Seeing the Forest but Not the Trees

Our daughter is this ray of sunshine. She is so happy and joyful. On the flip side, when she is sad, she is sssaaaadddd. There is usually no middle ground, all in or all out. But that is part of what makes her her. Laughing, giggling, creative, crying, sobbing, hot mess- those make up her. This morning as we were walking, she kept hiding behind corners, door ways, around bends with her back turned to us. When I would come up to her, or even  just passed, she would turn around and yell “BOO!” Then giggle and laugh that deep belly laugh that is so contagious.

What she didn’t quite get, though, is that when her back was turned toward us, her backpack, coat and head stuck out passed the things she was hiding behind. You couldn’t help but notice her standing there. Not to mention her giggling as she was psyching herself up to scare us. It made it impossible to not know she was there. But, like any parent, when she finally yelled and laughed, we would shout out “WHHOAA, you scared me” to respect the effort she was putting into it all. Though it was tacky, it made her laugh all the more and run up to the next bend in the path to do it again. Like I said, a ray of sunshine in our lives.

Though I try to be observant, I do miss things. I’m not all knowing after all. But I try to be aware of my surroundings, people around me, places I am. Working closely with those in the military a few years ago, they are hyper aware of what’s going on. After going to battle, I suppose you need to be in order to stay alive. I am in no way as observant or aware of my surroundings as they are, but still, I try to be as aware as I can. The monotony of life is probably the hardest time, or times, to be aware. I guess that’s why most car accidents occur within 25 miles from home. For me, mowing the lawn when I was growing up was the most monotonous thing I did. Simply following the line I mowed 5 minutes before, around and around in circles, the constant hum of the engine.Three to six hours each week round and round….monotonous. Oddly, that is one of the first things I crave to do when I get back to the States..mow my folks lawn. That’s another story, I’m sure.

This morning, before our daughter was trying to scare us, I read these verses as I walk through the  50 days after Easter (which is yet another story)….

 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb  and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.  They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).           John 20:11-18

I was fairly moved by this passage. It wasn’t the angels, nor the fact that Jesus’ had risen. It was that He had risen and Mary didn’t even notice Him. She wasn’t aware of God’s presence amidst the despair of losing Jesus. It was so impossible and unusual that the cultural monotony of coming to the grave and trying to find the dead, lifeless body of Jesus that caused her to be unaware of Jesus being resurrected.

I wonder, when I’m caught up in the monotony of my life, what I am missing. I wonder because of my cultural monotony, what am I missing? What am I not aware of that is around me, moment by moment? Easter has come and gone. Other than barbecues, get togethers and fireworks, what are we looking past the monotony in our lives towards? Thanksgiving and then Christmas, I guess? I do, at times, look past what is to come, to the holiday that comes next…to break up the routine, habitual repetition of my daily life. But if I’m looking there, and not looking here, around me, in this moment, what am I missing?

It doesn’t say if Jesus yelled “Mary” or simply spoke her name. I am going to assume the latter. He spoke her name and that familiar voice was enough to shake her out of her dull, one-track-mind thinking into the present reality.  And this morning as I read that passage, He did the same to me. It helped me become aware of what’s going on right now, right  here and not trailing off into the eternal “what if” and “future” thinking.

So, today, let’s be like Mary. Not in the unaware, but in the realization of God, the Christ with us. Near us. Walking with us.

Do you feel the same as I? Here but not really here? Physically present but unaware of God’s presence? Or, are you aware? What is your experience?

Be blessed today

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Becoming More Human

I wish I was perfect. Body, mind, emotions, spirit. I really do wish that. Well, at least sometimes I wish I was. It seems to me that it would make life a lot more liveable. A lot easier. I could be wrong and probably am, but I do wish I was perfect. There are some good qualities about me. I’m tall. I’m likeable (at least I think I am). I like to have fun, but I also like the peace and quiet of solitude. I like to help and I like to get things done. I think I’m a good public speaker and I think I’m creative. I’m sure there are other qualities about me, but I think this is a good list for now.

