Thursday, April 30, 2015

Be still...and know...

"In a city of so much noise I need to find my quiet." 

I journaled the beginning of this poem about three months after moving to Hanoi, Vietnam. In this bustling city finding a pocket of serenity is a rare and beautiful thing. I wondered throughout my entry how I, a quiet country girl at heart, could adjust to living in a city where every moment seemed saturated with people and noisy bustle.

Years ago I recall hearing a parable-like almost Screwtape Letters-esque story about the Devil calling his legions together and strategizing how best to undermine the advancement of God's kingdom. After entertaining many suggestions from the legions of demons, the Devil finally says THE answer is to keep humans busy. Convince people that there are many very important tasks needing their attention. This way humans will have so many things distracting and occupying them the result will be that with their attentions divided, humans would be rendered unable to completely focus on the still small voice of God. The acronym then stands that humans being BUSY is (Being Under Satan's Yoke). We humans were created to work diligently and serve as stewards. Additionally we humans were created in God's image to seek and embrace a sabbath or rest. The Creator modeled this balance of diligent work and spiritual rest in Genesis chapters 1-2. Chapter one outlines a flourish of creative genius and chapter two shows us how the Creator punctuated His work. "Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." (Genesis 2:1-3) 
    This past weekend I took a rest from my last nine months of diligent work. My family and I took our first ever spring break holiday together to Da Nang and then Hoi An. We took a boat out to Cham Island. Serenity and quiet abounded. We leisurely snorkeled, swam about, and napped on the beach after lunch. Our surroundings made it much easier for me to BE still and to be quiet inside my mind. 

In Psalm 46:10a God gives the imperatives, "Be still and know that I am God." First, "Be still." Readers generally take this to mean silence or quiet. If one will quiet the mind and surroundings, one is half way there. In the Hebrew rapah or rapa means, "let down, drop faint, slacken, to cease." Some scholars say the term carries the connotation of a soldier battling on and then just dropping the weapons, ceasing to engage in the war. This metaphor intrigues me. Often I feel like I am fighting and engaging on many fronts and losing battles left and right. However then the second imperative enters AND, "Know that I am God." See it is not until I stop flailing about by my own volition and let God be who He is in my life, that I have any hope of winning the battle or the war. Like my peaceful holiday, few and far between are the times I am still and aware. Like Hanoi, my life will not quiet anytime soon. I must be more intentional about seeking out opportunities to disengage and BE STILL, otherwise how will I KNOW? 

Thursday, April 23, 2015


A colleague of mine and his wife are expecting their first baby. The other morning over a hallway cup of coffee we were chatting about what a shift that is for a couple when "we" becomes "three." Being a parent has taught me more deeply about the nature of God.
   I never knew the depth and breadth to which I could rejoice, feel sadness, experience pain, or love with abandon until each of my children entered my life.
   When I was just shy of three months pregnant with my second child I was rear-ended by an SUV (suburban assault vehicle as I took to calling it) while I was driving my little Honda Civic. After being rushed to the hospital via ambulance I was told I would, "Just have to wait and see if the baby makes it." These are not words an expectant mother wants to hear. I urgently persued a better answer, "Well if the pre-term labor continues what can you do?!" I did not like the response, "Nothing. Your baby won't be viable for several weeks." 
VIABLE? This was not a business option or a piece of real estate this was my CHILD! I tried to calm myself, went home and hoped for the best. Time crept on, and after the next OBGYN appointment I was told if I wanted this baby to have a chance I would need to schedule surgery and move from "taking it easy" to full on bed rest. I resigned myself to the reality. On the way home I stopped at the mall for a frozen Coke and soft pretzel (a couple of the very few things I could actually keep down) and as I was strolling out to leave, a piece of jewelry caught my eye. I meandered over to the case to get a closer look. I really liked it, but there were four figures on the pendant. What if my future family only maintained the present three? After a brief inner monologue and an unspoken prayer I decided I would buy the piece as a representation of this covenant I desired. If God would see my little family through this and bring this baby into our world, I would press into Him and strive to be 
    I printed off a calendar, used a stamp of baby feet to tick off each day. I laid about, read, feasted on food from friends, hit 202 pounds on the scale generously gestating.
     Last week in church the sermon was in John 15:1-4 The speaker offered so many things to ponder. When he said that sometimes life has a way of stripping our concerns down to what really matters; to the essential. I immediately thought of the chapter of my life when I was on bedrest. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." There are many scriptural similes to describe God. Here the Father is a gardener. He collects and cuts. He provides and prunes. These pairs seem so juxtaposed. God parents us with tough and tender hands.
    So I purchased the pendant above. I did not wear it until April 7th, 2005 (only a week early) when we brought our almost 10 pound hefty and healthy baby boy home. I learned much about myself as a person and parent during my bedrest sentence. Eventually it became less of a sentence of body and more of a sanctuary of mind. The experience peeled back another layer of what it means to be family.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Living in Friday; Anticipating Sunday

Now we call it Good Friday, but for those closest to Jesus then it probably seemed far removed from "good."

I spent a portion of this Good Friday in an assembly reflecting on sacrifice and anticipation. 

Then the Saturday night after Good Friday the disciples gathered together. To mourn, commiserate, and grasp on to one another to stumble through this discomforting Jesus-less existence. Questions and wondering hung in the air like a dense fog.

This post-Good Friday-Saturday night I spent solo exploring Ho Chi Minh City. I ventured out and found a great local restaurant, and some unique shops. I walked all around district 3 & district 1 before heading back by taxi to my district 7 hotel. I let my thoughts come out to play; for better or worse.

This Easter Sunday I woke early morning to loud announcements akin to Monster Truck rallies. I rolled out from the bed grateful to be 100 meters from my morning destination, and wondering what the journey may entail.

The view from my Easter Sunday early morn:
I texted my running partner in the States, "Worshipping the risen Savior by standing in this que and then tackling the Dragon Dash obstacle course."

For the last 22 years of my life, Easter has involved family gathering, multiple church worship services, a huge meal and much conversation with and around life and children. Needless to say this Easter Sunday, like my life in general of late, was radically different. 

met up with my five other teammates near the start line. The sun was already raging down a balmy 96 degree Fahrenheit day, but we were itching to get started. A couple miles in I was commiserating with one of my team members about not being a strong or joyful "hot weather" runner (she from Colorado and I a Michigan girl). We ran on, sweaty, slightly cut, a bit tired from the many obstacles we had already conquered, and wondering about some of the mystery challenges yet to come. Suddenly into my head popped an image of Christ's trek to Calvary. This was closely followed by an echo of something my gram used to say, "That is sputton!" I mentally for a moment berated myself for thinking a potentially sacrilegious thought connecting my obstacle course run to the Saviour's suffering. However a slight breeze picked up, and the potential of it being an irreverent thought was ushered out of my mind by this song:

I reconsidered and decided I was worshipping (albeit unconventionally). Some would argue my experience lacked sacrament and corporate worship. While I did not partake of the Lord's Supper, there was still a communing of spirits. In spurring one another on, encouraging, and sometimes quite literally/physically boosting and supporting each other over obstacles (teammates and strangers alike). We were the embodiment of community, and my heart was blessed. 

This made me ponder bigger questions. Am I now living my disciple life like Friday then, full of and focused on sacrifice and death? Or is my discipleship currently in Saturday's season of fear, wondering & confusion? To what degree am I steeped in and expressively living Sunday's joyful redemption? Unlike the disciples in those moments then, we know now the conclusion of the story. So now in which day do you find yourself?