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Today, O Lord, I yield myself to you.

May Your will be my delight today.

May your way have perfect sway in me.

May your love be the pattern of my living . . .

I release into your hands my need to control,

my craving for status, my fear of obscurity . . . Richard Foster

 

Lord, I am convicted not to ask for more time, but to ask for more of you. Life feels so busy; I am always feeling like I need more time. But you ask me to submit to the 24 hours in one day, the 7 days in one week which you have ordained. You have set the limits in our lives which you deem right and good. And these limits drive me to see my need of you. If you gave me more time, I would just fill it and still be busy. What I truly crave is you, your life and love emanating in my day, in my heart, in my relationships. You are so sweet and lovely, Jesus. What I really desire is more of you.

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Back to School

It feels like O dark 30, but actually it’s light outside.

I haven’t wash my face because my soap is in my gym bag in the trunk of the car and all I really want to do is lay down on the couch and go back to sleep.

I hit the snooze 3 times and it was only a notification for a comment on Facebook that actually motivated me to get out of bed.

All normal mothers are laughing at me because the time stamp on my post is going to read like “9am” or something by the time I finish.

I have the hiccups because my digestive system is so thrown off by being awake at 7:30.

Today is the day to get back to school… ok, today is the day to plan to go back to school tomorrow. Ok, today is the day to plan to half go back to school tomorrow and to really go all the way back to school mid-way through next week. Or maybe the week after because my dad and step-mom are visiting this weekend.

Ugh. I want to go back to school, but I don’t want to be the teacher. I don’t want to be the one who sets alarms, who is the first to get up to alarms, and who is the only one who is around to yell at myself if I don’t get up to the alarms. Being the teacher and the principal and the superintendent and the cook and the janitor . . .it’s exhausting and overwhelming and this morning, I am, in a word or two: disoriented and unmotivated.

I knew that getting up early to spend time with the Lord and blog, attempting to feed my mind and my spirit before the whirlwind of the day sets in, would be hard. I knew it would realistically take weeks, if ever, to get used to waking up early. I could claim that I have really been diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue and that my cortisol levels are very low in the morning . . . which is true and makes it hard, but I really consider that fatigue my own fault for running at life 1,000,000 miles an hour. Waking up early to center and reflect is part of my antidote to that fatigue, ironically. But it is going to hurt and be physically painful for a while.

I am thankful for this weird thing called blogging. I am thankful for somewhere to lay down my thoughts and reflections so that I can grow and share and learn. I am thankful for bloggers and commenters and the community that is online; It is lovely to me that the homeschool movement has burst out at the same time that unprecedented ways have emerged  to fellowship and connect with others while still sitting at home in your bathrobe. I am thankful for coffee and for the birds singing outside my window. I am thankful, that somehow, 45 minutes after stumbling out of bed, I am still upright and awake. I feel comforted just by writing and sharing. Lord, you know and understand, don’t you? I am never in this alone.

I think we will make it back to school tomorrow, or Monday or the next Friday after all.

 

Categories: Chief Executive Mom, General | Leave a comment

The Glorious Paradox

“For Christmas is not merely a day like every other day. It is a day made holy and special by a sacred mystery. It is not merely another day in the weary round of time. Today, eternity enters into time, and time, sanctified, is caught up into eternity. ~ Thomas Merton

Yesterday was the “perihelion“, the day each year when the earth, in its elliptical orbit, comes closest to the sun. I love that this event occurs near the end of Christmas, well into that holy, sacred season when we remember God’s son coming close to us. The rocky earth stretches as near to the blazing beauty of the Sun as she dares to go while we remember the moment that the eternal light dared come to us.

Bobby Gross, reflecting on the miracle of Christmas, writes, “Throughout the centuries, beginning with John, writers have explored the mystery and paradox of this divine enfleshment… Word-become-flesh, Creator-turned-creature, immensity-contained, fullness-poured-out, power-made-vulnerable, eternity-subject-to-time. All this self-giving by God for our sakes – a gift immeasurable, a love incomprehensible.

Through the immaculate conception, reality became a paradox to Mary; she became a pregnant virgin, human flesh enclosing the divine. Eternity had, in a moment, entered her life. Of course, reality has always been paradoxical in eternity – He was known before the foundation of the world and Word was with God in the beginning (1 Peter 1:20, John 1:1) – but on the day of  annunciation, it became so in temporal space.

And on the first Christmas, that paradox was birthed and reality became cruciform for us all. The divine and eternal had stretched down from heaven to embrace the horizon of our earth-bound humanity. This is simply the most glorious, most lovely truth ever known, as unfathomable and awesome as if the fiery Sun above had come so close to us as to fill the entire sky.

