Welcome to “Life in the Zone!”

We are ALL a work-in-progress! Whether you feel like someone who is “under construction,” “being remodeled,” or “a renovation project,” each one of us is a piece of work (isn’t that the truth)! God’s workmanship, to be precise (Ephesians 2:10).

Having just spent an amazing retreat weekend with the lovely women of Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Church, perhaps a picture is actually worth a thousand words…

May your own Life in the Zone be filled with blessings this week and always!

 

Interested in bringing a Pink Shoes Ministries women’s retreat to your church? Contact Brita for details: brita@pinkshoesministries.me

 

Advertisements

Keeping the World at Arm’s Length

It’s good to get away by yourself now and then, if only to remember why you chose the life you live.

From my chair under the pines I had a bird’s-eye view of Willow Creek as it gently flowed over smooth rocks into a tiny pond beyond an outcropping of granite. A bench sat empty at water’s edge, save for the sole man and his Golden who visited the spot once – two days ago.

Wild-looking, pointy-eared squirrels darted from tree to tree and across the large rocks between which the water flowed, along with something like a large rodent – which I was more than happy to observe from a distance.

A chorus of birds sang overhead, some of which I can say sounded less bird-like than the sounds on my son’s electronic keyboard at home – who knew those sounds actually originated in nature?

A gentle breeze played with my hair, which tickled my face while I sat smelling grass and moist soil and breathing deeply out and in and out again. I closed my eyes and wondered what it would be like to stay right here, under my blanket on this canvas chair in the woods, where the only sound of human life was the distant hum of a jet in transit.

The life of a hermit has its appeal, where the only drama in the past three days was caused by the mouse who got into my food bag overnight. An easy routine of eating, sleeping, writing, praying could make for a peaceful “normal” out here, where keeping the world at arm’s length is much, much simpler to do.

No TV. No internet. Poor cell coverage. Distant neighbors.

No coffee with friends. No spur of the moment conversations. No shared laughter – or tears. No one but bugs and cobwebs and God to hear me when I open my mouth to speak.

Part of me argues: What a perfect scenario for a world-weary woman who is pulled this way and that from the moment the alarm signals morning! But the part of me whose bags are already packed and ready to load into the waiting car says, “Nah!”

 

Hair Gel in the Holy Water

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.

Crazy Blessed!

Clareen

Clareen Adair Barrett
December 18, 1930 – January 22, 2014

Reflecting on chapter 7 of Trek to the Manger today, I’m reminded afresh of my sweet friend, Clareen. I hope this post will inspire you to remember those who have been part of your great cloud of witnesses through the years! I shared these thoughts at Clareen’s memorial service last year. I miss her. A lot.

 

Artist. Prophet. Cracked Pot. Yoda.

Many people in our community have memories and stories of adventures and conversations with Clareen Barrett – I have no special claim to her, to be sure. And yet, like many others, I feel like I DO!

Isn’t it beautiful how one woman can affect so many people in such deeply personal ways? I wonder if you know anyone like that?

If you’ve given it any thought yourselves, those of you who knew Clareen, there are life-lessons that you have gleaned from watching her live. Maybe your own list looks a little bit like mine…

Clareen ‘Keepers’

Love Simply and Keep it Real

If we can agree on anything about Clareen, it’s that she was REAL.

Sometimes real is MESSY. Sometimes real is QUIRKY. Sometimes real is HIT or MISS. But Clareen’s love for people was simple, honest and obvious in her easy tears, spontaneous hugs and limitless generosity. Clareen gave me a bound book (and three more just like it to my family members) on the Sunday we joined our church – Clareen was our sponsor. A simple, blank book with a simple note of love and welcome inscribed in the front. This week, more than eight years later, I will write the entry that fills it up completely – the end of one season, and a new beginning.

Be the TRUE YOU and do what you can to make the world a better place

Clareen was always apologizing and asking permission as she went about sharing her vast storehouse of creativity and deep – yet simple – wisdom.

I save things… and many mornings I have fired up the computer to find emails from Clareen, filled with musings, poetry, photos of last night’s paintings, random ideas for events – even scripts for her next play – many of which occurred to her during the third watch hours the night before.

