I Thessalonians 4:11-12a

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live. . . (I Thessalonians 4:11-12a)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Considering Her.meneutics: A Theology of Jiggly Thighs

Having just looked through the most recent issue of MORE Magazine (those of you over 40 probably know it), I have to say this post at Her.meneutics is a fine counterbalance for the the magazine. While I can't say I wholeheartedly agree with the author's theology of aging gracefully (or, maybe I should say I had never really thought of it in quite this way), I am willing to read it again and consider it further.

It's food for thought as you consider living simply. I have always intended to let my hair show its gray (may I be so blessed as to have it turn out as brilliant as my mother's). I seem to naturally prefer the simpler styles of clothing and makeup and hairstyles that are deemed appropriate for a woman of maturing years. These are not problems for me. Still, I think these preferences are just an expression of my personal relationship with Christ. Other saints who are more expressive and outwardly joyful than I am probably look the part as well with brightly colored clothing and funky hairstyles and jewelry. I myself have seasons when these adornments are more appropriate to my spiritual mood. You can have feisty seasons in Christ. Can I get an Amen?

However, what I want others to see on the outside of me, whatever the style or color of clothing or hair I've chosen, is what I experience with Him on the inside: comfort; ease; humble recognition of imperfection in the face of His glory tempered with gratitude for grace that lifts me up. I'd like to think that, crow's feet and less than brilliantly white teeth notwithstanding, my appearance, my countenance, will increasingly reflect an inner beauty that comes from being at peace with my Lord. There is an undeniable radiance in the face of anyone who truly knows the Lord.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Slow Changes

There's a tree growing at the back of my garage.  In July it put on these funny yellow plumes near the top.  I don't like the tree much when it looks that way because it makes me think of itchy pollen and fuzz.  I try to ignore it, because just looking at it makes me want to rub my eyes and sneeze.  

It's August now and things are changing.  The grass is faded.  Leaves are fat and full.  Believe it or not, there are some yellow leaves and I even found a red one on the sidewalk two blocks up beneath the tree that is always the first in the neighborhood to change.  But, there's been another change, too.  One I noticed by happenstance because I wasn't looking.  That fuzzy tree has become something quite pretty.  Now where there were yellow plumes there are bright lime green pods that look almost like Chinese lanterns.  They hang down from the top and the tree looks festive.  I enjoy looking at it now.

Changes are slow, but sudden.  It's true in nature, in time, in distance and in life.  We are eager for the next season to arrive and so we overlook the subtle shifts as nature prepares for something new.  We are anxious about a deadline or eager for the work day to end.  It seems like an eternity until 5:00, but then suddenly the clock ticks over.  Going away for vacation, the miles click by not too quickly, but our anticipation and excitement make us aware that they are indeed passing; coming home those same miles seem to take forever to cross.

Think about your own life.  What changes have you hoped for, worked for, prayed about over years or even decades?  Then, suddenly one day God says, "Now."  Most of the time, in my limited understanding I cannot understand why "now" is the time, but years ago was not.  I would have been happier, I think, if God had said "now" way back when.  But, in His complete understanding and full knowledge, there is a certain, sudden moment in which "now" is right.  Any moment before that, and for that matter any moment after, would not be just right.  

We want to hurry.  We get impatient.  We get petulant sometimes.  We grow weary.  But, the promise of scripture is true:  If we don't grow weary in well-doing we will will reap in due season if we don't faint (Galatians 6:9).  

The agricultural metaphor is especially appropriate this season.  There's so much to consider when you visit the farmers market!  Beyond the abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits, there is an object lesson.   Remember James 5:7 which admonishes us to be patient until the Lord's coming and gives the example of the farmer who waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the rains in autumn and spring.  It's true, to everything there is, indeed, a season.

Take time to appreciate the nowness of where you are.  Don't give up hope for the realization of dreams or the answers to prayers, but know that God's timing is perfect.  If you have trouble remembering it, go visit a local market.  Buy a good tomato or melon and savor the flavor.  Remind yourself that it took time to reach that moment of perfection.  It took rains, too.  There is benefit for us in each passing moment whether we are learning patience or diligence, fortitude or forbearance.  Change is slow, but it is coming.  Even now.  

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lazy Days of Summer?

I see my last post was Friday.  Today is Monday.  Monday NIGHT even.  Obviously, life has not been so quiet.  It's been noisy.  Busy.  But good.

In the past few days I've been surrounded by family and friends and focused on celebrating an upcoming marriage.  In my family, we are also anticipating the arrival of a new baby in the early fall; a grandchild starting school; a new job; and various other happy events.

In the past few days I've also been given the opportunity to pray for someone I count as a friend; to pray for family; and even for our little black dog whose eye was looking none too good Sunday night.

In the upcoming days I will be launching into a new project; doing detail work to wrap up another and send it into someone else's hands for a while; savoring the last few short weeks of summer vacation.

I realize that, while I've enjoyed the season, I've really done very little of the things I relish most about it:  reading on the deck; evening strolls around the neighborhood watching for fireflies and smelling the mimosas; morning walks with coffee to the Xeroscape.  I've been turned out more than in.  I've been doing a lot.

