Eternity in Our Hearts

Bringing what endures into everyday life


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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.

*******

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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Five Minute Friday :: Yes

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As I lifted the rear door of our SUV, my mother’s decorative table tumbled out and fell to the driveway before I could catch it. I turned it back onto its (now) wobbly legs and ran my hands over the fresh scratches and dents. I had promised Mom that I would bring her prized table to the new apartment, and feeling heavy-laden with dozens of other boxes and possessions to transport, I had become careless and hurried. My friend, who watched me load the car, cautioned me to secure the little table, but I brushed off her advice and went on my rushed way.

And so I stood, feeling foolish and failed, over the damage. For a second, I wondered if the neighbor – seen from the corner of my eye – was watching. Then all the feelings of fatigue and frustration came over me, and I didn’t care who knew that I messed up again. I whimpered aloud a familiar & exasperated question – one that I’ve asked myself as a student, a wife, daughter, mom, Christ-follower ….

WHY do I try so hard?

All my life I’ve been a try-hard girl. I used to blame it on my dad, as if his work ethic had been transmitted into my genes. But no, the truth is that my identity has most often been found in my ability to achieve and to please and to satisfy my own ego and other people. And so I push and strive, and my life is pulled along by compulsion instead of joy and fulfillment.

I’m tired.

I know there’s a better way, and I can choose it, if only I would.

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Ironically, I guess, I close my eyes and imagine a table. And Jesus has made a place for me. A table is an invitation to pause, to sit, to have conversation, and to receive. When I meet Jesus here, I leave behind my identity of an achiever. With Jesus, there is never obligation. Simply invitation.

Jesus invites me to say yes to His offer of freedom from other’s opinions, from my own striving. I gave my Savior my most significant “yes” many years ago, as a child. And since then, He’s invited me to countless sacred “yeses” – to agree with Him that abundant life isn’t found in obligation but in opportunity. And the opportunities that He offers are never burdensome. Instead, they are life-giving, grace-filled, and ripple into eternity.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~ Jesus’ invitation, Matthew 11:28 – 29 (The Message).

** Lord Jesus, You invite me to grace and You compel me with love. I never have to fear Your displeasure, and my life doesn’t have to be motivated by “should-to” and “ought-to.” Instead, I get to say Yes to who I am in Christ and to participate in Your sacred, life-giving, eternal purposes. Please help me to discern the difference between obligation and invitation and to freely offer You my best yes **

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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 “yes.”

Photo credits –

http://bossfight.co/old-room-random-stuff-furniture/

http://bossfight.co/woman-sitting-table/

Boss Fight – Completely Free (do whatever you want) High Resolution Stock Images & Photos, Daily

Loving this book, Your Sacred Yes by Susie Larson, and highly recommend it –

book-white


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My Wish for Us in the New Year

Every now and then, when driving, I realize that I’ve traveled a distance without being consciously aware of surrounding sights and sounds. (Does this ever happen to anyone else?) The radio is playing as usual, and my car traverses the intended course, and – as far as I know – I’ve observed all traffic laws.  All of the senses commanding my vehicle, however, are seemingly on auto-pilot.

This time, the real action was going on inside my mind, driving me further down a regretful road of would-haves, could-haves, and should-haves, and a remembrance of all my shortcomings and doubts was buckled securely in the passenger seat.

When I “came to,” I heard O Holy Night on the radio and reached to change the station. (Though O Holy Night is a cherished hymn of Christmas ages, I confess it’s not a personal favorite. Who – except those with voices that belong in the heavenly chorus – can hit all those notes?) But my ears – and my heart – heard this, as if for the first time:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

As we welcome a new year, when we typically choose our resolutions or our “one-word,” I want this ‘the soul felt its worth’ – this reason for the incarnation – to inhabit my heart.  This one phrase was a gift to me in the moment, yet my soul needs more than momentary relief. I need to re-open the truths of who I am in Christ every day.

And I think of my daughter and my mother and my family & friends and you, dear readers, and I ask the Holy Spirit to transform us with the truth that those in grace are not the achievers but the receivers. Grace doesn’t say “if only you had kept last year’s resolutions” or “what if you don’t deserve love?” Grace comes to us only in the “what is” – the unstoppable, unchanging, unrestricted love and favor of God.

And so, may our souls deeply feel their worth in Jesus, the One who loves and redeems us. In the year to come, it remains true – our acceptance in Christ doesn’t depend upon our achievements.  The Father purchased our souls with the priceless, life-giving blood of His Son. Once we’ve received this gift, there is no failure, no disappointment, no would-have, could-have, or should-have on our parts that can invalidate it.

Rather than resolving to fix ourselves, may we fix our eyes on the One who clothes us in His peace and righteousness. I wish for you and for me the kind of release that comes when we live for Christ, not under a yoke of compulsion, but with a heart compelled by love to worship and serve Him. May we always reach to change the station when our inner critics hit the airwaves. Let us rest in the understanding that our worth lies not in what we do but only what He has done, and may each day find us receiving more of His grace-gift.