Five years ago I had asked for her artistic help with a women’s retreat I was writing, called ‘Ready to Wear‘. The fashion theme brought back memories for her – one of which I found in an old email…

“Toeless shoes came out in the late 30’s or at least that’s when I became aware of them.  However, we only had one pair of shoes each (6 kids) and mine were always so ugly, as I had a very narrow  foot we had to have sensible shoes for school, etc.  I COVETED  a pair of toeless shoes!  As I knew I would never have any, I decided to convert my lace up oxfords into snappy toeless beauties. I remember taking them out to the front porch with a big butcher knife and going to work on them… and preferred no one saw – knew this would not be acceptable! I hacked away what seemed like hours… they kept looking worse by the minute… found Mom’s good sewing scissors to help clip out all the layers and threads. It was not a simple job and results were simply a disaster!  And I had to wear these woe-be-gone raggedy shoes as I had no others.  Did I learn a lesson? I really don’t think so.”

Without a trace of pride or ego, Clareen contributed more than most to making my life richer and this church more colorful and true.

Laugh a LOT! Better to elicit tears of joy through smiles than tears that sting from bitterness and pain

Clareen’s sense of humor, often applied to herself, paints a great picture of a life well-lived.

At my invitation to participate in a youth event at church, Clareen wrote this email response:

“Well, sometimes at that time of day I’m about as much fun as a withered turnip, but if I even have a spark of pep or vinegar, I’ll be there!  They are my favorite age people!  I am honored to be asked – I can be your token old lady (on the outside, but inside a sassy lassie still exists and is let out occasionally to exercise the right to be eccentric). One earns that privilege when you get in your 80s….probably the only plus one has left!”

And as her boldness increased with age, she wrote:

“Am pushing  my “old-lady-gutsy eccentricity” a tad heavy!  But dag-nabbit, it’s the only thing one has going for oneself in the sunset years!!!!!!  When Paul talked about our lives being a great race he forgot to mention the last lap is the hardest!  It’s when our spark plugs have lost their spark, gas tank’s running on fumes and we’re skidding up to those pearly gates with tires shredded and engine smoking!  I tend to think of my race as if I’m Henry Ford’s old Model A Ford, which he birthed the same year I was born!  I even drew a pic of one and call it my self portrait!”

Look UP!

Many folks have heard these words from Clareen’s mouth – and if you’re lucky, you’ve heard them more than once…

It wasn’t until she was flat on her back – leveled by the difficulties of life – that she thought to LOOK UP! It was in that broken place that she looked up and saw the God who loved her and had engraved her name on His holy hands!

So… if Clareen is saying anything to us today, it sounds a lot like this:

  • Look up! And fall in love with Jesus!
  • Laugh a LOT! Throw a party! Don’t wait for a holiday – just make one up!
  • Live humbly and do what you can to improve the world around youUSE your gifts – have some fun! – and make some messes along the way!
  • Love simply and from your heart, but don’t be a BORE! Keep it REAL!

I tell you this, Clareen once said in an early morning email, at the risk of having you think that this little ole lady is Clearly Bonkers, or at least Cuckoo Bananas.

And she signed it: Love Your… CB

PS, she wrote: You thought that CB might mean Clareen Barrett… NOT! At least, not this time!

Well, CB, my life has been Crazy Blessed by yours…

And I thank you.

“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” Matthew 5:11-12 The Message

12×12 Challenge: Day 1 (December 26th)

Day 1 begins by reading Romans 12 in The Message: Click HERE to read!

Word(s) for Day 1: (Ordinary) Offering

Most of us act as if we believe that God is looking for extraordinary offerings – people who have something above average or extra-special to contribute to His Kingdom. Romans 12 is saying plainly that what God actually desires is for our normal, everyday activities and commitments to be offered to Him. For His blessing. For His Spirit-infusion. For HIS glory!

Prayer:

God of the ordinary, I offer myself to You on this run-of-the-mill, not-so-spectacular day. I open my hands, letting go of my need to be in control while at the same time giving You access to everything my life has to offer. To be honest, sitting here with hands and heart wide open, what I have to give doesn’t seem like much, yet I believe that You can take it – take ME – and make a difference to someone today.

I offer to You today my ‘normal’ activities, my schedule, my work, my relationships, my energy and my time. Make them holy, Lord. May my life become extraordinary in Your hands! Amen.

Discover. Uncover. Recover. Spiritual Disciplines for the Expectant (Part Two)

ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIG - A PROJECT OF THE MUSEUM O...

