Hair Gel in the Holy Water

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Last week I sat across a (very short) table in the church nursery from a mother and her son. As the staff member who is tasked with preparing families for baptism, this meeting was unique by virtue of the child’s age: Justus is eleven.

Of course, for many of you, this is not unexpected; but for those who worship in denominational churches like mine – you understand. Most of the time, when the baptismal waters part in our congregations, the candidate for baptism is an infant – presented by faithful parents with a future Confirmation class in mind. Sitting with me at the table, however, was a mischievous middle-schooler with an infectious enthusiasm for life and a smile that cannot easily be described but which most certainly takes place not at the lips, but at the cellular level.

Our “splash class” proceeded as you might expect, with myself and mom doing most of the talking while Justus’ eyes danced with anticipation. We talked about what to expect at the baptism. We discussed our understanding of what “happens” in the water, when the Spirit of God hovers over the face of the deep and resurrection-life springs forth. We wondered out loud about how much of this baptism was a profession of faith by Justus in God, and how much was God’s own pronouncement that Justus belongs to Him.

I described the upcoming event in detail so as to dispel any possible trepidation on the part of either mother or son, but the look Justus gave me when I described how the water would be splashed onto his head made it abundantly clear that this guy wasn’t nervous about baptism day; instead, he seemed ready to take on some water, and something told me that Justus had never met a puddle or swimming pool he didn’t like.

Sunday came, prayers were offered, and water was poured over Justus’ bowed head in triplicate, “in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.” A candle was lit, a faith chest presented, and the family of God cheered him on.

After the service, I ran into Justus, whose grin betrayed his feelings about the day. Even as I write this now, I’m not sure what I expected to hear when I told him what a great morning it had been. “Yeah,” he chuckled easily, as he reached up with one hand to pat the hair on the top of his head, “and I got hair gel in the holy water!” He was giggling (and so was I) as he turned toward his friends and walked away.

Hair gel in the holy water.

Isn’t it just like God to meet us where we are? For Justus on his baptism day, a holy transaction took place in the water; something human met Someone holy in the process, leaving a swirling residue as proof in the baptismal font. God made His mark on Justus, and the hair gel in the holy water goes to show that God is ready to deal with the consequences of calling imperfect, mischievous, in-progress people to life in the community of His Son; He can handle the messes we make. In fact, He expects them.

Of course, Justus may not have realized all of this at the time, but that doesn’t make it any less so – or any less perfectly beautiful.

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The end of one road (and the start of another)

Friends! We arrive at the manger tonight, but our adventure is not over! May the light you have absorbed during our Advent Trek to the Manger continue to leak out through your life in the coming New Year! 

I would love to hear about your Trek! Email me at: 

brita@pinkshoesministries.me

Watch for Brita’s second devotional book – Want What You’ve Got! – which will be available in 2016 on Amazon.

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Trek to the Manger 2015 – Downloadable Small Group Discussion Questions Available Today!

If you’re planning a Trek to the Manger in 2015, you’ll want to download these Trek to the Manger Small Group Discussion Questions for your weekly group gatherings or Facebook group discussions!

Contact Brita for ideas on starting your own Trek to the Manger small group for Advent, which begins on Sunday, November 29th.

Trek to the Manger is on Kindle for Advent 2015!

Brita is excited to announce that Trek to the Manger: Advent Devotions for Women on the Move is now available on Amazon Kindle!

Whether you prefer the feel of a “real” book in your hands or the convenience of an e-reader, you can join with women everywhere for this spiritual journey, which begins on Sunday, November 29th!

Gather your girls and plan to kick-off a group Trek to the Manger this year! A reading schedule is provided here, at Pink Shoes Ministries on WordPress – just click the Trek to the Manger tab on the menu to access the downloadable pdf. Small group discussion questions will be available soon!

To All of my Traveling Buddies…

It has been a JOY to take this Trek to the Manger with you! Thanks for journeying, and for shining the Light into the lives of those around you.

Can we talk? I would LOVE to hear from you regarding your Trek to the Manger experience! Feel free to email me with your stories and reflections, while the Trek is still fresh in your mind:

brita@pinkshoesministries.me

In addition, if you purchased your copy of the Trek from Amazon, you’re in a unique position to be able to review the book online. Log in to your Amazon account, and look for the category called “Personalization”; click on “Your Reviews” and you’ll find Trek to the Manger among your other Amazon purchases. You can select your star-rating and write a review from that screen. Your words will assist others in future years, as they look for materials to enhance their own Advent adventure. Thanks so much for taking time to tell others about the Trek!

Updates will be made to the book for 2015, including a small group discussion guide! Look for Trek to the Manger on Kindle in 2015 as well.

And keep your eyes open for our next devotional adventure: Want What You’ve Got! God willing, it’ll find its way to the Amazon bookshelf mid-2015.

