Empowered to CREATE (a PINK Tuesday post)

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, ...

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a doorstep conversation this morning with a repeat visitor from a local church. She remembered my name, and she remembered that my work includes Christian education. She didn’t come empty handed today – she came bearing a gift in the form of a book dedicated to refuting the claims of evolution. She told me that people sometimes call her crazy for believing in creation. She thought this book might be of help to me as I teach God’s Word and His ways.

She couldn’t have known that this week, in my world, the focus IS: CREATE.

I will look at the book she left for me – I’m always seeking God’s truth where it can be found – but I refuse to get caught up in defensive conversation about whose understanding of God’s work is more accurate. I’m much more interested in watching His work unfold… today.

THIS is the call of creation! To be aware of God’s ongoing handiwork and to be open to glimpses of His present activity in the people and the world around me.

And once I’m both aware and open, to choose to accept His holy invitation to join in creating a world that reflects His goodness, His glory and His constant efforts at restoring our brokenness through the real presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

You & I have been empowered by God to CREATE!

How we direct our creative energy says a lot about who we believe ourselves to BE and what we believe our God can DO.

Barefoot Ministries has created a beautiful curriculum called A World Unbroken. The faith family I live in has adopted this curriculum for the next seven weeks in an effort to find our place in God’s story – beginning at the beginning. Beginning with: CREATE.

Click here to learn more about our efforts to join in God’s continuing restoration-work: CREATE.

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This Explains a LOT… (a PINK Tuesday post)

Walking through a favorite store last week, this sign caught my eye.

Sharing my name with a line of filter products hasn’t really affected me much, but there are times – as on this particular day – when my life parallels the life of my inanimate siblings on the shelf.

Temporary Price Cut. 15% Off. Brita.

I had to giggle as I stopped to capture this photo and I walked away thinking that this explains a LOT! There are certainly days when I am 15% off… Off-kilter. Off-target. Off-my-rocker. 

I even wondered what I might have 15% less of? Energy? Focus? Enthusiasm? Patience? (Stop me, please – I could go on & on!)

For the bargain price of 15% off, you could possess Brita – an indicator that demand must be lower than supply right now. Isn’t that why products receive temporary price cuts – to generate demand for the stockpiles of product lining warehouse shelves?

If so, I have to ask – then what? What happens, once the sale has ended, and everyone wants a piece of me? I suspect you’ve had days like this, where it seems everyone is after you for something. On these days, by the time we collapse into bed for the night, we feel like there must’ve been a sale going on that we weren’t notified about. We feel as if we gave ourselves away to the hungry consumers in our lives. We wonder if we might have been taken advantage of, since we know that we’re worth the full price on our sticker (right?).

There’s an innate, defensive reaction to giving our lives away that flows from our personal value perception (like my personal response to this 15% Off sign). I have to admit that my initial reaction to the Brita sign was – Are you serious?! You (not sure who I was talking to) couldn’t even afford me! You can’t put a price tag on Brita! Go ahead and TRY!

Now that I’ve settled down a bit, I realize that it’s the world that puts a price tag on what we have to contribute. It’s the culture around us that dictates value based on our gifts and talents, making us feel as if we must hold out for those who will pay full-price for our abilities and resist any urge to give ourselves away for less. But in God’s economy, to withhold our full value because others can’t ‘afford’ our sticker price is to thwart the work of the Spirit, making my life something that it is not…

Mine.

When I worked for the YMCA years ago, I was very much aware of the organization’s policy to offer its services on a sliding fee scale. The reason for this is simple: they believe that they have a product too valuable to withhold from anyone who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay.

God teaches us this same concept, reminding us not to withhold any good thing from others if it is in our power to provide it for them.

“…get out there and walk – better yet, run! – on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline – not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” Ephesians 4:1-3 (The Message)

Pour yourself out for the Kingdom!

I picture our Savior on the cross, with a price tag attached that has been edited to read:

His Life for Yours – 15% Off25% Off75% OffHis Gift to You.

This is no temporary price reduction – this is grace.

Jesus’ gift of salvation is not free, but paid for.

This explains a LOT.

Purpling for the Glory of God (a PINK Tuesday post)

Purple color

It’s the first night of camp and the natives are restless.