If I have had a life theme, it has been the paradox of the incarnation, the cruciform shape of all reality. After studying philosophy and world religions for 6 years (yes, I worked on an undergrad degree for 6 years. So I changed my major about 5 times; I learned a few things!), I discovered Kierkegaard and his obsession with the divine paradox. I spent my Senior year working on an honors thesis exploring his concept of paradox. At the same time, the Lord had been moving in my personal life to bring me to my knees. In my last year of college, the longings of my heart united with the fascinations of my mind in the person of Jesus Christ. He was the most beautiful, impeccable truth that I could spend my life in contemplation of. He was the love and presence that I had been aching for.

As I studied Kierkegaard and as I studied scripture with new eyes and a new heart, the formerly fragmented pieces of truth and reality locked into place, not in a way that gave a black and white answer to every question, but in a way that gave a solid shape and pattern to the universe, my understanding, my experiences, and my own identity. I discovered that the most difficult questions, the eternal, existential questions – Why is there pain and suffering? Who am I? How can I know what is true? How should we govern? How does God answer prayer? How does God’s sovereignty fit in with my free choices? – must paradoxically be answered within our personal and concrete experiences. In other words, these difficult existential and practical questions cannot be answered simply and abstractly, in the ivory tower, if you will, but they must be fought out within the contexts, choices, and commitments of our own lives, in the place where divine truths intersect and interact with our own finite lives. This is the paradoxical work of faith, to appropriate the eternal gift into the temporal moment.

And joyfully, there is a clear, consistent pattern which the answers to each of these questions follow; the crucifix, the paradox. Every truth I have discovered, every choice of wisdom or integrity that I have been able to discern, has come with a cruciform shape, the paradoxical tension of Christ in me: the tension of justice and grace, of absolute truth and relative circumstances, of divine sovereignty and human free choice, of accepting my brokenness while pursuing wholeness; these are the patterns of eternal realities fighting their way into a temporal space.

Each Christmas my passion for the paradox is renewed by the wonder and beauty of this season. On this one day, “made holy and special by a sacred mystery.” the whole earth comes, like the perihelion, as near united worship of the Son as it can all year. Although the darkness presses in, the light shines and will not be overcome. Every year, all earth celebrates the joyful impossible. The heavens declare, the rocks cry out, creation groans. Every twinkling light wherever it shines, every gift from any source, very carol by whomever it is sung, speaks of Immanuel, the Lord come near. We embrace “the mystery and paradox of this divine enfleshment… Word-become-flesh, Creator-turned-creature, immensity-contained, fullness-poured-out, power-made-vulnerable, eternity-subject-to-time. All this self-giving by God for our sakes – a gift immeasurable, a love incomprehensible.” A hope insupressible.

 

 

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The Incarnation

I am reading Bobby Gross’ Living the Christian Year as my devotional guide this Advent and Christmas. I have loved his succinct yet comprehensive and clear yet provocative reflections on Christmas.

On page 65 he writes, “The incarnation is God’s great gift to us, or at least the beginning of the gift that culminates in the death and resurrection of Jesus. For God so loved the world – so loved us – that he gave his only Son. God’s mind was to empty himself for us. God took on our poverty so that we might gain his riches. This is what the medieval Chrstians called the admirabile commercium, the wonderful exchange.”

Mr. Gross then quotes from Laurence Stookey [emphasis mine]; “ Christmas is the enfleshment of God, the humiliation of the Most High and divine participation in all that is painful, ugly, frustrating, and limited. Divinity takes on humanity, to restore the image of God implanted at creation but sullied by sin. Here is the great exchange Christmas ponders, that God became like us that we might become like God. God accepted death that the world might accept life.”

I am reading and writing this as I sit in a family cabin in the snowy mountains of Colorado. I feel keenly the paradox of joy and wonder being pulled against by a poverty and emptiness. So far this Christmas we have enjoyed sweet moments of worship, celebration, and loving fellowship. I have been blessed to reflect afresh at the beautiful mystery of this “wonderful exchange”. And yet also, there has been a strong sense of being totally immersed in a place that is “painful, ugly, frustrating, and limited.” Parts of our ‘vacation’ have been humiliating.

