Eternity in Our Hearts

Bringing what endures into everyday life


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Our starter house, 22 years later (theology of place)

I had no intentions of staying in this house for very long. In my mind, it was the guys’ place, where they had set up a weight room in the dining room and taped posters of pro athletes on the walls. My future husband, John, rented his living space in this house from his friend Mark. It was the stereotypical but legit bachelor pad.

But Mark received an amazing job opportunity in Costa Rica just as John and I were looking for a place to live. So, Mark sold the 1970’s-era ranch on Ironkettle Road to us, and after our honeymoon I moved in, temporarily I thought.

Almost 23 years later, the “starter house” on Ironkettle is still our home.

We put it on the market once, thinking that it was time for us to move onto a bigger and better place. There was this house I longed for, which was for sale on Porch Swing Lane, with brick, two stories, a front porch, a garage even! But nothing happened with our own house, not a hint of interest. I couldn’t blame the potential buyers who made an appointment for a showing but then decided that they didn’t even want to walk in. John and I didn’t know much about curb appeal, especially since I wasn’t emotionally invested in this space. And there was no HGTV back then.

So, we took down the “for sale” sign, and we’ve never considered trying that again. Although years later, we could probably sell easily. Our little home has a new roof, new siding, new windows, new shutters, established perennials and trees, new kitchen, expanded master bed & bath, and is a neighborhood school for the highest-rated schools in our city.  With my parents’ assistance and my brother’s talents for building and carpentry, our “fixer-upper” looks pretty good for a 1970’s house.

But still, I have struggled with mixed sentiments about this place for 22 years. Somehow, we landed in a section of our city where the average income is high. Our humble and older street, which exists without a neighborhood association or a pool or clubhouse, shares a zip code with country club neighborhoods and million-dollar homes. When we visit the homes of friends we’ve made through church or our daughter’s school, I just struggle. As Theodore Roosevelt wisely said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Those houses, after all, have the space and the shine which we lack. I return home, and the house feels tiny and worn and dated. For all our efforts to fix her up inside and out, she is what she is.

These feelings are relative, of course, and cause a messy tension between contentment and longing and guilt within. Because we have also returned to the house on Ironkettle from our travels to some of the poorest places on earth, and we understand that our family possesses abundance well beyond our needs. We have what we have, and it is very good.

Even if we could afford to move, we’ve decided that our starter house is our keeper home, Lord willing. This little home on Ironkettle houses our most cherished memories. Our daughter took her first steps here. Sometimes when I look out at the backyard, I can still picture her little feet stomping in the mud at the bottom of the slide. Every first-day-of-school photo is taken where the sidewalk meets the driveway, in front of the lantana. Daddy’s knack for fixing anything is evident throughout these rooms. We planted the crepe myrtle which now stretches far above the roofline. Inside and outside, my brother crafted all the trim by hand. Somewhere between the carpet and the baseboard, I’m sure you could find pine needles from 22 Christmas trees. We have celebrated and cried hard within these walls.

For all the joys we’ve experienced within our little home, we’re increasingly aware that God is up to something on the outside too. Our pastor calls it “theology of place,” based on Paul’s sermon recorded in Acts 17: From one man God made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

This Scripture assures us that the house on Ironkettle is our divinely appointed home. Of course, we can’t presume that He will always keep us here, but for now we see “the boundary of our land” as an opportunity gifted by God. Through our current circumstances and in our hearts, we sense Him telling us to stay and let these roots grow deeper. We are called where we are, until God moves us.

It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching. (2)

Except for the first 6 years of my life and 4 years of college, I have lived in two homes – my parent’s home and my present home. Both addresses are one street off of Providence Road. I think this is sweetly providential and reminds me that “theology of place” ordains each context with divine purpose and ministry.

Looking beyond this “starter home,” as I did for so many years, diminishes the sacred importance of what’s happening on Ironkettle. I started to realize this, not long ago, when my next-door neighbor mistakenly thought that we placed a “for sale” sign in the yard.  Turns out that her vision is not so good, and it was just a garden flag.