Wisdom dictates that before they get too wound up, we cover the basic do’s and don’t’s of co-ed, middle school, church camp.

  • DO drink at least four bottles of water every day.
  • DON’T go onto the neighboring golf course.
  • DO mix it up and try to meet new people.
  • DON’T bring food into the sleeping areas (rodents – ick).

And so it goes. It’s pretty much what you’d expect to have to say at the beginning of a week with dozens of tweens and teens whose parents are absent and whose decisions are most often based on what their peers think they should do.

And then there are the hormones. Raging. Which brings the list of do’s and don’t’s to a colorful close:

‘Boys are BLUE. Girls are PINK. What do blue and pink make? PURPLE. NO PURPLING ALLOWED.’

Always groans. Always giggles. A few ‘yuck!’s and lots of whispering with their friends.

Because when you’re 13 going on any maturity level, purpling is a bad idea. And at church camp, it just isn’t allowed.

PDA is at the root of many a battle between kids and their parents (newsflash, folks – PDA isn’t just a handheld device). Many a young person has found him/herself in at least a bit of hot water over their public displays of affection.

PDA might be as seemingly benign as holding hands, but whenever pink and blue connect, purple is made. And we teach our kids that, at least for them and at least for now, purpling can wait.

But what about when pink and blue grow up, get a job, get a life and get married? Do the jr. high ‘No Purpling’ rules still apply?

Today is Valentine’s Day, and many of us are celebrating the life-connection we have made with one who knows how to bring out the purple in us! We buy flowers and chocolate, enjoy dinners out and evenings in with this one who has captured our heart and co-created a life worth sharing.

Sure, we purple.

But are we purpling for ourselves, or for the glory of God?

(Feel free to giggle, but I’m totally serious!)

Displays of affection, when self-serving and driven by relentlessly emotional tides, rarely consider anyone but their own pink and blue. In their frantic efforts to sustain a purple ‘high’ they end up alienating the life that goes on outside of their little purple paradise.

So often, instead of our love taking root and blooming gloriously in the garden, we grow smaller and narrower until we’re no more glorious than a beet, hardly peeking out from beneath the soil, keeping all of the fruitfulness of our relationship hidden from the Gardener and the rest of those growing there. Where we ought to be displaying publicly the beauty of God-given love we opt instead to minimize or secularize the sacred shades of purple, trading them in for a cookie-cutter version of the relationship flavor-of-the-month as decreed by the ‘church’ of pop culture and media.

The sad fact is that what our world sees as purple is a fake and a frauda counterfeit color on a hijacked palette of knock-off shades. It’s the world’s purple that we warn the campers about. Purple that’s hot. Illicit. Edgy. Risky. Selfish. Non-committal. Temporary. Purple that misuses pink and takes blue for granted. Purple that trivializes the art of connection. Purple that stains and discolors and bleeds out in the wash.

God’s shades of purple aren’t like those we see on the streets and tv screens of our world. God’s purple is rich and deep, eye-catching and multi-faceted, a color you can paint a life with. A color that this dismally grey world desperately needs to see.

When we live our love in front of the world, we lend one of God’s most breath-taking colors to the ongoing art of our lives. How we live our purple points others to a Love who is able to take my marbled pinks and your muddy blues and blend them in such masterful, powerful ways that the resulting shade – when it reflects the Son – creates hope. And passion. And joy.

Purpling for the glory of God is the way my smiling Father holds my Mother in his embrace and calls her ‘Mum.’

Purpling for the glory of God is my friend Ellie, holding the hand of her husband whose hospice care dictates that their life together is about to change.

Purpling for the glory of God is a teary-eyed Brian holding onto his bride of more than 20 years before closing the car door and heading toward his distant worksite. Again.

Purpling for the glory of God is sometimes a kiss and sometimes a touch, but it is always a demonstration of a deeper truth that says, with the writer of Ecclesiastes:

“Seize life! Eat bread with gusto. Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh yes – God takes pleasure in your pleasure! Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves. Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one!” (Eccl. 9:7-9, The Message)

On this Valentine’s Day, think twice before publicly displaying your affection for the spouse that you love.

