Can Busy Mums Really Find Time to Spend with God? (Part 2)

“Wait a minute, ” I interrupted.  “Read that again.  Is that really in Isaiah?”

My husband and I are reading through the Bible again this year — together and out loud.  Aside from the challenge of actually being in the same room (or the same vehicle) at the same time for this daily discipline and delight, we are both finding that reading the text out loud is affecting the details that we notice and deepening our understanding of the passage.  We hear the repetition and the rhythm of recurring phrases as our mouths form the syllables and the sounds of Hebrew names and the nomenclature of ancient Middle Eastern geography.

In addition to giving us something important to share in common in these days of the empty-ing nest, this practice keeps me grounded in the overall scope of Scripture’s narrative arc, reminding me that God is at work in a larger story that is massively redemptive and globally significant.

As a busy mum, I set modest goals for my reading and study, usually sticking with a chapter for at least a week in order to get the most out of it.  This is like the slow pace of a stroll in which details that are missed at 55 miles per hour in the car suddenly show up and ask to be noticed.  A slow read gives me time to read, re-read, and process.

This is Week 2 in the series for mums who want to step up their time with God, and this week, Shannon from Of the Hearth has posed two questions:

In what ways has being a mum changed how you go about having a devotional time?

What tools have helped you to be consistent?

In my answers, I advocate for the prudent use of little minutes, remind readers that God is committed to meeting with us no matter where we are, and I encourage mums to embrace the changes that are part of life.  I also share how important accountability has been in maintaining good study habits.

Elizabeth from Guilty Chocoholic Mama is sharing her thoughts along with Shannon, and the three of us would love to hear your input.  Click here to join the discussion, and be sure to share the post with other mums you know who are living this following life and seeking Truth in the small spaces between their loving duties.

For those who missed the discussion from last week, you can catch up here.

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Living in the Wide Open Spaces

Life has a way of expanding to fill the available space.

Little League games used to occupy Saturday mornings with hours of sunshine (and mosquitoes) and with chatting on the bleachers with other mums. However, a quick glance around my house reveals  our family has aged out of that particular American institution.  We’ve moved on, but even so, Saturday mornings are still booked. These days, though, I’m not a spectator.  I’m experiencing the great outdoors from the seat of a lawn mower.

If your goal in life is to live small and safe, beware the family business!  With its shifting parameters and employees who double as offspring and then have the audacity to grow up and move on to their own lucrative pursuits, our mowing business is challenging all my known boundaries.  Going from “I don’t do complicated machinery” to driving a zero-turn has been a harrowing experience, and one best accomplished in a wide-open field – for the safety of everyone!

There, with the startled butterflies rising along with the scent of fresh-cut grass, I’m gathered into the wildness of open sky alongside the coziness of trampled grasses where a deer bedded down the night before.

There, everything becomes an invitation:

See the wispy clouds, faithfully tending to their job of breaking up the stunning blue.
See the flock of hungry birds ransacking the honeysuckle bush.
See the honey bees, clearly all Threes on the Enneagram, hauling the makings for a flourishing life back to their far-away hive.

From my seat on the mower, inspiration is everywhere.  I have a job to do:  halt the advance of the Maine wilderness in this one location for this one season.

This I can do.
What a relief.

Capture

I’d love it if you would continue to read this story of how driving a lawn mower is impacting my sense of vocation and my conviction that God is active and present in my crazy, in-between life.  Click on over to SheLoves Magazine for more on the truth that even when our circumstances are shifting and the future seems unclear, we can step through God’s open door and find the wide-open field of His calling.

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Declaration of Dependence

Long lashes against his pale cheeks, my youngest son was sleeping soundly despite the beeping and whirring backdrop of the children’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  The ambulance ride, the endless testing and probing, and the grim diagnosis were secondary now to my boy’s constant pain, his fear, and the question marks that persisted hour after hour.
Surgery?
More tests?
What’s next?

What I remember most from those days of wondering and waiting was the uncertainty and the chaos of it all.  There was no silence – and there was certainly no privacy – but, in the background, my prayers thrummed the cadence of a continual S.O.S., pleading for strength from God to bear the next thing, whatever it might be.   By His Spirit, God reminded me that He had taken in all that had happened:  the bicycle crash, the ruptured spleen, the ambulance ride, the continual suffering of my tiny boy.  God knew about the present situation and all that I feared for the coming days– but, unlike me, He had not run out of strength.

So, I asked.