What’s more, understanding the worth of souls is understanding that Christ died for our neighbors and the sex slaves and the orphans and the refugees and the people of a different color or nationality or faith.  May that truth transform how we see and treat life – whether young or old; rich or poor; able-bodied or impaired; slave or free; weak or strong.

And may worship happen as we live our lives as the image-bearers, offering our souls the space to breathe and receive grace, allowing God to design the canvas, yielding to the vision of the Artist, and ascribing all worth to Him. The weight of maintaining self-worth is more than we are meant to bear, and we will never have true peace or satisfaction until our souls turn to the purest, most-worthy Object of our worship. The beauty of our lives is drawn out of our response to God, and He meets us, not just on Sundays (and not only if our voices hit the high notes).

May our worship – our ascribing worth to God – be deeply drawn and offered from a place of receiving and honoring worth in our and every soul.


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Your Offering Matters

If you are sufficient for your task, it is too small.” This challenge, offered by Pastor John Piper, captured my attention. And in a Salvation Army book of prayers, I discovered a bold request:

We hear Your call to go – go and make disciples,

Identify with strangers, walk on shifting sands, and

Build a kingdom church.

“Go” is not a comfortable word.

Teach us how to depend on You again…

In the spirit of “Go” – the Great Commission – our pastor has challenged our congregation to align our priorities with those nearest (our families), our neighbors, and the nations. I sensed God leading me into a season of tasks not small.

Although it feels ordinary and daily, home (my nearest) is the primary place for making disciples. Being a wife and mom compels me to depend on Jesus fully, image Him authentically, and reserve my premium attention for my family. It’s not glamorous, but this is where “go” begins.

Ministry to neighbors means going beyond church walls to become the church in the community. When I became a chaplaincy student, “go” meant entering the hospital room of a stranger, a task for which this introvert was insufficient (and scared!). Usually I was turned away, but uncomfortably I went from door to door. The Holy Spirit gave me the courage to pursue the Commission more than my comfort.

Far away from my comfort zone, with every knock on a hospital door, I discovered that God equips willing souls to be comfort-able, able to be used as vessels through which God can pour our His mercy, love, & comfort to others (Leading Women to the Heart of God by Lysa TerKeust, p. 42). And my thoughts turned to the nations, in this case, the Dominican Republic. As a team which represented Joni and Friends Ministries, our “Wheels for the World” task was to custom-fit 300 wheelchairs to children and adults with severe disabilities.

My place on the team was in “the shop” with power saws, hammers, plywood, and staple guns. Wait, me? Mention “power tools” and I imagine hair dryers and KitchenAid mixers. But so it was. To my disappointment, I didn’t pass out Bibles or give anyone a hug or even speak the name of Jesus. My work seemed removed from the Gospel-sharing-action. After five long days in the shop, I was discouraged, tired, and homesick.

But on the final day, our devotion focused on the widow’s offering (Mark 12: 41 – 44).  An impoverished widow gave 2 coins valued at a fraction of a cent. Certainly, everyone considered her contribution as small. But Jesus called her offering the greatest because she gave all that she had.

The widow’s gift prompted me to chose a new perspective. For God’s glory, I would make comfortable seats for people who had lived with discomfort for their entire lives. In my mind, cutting foam, sawing plywood, and stapling vinyl fabric was small, but having removed all of my pride and self-sufficiency, it was actually not-small nor removed from the Gospel-sharing-action.

Sometimes we share the Word without saying a word.

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The morning after my homecoming, I returned to the hospital and was politely dismissed from most rooms without a chance to pray. Normally, I would have considered those flat encounters as unsuccessful. But as I realized in the Dominican Republic, success is measured in God’s eyes by our degree of surrender.

We may never know the significance of the small things that we do in His Name. Knocking on the door, no matter the result, is a act of obedience. Cutting the plywood, no matter the level of satisfaction it gives, is an offering. Serving my family, no matter the ongoing laundry, is a making-disciples opportunity.

You may be in a season of life where it’s not easy to volunteer outside your home/work obligations or travel on mission. I was there a few years ago. And even now, it occurs to me that my kitchen is my usual “shop” (and I’m much more comfortable with culinary power tools). On those days when I think that making a pot of spaghetti is another insignificant thing, I need to remind myself – whatever we do, as unto the Lord, matters.

Even if your “shop” is not glamorous, you are gifted and you are called in that place to “go.” Go and make disciples there.

As recorded in Zechariah 4:10, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.”

In Zechariah’s time, the Jews were discouraged over the foundation of the second temple (being rebuilt by Zerubbabel) because, in their limited perspective, it could not possibly be as grand as the first temple. But God challenged His people to look through a different lens.

If our work brings Him joy, who are we to judge?

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Great or small – the Lord decides and appraises the opportunities that come our way. Your offering, wherever your mission field lies, matters to Him.

While we’re waiting for a place where we’re significant and sufficient, He’s asking us to begin with a small step of obedience.

Especially when “go” is uncomfortable, God uses our insufficiency to impart His incomparable glory.

Obey and offer whatever you have, wherever He asks you to go.

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Thank you for reading! Today I’m enjoying Coffee for Your Heart by Holley Gerth. Check out this link for more encouragement!

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