But she told me that she had a moment of panic, thinking that we were leaving. And it occurred to me that perhaps we really do matter, in this house, on this street. These neighborly relationships are where, by His grace, God is teaching us to see Scott, not just as the guy who mows his grass every Sunday but as a soul, an image-bearer of God who is created for His saving love and redemption. Just as freshly-strewn seeds of grass occasionally take flight on the wind and land amongst our neighbors’ yards, we believe that God has entrusted our family with grace to spread.

It takes courage to go and talk to Scott. We’ve been to China, the Dominican Republic, and Albania to share the Gospel and yet we pause over the prompting to cross the street. This is where our faith is most stretched. Yet God is stirring up our love for Scott and his family. We know that Jesus loves them and can use any person and any means He wishes to bring Scott to Himself. But what an incredible faith-building blessing we could miss if we choose to look the other way, grab the mail and retreat, and not say yes to the opportunity to be God’s messenger.  And we don’t know … tonight could be the night that Scott’s car doesn’t ever return to his driveway.

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And so, our starter home is the place where God is starting His new work in my heart, that I might seek what He is doing in my ordinary, ordained mission field. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I march across the street and whip out my carefully-scripted Gospel presentation on Scott. But it starts with valuing and engaging my neighbors. It begins as I stop making excuses about the stains and the square footage and I choose a spirit of hospitality, opening my home in an effort to serve and to love. As my pastor likes to say, “The Gospel moves at the speed of relationship.” To me, this means that in the daily rhythms of life we look for ways to talk with people, to prayerfully discern where the Holy Spirit is moving in this context, and humbly display a life of dependence on Christ, being ready and obedient when He tells us to move –

– as we stay, on Ironkettle Road.

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image courtesy of Holley Gerth

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Need a pick-up? Holley is writing today on “gratitude when you’ve got an attitude” (like I have sometimes about my house!) She’s also hosting a link-up for writers who are sharing words of encouragement, Coffee for your Heart {here}.


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A grateful prayer for teachers

 

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God, we thank You for the seed planters, those who hold kernels of knowledge with open hands and release them to the soil of the future.

Dedication spurs them to greet each early morning and prepare the ground for growth. The seed planters approach the learning fields, not knowing if the soil will be dusty and unyielding that day, or tender and willing. But faithfully they plant and wait for harvest. You supply vision and strength to press on, and we reap the benefits of their perseverance.

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The seeds are unique, and equally important. Some carry the fundamentals of letters or numbers or respect for authority or the discipline of waiting one’s turn. Other seeds bear the blueprints of equations or critical thinking or elements of composition.

Heavenly Creator, You are the source of all intricacies, patterns, origins and foundations of life. We thank You for the planters who bear Your image as they delight in design, pursue creativity, and inspire discovery.

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Every seed develops slowly, first downward before upward. We thank You for the planters who understand the importance of deep roots. We are grateful for the planters who understand that knowledge without character is a lacking goal. As they wait and as they invest in success beyond externals, we ask You, God, to supply wisdom, perspective, and patience.

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Some seeds will sprout for a time, until they are tested, and the soil will let them wither away. But other seeds will slowly reach down and then branch out – one word, one lesson at a time – until a life purpose rises from the soil and unfolds.

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We release our culturally-imposed pressures and we trust that growth progresses in Your time and in Your way. May the planters trust You with the fruits of their labors. And may the fruit-bearers hold kernels of knowledge with open hands and release them to the soil of the future.

Let us join You in speaking hope and purpose into the seed planters. The offering of the seed is difficult and sacred work. Let us, the parents and fellow investors and co-laborers, offer life-giving water, to sustain and refresh both the sowers and the soil. Into our fields – our children and our communities – spur us to cultivate Christ-like love and honor and respect.

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With grateful hearts, we thank You, God, for the teachers, the seed planters. Their every effort matters as an act of hope, an investment into a field that we may never see with earth-bound eyes. Yet, we trust and rejoice in the future harvest – for every seed, every enduring act of hope, every eternal harvest finds its source and sustenance in You.

May Jesus Christ be praised. Amen.