I think we each, no matter who we are, we each have a list of qualities about us that are good. Qualities that people can say something good about us. Perhaps I’m naive but I really believe that. There are things abut us that are a part of who we are. The ideas we have, opinions we hold based off of beliefs and experiences we have endured. We each have a different life experience from any other person on the planet no matter if you are from the same race, city, neighborhood or family as another person. We each experience the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual world at least slightly different than the other person in the room. Collectively, we make up the human existence. If we are followers of Jesus, and Jesus alone, collectively we are the Body of Christ….the Bride of Christ, we’re called.

Some of us are on the “privileged” side of race, gender and/or economic privilege. And others of us tread the water of disadvantage. Some have great self awareness and some don’t even understand that concept. The list goes on but we are all collectively human. We learn from each other. From each others wisdom, mistakes, successes and failures. We learn from each others  vulnerability or lack there of. Whether it is “I also want to do that” or a “that’s not how I want to live my life,” we learn from each other.

We are not perfect nor will we be this side of heaven. Adam and Eve, they were not perfect. Yet they had an incredible communion with God. Being able to walk in the garden of Eden with Him, allowing His hand to hold theirs, His arm to be around them while they strolled throughout the orchards, forests, ponds…whatever the garden contained. Sitting by the bank skipping stones, feet dangling off the branch of the willow, simply being together.

I was reflecting on a thought I had once…or perhaps I heard it from someone else. Ya, that’s actually more likely. So, the other day, I was reflecting on a thought I heard from someone else. The thought was that as we become more like Christ, we are actually becoming more human. We are becoming more like God had originally intended us to be, before Adam sinned, before Eve sinned. Before the whole place got messed up. He’s calling us to become more like that. Memories of a stroll at sunset, birds chirping, the brook babbling near by as He and Adam just walked and talked. That part of humanity has gotten lost along the way. The relationship broke, the sweetness of it all shattered when the fall came and Adam and Eve were banished. Ever since then, Jesus coming, dying and the promise of His coming again, all of that has been to help us get back to that relationship we once collectively had.

We are all human beings. We all, all 7 billion of us or so, we all have something to offer each other because it is part of our humanness. When we are vulnerable with each other, honest with ourselves and each other, we offer so much of what God originally intended. People being people how God had intended this life to be lived. We are not perfect and we won’t be this side of heaven. But one glimpse, perhaps even a fleeting moment, is when we are humanizing each other by allowing ourselves to fully show up to one another.Allowing ourselves to be truly seen by another. Allowing ourselves to stop talking and listen to another. To try to put ourselves in the place of another, that is becoming more human. That is becoming more of what once was. God is in those moments, in those sacred times of allowing who we are to be seen. In those moments we see how much God loves us and how much we need Him. How much we need the Body.

May we do that today.

May I do that today.

Be Blessed.

So, what about you? What has your experience been like when you have shown up? When others have shown up? What has been your experience when you allowed yourself to be human to another person? I’d love to be apart of hearing your story. It allows us all to become more human and more of what Heaven will be like.

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Nothing To Live For

Being content. Happiness. Fulfillment. Satisfied.

These are all words that have come into my journal the past two to three years. Not so much as I am these things, but more along the lines of will I have or will I attain these things. And more questions like “are we to be happy, are we to be fulfilled or satisfied with where we are (geographically, socially, emotionally, etc)?” I know I’m not the only one who has had to ask the same things, wonder about the answers or spend time reflecting on where I am at the moment. Iris, my friends and others have allowed me to sit in those questions, those sacred glances off into the distance of the past and future. And I wonder am I to ever be content? Am I ever to be happy? Am I ever to be fulfilled? Am I ever to be satisfied? At least “ever” being on this planet.