In a Declaration of Dependence, I asked for His strength.  I looked at my desperate situation, my very sick boy, my fear, and my questions, and I asked for strength to wait and to trust God for whatever would be required in the coming hours and days.

Click here to continue reading . . .

Capture.PNG

Community among bloggers is a precious thing, so it’s my pleasure and privilege to be sharing this long ago experience of the faithfulness of God over at Debbie Kitterman’s writing home today.  

Debbie Kitterman, is an author, speaker, and the founder of Dare 2 Hear, a ministry training individuals in hearing the voice of God.  For information about her book or her speaking ministry, click here to visit her website.

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Can Busy Mums Really Find Time to Spend with God? (Part 1)

Sunlight slanted through the passenger-side window, and a light breeze lifted the pages of the Bible that was propped against the steering wheel to make room for the notebook in my lap.  Middle school band practice always lasted 45 minutes — not long enough to bother going home.  And since the older children were all occupied elsewhere, there was no need.  So, for a few moments, the blue mini-van in the parking lot became a tabernacle — a mobile meeting place for quiet reading and reflection.

That was the scene that first came to mind when Shannon Coleman from Of the Hearth asked for my thoughts on making time in a busy schedule for daily quiet time with God.  As the mum of four active boys, I’ve long been an advocate for the prudent use of little minutes, so I’ve shared a few thoughts over at her place today.  

Best of all, Shannon has given suggestions that have worked for her as the mum of two toddlers, and has also invited our friend Elizabeth from Guilty Chocoholic Mama to provide input as the mum of two teenage girls.

This week we’re just getting started with the basics in which Shannon poses the question:

How do you find time to spend with the Lord?

If this is an area of struggle for you, we invite you to come on over for encouragement — and if you know someone else who needs ideas or inspiration, I hope you’ll invite them too!  Please follow this link over to Shannon’s place, and be sure to share you own pointers and principles as you join in the conversation!

Next Wednesday, July 26th, we’ll be back with our thoughts on these questions:

In what ways has being a mum changed how you go about having a devotional time?

What tools have helped you to be consistent?

Elizabeth, Shannon, and I look forward to seeing you next week!

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Standing Ready to Be Amazed

The average human being lives approximately 30,000 days — which sounded like a long stretch of time until I did the math and discovered that, as of today, I will have lived 20,005 of mine.  Catherine L. Morgan envisions these Thirty Thousand Days as a journey home, traveling on a rattle trap train toward a sure and certain future of abundance.

In the meantime, however, there is waiting, and there is heartbreak, and no matter how well we try to manage our journey, there is always regret.  This following life, then, is one in which we look boldly at Solomon’s cynical Old Testament pronouncement that “all is vanity” and “a chasing after the wind” — all the while trusting in Jesus’ promise of an abundant life.

Living Well

Offering her own wisdom alongside that of others, Catherine lays down a cobblestone path of words for this journey gleaned from her personal reading of a broad range of authors and thinkers.  She speaks out of the context of experiences gained through inner-city ministry with her family in an impoverished section of the sprawling Denver metro-area.  Far from Chicken Soup for the Soul, her conclusions are a bracing cup of strong tea — no sugar.

If we want to live well within the gift of our thirty-thousand days:

  • We will walk purposefully.
  • We will offer up our hearts to care passionately.
  • We will open our hands to give generously and unclench our grasp from around the things of Earth.
  • We will love deeply because it is commanded — not because it is easy.
  • We will stand firmly in a dangerous faith.

Bold Questions

Pursuing “the things over which Christ presides” is a chasing after light, a darkness fighting strategy if ever there was one.  And this is the gift of viewing our days on this planet as a temporary prelude to a glorious eternity.  Childlike, we will ask questions that promote a bold following:

Why not read Psalm 37 with a reckless abandon?  What would it be like to wholeheartedly trust, dwell, do good, and delight?  Can I even imagine a life without fretting?

What if my present circumstances are a canvas against which the glory of God will be radically put on display?  What if this current set of troubles is “light and momentary” after all?

Am I able to view my marriage — or my singleness — as a mission?  Can I hold my church membership in the same light as a gym membership in which I “expect to sweat, to strain, to run an extra mile?”  Let this thought marinate to adjust your perceptions on community and the local church:

“I am an alien and stranger here in the thick of a great battle.  If I am engaged in this battle, I will need the refuge of the church.  Love will sustain me.  If I do not perceive this need, maybe I am not really engaging the fight.”