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a grateful prayer for teachers (2)

 


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Dear younger me (the anorexia years)

I recently heard Dear Younger Me, a new song by Mercy Me and I wondered – if I wrote a letter to my younger self, what would I say and what time of life would I choose? Middle school? High school? College? Those were certainly significant seasons when I made decisions that have shaped who I am today. But undoubtedly I would write to the person I was in the most heart-wrenching and pivotal time of my life – in my mid-twenties when I struggled for 5+ years against anorexia. Many years later, here is what I would say to that young woman –

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Dear younger me,

This is not the end. Night is darkest just before the morning. I’m writing to tell you that there is hope. I know it’s hard to believe now, but you need to know that healing and joy await you. But freedom will come at a cost, and I am years down the road to tell you that your life is worth it.

You are not your eating disorder. I know you feel utterly consumed by shame and fear. You think that little exists of your life other than your obsession with controlling your weight and your calories. You feel, not only in body but also in mind and in soul, a sliver of the person you used to be. But you are still you – lover of all things Disney, gardener, sports fan, bookworm, wife, daughter, sister, friend.

Let me tell you who you are most importantly. You are a beautiful daughter of God, and He has not turned from you. He created you according to His pleasure and His purpose, and that hasn’t changed (Ephesians 1 and 2). You still make Him smile. He still sings songs of love over you (Zephaniah 3:17).

God’s plans for you remain full of promise (Jeremiah 29:11). Your mistakes won’t negate His love for you (Romans 8:38-39; Psalm 103:12). One pound more or one pound less cannot change one ounce of His delight for you. The way you idolize control breaks His heart but it doesn’t break His unfailing acceptance.

You are redeemed and glorious because you bear God’s image, and He sees beyond your destructive behavior into the heart that He fights for.

Do you think that God would uniquely and purposefully create you, provide a way for your eternal peace through the anguish of the Cross, and then weigh you down with the burden of proving your worth? No, He is waiting for you to come to Him and receive the rest of knowing that Jesus is enough.

Younger me, you can overcome. You have not received a spirit that makes you a slave to fear but you have received the Spirit of a child of God (2 Timothy 1:7, Romans 8:15). You believe in the Resurrection. Did you know that the same power lives in you? Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). Because I’ve known you for awhile, I can say that you aren’t brave except for the power that Jesus gives you. And He will give.

Desperately cling to His strength for one decision at a time. Your grip on control is just an illusion, but the older me can tell you that Jesus is victorious, and He will break the chains that have held you captive.  In Christ, the old will pass away and the new will come! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus gave His all to pluck you from the hands of destruction. As you claim Christ, you are not your own; you were bought with a precious price (1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20). Jesus promises neither an easy life nor a culturally prosperous life but He promises that you will find your deepest, most liberating satisfaction in trusting Him (John 10:10). This means that you must open your hands. You must let go. Your freedom will become reality as you yield to the Lord.

To be accepted and to be approved, you have tried too hard for too long. When you say yes to surrender, you will be okay. Jesus will gently guide you to trust your counselors and your nutritionist. I know some people say that you should just pray more, but you really do need your helpers. They are a part of God’s provision for your healing. And at the point of every eating decision, Jesus will make you brave. You may be embarrassed to attend a support group but God will place compassionate people in your path who believe there is a healthy and whole woman inside of you, and they will rejoice as she emerges. Every time you loosen your grip, remember that she is worth it.

Let me tell you why healing is worth every painful choice. The Author of your story has much more to write. He longs to weave redemption into every page. Younger me, Psalm 107 will become for you a word of testimony:

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so … Some wandered in desert wastelands; they were hungry and thirsty and their lives ebbed away.

They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for His love and for His miracles. He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry.

Some sat in gloom and darkness; they were prisoners suffering in chains … they refused to eat anything and drew near the gates of death.

In their misery they cried out to God. He sent forth His word and healed them. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His love and for His miracles.

Let them tell of His works with songs of joy.

Younger me, your people are going to stay. They are God’s gracious gift to you. Your husband will love you persistently. God has made him brave too. One day, together, you will marvel at what God has done (Psalm 126:3). Your marriage will be sweeter and stronger and more precious that you have ever imagined.

Your mama and daddy will have full hearts once again. One day, sooner than you might expect, they will need you, and you will be there. Jesus will make it so.

Some friends will fall away because watching you go through this is too awkward and painful. But I think you already know who the steadfast friends will be. Ahead there will be lighthearted times when you laugh freely with them again.