Ricky Gervais, the British comedian, whom I find really funny, is also an Atheist. He’s fairly outspoken about his faith and has disdain and critique of all religions, especially Christianity.  I really do like his brash and honest comedy, I have read many of his quotes and thoughts on those who believe in Jesus. A few months ago, I read the following quote by him-  “It’s a strange myth that atheists have nothing to live for. It’s the opposite. We have nothing to die for. We have everything to live for.”

I’ve reflected on his thought from time to time wondering if he is correct, if his premise and main notion is true. Do atheists have nothing to die for? Do they have everything to live for? What about those of us who follow Jesus, do we have nothing to live for and everything to die for?

I think Ricky is right. He, as faith in atheism, is right- he has nothing to die for. He has nothing, including himself, that he needs to die to or die for. It is totally up to him as to what he does with his life. Which is why he is right about the second part. He has everything to live for. Anything and everything he wants to do, he can try to do it. That is true. And in the end, he will have done everything that he may have wanted to do for himself that he possibly could.

But does his statement mean that for those who believe in Jesus the complete opposite is true? In other words, if we believe in Christ, we have everything to die for and therefore nothing to live for? In my opinion, not totally. I’ve been trying to figure out why this statement bothers me so much….I think I know why. Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I searched and read and tried to understand why that quote bothered me so much. The idea that I have nothing to live for or nothing to die for really didn’t sit well with me. Praying through that, I realized why. If I, we, live for Christ, it’s a win for us as well. If we die for Christ, it’s a win for us as well. In my mind it looks like a win win. But I am biased. I realize that.

So, how does that fit into being content, satisfied, fulfilled and happy? I know of some people who say that this world is going to hell in a hand basket. “It’s ok, we’ll get it in the end living eternally with God,” is the comment given after some tragic event or negative thing that may happen.  It’s almost a justification for us to accept being beat down, joyless and accepting that God doesn’t have something better for us. I’ve interacted with a lot of people as I have traveled and I am often saddened at the apathetic and defeatist mentality I have found in some of the believers I’ve engaged with.

We have the ability, when we are able to dig through all the layers of junk and dysfunction laying on us, we have the ability to be at incredible peace even though there may be massive chaos around us. This is a gift from the Prince of Peace for all those who follow Him. I am learning that I can be content in Christ, that He satisfies my every thirst. But I am not fulfilled unless I am being used by Him for the purposes He has created me to be apart of. Sometimes I need help in seeing where He is using me, exactly how He wired me. Sometimes I need to lean into the community around me, my support system, to gain perspective as to where He is using me in my giftings. It just may not look like how I envisioned it.

He calls us to Himself, to no one else, to nothing else. Simply to Himself. And as I follow Him, grow closer to Him, learn more from Him, the more I am learning that heaven is Heaven, but there is so much goodness, so many gifts, so much here that He has for me. We have everything to die for-eternity with Someone who loves us deeper than our wildest imagination. But we also have everything to live for-community, nature, compassion, joy and the list goes on. To simply wait for the end to come, when there are glimpses of it now that would be missed, well, that’s not really living, is it?

We have everything to both die and live for. Start living.

Have you found this to be true? In those moment you have chosen life as opposed to waiting for eternity, what was your experience?

Be Blessed

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Lingering and The Butterfly Effect

Lingering and The Butterfly Effect

Butterflies. They’re pretty. The zoo near my folks place has an indoor butterfly garden that I just love. These incredibly delicate flying things. Metamorphosis is alone incredible. I really do enjoy them. They flutter around, looking for more food, cross pollinating for the betterment of crops, forests and wild flowers. They are beautiful. The normal life expectancy, on average, for a butterfly is around two weeks. As beautiful as they may be and flutter from here to there, they don’t live long.