Think twice, and think purple.

For the glory of God.

Technical Difficulties (a somewhat frantic PINK Tuesday post)

"TUESDAY" production sign

Image by Vaguely Artistic via Flickr

It’s been a fairly average Monday.

Staff meeting – check.

Reading and Bible study prep for Tuesday morning – check.

Brief walk on the treadmill – check.

Two loads of laundry (almost) finished & dinner on the table (if mac & cheese, hummus & pita can be called ‘dinner’) – check.

Child in bed – check.

PINK Tuesday blog written (hit ‘save’ at 11:29pm) – check. Or maybe not. Hey, wait a minute! Where did tomorrow’s blog GO? SERIOUSLY?! You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s just GONE.

Technical difficulties.

Never mind that I’m more than a little bit tired. Or that I’m feeling the weight of completing an intimidating to-do list for February’s women’s retreat. The post that I spent the past two hours writing has simply fallen into the depths of my outdated laptop and, well, it can’t get up.

I’m certain there’s a lesson here for me to learn. In all likelihood, there’s a lesson I’m to share so that you can learn with me. But I suspect you’ve been here before – sidelined by your own technical difficulties – always poorly timed.

So let’s dispense with the wisdom for tonight, take the sheets out of the dryer and make the bed. Start the dishwasher, write a reminder note to put dinner in the crockpot on the way out tomorrow morning, and call it a night.

Or maybe we could call it a hijacking. Of my plan for God’s.

 

 

 

 

Just Be HONEST

Seriously ridiculous.

It’s PINK Tuesday and I am on the road… again.

In the air, rather, and en route to the gathering of some of my favorite kinds of folks – youthworkers.

Tired. Overworked. A little cranky. A little crazy. (Sounds a LOT like ME!)

 

You can ask them – my family will tell you that this description fits. Sometimes I am pretty unclear about what my gifts are and how to use them in the world, for God’s glory and for the good of others. Maybe you can relate?

If you’ve got about 20 minutes and need to know that your gifts matter, click this link for a video introduction and an audio message, recorded at my home church on Sunday, Nov. 13th 2011:

Just Be Honest

Thank you for flying with Pink Shoes Ministries!

 

CREATING Space vs. FILLING It

 

Some people walk into a room and suddenly… it’s full.

 

Full of talk. Full of words. Full of opinions and agendas, served up without invitation for the rest of us to join in. Full of energypositive or negative – that proceeds to drive every conversation and interaction in its direction. Full of personality that draws attention to itself, shrinking the potential of our contributions by its overpowering, can’t-get-a-word-in-edgewise presence.

Some people walk into a room and suddenly… it’s full of them.

Now, some people fill space because they require our attention in order to feel validated and in control. Some people fill space because they’re afraid of silence or obscurity. Others fill space because they have an agenda to pursue which, for them, is a higher calling than pursuing things like relationship and harmony and community.

There are those, however, who fill space because they sincerely believe they have something to give to God. The problem is that when we fill the space around us with ourselves, we create a vacuum whose suction effectively removes God from that space altogether, leaving us alone with our gifts and no Spirit to power them.

This is what resonates in the words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Rome when he says,

“…it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” Romans 12:3 (The Message)

If you’ve ever worked as a teacher, you might understand this from a programming perspective.

We can plan a lesson, activity or event and approach it with the goal of filling the schedule to meet objectives and create outcomes for the participants. This would involve lots of detail as we seek to maximize every moment for the greatest potential gain of knowledge, skill or understanding. After all, as the teacher, you are responsible for providing your students with every opportunity to learn. Right?

In the church, this approach has been heralded for every kind of teaching. If you plan it (well), not only will they come, but they will learn and grow and succeed in the future because of your ability to fill the time.

The hole in this bucket, however, is created by the assumption that we know what they need to know. We can fill an hour or a weekend or a sermon series with every bullet point we think important, but that implies that we somehow know what needs to be heard by our students. Even when the Spirit of God is leading us to serve as teachers, none of us is so perfect a mouthpiece for the Holy that we can single-handedly (or, single-mouthedly) communicate God’s truth to His people.

I think we often misinterpret our Kingdom-work in this way – as a call to fill the room with our gifts, our vision and our passion (God-given though they may be).