Although you think that you’ve damaged your body to that point that pregnancy is impossible, God is able (Ephesians 3:20). One day, this deep desire of your heart will be met in one whose name means “song of joy.”

God has plans for His glory through your healing. You will share your recovery story in magazines, with high school students, and through something called the internet.

Younger me, you will come to the place where you finally forgive yourself. Yes, you’ve lost your career; you’ve been ridiculed and rejected by people who said hurtful things. But one day you will know that God wastes nothing. Somehow, in His plan, He turns ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:3). You will experience a deeper compassion for yourself and for people battling addictions and shame.  One day you will seek out hurting women and lead support groups; it will not be comfortable, but God will make you comfort-able (2 Corinthians 1:4).

And finally, one day, freedom will taste so good. You will receive gifts, even the ones with calories, with deep joy and gratitude. Your legs will run, without compulsion, but with an appreciation for the ability to exercise a healthy body. You’ll travel across the world to countries where you’ll eat bizarre foods and thrive in the crazy, once unimaginable, adventure of it all. You will embrace celebration and creativity through food as its power over you is submitted daily to the Cross. And as your loved ones gather around the table, it will no longer be a place of angst and concern. You will join them in communion, in thanksgiving, in the fullness of gladness and life.

Girl, you have a lot of life ahead of you. Go and live free. I can’t wait to meet you here.

To God be the glory,

~ Renee, your older me

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Such good words of hope from Holley Gerth:

You are living a story today. A story crafted and told by the Author of heaven. The star-scatterer. The mountain-mover. The water-walker. It is a story of grace. A story of hope. A story of, most of all, love.

Sometimes the plot is confusing. Or strange. Or sad. Sometimes we want to cut a chapter out with sharp scissors. Sometimes we want to be the editors with the red ink. Sometimes we want to skip right to the end just to make sure it says “and they lived happily ever after.”

But this is not our role. It is not for us to say, “This is what happens next” or “I’m changing the ending.” Instead we are to trust, to wait, to be in the middle of the mystery. There is so much we do not know, that we will not know, but we can be certain of this: the Author is good and we are loved … there is a God at work who has always been speaking, always been creating something beautiful in the middle of the broken.

I’m one of many writers who are joining Holley’s link-up today. Together, we are grateful that Jesus holds the pen.

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November Teaches Us to Have Open Hands

“Did you know that fall exists because of the Fall?”

My daughter asks me this as we talk about what she learned in Chapel.

“I haven’t thought of it that way but I know the leaves, so beautiful in all their colors, are in the process of dying.”

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We watch leaves fall to earth and reflect on autumn as a season of beauty and death, letting go and giving thanks. The crimson and golden leaves express the truth that beauty and death exist harmoniously, and can we accept this?

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The cycles of sowing, harvesting, degeneration, and rebirth are a natural, rhythmical part of our landscapes. Genesis tells us, however, that God created the Garden to be a place of continual abundance. Ever since the first sin, our sustenance from the land requires labor and vulnerability to drought, storms, and decay.

Our hearts know the vulnerability too. Emotionally we pass through seasons of abundance, seasons of loss. Past Novembers have found me in a cancer clinic, a funeral home, and a mental health hospital.

In such places, how do I give thanks?

As I remember these things and think about the conversation with my daughter, I ponder the thought that God made autumn, the dying season, beautiful anyway. I see myself in the letting-go, one leaf after another releasing from the limbs. The hope of redemption is the only thing that roots me. While November reminds me of pain, it also offers me a picture of the Gospel. Although death and devastation of the heart entered the human story, God married the gut-wrenching and the glorious at the Cross. 

November, the dying season, teaches me that these shriveled and decaying leaves produce rich soil for new life to grow.

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In moments of seeking life out of loss, I read reflective thoughts on the season, and I’m drawn to this:

Fall is a season for accepting the impermanence of things.

My heart says yes. This is way my soul has learned to live. How else can I open my fist and accept hope – except for the truth that only eternity is permanent?

And how else can I find purpose in this life – except to open my fist and say yes to generosity because nothing I possess is mine for keeps?