Though I am an extrovert, I fall just over the extrovert/introvert line on the scale. I love to be in front of crowds and parties but in order to recharge I need solitude. Throughout high school and college, even into my early professional years, I was a social butterfly. Fluttering from here to there, trying to be as much apart of what was going on as I could. But I never fully committed to one group of people, one small group of friends. Fluttering around is ok, but eventually it will burn you. It isn’t sustainable. It isn’t something that will give you life, but in fact, will take it from you. Lingering, staying, eating well, drinking well, resting, loosing track of time…these are aspects, if done in moderation, of living a life in community. These are characteristics of living life, not just surviving it.

This past week we were able to host three professionals in the coffee world in the States. They came here to help in training our staff as well as a conference we were putting on. The conference, a huge success and the first of it’s kind here, was wonderful as we sought to build community amongst the coffee world here. Everyone who attended both vendors and the general public alike, thanked us for putting on such an event. I am incredibly thankful.

As a way to get away from the busyness that has consumed us the past several weeks, and a way to enjoy being with our three guests, we headed out to the countryside, to a national park to spend the night in a ger (yurt). Huddled in a 5 bed, one room ger with a single fluorescent light bulb and one wood burning stove in the middle, we were able to talk and just be. Talking about life, great “successes” and great “failures,” family whom we were all missing at the moment, praises and petitions, community was happening. This is where spiritual formation takes place. Moments of vulnerability, raw honesty and truth are where bonds are formed and where trust starts to be built.

I’ve had moments like this with my kids, with Iris, with friends both next door and thousands of miles away. This kind of community is something of great sacredness and holiness. Well, at least to me. I think of Jesus and when the disciples seemed to have the deepest, sometimes hardest truths of God. Some were in public sermons Jesus preached. But, it seems to me, that most of those times were sitting around a table, resting after a hike, gathered around a fire on the beach, in a garden, lingering just a little while longer with each other.

Communities aren’t developed or made when people are busily buzzing from one place to another. They are created in times of great patience, great graciousness given to each other mutually. A few years ago, I was struggling hard with trying to ascertain where it was that God may have been leading us as a family. We knew we were leaving one city, and perhaps a country to move somewhere else, but didn’t know where. I was frustrated, angry, hurting and wanting answers so I would feel stable. But I’ve talked about stability before in a few places.

In a group made up of some of the best leaders in the Church in the States and Canada, we went around sharing what God had said to us during this, one of 4 two week long residentials we would spend together over the course of two years. I had been struggling with not knowing where God wanted us…my first ever Dark Night of the Soul. With tears filling my eyes (not entirely uncommon for me), I yelled “I know what God has for us 20 years from now. But, as to our next steps….I don’t know. I ask, and I hear nothing. I seek and haven’t found anything. I just want Him to show me my next footprint damn it! I just want Him to show me what is next and tell me what the hell is going on!”

My community simply sat, in sacred holy silence watching as God did work in my life. No cliches, no comforting words (though those who speak them usually are only trying to comfort the person uncomfortable with silence, not the one who is hurting). And it was this same community that I would sit with again, six month later in the same circle, thanking them for allowing God to work, sharing with them about where we knew God was leading us. Had I been fluttering instead of lingering, I may not be where I am today. I may not be the person I am today. I pray that we stop the busyness of buzzing around from thing to thing, group to group, person to person and …just………linger. Linger with a few. Linger and lounge and converse and sit with people who are being honest and raw. Those who give life. In community.

be blessed today

Have you found yourself to flutter around? Have you gotten out of that demand of the world? Have you found community? And do you linger in it’s life givingness?


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Oh, Those Self-Degrading Trees

Oh, Those Self Degrading Trees

A week or so ago we decided to take the day as a family sabbath and head around to the other side of a national park here (we have three within a two hour drive). Though dwindling, the larch forests are prevalent here. The government does what it can to protect these trees that are so much a part of tradition, history and culture here, but they are fading quickly. Larch wood is incredibly hard and is quite water resistant. It’s durable and lasts for a long time. Gers, or as we in the West know them as yurts, are constructed using larch because it holds up so well to the elements and lasts so long. What I also didn’t know before moving here was that larch, though they are a needle tree, lose all their needles in the fall and they grow back in spring.