The past two years have cracked wide-open some old, painful, and difficult relational dynamics in both of our families. I have begun to more personally understand those who hate the holidays, those who feel betrayed by the glittering, sentimental, proclamations of Christmas cheer and the pressure to gather happily as a family when, in truth, their hearts and relationships are in tatters, far more decorated with pain than with joy. I have felt great trepidation and emotional exhaustion as I attempt to faithfully enter in to our family celebrations. I have wondered if ought to have stayed home, soaking ourselves in the quiet and rest that 12 days off at Christmas with no visitors can provide. It’s been a long, hard year. Have we been unfaithful by not taking a seemingly much-needed, long Sabbath rest?

But as my devotional leads me into renewed reflection on the incarnation, I see that to celebrate Christmas, the day of incarnation, it might indeed be our calling to follow Jesus and do likewise, to let ourselves be dunked into the painful, frustrating, exhausting mess.

This Christmas, we are living the incarnational paradox. We wonder and rejoice. We are refreshed by the beauty of our Lord, and yet we also answer the call to follow him and abide in a place that is lonely, cold, dark, broken and disorienting. We pray and ask that God would help us to love each other as he has loved us, sacrificially willing to set aside a rest and fullness that is rightfully ours in order to be with, love, and bring life to places that have been touched by sin and death. And we are humbled to know that others must seek the same incarnational grace to be with us. And as the incarnational life grows inside of us, we have hope that we will discover not only the heart-satisfying presence of Christ, but perhaps, in slow and new ways, also life and joy in our relationships with each other.

 

Categories: Christmas, Discipleship | 2 Comments

Make a Joyful Mess!

 

For those of you who know me, you may be surprised to know that my family room has looked like this for 4 days. As someone with a (moderately) compulsive need for clean, I offer this as proof of sanctification. I have let the house be enveloped by the holiday fury, sewing projects to finish, laundry mile high waiting to be folded while we watch “Elf”, wrapping paper out, unwrapped presents stashed, and best of all, our new German exchange student living in the family room while we re-arrange the bedrooms for her. (This latter joy is taking an extra long time because the new ikea bed we bought has to fluff and air for 72 hours . . . crazy store, that ikea.)

And I am actually happy about the mess; it feels like the real “spirit of Christmas” (i.e. the Holy Spirit uniquely at work in this season of waiting, expectation, and real heart-and-sacrifice-giving) is living in my home. I sacrifice order to let life happen. We have opened our home wide to stranger from far away and let our hearts truly love her. I have actually managed to do a decent job at Christmas presents in terms of being frugal yet thoughtful, organized, and on time, (uh, almost, there area few crucial gifts to finish . . . ah!) which again, if you know me, you realize is a miracle. I am the worst gift giver; I am forgetful about birthdays and a horribly indecisive shopper. Horribly. When shopping, my perfectionism binds me in a tight, immovable knot. Its just terrible to shop with me, right mom?

So for this week, this is my small, silly, practical way to “prepare Him room.” I have set aside my need for order and cleanliness and opened my house wide open to the activity and mess that is life engaged in loving, un-controlling relationships. There is a grace and joy that swirls through the mess, trips over the laundry, and hums with the sewing machine as it helps me finish imperfect, but made with love, projects. And I find the freedom to give way to the mess, because I know that while God constantly engages his messy people, He is also a God of order. I trust that, as I follow Him and He leads me, there will be a time for a mess and also a time to clean the house, to worship by making our little patch of creation beautiful, and go to sleep Christmas eve night with all in order, all finished that is going to be finished, ready to celebrate the gift of Jesus, Immanuel, Messiah come down.

Categories: Advent | 1 Comment

The Judgmental “Nether-Sphere”

Matthew 7:1-2 - ”Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.


Luke 6:36-38 - Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

I have been thinking often the past few years about these texts and a recent experience brought them to the forefront of my mind again. A cursory reading of Jesus’ words here lend themselves to a Karmaic type of logic. Ok, so if I judge others, than I am going to get a judgement back. Tit for tat, right?  God has a tally system up in heaven and the heavenly (said with Beth Moore accent, if you know what I mean) judge is going to dish one out to me for every one that I slap down on someone else.

Somehow, I have always known that wasn’t exactly the case. As I have entered adulthood and grown in my adult relationships, I have learned that judgement is a spiritual state, if you will. I have noticed that judgmental people are always the most concerned about being judged. I have noticed that I am most paranoid about other people’s assessments, judgements, and opinions when I am most in the habit of assessing, judging, and dishing out my opinions. When I judge, I enter in to a ‘nether-sphere of judgement’. It becomes the air I breathe, the lens that colors my thinking, feelings, and relationships.