What if we were to follow God’s instructions to King Solomon instead? Instructions given to this gifted, passionate leader regarding the building of God’s Temple – the place where God Himself would live?

“About this Temple you are building – what’s important is that you live the way I’ve set out for you and do what I tell you, following my instructions carefully and obediently. Then I’ll complete in you the promise I made to David your father. I’ll personally take up my residence among the Israelites – I won’t desert my people Israel.”         I Kings 6:11-13 (The Message)

God tells Solomon that what’s important is how the people LIVE and that they DO what God has instructed. This is their work – to live obedient lives in front of God and one another! And what does God promise to do in response to their faithfulness? He will fill the space in the Temple. He will move in and live in community with them. He will be near and He will be present; God with us.

Physically, God instructed Solomon to build a building that would house His presence in an unprecedented way.

Israel was to follow the detailed instructions God gave in order to create space for Him to fill!

The exciting part of this story is that Israel did just that. They completed the Temple and created space for God to live among them. And God, in His faithful fulfillment of promise, moved into the neighborhood.

“When the priests left the Holy Place, a cloud filled theTemple of God. The priests couldn’t carry out their priestly duties because of the cloud – the glory of God filled theTemple of God!” I Kings 8:10-11 (The Message)

Oh, that we would live lives so faithful to the detailed instructions of our Lord that the space we create for Him here would be filled, not with ourselves, but with the glory of Emmanuel.

The presence of God.

 

The ‘C’ Word (a PINK Tuesday post)

The letter C

Image by Mel B. via Flickr

I know, I know… you’ve heard all of the quotes before:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

If you don’t create change, change will create you.”

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”

 “Change is the only constant.”

We could go on, but we know the drill. Change happens. Ready or not, willing or not, it’s a-coming. For some of us, change is equivalent to a four-letter-word that brings with it a discomfort that only makes us wiggle and squirm and ultimately finds us fighting back in an effort to keep things the way they WERE (the way we happen to LIKE them).

For some, though, change is a necessary rite of passage that creates the momentum necessary to move us from here to there; from where we are comfortably seated now to where we need to be for our next adventure in life. Does it hurt? Yup. Is it hard? You betcha.

I suspect that some of you are anticipating the type of change I’m facing this summer – that of an (almost) empty nest.  Or perhaps your change is about 6 lbs. and wears diapers and cries every time you manage to fall asleep. Maybe your change is an empty chair at the dinner table or one less passenger in the carpool. Change can look like moving boxes or new neighbors or the ceiling of a hospital room, but no matter what your view, everything is (of course) always about to change.

Jesus deals with the idea of change in a way that you and I might consider a bit harsh. Listen to these words from Matthew 10:34-39:

“Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut – make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law – cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me. If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”

Change in my own life has often been bloody. It’s often felt more like the work of a really sharp knife than, say, the warm hands of a potter and the whirring sound of a potter’s wheel. Yet Jesus clearly says that until I am cut free of what I consider comfortable, I am not capable of being joined with Him. My work, my family, my ministry are only that – MINE – until I yield to the severing that His sword came here to do.

Change is running rampant in my life this summer! I’m feeling the awkwardness, the discomfort, the brewing of what may very well become for me my own ‘perfect storm.’ Yet I trust the One who wields the weapon that ultimately makes me capable of giving more, seeing more, loving more and doing more than what I’m equipped to do today.

As this season of change runs its course in me, Pink Tuesdays are going on sabbatical! Vacation! What you can expect from Pink Shoes Ministries this summer is a more random expression of growth than the predictable Tuesday morning post. Expect CHANGE! The visual format of this blogsite will be changing! Who knows what future posts might look like as God re-shapes me for His service?!

In these months of change, please consider exploring some of the posts you may have missed in the past. I’ll be updating and organizing them by category in hopes of making it easier for you to find what you might need. And please take time to write me a note, letting me know better how to encourage and support you in YOUR static and fluid seasons of life!

As change unfolds, perhaps the ‘C’ word will emerge as…

Centering!

Catalyst!

Celebration!

CareFREE!

Spirit, I say ‘BRING IT!’