On this day when the gold and crimson fall like rain, my heart whispers a prayer of Moses: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

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About Thanksgiving, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Let us give thanks and walk into Advent knowing that time is manufactured for eternity and the breath of humanity for the glory of God.”

November portrays the wisdom of open hands, of trusting that I am deeply rooted in grace and I will be okay when it’s time to release. When it comes to things most important, most significant, and most enduring, I’ve received all that I need, and no matter what happens, it is well. When the winds blow and the seasons change, my soul is held fast in permanence.

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And so, all that I have and all that I am on this side of heaven are gifts to me but not mine to hold. As I am a receiver, I am also a releaser. Whatever is impermanent – my possessions, my time – can be lifted from my hands on the winds of God’s will to higher purposes, if He chooses.

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Those with open hands, who let the leaves fall and who watch for spring, are the ones who learn to say “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

The process of releasing our thanks, with our very lives, is no easy fix, no recipe for blunting our pain, no emotional escapism. Sometimes my hands ball up into fists and I want to fight. Yet grace reminds me that Jesus renounced His will and opened His hands on the Cross out of love. And as the recipient of such love, I can always be grateful even when I cannot be happy.

“God is good” is not some trite quip for the good days but a radical defiant cry for the terrible days “God is good” is not a stale one-liner when all’s happy but a saving lifeline when all’s hard…. Thanksgiving in all things accepts the deep mystery of God through everything. ~ Ann Voskamp

And so, November, this time of impermanence – for me, this time of hard things, is my reminder that only God can intermingle hope with death, gain with loss, suffering with redemption, and eternity with humanity.

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“Did you know that fall exists because of the Fall?”

Yes, and God made autumn beautiful anyway.


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Sacred September (because you are an artist and your art matters)

“We’re in a lull right now,” and I knew what the radio announcer meant — it’s the in-between of seasons. School & football have started and daylight is waning but I’m not ready for raking leaves and buying pumpkin-everything.

I’m wearing long-sleeves & jeans while my daughter is in shorts because we can’t figure out what to wear. Sandals or boots today?

Seems to early to plant pansies, but my flower beds that bloomed heartily in the heart of summer are tired and done.

September lulls me back into a reluctant place of fixing lunches and checking homework and making lists and running errands. The beginning of September, like a second January of sorts, was filled with newness and expectancy, but now our days feel stalled in the “in-between.”

Flickr - mcamcamca. CC2.0

Photo credit, mcamcamca. CC2.0

Gone are the carefree days of summer and yet to come are the cozy comforts of fall. It’s just an ordinary day.

These are the days when my creativity is as drained as my flowers, or so I think. I’d like to be inspired by the autumn reds, yellows, and oranges but those colors have yet to burst on the scene. Maybe I could compose inspirational words about Thanksgiving but it’s not the giving-thanks season.

Hmm.

Perhaps you feel this way? Could you be in an in-between place too? Life feels kind of uninspiring, maybe small. There’s nothing especially spectacular about you or your world at the moment. Maybe a season of productivity has wilted like tired flowers. Do you have anything to offer? You wonder if God is able to use you in this place, this lull.

But even if you don’t claim “art” as a profession or hobby, you’re an artist. Did you know that?  Every day you’re given opportunities to tell a story, weave words into conversation, create environments for your professional and personal relationships, and reflect the image of our creative and caring God.

God can use you in the lull. This ordinary place can be a meaningful offering, and perhaps an eye-opener to the million little ways that God is showing up in your life, ready to be expressed in your world.

I believe this because I’m reading A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman.

“When we resist living within our ordinary days, we are in danger of losing a sense of ourselves. We don’t need to walk away from our routines and daily rhythms to find something more interesting. More often we need to wake up to them” (page 118).

Sacred happens between the church aisles, but may God give us eyes to see Him in the grocery aisle, the hallways of home, the neighborhood sidewalks, and all the ordinary, ordained paths that make up life.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Kate Ter Haar. CC2.0

Flickr, Kate Ter Haar. CC2.0

I recently traveled a painful journey through sickness and loss, with crisis moments along the way. And just months ago, I experienced the kind of poverty that wrecked my insulated, North American existence.

Why, why, why would I feel dulled by ordinary days?