You have been fantastic Traveling Buddies, and I thank God for each of you! May the New Year bring you closer to His heart than ever before.

Driving With the Top Down…

Brita

Empty Calories

‘Tis the season to be jolly! To eat homemade fudge and divinity! To drink eggnog and graze on appetizers from a generously stocked buffet! Is it possible to be jolly without consuming our body weight in sugar?

Just as consumption of empty calories creates body-maintenance issues over time, consumption of sprinkles costs more in the long-run than most of us are willing to admit. Whether it’s the spare tire around your midriff, or a pile of spare tires in your garage, stockpiling takes up space and costs precious time, energy, and attention; resources you could be leveraging for God’s Kingdom-work instead.

There’s a reason God provided Israel with manna in the wilderness! Apparently they, too, were prone to stockpiling vs. trusting God to meet their daily needs. And, like us, they were driven by their appetites for the tasty-but-unnecessary. As a remedy, God quite literally provided their ‘daily bread’ in the form of sustenance from the sky. To prevent stockpiling, God simply caused the manna to spoil overnight, using maggots and mold to take away the appeal of hoarding altogether. (Exodus 16)

Spiritually speaking, what are you consuming that contributes nothing more than a pile of empty calories to the life you’re trying to live? I’m here to tell you – from personal experience – that the longer you let the sprinkles (the colorful-but-pointless) accumulate (in your body, in your closet, on your schedule), the more effort it will take to weed them out.

Today, take stock of the empty calories you’re consuming! Ask yourself what it will take for you to live as the Apostle Paul suggests: “as free of complications as possible” (1 Cor. 7:32, The Message).

Then take one step toward that life – on our Trek to the Manger.

Have a comment or question to share? Click here for the Trek homepage, then scroll to the bottom where you’ll find the Reply/comment space!

Looking for the Trek to the Manger reading schedule? Click here!

Trek to the Manger Reading Schedule

2014 Trek to the Manger Reading Schedule

Welcome to the Trek! For those who wish to travel together, a reading schedule is provided below! As you seek the Light and ways to lighten your load during this Advent season, I hope you will make time to interact with others who are taking this journey, too. Click here to access the Trek to the Manger homepage, then go all the way to the bottom of the page where you’ll find the Reply (comment) section!

Godspeed!

  • Nov. 30 – Chapters 1-3
  • Dec. 1 – Chapter 4
  • Dec. 2 – Chapter 5
  • Dec. 3 – Chapter 6
  • Dec. 4 – Chapter 7
  • Dec. 5 – Chapter 8
  • Dec. 6 – Chapter 9
  • Dec. 7 – Chapters 10-11
  • Dec. 8 – Chapter 12
  • Dec. 9 – Chapter 13
  • Dec. 10 – Chapter 14
  • Dec. 11 – Chapter 15
  • Dec. 12 – Chapter 16
  • Dec. 13 – Chapter 17
  • Dec. 14 – Chapters 18-19
  • Dec. 15 – Chapter 20
  • Dec. 16 – Chapter 21
  • Dec. 17 – Chapter 22
  • Dec. 18 – Chapter 23
  • Dec. 19 – Chapter 24
  • Dec. 20 – Chapter 25
  • Dec. 21 – Chapter 26-27
  • Dec. 22 – Chapter 28
  • Dec. 23 – Chapter 29

Not Okay

Rain or shine, sleet or snow – he was always there. Sitting on a bucket-turned-upside-down as a stool, I would drive past him on my way to the post office in the small community where I live. He always made eye contact. He sometimes smiled. He usually waved or nodded cordially in my direction. Once he tried to bum a cigarette from me, but I was powerless to help him out with that one. He was a fixture there, at the crossroads of neighborly concern and I’m-late-for-an-appointment, but until yesterday, I didn’t even know his name. It was Bob.

Weed-Wacker Bob.

I turned the corner toward the post office yesterday and noticed an empty spot on the shoulder where he would normally sit. Instead of the elderly, white-haired man with a weedeater, propped up against the fence in a sea of political signage was this sign:

Weed Wacker Bob Memorial

And it made me sad. It makes me sad. And it makes me ask questions – some of which make me uncomfortable today.

What was my responsibility to Weed-Wacker Bob? What I mean is – as a child of God with resources to share, should I have given him something? The only thing he ever asked me for was a cigarette. And the opportunity to whack my weeds. I gave him neither. Instead, I smiled and waved and drove right on by. Year after year. After year.

How did he die? I wonder. Was he alone? Did he have a family? Friends? Loyal landscaping clients? There must have been others who actually stopped and talked to Bob, maybe giving him a job or a ride or a cigarette. Right? Someone else surely has been picking up the slack all these years for Weed-Wacker Bob… They must have!