 

Faith EVOLUTION (a PINK Tuesday post)

Ichthys and Psalm23

Image via Wikipedia

This has been a season of wrapping things up for me – more so than ever before. Every year the school year ends. Every year a class of Confirmation students is welcomed into Church membership. Every year we celebrate our graduates and applaud their achievements. But this year has been different for me.

This year I am the mother of a graduate. The mother of a Confirmation student.

My children are growing up in front of me, over which I seem to have precious little control.

And this season has gotten me thinking…

It actually all started with a Confirmation class assignment. This assignment is issued every year to every student attending Confirmation at my home Church. Both first and second year students are to write a Faith Statement which is to be shared at the end of the season.

Several years ago I began to broaden the scope of the Faith Statement assignment, drawing parents and Mentors of the students into this personal exploration of faith. Now, on the final night of Confirmation class for each school year, we sit around a growing circle of chairs and take turns. We take turns sharing our faith in words that make sense to us. In words that describe the faith we claim to have today.

Sitting in this circle of faith two weeks ago, listening to the faith stories and statements and journeys of children, teenagers, young and seasoned adults, it struck me that our faith itself is anything but fixed. This was especially noticeable in the second year statements, where what was written in 2010 had to be re-written to fit the growing faith-walk of these beautiful people of God.

I noticed this in my own Faith Statement, having written one each year for four years running. I even tried to cut corners between years one and two, but I found that a mere 12 months had rendered my beliefs – touched. Touched by life. Touched by loss. Touched by knowing more and seeing more and trusting more. And I am completely convinced that until we take the time to put into writing what we think we believe, our faith evolution is overlooked. Underestimated. Neglected. Missed.

So today I issue a challenge to all of you whose faith has never been put into words that can be written out on paper and maybe, someday, read aloud to a trusted circle of friends. Because sometimes we don’t really understand what it is that we believe. We’ve never thought it out before. We’ve never had to make our case or tell our story or stand on our own two feet and pull off the Sunday morning mask.

On this PINK Tuesday, I challenge you to bare your heart and wrestle with words until what hasn’t been crossed out on the page is the truth about what you know to be true about the God who loves you more than you can fathom. I believe so strongly in this practice of the Church that I will even go first, sharing my own incomplete understanding of God and my faith evolution with you.

Brita’s Faith Statement  May 11, 2011

I believe that the God of the Bible is not only REAL, but that He has a story, He has a plan, and He has given us every opportunity to get to know Him better (through His Word, through His Spirit and through the people in whom His Spirit lives today).

While I may not completely understand everything about Him, I believe He is know-able. Not only that, but I believe that His heart’s cry is that everyone who breathes – everyone He has created – would know Him. He loves us ALL that much!

I believe that my own story – the situations and experiences in my life – fit like the pieces of a puzzle into God’s big-picture story. There are connections between my life and the work God is doing in the world! Some of these connections are things I’m aware of – relationships with people or the noticeable effects of my life on the lives of others – but many of the ways God is operating through me aren’t even KNOWN by ME!

God created me (and every person) as a unique, hand-crafted masterpiece with gifts and tools to be put to good use in the world around us. Not only that, but He has given me the energy and passion of His Holy Spirit in order to activate my gifts and motivate my actions for the good of others and for the GLORY of God!

My belief is bigger than the words I can find to express that belief to you. But that’s okay, because I don’t think God is as interested in what we SAY as He is in how we LIVE our lives in relationship to Him and to the teachings of His Word. There’s something mysterious in the way that God moves into a life and changes the heart of a person. I am different today than I was a year ago.

God has given me eyes to actually SEE Him at work in people who are genuinely seeking to know Him more, and this is a very beautiful thing. It’s what keeps me teaching and leading and participating in the life of the church. Watching people become more like Jesus IS the ‘work’ of the church! We don’t MAKE it happen, God does! But we share in the fruit of the spiritual growth of others when we choose to make God’s family OUR family. That’s why I love Confirmation so much – because it’s one of the ways that God connects our lives together in faith and calls us to actively LIVE OUT that faith as a family, united, in a world that is painfully divided.