Leaning into the truth that I am mightily loved by God, that He delights in my delight, I am emboldened to discover where this great love might lead.  Catherine points out a pattern in the book of Acts that I’m eager to see reproduced in my life and in the lives of those I love:  “The disciples prayed, and then they were amazed.  They prayed, and then they were amazed.”

With thirty thousand days ticking by so quickly in this journey, I stand ready to be amazed.

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This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

God Moves Mountains When Women Pray

Last year, I started keeping a list of prayer requests, dated and described, and then, to my great surprise — answers!  Clear direction for a son, help and success in a ministry opportunity, a new and wonderful job for my husband.  Reviewing the list from time to time, I’m reminded to give thanks, and I’m reinforced in my thinking that when it comes to prayer, there is always something new and fresh God wants me to know.

Women Who Move Mountains by Sue Detweiler is clear and comprehensive enough to serve as a primer on prayer for the uninitiated, but Sue has shared so many deeply insightful stories and has woven them so beautifully with Scripture that those who are further along on the journey will also find a rewarding read.  Twice in the gospels, Jesus talks with His disciples about mountains moving at their command.  Of course, this is not a matter of showcasing the disciples’ great faith, but rather, the power of God at work on behalf of those who believe.

I have been guilty of praying small and safe, so it was a challenge to hear Sue’s rallying cry to pray with confidence, boldness, and grace.  The book is set up with odd-numbered chapters covering real and raw stories of women who witnessed mountain-moving responses to their prayers, while even-numbered chapters pose questions based on living the principles here at ground level.

Belief in the ever-present, always-available Maker of Heaven and Earth is the foundation for a vibrant prayer life.  Unfortunately, fear, shame, anxiety, perfectionism, entitlement, and timidity often derail us in the mountain-moving life.  Staying close to Truth is transformational, and this becomes evident in the lives of women whose childhood wounds have been healed and whose “orphan mindset” has been replaced with assurance that in God’s eyes, they are a much-loved daughter.

Sue hammers on one truth about this following life that almost cannot be overstated:

“Just because you obey God does not mean that it will be smooth sailing forever and ever.”

Our obedience opens the door to God’s help and connects us to God’s plan, but prayer requires trust at every level.  Offsetting the vending-machine-God mentality, Sue reminds readers that Jesus suffered greatly in His time on this planet.  The following life is not lived above emotional pain and loss.  Women who feel like the walking wounded are encouraged to turn to God rather than blaming God for their wounds.

Biblical examples of women like Hannah who prayed for a child and Esther who prayed for the rescue of her people demonstrate that prayer is a powerful weapon, that it launches us into our destiny, and that — amazingly — it is as simple as a conversation in which we transparently come before God bearing “our stuff.”

Just as conversation builds relationship between people, prayer is a day-long interaction with God.  And since it is not simply prayer or my puny faith, but rather GOD who moves mountains, I want to press into that relationship and know the heart of this powerful God.  Indispensable to our prayer life is a right understanding of who He is, and Sue has shared rich Scriptural insights:

  1.  Jesus is uniquely equipped to comfort and strengthen us when we face rejection.  Remember what happened in Nazareth?  When He challenged the hometown crowd, they were ready to drive Jesus off a cliff!
  2. It’s an American idea that if God calls you to a task and if He is truly in it, then success always follows.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well:  “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  Some of our most enriching spiritual growth experiences come through failure.
  3. Jesus always had choice words of condemnation for the Pharisees in the crowd and set the example for us.  “Becoming a woman who moves mountains means you care more about what Jesus thinks than the Pharisees in your life.”

F.U.N.K. and H.O.P.E.

Sue employs a couple of creative acronyms to stimulate readers to prayer that results in renewed thinking and powerful life-change.  The next time you feel as if you are in a funk, realize that you are Floundering Under Negative Knowledge.  Everything that seems dark and wrong may be very true, but staying close to God’s truth fights the slide into the pit.

Likewise, when the dark tunnel seems endless, hope says, “Hold On, Pain Ends!”  God offers His hope when ours has long ago sputtered to a stop.

God-confidence gives perspective for the long haul of praying in light of God’s specific promises.  There is so much that He wants to do as He trains us in righteousness, so many good works, prepared beforehand, that are waiting for us who walk with Him. Thanks be to God that we have been invited to come before Him in confidence, boldness, and grace.