The place we decided to stop and park was tucked back behind the trees in a little clearing, hiding us from the road. We drove across the frozen river in order to get there, which is always a fun thing to do. The wind was howling creating whiteouts and brownouts (sand) in sections blowing across the road. But, it is a beautiful place tucked down the valley from an old Buddhist monastery.

While we were there, trying to hurry up and eat as the windchill was insanely low, we ran around a played a bit. The boys ran up a mountain because they saw a tree (never mind the hundreds of trees that already surrounded us). Emmi, Iris and I stayed closer to the car trying to prepare lunch. When we were running around in and out, around the trees, there was one tree that looked interesting. It was, I think, dead. Some of the branches had been broken off or fallen off. It was tall, taller than most the trees around it, and just standing there, crooked and straight all at the same time.

The tree didn’t quite look like the others did. Yet there it was. It was what it was. Completely unassuming, without intention to look or be better. It stood there, quietly. It didn’t mind where it was, whether branches had fallen off, if it leaned that way or bent this way. It was simply what it was.

I often times wish I could think the same of me. I used to have a massive self doubt problem. From time to time it comes again but nothing like it used to. Second guessing myself, immediately apologizing for a decision or choice I made, doubting myself, my intuition, my personality and doubting who I was. Today still, too many times I get down on myself for appearance, words I wish I had or hadn’t said, decisions I wish I had made differently, etc. I’d love to say I conquered that part of me, but I haven’t. I have become far more confident in who I am in Christ. I have become more confident in how He has made me, wired me, gifted me, skilled me. I have become more confident in my experience with Him in life. But there is still doubt in myself. I guess that happens for a person who is driven by intuition.

One learned behavior I have is after this second guessing or self doubt, I begin to beat myself up about it. No matter how big or small the decision or action actually is, my perception is that it is much larger. Beating myself up is easy. Well, it seems easy.  But it makes life hard. People don’t desire to spend time with someone who is constantly hurting themselves. It is hard to not begin looking at yourself negatively when you are constantly interacting with someone who beats themselves up. I read a study, actually a few, that showed children who were raised by one or more parents who were constantly talking down about themselves, repeated the behavior even though they may have been very young children.

It’s false. It’s not truth.

Thomas Kelly, in his classic work “A Testament of Devotion” writes, “If you slip and stumble and forget God for an hour, and assert your old proud self, and rely upon your won clever wisdom, don’t spend too much time in anguished regrets and self accusations but begin again, just where you are…Learn to live in the passive voice–a hard saying for Americans–and let life be willed through you.”

The larch tree stands unassuming, accepting of what it is-hurt, misshapen, yet strong and forgiving.

Either we make mistakes or mistakes happen to us. Broken people living in a broken world with other broken people. They are moments in time that cannot be taken away. Some of them are incredibly, almost unbelievably painful.  And those moments will need time to walk through, to reconcile.

Walking through, but not living there. Living there is not what God intends. God intends us to live life to it’s fullest. Living in the moment of a mistake is not living, it is being tortured. It is living in a jail cell, you created, being tormented by no masked person. Simply by yourself. You are worth far more than that. Grace is a mysterious thing God has created. Grace looks at mistakes and hurts with compassion, not amnesia. Grace accepts what you may have done, who you are and loves anyway. God has grace for us that is never ending and limitless. Grace allows us to walk through. Grace allows us to reconcile. Grace allows us to see our worth, removes the blinders. Grace, in many cases, as painful as it may be, is the healing balm God has created to heal the wound and hurt. Not remove the scar, but heal the wound.  I pray that we all accept His grace for ourselves and give it freely to ourselves as well today. May the you become like the larch, being who you are in Christ. May I as well.

Where have you seen others give grace? Where have you experienced grace from others? Is it hard for you, as it is for me, to give yourself grace? What helps you to give it to yourself?

be blessed today

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