God’s way of doing things is weird. Weird to a world whose focus is on ME and MORE. God calls me to live for HIM and OTHERS, and to be satisfied with LESS of the stuff this world thinks is so important to have, SO THAT I will have room in my life for MORE of what He is pouring into me through His generous Spirit of Life!

The scripture verse that sums this up for me and seems to be the call on my life is Psalm 116:12-16:

“What can I give back to God for the blessings He’s poured out on me?

I’ll lift high the cup of salvation – a toast to God!

I’ll pray in the name of God;

I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, and I’ll do it together with his people.

When they arrive at the gates of death, God welcomes those who love him.

Oh, God, here I am, your servant, your faithful servant:

Set me free for your service!”

Will you do it? Will you put pen to paper and spell it all out – what you believe about the God who believes in you?

What’s in YOUR Faith Chest? (a PINK Tuesday post)

Box 1 -Wooden Chest.

Image by ~Brenda-Starr~ via Flickr

My home church has a beautiful tradition of encouraging faith development in our youngsters. At baptism, each child is presented with a meticulously hand-made wooden chest. We call them Faith Chests, and when we give them to our children we explain that they are intended to house the items of faith that they will acquire as they grow.

I was recently looking through my son’s Faith Chest, searching for a medallion with his baptism date on it. While in there, I found such a variety of faith-related things that I had to laugh out loud. Among his faith items I found…

a small New Testament (gift from VBS)

a handmade blanket (gift from the quilters at our church)

a photo frame made out of craft sticks, holding a picture of my son at VBS

a poster with faith-facts about my son, created in Sunday School

a set of home-made Resurrection Eggs

a cloth drawstring bag filled with items that tell the Passion Story

a recycled plastic bottle filled with rice and some pretty obscure objects (not really sure what the faith connection is here)…

My son’s Faith Chest contains memories and reminders of the milestones and events in his growing faith life. Things he has made. Gifts he has received. Props used to teach and tell the stories of the Bible.

My son’s Faith Chest contains the stuff that faith is made of.

And this got me thinking… If I had a Faith Chest of my own, what would be inside? Which items from my almost 50 years of life would mark the events and kindle the memories of a growing faith? What have I accumulated on my journey that belongs in a keepsake like this Chest of Faith?

And my answers, well, they tell stories.

The Stuffed Lamb from high school frienemy, Robin. Robin and I were like-minded and competitive, enjoying each other’s company immensely and yet vying for the same kind of attention from pretty much the same people. What resulted was a tumultuous friendship that often got turned inside out. During one of these rinse cycles, Robin showed up at my after-school job with a beautifully wrapped gift from the only Hallmark store in town. It was a Precious Moments lamb; stuffed, soft and cuddly. She knew I loved Precious Moments. And she knew that in spite of our egos-out-of-control, I loved her, too. The lamb would definitely make it into my Faith Chest, because it reminds me that when those who know us best can love us still, that takes faith.

The Scrollwork Metal Cross from neighborhood Bible study friend, Leslie. We were both attending a neighbor’s Bible study group, which started with The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and took on a life of its own. What began as a loosely connected group of people who knew, liked and might be related to the hostess morphed into a circle of friends whose faith grew simultaneously for all too short a time. At one point I took on leadership of the group (while what was really anticipated every week was my husband’s retelling of the Veggie Tale versions of the scriptures). I showed up for the study one night and was presented with a Pier 1 bag, handed over to me by Leslie with a smile. She had found it while shopping and it made her think of me. Dainty and sizeable, the metal cross has graced my wall ever since. Several months later I got a phone call. 40-something Leslie had died unexpectedly, after dinner one evening. The cross would belong in my Faith Chest as a picture of the beauty to be found in spontaneous acts of giving, because life is short. Why wait?

The Dead Carnation that I received, gave back to God, and then took home with me again. I walked into the sanctuary and was handed a fresh carnation. All of us were. I held it. Smelled it. Twirled it around between my fingers. At some point in the service, I was asked to let it represent an intention – something that I wanted or needed to give to God. Hmmm. I held it and smelled it and twirled it some more, and surprisingly ended up in tears. I knew what the flower had to be, and I was certain that I needed to return it to God. I laid my intentions on the altar and walked away. I gave back to God my plans for what I would be when I grew up someday. I gave them back and trusted that my sacrifice would be sweet, like that flower. Later in the evening, someone had gathered up the flower/intentions and put them in a bucket. I found mine – it was pretty distinct – and I took it home with me. A reminder that what I have – all of what I am – is a gift from God. The dead carnation would be at home in my Faith Chest because I believe God will remember the surrendered dream it represents, and because I believe His dreams for me are even more beautiful than this one would have been.