It’s got to be down there somewhere.

Your passion for living. Your energy for service. Your desire for the ways of The Lord. Your Christmas spirit. Buried, no doubt, under years of doing business-as-usual.

It’s a subtle shift – an almost imperceptible process – that takes a redeemed child of God from her baptismal waters to what ends up looking less like a river and more like a dried up wash in the Arizona desert. In July.

Years of stuffing the important so that we can deal with the seemingly urgent takes its toll on those of us who used to expect much from the coming of Emmanuel. Some of us truly need to find our focus and fix our eyes on Jesus, opening ourselves up to DISCOVERING God’s presence as we have never sensed Him before – that’s what we talked about last time. But others of us are yearning for something we know we already have, it’s just that its been covered by debris left over from the whirlwind of life. Unless we take disciplined measures to unearth what lies beneath, we will continue the frenzied living we’re accustomed to while our foundation gets piled over like an ancient archaeological dig (with khaki-clad university students standing by and armed with shovels).

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do my own dig. That’s what the spiritual discipline of UNCOVER is – removing the layers to uncover the good stuff. And just like a successful dig for ancient finds, we must tread carefully so as not to damage our buried treasure.

It’s got to be down there somewhere!

Here are a few ways to begin –

UNCOVER.
We get busy and blast our way through the day as if armed with dynamite. Checking off the to-do list, shuttling children to school and high-tailing it to work (because we’re always running late). Can’t eat lunch – too busy. The only time we sit is in the car or on the couch as we doze off to the disturbingly consistent bad news on TV.

In order to UNCOVER the good stuff within, we’re going to need to schedule in some slow time. Time to ask ourselves some important, daily questions and then listen to our answers. You will need a minimum of 5 minutes near the end of the day – every day – to develop this questioning habit.

Find a quiet space (lock yourself in the bathroom if necessary).
Put these questions on your smartphone.
Read and answer each one. Journal your answers if you’re so inclined.

Daily Questions:

  1. What am I thankful for?
  2. What worked in my life today?
  3. What didn’t work today? (Relationships? Choices? Attitudes? Behaviors? Emotions?)
  4. Now that I have exposed these things to God, what comes next?
  5. Ask God to enter your life – such as it is right now – and make you better than you are.
  6. Resolve to respond to God by acting in obedience to His Spirit and His Word.

Anticipate breakthroughs and surprising discoveries as you begin your daily dig! If you would like more tools like this one, consider employing the ancient practice of Examen as you review and respond to each day.

God wants to pour on the blessings! The problem is, most of the time we treat God’s gifts like those Christmas presents that make us smile as we open them but are soon added to the pile, set upon a shelf, forgotten and collecting dust.

God’s gifts – the good stuff in our lives – aren’t just meant to be opened.
They’re meant to be used.

Take time in this busy season to UNCOVER the real present…

The PRESENCE of God in your everyday life.

Check in next week for Part Three. Until then…
Expect MUCH!

NEEDING… Gracefully (a PINK Tuesday post)

Vector image of two human figures with hands i...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s PINK Tuesday! Last week we explored, from a Christian perspective, ways in which our faith and resources might be given as gifts to those in need. We established the importance of BOUNDARIES, we discussed the temptation to buy into GUILT, we learned that it is our RESPONSIBILITY to know how God has shaped us to serve Him in this world, and we decided that God intends for us to SHARE THE JOY of service with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

As surely as we need to know God’s instructions for how to HELP others, our circumstances necessitate an equally compelling need to know what God has to say about HOW we are to NEED.

  • How are we to BE in this world when we aren’t equipped with excess and overflow?
  • What do the Scriptures teach us regarding the role of the needy in this world?
  • Is it possible to be full of grace and full of need at the same time?

I don’t have all of the answers, but I invite YOU into the conversation because our answers to these questions matter in light of our citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

I’m aware that some of us are approaching this topic feeling as if it doesn’t really apply. Not to us personally, anyways. Never having felt the pangs of intense hunger or the bone-chill that comes from spending night after night on the ground, many of us have boiled this idea of NEED down to one that looks a bit like us / them. Before we can move fully into this discussion, we’ve got to hear God’s words from Revelation 3:17:

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

God proceeds to express His displeasure with our attitudes of entitlement, calling for repentance, because when we think we’ve got every worldly base covered, we are most assuredly wrong. Our earthly riches constitute exactly nothing of value in God’s economy, which is what Jesus talks about when He reminds us that our real treasure is stored in heaven. This reminder, then, is not to be taken lightly. WE ARE ALL IN NEED of what ONLY GOD CAN PROVIDE. We really are all in the very same boat.