I suppose there are seasons of life that are like that.  Busy seasons.  Conversely, there are restful seasons.  Seasons when we're tempted to feel bored or ineffective.  But in those seasons we can be assured that we are experiencing a much-needed rest.  Even in nature we see the dormancy.  There is a distinct beauty in it.  I recall a Robert Frost poem:  My November Guest (a favorite of mine which I memorized in high school and still recite to myself on those cool, misty gray days I love so well).  "These dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be. . ."

God put the seasons in place.  Each season has its own purpose in the life cycle of plants and animals.  Why not for humans as well?  As summer marches on, allow yourself to experience it.  Don't stay huddled inside by the air conditioner all day long.  Spend a few minutes outdoors.  Notice the lush green trees.  Listen to the cicadas.  Enjoy the flash of the fireflies.  Wonder at the power of a sudden summer storm.  Soon, these things will gracefully pass, yielding to another of God's well-designed seasons with all its own purposes and glories.  Let your own life reflect those glories in the pace you keep.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Paradox of Peace in Fear and the Power of Quiet Living

This morning I was up early.  I hadn't slept well throughout the night and before five o'clock got tired of waiting for morning and got up anyway.  I'm not a morning person.  At all.  So, I have great difficulty concentrating for prayer or study in the a.m.  My husband, on the other hand, finds the morning perfect for his study and prayer.  I'm jealous sometimes of that.  Today, though, pretty much wide awake, if tired, I decided to take advantage of the still quiet house and go ahead with some prayer and study.  I picked up my Stott's Through the Bible Through the Year and read from Week 46:  Resisting the Pressures of the World.  The scripture reference was II Timothy 3:13-14 and the meditation suggested that the most striking characteristic of the last days was "misdirected love".  The devotional went on to discuss the types of behaviors, general lack of concern for others and complete focus on self, that would be prevalent in the last days.  Paul, the writer of the letter, two times in the chapter says to Timothy, "But as for you," indicating that Timothy was not to let himself become like the world around him.  He was to remember what he had learned and from whom he had learned it and continue in those teachings.

When I was in my twenties, I decided I needed to have my own faith.  I'd accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior when I was ten, but as a young adult determined I needed to know why I believed what I believed.  I studied hard, using writings that were not necessarily those of my own faith community or even of any faith community at all (I remember specifically consulting a book on feminism) in parallel with Holy Scripture.  Some people believe this is a dangerous practice.  I am glad I did it.  When I closed up the books (excepting the Bible), I put them away for good and the teachings they held never tempted or troubled me again.  I was able to say with certainty that the faith I had in Jesus Christ was complete and personal, not just a hand-me-down faith or a family tradition.  Yes, I'm very glad I studied.  Jesus was faithful to protect me by His Spirit.  He knew my heart was to know Him more.

There's a peace in that certainty; a real, deep-seated peace - the one that passes understanding.  It's a gift.  It is born of holy fear which is the beginning of wisdom.  The beginning.  Yes, fear and peace co-exist in faith.  I stand in awe of Him, overwhelmed by His power, goodness, might, and presence; I am at peace with Him, quiet before Him, resting in Him, following Him.

One of my favorite portions of scripture is just before Stephen was martyred.  He had preached the fullness of the gospel to those who should have known it best.  Nearing his end, he lifted his eyes up and he saw Heaven.

Acts 7:55-60 tells us:  But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, "Behold, I see the  heavens opened up and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God."  Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city and stoned him. . .and they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."  And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

This is the picture of a man who knows what he believes, knows why he believes it, believes it with his whole heart, and is in right fear of God.  Stephen's assurance of his salvation allowed him to remain in the Spirit; to see what He would show Stephen; to speak the words God wanted spoken; to remain faithful even under attack; focused on Jesus and the promise of new life in Heaven; and to use his last breath to request forgiveness for those who killed him.  Wow.

Stephen followed the twelve who followed Christ and continued in the teachings to his end.  Timothy followed Paul and had the advantage (as I did) of having been taught the Word from an early age.  He continued to his end.  These men's lives were marked with courage, holy fear, and undying peace.  Their words were born of love for Christ and love for the brothers and so they spoke directly, but in gentleness.  Those in the early church who "shook up the world" did so in the most unassuming ways.  They didn't set out to make spectacles of themselves or to "redeem" the icons and traditions of the culture in order to Christianize them.   They spoke the truth they knew in their hearts whenever they had opportunity.  They were brave when they needed to be brave.  They were forgiving, loving, and kind.  They instructed with gentleness in the power of the Spirit.  They lived quiet lives and shone like cities on a hill.

There is so much to be gained by being still.  By meditation and prayer.  By quiet living.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What's the Buzz?

I finally made the foray into Facebook after much stubborn refusal to do so.  In fewer than 24 hours I've been happily receiving messages and well-wishes and all kinds of things from friends and friends of friends and would-be friends.  Fascinating.  I've been all a-buzz.  It's a good time to remember my favorite verse, or, what some would term my "life verse".  It is the verse I find so comforting, so convicting, so captivating.  It is like a warm blanket, a cleansing sigh.  I share it with you and ask you to let the truth of it settle deep in your spirit, as I intend to do now.

Be still and know that I am God  (Psalm 46:10a)

Be still.  Know.  Amen.