Perhaps in managing life, I’m missing life being beautiful.

To me, this ordinary day finds me not at the hospital or responding to an emergency or wondering where my child’s next meal will come from. In my context, ordinary is quite a gift. But I’m not entitled to ordinary. I never know when life will bottom out or go roller-coaster on me again, so each ordinary moment offers me a choice about my perspective. Will boredom or blessing set the tone of this day?

Ordinary days – September days – consist of life-giving moments. Instead of waiting for the next big thing, I want to settle into the small beauty of packing lunches and checking homework (except math).  Little moments of intimacy can matter for eternity while grandiose moments of importance might last as long as the wood, hay, and stubble.

My soul craves a giving-thanks day every day. A lull can be a holy space to simply breathe and receive grace; to stop controlling and allow Him to design the canvas; to step back and be yielded to the vision of the Artist; to pause and behold what He calls beautiful.

Ordinary is where our most God-glorifying art comes from. As we search for God’s purpose for our lives, He’s beckoning us to just pay attention to where He is working.

The beauty of our lives is drawn out of our response to God, and He meets us, not just on Sundays, but in the seeking heart.

Prixel Creative @ Lightstock

Prixel Creative @ Lightstock

Friend, your ordinary matters.

“Ministering in everyday opportunities that surround us does not mean that we select our own surroundings— it means being God’s very special choice to be available for use in any of the seemingly random surroundings which He has engineered for us. The very character we exhibit in our present surroundings is an indication of what we will be like in other surroundings.

The things Jesus did were the most menial of everyday tasks, and this is an indication that it takes all of God’s power in me to accomplish even the most common tasks in His way. Can I use a towel as He did? Towels, dishes, sandals, and all the other ordinary things in our lives reveal what we are made of more quickly than anything else. It takes God Almighty Incarnate in us to do the most menial duty as it ought to be done.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, entry for September 11.

Your art is made of whatever opportunity you have to sanctify life and glorify God. Whatever your art is – your parenting, your listening, your befriending, your mastery with numbers, your teaching, your writing, your praying, your building, your homemaking, your giving – it matters.

You are God’s workmanship, and any given day holds holy, if unexpected, moments in which He can orchestrate experiences where His glory blows your blinders off.

Fellow artist, let’s show up to the page.  Let’s be who we are and offer our ordinary without concerning ourselves with the outcomes. Sacred things happen in September.

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The meaning of our lives is not dependent upon what we make of it but of what he is making of us … What makes us come alive goes deeper that what we choose to do in our professions and our free time. What makes us come alive is life, and this life is Jesus. Painting, cooking, parenting, calculating, and conversation all have the potential to hold within them a mystery and an expression of our life in Christ.  Emily Freeman, A Million Little Ways, page 30.

“It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God – but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people – and this is not learned in five minutes.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

“The discovery of God lies in the daily and the ordinary, not in the spectacular and the heroic. If we cannot find God in the routines of home and shop, then we will not find Him at all.” Richard Foster, Prayer.

I found the Oswald Chambers and Richard Foster quotes in Emily Freeman’s Simply Tuesday, her latest book on the grace & beauty of small-moment living.


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A Good Home

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Daddy built us a good home. In the 1970’s, he drew the plans for rooms which would house his family’s joys and sorrows and togetherness for almost 40 years. In recent months, I’ve emotionally detached myself from my childhood home, trading nostalgic wistfulness for the tiresome duties of cleaning, sorting, packing, repairing, and preparing to move on.

But today I will hold the keys to my past in one hand and a pen in the other, signing over these rooms to another family who will create a future in their midst. The memories rush in, and I am happy and heartbroken. I remember.

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Countless games of hide and seek among the dogwoods and pines. The vibrations in the walls when my brother played his bass guitar. Good dog Charlie who faithfully kept all my secrets. Prom and graduation pictures with my big hair, 80’s style. The smell of Mom’s chicken casserole. The year that Daddy decided that he wanted a cedar Christmas tree with old-school colored lights and silver tinsel and Mom adorned her own fir tree in elegant white and gold.

I remember how Daddy, a General Motors man, muttered under his breath when my date parked a Toyota in the driveway. And months later, how he looked damp-eyed and proud when we came home to show off my new ring.