The Scrapbook given to me by my husband several Christmases ago, which served as an invitation to contact a local recording studio and have some of the songs I’ve written over the years recorded. This would be in my Faith Chest because it reminds me of the faith my husband has in me and the value that my life’s work has in his eyes. When people have that kind of faith in you, you don’t take it for granted. You thank God for it. You thank Him for it every single day.

I could go on. I could go on and on and on.

But what I really want to know is, what’s in YOUR Faith Chest? What are the things you can touch and feel and look at and smell and taste that remind you of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going on this life-long journey of faith?

Indulge yourself in this opportunity to pack your Faith Chest full!

Full of memories of God’s work in you.

Full of connections with Him, through the people in your life.

Full of opportunities, captured and embraced, to be all that you can be in His eyes.

Full of all the stuff our faith is made of.

Family: Redefined (a PINK Tuesday post)

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Jesus was teaching and the crowd of curious and eager listeners was growing. With Him were His traveling companions – the Twelve (His students), and some women whom He had healed from various diseases and evil spirits.

Apparently, once healed, these women did not wish to leave His side. So they traveled with Him and His disciples, taking care of their need for food, drink and shelter. Supporting them by sharing from their abundance (or in some cases, from the abundance of their husbands and families).

As the crowd pressed in to hear the Rabbi’s words, “Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’” (Luke 8:19-21)

Words which have always given me pause.

Maybe even making me cringe a bit.

I’ve read these words many times and I’ve always felt that Jesus was being awfully harsh, dismissing His flesh-and-blood family in such a way. I imagine myself as His mother or sister, having traveled here to see Him – perhaps to deliver family news or to make sure that everything is well with Him – only to find that I am no more important to Jesus than this gathering of strangers seems to be.

These words of Jesus have carried a sting that I have never understood. Or tried to understand.

Until today.

Today my family celebrated Thanksgiving. Yes, Thanksgiving. In April.

I came home early from work to put the turkey in the roaster.

Dallas peeled potatoes and mashed them up the way our kids like them best and made gravy from scratch because that’s just what his Mom always does for Thanksgiving.

And then our family arrived.

Michael & Caleb bring a tub of rainbow jello, and we talk about Easter baskets and arcade games and visits from family out-of-state.

Paul brings pans of his original green bean casserole – the spicy version and the mild rendition – and we readily play guinea pigs because we can.

Marlena’s in her slippers and Maddie is showing off her Easter toy. Abby has a field trip tomorrow and has to get up early, so it’ll be an uncharacteristically early departure after dinner tonight.

Brian’s arms are full of pie and a mammoth tub of ice cream, and once these have been set on the counter, his arms are full of warm hugs for everyone.

Penny’s heart is full of concern for her children. She wears her heart on her sleeve and we love this about her.

Alan comes in – it’s a treat that he’s here! – carrying a pan of homemade cornbread stuffing and sweet corn casserole, hot out of the oven and smelling divine.

Rachel makes a bee-line for the kids in the family room and Carol makes her way into the kitchen, tired from a busy day of tending to her family’s needs (but smiling because being here is part of the tending).

Greg, as always, brings a story to the table and Joffrey brings hands that need washing to our family’s prayer circle, in the middle of the kitchen, where the aromas of this Thanksgiving meal (now assembled) are irresistible to this hungry crowd.

Britton smiles across the table as another funny story is shared, and we celebrate yet another year gone by as mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and children in one family, knit together by the hearing of God’s Word and the often feeble (but always honest) attempts at putting it into practice.

Blood relatives we are not.

But family we ARE.

I wish you could see what it is that I see when I look around the table at these faces.

It’s Jesus’ words come to life in a way that words on a page can never do.

It’s a springtime Thanksgiving for which all I can say is

Thanks.