That being said, let’s take a look at some of things we can learn about NEEDING WELL from the Word of God and the experiences of God’s people.

BE IN RELATIONSHIP  Much of the friction we feel when we’re in need of something that others might provide comes from our lack of connection with those who have the resources. In other words, when we ask for help from people we don’t know, they can have no idea who we are or whether our expressed need is genuine. What we become to them is a ‘case’, a ‘number’, or a ‘project’ for them to choose whether or not to participate in. IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS WAY, but you and I both know that even in Christian circles, help for the needy is much more likely to be given when the one in need is someone we already know.

Being in relationship with others should not, however, be a sort of bargaining chip that we use in order to get what we need from people. Being part of a church family or small study or fellowship group is part of God’s plan for His people! He calls us to yoke our lives together with His people in order for His Kingdom to be seen on this earth; and in order to participate in His Kingdom, we must be participating in Kingdom relationships like these. THIS is where God’s help most often comes from, as He teaches us to take care of one another, beginning with those who are closest to us in His family.

EXPRESS the NEED  Pride, fear of judgment, embarrassment and shame are tempting excuses for us to use when we’re in need. Excuses for not making our needs known among God’s people with whom we are in relationship. We are ALL called to be transparent in the family of God, making our needs known as well as making our overflow visible within the circles of our families and friends.

Beautiful children of God in our country fail every day to have their most basic needs met because they fear the judgment of their ‘Christian’ friends. What we’ve done to the church to keep our own needy from expressing their needs has got to break the heart of God. Still, when we are facing needs that overwhelm our own resources and ability to provide, we must get over ourselves enough to approach our brothers and sisters who can help. Our failure to let others know what we need frustrates God’s system of balancing need with plenty. We can’t expect to receive help from others when they don’t know what we need.

RESPECT BOUNDARIES  Last week on Pink Tuesday we dealt with the need for boundaries. As those in need, it is critical that we respect the boundaries of those from whom we seek help. No one person can provide for every single one of our needs, even if that would make our lives easier! We must be sensitive to what our helpers can and cannot do, and be willing to do the leg-work of putting together the right team of help in order to not cross the boundary lines of others.

To do this well requires that we do our homework! Some of our needs will be met most efficiently by utilizing help found in the community, or through organizations whose goal is to meet specific types of needs. Yes, it’s more work for us, but finding the right help from the best sources is our responsibility when we’re in need.

EXPRESS GRATITUDE  It may sound like a small thing, but saying ‘Thank You’ is never a waste of our time. Writing a card or an email of thanks to a friend or church family member who has come to our aid ought to be the NORM for all of us, not the exception. Just as helping others is a natural extension of our life in Christ, sharing our gratefulness ought to be a given as well. We may be called to help all people, but I guarantee that it’s a greater joy and feels like so much less work to help those who have a grateful heart.

BE DRAWN CLOSER TO GOD  God’s heart is clearly bent toward the poor, the suffering, the lonely and the outcast. Scripture repeats this theme over and over and OVER AGAIN! We are called, as believers, to champion the cause of the least of these, and when we find ourselves one of the least of these, we need to remember that in our need we find ourselves closer to the heart of God.

In this place of need that we find ourselves in, we become part of God’s work in the lives of His followers in a very specific way; we become part of the Great Opportunity given to the church. What the church will choose to do in light of the opportunity that our need presents is not up to us, but no matter how Christians respond to our need, rest assured that God’s response is ALWAYS love. He will ALWAYS draw nearer to us in our need.

LET’S REMEMBER OUR PLACE  We like to be all black and white about this subject of need, don’t we? We’re either RICH or NEEDY. One of the ‘Haves’ or the ‘Have-Nots.’  The truth is, though, that even in our times of greatest need, we still have something that is needed by others. God has gifted every single one of us with the ability to meet another’s need. Maybe not a financial need. Maybe not a need that requires an investment of time that we don’t have. But even in our times of need, we have something to give back to the Kingdom of God. Let’s not allow our need to create a mentality that says we have nothing of value to give. How many times have you heard missionaries say that they traveled across the world to meet some great need, yet they returned having received more from those they helped than they could possibly have given?