At night, when I was little and afraid, I would gaze at the light from the living room as it filtered through the crack in my bedroom door. And somehow the light formed the shape of an upturned hand reaching across the shadows on my ceiling. The hand invited and comforted me, and I knew God was there. I felt chosen and loved.

And home, I learned from an early age, is that place that beckons me. I understand that not everyone is able to look back at their childhood with warm memories of home. Yet, I believe that all of us feel this beckoning – this innate longing to be chosen and loved – to find where we fit.

In a world of shifting shadows, home is where there is purity, wholeness, safety, togetherness, and joy. It is a glimpse of Jesus and of our being made into His image and of His promise to love, restore, and heal.

Home is something we belong to and something that belongs to us in Christ.

We realize that we are a long way from Eden, our original home, where we were meant to walk in unbroken fellowship with God. And ever since sin separated us, we are homesick for heaven where suffering, temptation, doubt, and injustice are absent. Although we try, through worldly pleasures, accomplishments, or concoctions to numb the pain, we simply can’t come home to life as it was meant to be, forever.

But Jesus, the only One who could, has made a way. His light cuts through the dark and extends a hand of invitation. He calls us by name and says that we belong to Him. He doesn’t invite us to a perfect place in the here and now; if we identify with Him, we will be as strangers on this earth, still touched by sorrow, loss, perhaps injustice and persecution. But hope endures and will carry us on to our heavenly home, the imperishable place we have held in our hearts all along. Jesus is already drawing plans for rooms to house the eternal joys and togetherness of everyone who has trusted in His name.

He is building a very good home.

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Jesus’ promise in John 14: Do not let your heart be troubled. You have put your trust in God, put your trust in Me also.  There are many rooms in My Father’s house. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going away to make a place for you.   After I go and make a place for you, I will come back and take you with Me. Then you may be where I am.  You know where I am going and you know how to get there.

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way to get there?”   Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one can go to the Father except by Me.

2 Corinthians 5:1 ~ For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.

Hebrews 11: 8 – 10 ~ By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God. (The Message)


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Five Minute Friday :: Here

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My daddy had a few pet peeves, and I remember a certain one occasionally when checking out at the grocery store. Daddy got aggravated whenever a cashier handed the receipt with a “Here you go …” I suppose he considered it a poor substitute for “thank you.” And now I notice that “here you go” instead of “thank you” is fairly commonplace, but I receive it with a smile as I imagine Daddy muttering under his breath.

In Daddy’s ears, “Here you go,” was dismissive – as in “move along now.…” But “thank you” was appreciative – as in “we’re glad you visited our store.” Pet peeves, including my own, are usually just minor annoyances. Even as Daddy grumbled about this, I didn’t see it as any big deal … “Here you go” rolls off the tongue just like “how are you?” But sometimes pet peeves reveal a state of the heart, and I think Daddy, like the rest of us, wanted to be seen and acknowledged.

Thinking about Daddy’s cause for aggravation reminds me of how easily I go through life in a dismissive way. In my rushing about, how often do I pause and see those around me? I long to move through my days with more awareness of the people and gifts that bestow life with sacred qualities.  I think about my relationship with my heavenly Father and how often I approach Him with a “Here you go” attitude:

“Here you go, God. I’m saying a casual blessing over my food.”

“Here you go, God. I’m reading a Bible verse this morning.”

“Here you go, God. I’m putting my hard-earned money in the plate.”

And then I walk away, and my “here you go” is meaningless. Perhaps I’m even hoping that God moves along so that I can get on with my business.

Heavenly Father, thank You for this simple reminder about gratitude. I confess that I often don’t take time to acknowledge Your presence and see Your gifts. In truth, sometimes I just want to focus on my own agenda. I ask for Your forgiveness and seek the help of Your Spirit in pausing, offering my true thanksgiving, and inviting You into every part of this day. Also, I ask that You would help me to see other people as You see them, never dismissively but as persons loved and valued in Your sight. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Here I am to worship and offer a thankful heart. Amen.

Five Minute Friday” is a weekly opportunity for writers to write for five minutes on the same topic. Stop by Kate’s place @ katemotaung.com to read what other bloggers are writing about the word “here.”

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