura around his balding head.

Our day yesterday consisted of morning coffee, and a noontime meal followed by a family naptime. All in all, it was similar to other weekend days.

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So what was there to give thanks for?

All of it.

Every moment of bickering over how to tell the Thanksgiving story to a toddler;

the twenty minutes of infant meltdown because all he wanted was a nap;

the dry biscuits slathered in delectable gravy.

All of it.

Thanksgiving is something special, but it should teach us that every day contains something holy enough to give our attention to, whether it’s the rambunctiousness of our children or the blessedness of our friends.

In every aspect, it should give us home, home in a new city or home in the town where we grew up, around everything that is familiar.

We spent our night with friends, with two people who draw pictures for Eliot and play with Isaiah at the park, who enter into worship and spend time with refugees. They are friends who give incredible light, and we sat in their home and I remembered why gratefulness can last past the one holiday of the year marked for it. I remembered it in the sign Hannah made from sticks, because she needed home in a hard season not long ago.

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Because our very lives are marked for giving thanks.

So while the masses gather in shopping malls, I will nuzzle myself under the blanket with Eliot, where I play the Big Bad Wolf to his Little Pig. And Travis works on papers and data sets, and we remember the path we’re on.

And we give post-Thanksgiving thanks.