But what if I’m wrong and everyone else on their way to the post office smiled and waved and drove right on by – just like me?

I set the bar low with Weed-Wacker Bob, and yet Jesus says:

“Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” Matthew 7:12 (The Message)

I am faced on this day with a mirror of sorts, found in the pages of God’s Word. I don’t need to ask myself what I want from others – I know I set the bar high in that department. And there was clearly no initiative-grabbing going on in my head – no doing-it-for-them as I smiled and waved and drove on by.

And this is not okay.

I am not okay! I am disobedient, selfish, apathetic and lazy, but I am not okay.

I am in need of rescue, just like Weed-Wacker Bob and everyone else who has ever found themselves in a puddle of regret and despair and at the end of themselves. And yet – thanks be to God! – this is right where He wants us to be:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Matthew 5:3, The Message)

That is good news, because today I’m feeling pretty darn less of and in desperate need of God’s more-than-enough.

Rest in Peace, Weed-Wacker Bob. Rest. In. Peace.

Close the Gap

I once heard Bob Goff say that most people are at least two jobs behind who they are becoming. If we’re honest, that statement describes where we are today – or at least, where we’ve been in some recent season of life.

Some of us, so used to feeling frustrated and under-utilized, default to going through the motions rather than exerting the energy needed to close the gap between who we are and who we are becoming.

Why? Why is there such a disconnect between our current situation and the dreams inside our head? I may not have it all figured out, but I suspect it boils down to at least three things:

Comfort

The job I have today affords me a certain level of comfort and security. While it may not be my dream job, it pays the bills and perhaps gives me a place to use my gifts and abilities in beneficial ways. Even if it leaves me feeling unfulfilled, my current position gives me the means to maintain my lifestyle and the toys in my garage. It keeps the family happy, or at least it keeps them comfortable. If comfort is my middle name, where’s the impetus to close the gap between my calling and my commitments?

Fear

Change is a fearful thing for those who love comfort. To begin to close the gap requires making changes to the way my life is now, which raises the blood pressure for even the most courageous among us. When we begin to entertain the possibility of change – even change for the good – the resulting pile of what-if’s threatens to bury our dreams in a shallow grave, never again to see the light of day. Fear of change promises to immobilize us every time, feeding the gap instead of building a bridge to the other side.

Control

Taking steps toward who we are becoming may seem like taking control, but it can feel more like a relinquishment. When we choose to move toward the desire of our heart, all of the variables shift along with the paradigm we’ve created. Trusting God to meet our family’s needs while moving us closer to our calling is much easier said than done, keeping some of us control freaks from ever fully realizing our Kingdom potential in this life. Handing over the reins – even to the God of the universe – is a move that many refuse to make, causing the gap to widen as we trample our own potential underfoot.

Given these three strongholds, it’s no wonder so many of us have failed to live into our callings as children of God! But it doesn’t have to end here. We don’t have to numb out to the repeated disappointment of failing to be all we were made to be, which begs the question: What’s it going to take to close the gap?

Believe that those pangs of promise – those yearnings for fulfillment and meaning – are God-given, Spirit-driven impulses! You aren’t crazy, and this isn’t just a dream. It’s who you are meant to be!

Move! The God who calls us is able to equip us to serve as He intended. It is never too late to step into the life God is giving you, so what are you waiting for? Someday? Take the first step! Today is someday!

Pray and ask the God who is able to close the gap to help you realize His very best for you! Pray for doors to open. Ask for eyes to see the path ahead. Beg for courage to lay aside illusions of control and fear of change. Trade in your love of comfort for love of Him! God – if there’s a gap between my Kingdom potential and the work I am doing today, let my prayer be… 

Close the gap!

First Day of School

Still clad in rumpled pjs, I popped a Kcup into its slot and listened sleepily as the fragrant liquid filled my favorite mug. Having located my reading glasses, I made my way to the desk and took my place in front of the keyboard, staring rather blankly into the monitor as it, too, slowly came to life.

Not exactly a photo op, but this is how things looked last Thursday – on my first day of school.

A far cry from the days of shiny new lunch pails and stiff new shoes, a backpack stocked with freshly sharpened pencils and a pair of tightly braided pigtails on my head. Quite unlike those early firsts, this one is a solitary beginning…
No one here to take my picture (thankfully!).
No awkward moments trying to locate my desk in a classroom full of strangers.
No fluttering of the nerves as I sit in silence, waiting for the teacher to call my name out loud…

Maybe I felt a slight nervous flutter as I logged onto the graduate school learning platform and waited for the home screen to load. Announcements. Class Roster. Syllabus. Gradebook. Library.

The only thing missing is the school bell.

I took a healthy swig of confidence from my mug and placed my fingers on the keys.

The adventure begins!