This has been a gradual lesson coming on over the years of adult discipleship. As a child and teen, we think more in black and white, so the simplistic ‘tit for tat’ suffices as an explanation for Jesus words. But it has been in the 2 years that I have experienced this reality on a very deep, very personal, and very profound level.

Because of the personal nature, I am sure I will not be able to adequately explain my experience, but I will try to sketch an outline of what I have walked away with. I have been naive about the nature of judgement and criticism. They do not often exist as isolated statements or events, and I have rammed my head and heart against this thick, palpable fortress of darkness. Jesus earnestly warns us; do not judge! Do not step into that dark place! Do not put on that lens! The harm we do to others will be less than the harm we will do to ourselves.

When we step into that place of judgment it becomes the filter by which we experience life and others. When I have a spirit of judgement on me, I will experience others through it. When I judge how smart or thin someone is, I am living in that judgment; I am subconsciously – or very consciously – holding that standard to myself. I will be on the hunt to catch the words of others as judging me on this standard, looking for an indication in their words as to how I measure up. I become trapped within this nether-sphere, a prisoner. I cannot experience what others are actually saying to me. I am cut off from genuine, free intimacy in my relationships. Not even God himself is

Judgement is a prison. And I have been naive, naive in my understanding of it and naive in my belief that I could rescue others from their prison by entering into the darkness with them. Only Jesus can save. Only he can descend to pit and survive the fire to set the captives free. All I can do is accept my own freedom, given to me by the body and blood of Jesus, abide in it, and testify to the one who has given it.

And what a freedom He brings! When I do let go and repent of judgement, of criticism, of comparing myself, and of ungraciousness and unforgiveness, what a spacious free place I enter into! When I assume the best of others, I am free to assume the best of me, of my circumstances, of my own journey. I also gain the hope to believe that others can assume the best of me – that they see me according to the flesh no longer but in Christ – and I loose my fear of relationships and intimacy.

Judgement always seeks to interpret the grey unknown gaps and cracks of life and relationships in a critical manner, trying to gain a ‘one-up’ on others in the never ending, loosing battle to be ‘better’. Instead, forgiveness and grace always seek to interpret the gaps and cracks in the best possible manner, motivated by the divine love which covers a multitude of sins. When I repent of judgement and remove the scales from my eyes, I see what a spacious, free place Jesus has prepared for us to live in. Jesus does not judge us; his heart is not full of criticisms and heavenly finger-pointing:

“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” ~ John 12:46-48

Truly, a “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over,” pouring into our lives. No condemnation, only truth to point us forward. Divine grace is the reality in which we truly live.

As we catch the vision of grace and allow the Holy Spirit to remove the darkness of judgement and criticism, we become more like Jesus, truly free to love and experience others whole heartedly, seeing the best in them that God has created.  And in our own lives, we are free, as Lewis says, to boldly and fearlessly take the adventure that come to us, without shadow of shame or guilt or condemnation.

Categories: Discipleship | 2 Comments

Advent Calendar

This is the story of the Crawford Advent Calendar tradition.

I began with a simple, cheap, felt calendar from Oriental Trading Company. (It is no longer for sale but was kind of like this one.) There was a figure for each of the 24 pockets from the Nativity story (whose cheap gold numbers and cloth figures I had to re-glue every year!)

The first year, I worked on what verses to read each day from the Nativity story as we tried to keep the velcro figures stuck to the cheap, shredding felt calendar. The next year I wanted to add some OT prophesies that helped explain why the Nativity story was so amazing. This took hours of thinking. The OT prophets wrote a lot. For example on the day we pulled out a camel, we would read a prophesy from Isaiah because Isaiah rode a camel, right? I mean, we have seen Veggie Tales Jonah!

The third year, I caught wind of the Jesse Tree movement and tried to do both the Advent Calendar and a Jesse tree. Major overkill. Here is a really wonderful Jesse Tree Devotional if you are looking for one to try.

So fourth year I finally nailed down what elements I would take from the Jesse tree and which ones I would keep from my own evolving tradition. The main reason that I didn’t choose to simply follow one of the Jesse Tree Devotionals is that I didn’t want to rehearse the ENTIRE Biblical story during Advent. It felt like too much to swallow for this one season and I wanted to let the other seasons of the church year have something to teach too. I simply wanted to sketch the outline of the story and highlight important Messianic prophesies.

I then went on a rampage trying to find the right ornaments and I made a calendar that was nice enough to keep indefinately and large enough to hold (most of) our ornaments (using this pattern). Now the only thing to really add is a nicer ornament for some of the days if I happen to find one shopping. We are still using a few paper ornaments form the Jesse Tree and a few cloth figures from our old calendar.