BE CONTENT  Finally, there’s this matter that Paul speaks of in Philippians chapter 4, about being content no matter the circumstance:

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12-13)

Some of the most needy people you will meet aren’t even poor – they are actually rich, but they don’t know it because they aren’t content with what they have.

May we, as the family of Christ, be willing to let go of the value our society places on ‘keeping up with the Jones’s,’ choosing instead to be content with what we have. Knowing, as Paul reminds in Phil. 4:19, that “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

EXPOSED! Baring All for the Glory of God

Bare feet running

Image via Wikipedia

How far are you willing to go with God? Where do you draw the line when it comes to doing things His way? At what point do you dig your heels in and refuse to take one more step down the path of His choosing?

Before you answer, I think you’ll want to hear this story.

Tucked into the pages of Isaiah in the Old Testament are a few verses that demonstrate just how far God might ask YOU to go in response to His call on your life…

Isaiah was a prophet of God. His role was often to communicate the truths of God to the Israelite people, and much of what Isaiah ended up sharing wasn’t “good news.” Rather, God used Isaiah’s voice among the people to issue warnings to them about their choices as individuals and as a nation. Probably not a popular guy, Isaiah likely spoke to less than receptive audiences as God strategically placed him among those who needed to hear what He had to say.

You know how that goes, though, don’t you? How easily we tune out the voices that push us beyond our comfort zones. How quickly we turn and walk away from those whose message is not what we really wanted to hear today. How powerfully our personal filter systems work to edit out the words that we aren’t ready to hear, tying the hands of the prophets among us.

God isn’t surprised by our lack of interest. HIS hands are NEVER tied!

Finding in Isaiah a boundless spirit of obedience, God made a STATEMENT WITHOUT WORDS that demanded the attention of Israel. God told Isaiah to:

“ ‘Go, take off your clothes and sandals,’ and Isaiah did it, going about naked and barefoot…” (Isaiah chapter 20)

For THREE YEARS! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! As a sign of events to come, God used His creative license to capture the attention of His people by exposing the prophet Isaiah to the ELEMENTS of CRITICISM and MOCKERY – not to mention discomfort and embarrassment – for years.

God knew that there were some who would never listen to WORDS, so He gave them an illustration to look at instead.

I have to think that Isaiah was NOT the kind of guy who took the wearing of clothing lightly, making this experience one that HAD to be initiated by God (though I’m sure there were some who just shook their heads, thinking he had gone overboard with the “God stuff”).

Let’s be completely honest… The lives of faith that we lead today are pretty darn safe compared to the risks Isaiah took to be obedient in the work that God prepared for him to do. You might argue that Isaiah was a PROPHET, after all, and that the work of a prophet isn’t for everyone (and of course, you would be correct).

But until our small lives are exposed for what they REALLY ARE, how can we hope to display the glory of our risen Savior as HE REALLY IS?

Standing naked and barefoot in front of ANYONE is the surest way to bring us down to size; to humble us; to tell it like it really is. Only then, when others can clearly see that we aren’t “all that,” can we begin to represent the One who IS “all that” and THEN SOME!

The good news here is that God doesn’t make a habit of leading His people into obedience through the physical act of undressing (huge sigh of relief!), but He DOES lead His people into obedience in ways that will stretch us, challenge us and cause at least some discomfort inside of us.

If we aren’t being led by God to expose our humanity in ways that illuminate His divinity, I think we have to ask ourselves whether we’re being led by God at all.

There’s an old Amy Grant song that says:

“When the world begins to see you change, don’t expect them to applaud.  Just keep your eyes on Him and tell yourself, “I’ve become the work of God.” (I Have Decided)

God may be leading you down a path of humility and risk that, to the watching world, may look a lot like insanity. But you will be in very good company there, whether God chooses to make you an open book or a comic book.

Either way, it’s out of your handsyou’ve become the work of GOD.

What’s YOUR Story? (a PINK Tuesday post)

In my world, this is Faith Statement season.

This means that, tomorrow evening, about 30 of us will gather to share with one another what we believe about God – and how that translates into real life, day in and day out.

Believers of all ages do this every year in my faith family, in conjunction with Confirmation Sunday. Before we expect our young students to share their statements of faith in front of 200+ church members, we get together and CELEBRATE the faith we ALL have! No matter how far along we are on this journey with Christ, we ALL have a story to tell!

The most beautiful part of this annual ‘event’ for me is the realization that we have more in common with one another than we could have known! After all, unless we take purposeful time to pen our thoughts and speak them aloud in the company of faith family, how would we know what God has done and is doing among us?!

I’m still working on my statement of faith for tomorrow night’s sharing, so today I’ll not waste your time with my words…

Instead, I challenge YOU to take time today to find words to express where you are in relationship to who God is! Here are the prompts that we use every year in this process:

  • Explain what you believe to be true about God – His nature and character.
  • Share what you believe YOUR RELATIONSHIP to/with God is (what you believe He thinks about you, has given you, wants to provide for you).
  • Give a personal reason or two (short story, life experience) for why you believe as you do.
  • Share a scripture verse or passage that you believe God is using in YOUR LIFE.

Go ahead – put it on paper! But don’t stop there – to do so would be missing half of the point. Share it with someone – or better yet, a few close friends or family members. Let God use this experience to illuminate connections and increase understanding in and among His people!

And if you need a friend to share with, well… there are LOTS of US here! Use the reply space below! Tell us YOUR story!

 

My Life as a Piñata

300px-PIÑATAI grew up in Arizona.

My children have grown up in Arizona.

With this in mind, you’ll understand that when I hear the word broken, I think piñata.

I would argue that until you’ve had your arms elbow-deep in papier mache, you haven’t really experienced creation (or at least the act of creating). I still remember the first piñata that my sister and I made together…

It started with a balloon. It received coat after coat (after coat!) of newspaper dipped in flour-paste. In my youthful impatience (not much has changed there), I probably layered too quickly, not allowing each generous covering to dry completely before slathering another one on. No matter. It was a fine piñata by any 8 year old’s standards.

As an aside, this creative endeavor was inevitably turned into a mouse. After all, what else CAN an inflated balloon be? An egg?

A lot of white paint. Some whiskers. An opening cut. A LOT of candy stuffed inside. Resealing the hatch. Attaching a string. Hanging from the front yard Palo Verde tree. Add a blindfold and a broom handle. Party-goers get in line…

Let the party begin!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like a piñata – dangling mid-air. Gratefully, God’s creative energy is so much more skillful than mine (or we’d all be egg-shaped mice). There are days I wish I looked as festive and colorful as a tissue paper piñata, as if looking good was the goal, but the purpose of a piñata isn’t to float on the breeze indefinitely.

The purpose of a piñata – its role in the party – is to be broken.

After all – that’s how we get to the good stuff, right?

The very first women’s retreat I ever attended took place in a mountain summer home. There were only 5 of us there that weekend – all of us young mothers who couldn’t help but rejoice at the opportunity to spend a child-free weekend, hours away from home. Our theme that weekend was brokenness, and while I hate to admit that I don’t remember much about the teaching, I do remember the piñata.

Our leader hung it outside on the porch, and 5 grown women took turns (blindfolded, of course) wielding the weapon of destruction. We swung hard and whacked mightily until finally the piñata completed its mission and spilled chocolate candy all over the wood planks at our feet. Like children, we giggled and rushed in to grab at our favorite treats, collecting the goodies and enjoying every last bite.

While we ate our treats, I thought about Jesus, whose body was broken for me.

I thought about Jesus, who teaches that,

‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only one seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves his life will lose it. But anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it and have eternal life.’ John 12:24-25 (NIrV)

I realized then that my buttoned-up, self-contained, dangling-piñata life fails to bring glory to God. Hanging there, on display, the only thing I’m good for is a photograph. Maybe a second glance. Maybe a comment. And then, you’re bored. Ready to move on.

That is, unless you have a broomstick in your hand.

I could preserve this shell of a life and steer clear of the weapon you wield, but Jesus says that would be fruitless – like choosing death. No, my friend. Today I choose to be battered and beaten until the holes in this fabric that I’m made of are sizable enough to let the good stuff through. To let what I’m truly made of – placed within me by the hands of the Creator Himself – be poured out like candy from a piñata at an Arizona birthday party.

Broken.

Beautiful.

My life as a piñata. There is no higher calling.

Let the party begin!