Here is a link to my Advent Calender Activitieslist. I print this off on card stock and cut each day into a strip. Then I fold it in half, add a little decoration on the outside to make it special and tuck each card into the pocket for each day. Each day has a Bible passage to read, an ornament – connected as best as I can to the subject of the verse -to hang on a separate Jesse Tree, and an Advent activity to do for the day. Our Jesse Tree is a medium sized fake tree from Target in the family room and our “main tree’ is just a ‘traditional fake tree’ (oh the hidden history and irony behind that description!) decorated for fun and presents is in the Living room.This year I finally finalized a few other elements to make each day more exciting. I add three dimes, one for each of my three girls, to each day. At the end of Advent, they will choose how much of their money they want to tithe at the Christmas Eve service. And on each Sunday (and maybe a surprise day or two) I add soft peppermint candies. I am determined that the girls will see God as sweet and fun as well as holy and awesome.

I am so happy with our Advent tradition in its present form. It has taken 5 years, but during that time the tradition could really be shaped into something joyful and meaningful and had the time to settled deep enough in our bones to stick with us. This year the girls are finally into it enough that they remember themselves to reach into that pocket each morning, they beg me to read the scripture, they fight over who gets to hang the ornament and they run to the piano to play the song for the day. Ahhhh . . . the fruit of long labor!

I know I haven’t’ shared this early enough to help anyone else with their Advent traditions in 2011, but I will repost it next year in November. For now, I mostly want to share . . . DON’T GIVE UP! Traditions, by definition, take time to stick.

Keep at it and rejoice with me in the truth and reality that the time and energy we invest to really love and enjoy the Lord in our celebrations will bear fruit in our lives and our children’s lives. I know that rehearsing the salvation story each Advent as my children grow will shape their hearts and their minds and stick with them their entire lives. Long after I can no longer be with them wherever they go, the memory of this fun tradition and the word of scripture will be stuck with them, shaping the way they encounter the world, wherever they go.

Categories: Chief Executive Mom | 1 Comment

Advent Chain

It’s December 1st and, if you have kids, the perfect day to make a count down Advent Chain.

Here is a Word Document file for an Advent Chain with Bible verses on each link. Just print this file onto red and green card stock, cut into strips with a verse on each strip, and glue or tape together into a chain. Then each morning, starting today, take a link off and read the verse for the day.

I found the idea for adding verses in the classic, excellent, but out of print book, Celebrating the Christian Year by Martha Zimmerman. She writes,

Most of us at one time or another have marked off days on a calendar as we eagerly awaited a significant event. Children love to participate in this kind of activity. In fact once children are involved they will insist on putting Jesus first in your family life.

 

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The Dawning Glory

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” ~ Revelation 22:16

In the Northern Hemisphere, Advent comes to us in the season of darkness. The December days grow shorter and colder as the nights become longer and darker. All nature reenacts mankind’s Fall; The summer bloom and harvest of Eden gives way to sin’s darkness and decay. The earth grows lifeless and cold. Yet above our dark planet, the stars in their bright, mysterious glimmer, an infinite multitude, fathomless distances away, ceaselessly declare the incomprehensible glory of God.

Thousands of years ago, these starry, angelic hosts must have been quite accustomed to looking down upon our darkened earth. Yet on that one Holy Night, as spiritual death cloaked the earth and even the flickering flame of the old prophets had long been silent, the angelic stars above saw a single, brilliant light pierce the blackness.

These angelic beings spend their endless days dancing joyously around the blindingly brilliant throne of God, reflecting the blazing beauty of his glory as the moon reflects the light of the sun. Yet on that night, the stars could not help but bend near the earth, crowding round the shepherd’s field and singing,

Glory! Glory to God in the highest,
And peace to His people on earth!

Glory to God! The light of heaven has broken the darkness and again come to dwell on earth. The cloak has been torn. His spirit sets our hearts aflame and the tongues of fire flicker and speak again. Now on earth, through His people, the light of His beauty and goodness grows and grows, overtaking the darkness more and more, like billions of stars filling the midnight sky.

This Advent, as the twinkling lights of Christmas grow and fill our neighborhoods, our stores, our streets, and our hearts, we remember that the eternal light of dawn has come, rising toward that full break of day when the stars will be commanded to resist its glory no longer. The angelic host will fall to earth prostrate in praise before the return of the Holy One.

“And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” ~ 2 Peter 1:19

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Christmas Card Finished!

Thank you, Cyber Monday, for pushing me to get this done.

 

Photo Card
View the entire collection of cards.
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