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This book was provided by Bethany House via Interviews and Reviews in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Living the Chinese Dream

It is reasonable to think that a book like Street of Eternal Happiness could be written about any stretch of road on the planet — even this country hill where white clapboards and long driveways are separated by acres of margin.  Even here, I’m sure this winding road is lined on both sides with serial narratives.  The difference is, of course, that I have not lived my way into the stories behind these thermal-pane windows as Rob Schmitz has managed to do on the two-mile expanse of real estate in Shanghai that he calls home.

Lined on both sides by plane trees left over from an historic season of French occupation, the street is shaded by tangled branches overhead.  Its restaurants and shops testify to the economic boom Schmitz has chronicled in his role as NPR’s Shanghai correspondent.  Skimming around the traffic and pedestrians on his bicycle, he discovered a way of understanding the economy and interpreting the city by meeting and knowing its people.

“Better City. Better Life.”

Shanghai was showcased as the model Chinese city during the 2010 world’s fair, and the slogan “The city . . . makes life more beautiful” showed up as a slogan on billboards everywhere, reminding citizens that China was on a trajectory of growth and improvement.  A nation of contradictions, attaining the spot as  the second largest economy in the world does not guarantee the cessation of spitting on the sidewalk or of total strangers shoving each other in the line for the subway.

Beginning in a second-floor sandwich shop, Rob constructs a map in which people are the primary landmarks.  With him, we wind our  way down a lane peppered with demolished houses — still occupied by their determined owners; pop in on a bickering couple from the Lost Generation; and become embedded in the lives of a flower shop owner and her left-behind children, now adults and living the consequences of a broken system.  Street of Eternal Happiness is characterized by the journalistic excellence of Rob’s NPR Marketplace series where the story first saw daylight.  At the same time, the book incorporates all the satisfying elements of a fictional page turner.

A favorite story thread involved the discovery of  a box of antique letters, the record of a correspondence between a family based on the Street of Eternal Happiness and their father, interred in a 1950’s Maoist-era labor camp.  Hardship and shame drive the narrative which ends up in New York City where the prisoner’s youngest son has immigrated to seek a larger and broader life.

A Land of Contradictions

When Xi Jinping became China’s ruler in 2013, his first speech was a call to the nation to realize “the Chinese dream.   With millions who still remember the totalitarian Mao regime, it will be interesting to see how this will be interpreted going forward in this land of wild contradictions where old and new collide in some pretty amazing ways.

For example, in spite of its vast geography, China adheres to one time zone.  By golly, if it’s 6 a.m. in Beijing, then it’s 6 a.m. EVERYWHERE!  So, even though it is 3,000 miles from Shanghai to Kashgar (think New York to Los Angeles!), their citizens all leave for work at the same time — Kashgar citizens arrive at work just in time to watch the sunrise.

The cultural norm of children caring for elderly parents has been interrupted by the need for adult children to move to a city to find work.  Occasionally senior citizens file suit against these children for elder abuse and neglect.  Ironically,  adult children may send their own offspring back “home” to be cared for by grandparents since children are ineligible for advanced educational opportunities if they do not live and attend elementary and secondary schools in their city of origin.

Taoism is China’s only indigenous religion, but a flood of philosophies have rushed into the vacuum.  Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, a smattering of Marxism, and rampant materialism swirl into the mix, each one making just enough of an impact to bring confusion to a new generation of adults —  sometimes referred to as Fenqing (“Angry Youth”).  Any objectionable language in Street of Eternal Happiness comes from the lips of the old and the young, venting their frustration and anger over their inability to sort through so many webs created by the mix of tradition, practicality, honor and shame juxtaposed with desire and opportunity.

Two Very Different Mindsets

A burgeoning economy in a land that does not recognize or respect the notion of personal property is built on a foundation of sand.  For the American raised to believe that independence is the ultimate good and that institutions should harness the economic power of the individual, it is difficult to understand the clan-orientation of Chinese culture.  Whether based on the Communist Party or the family unit, China’s economy is geared toward a tendency to “corral dreams into a single national dream.”

For all our ability to communicate and assimilate technologically, China is still, in many ways, a land shrouded in mystery, and it’s clear that Rob Schmitz has some significant questions concerning the policies and practices of present day China. Even so, the tone of his writing does not breathe judgment into the room, but instead communicates the author’s heart of compassion and genuine interest in the individuals who surround him.

In many ways, this has been an indictment of my own insular ignorance around the lives that run parallel to my own in this rural zip code.  I’m challenged to press into the stories behind the lives and to attempt a deeper understanding of the challenges caused by context and belief systems.  Leaning in to heart beat of the story helps me to see that, in many ways, the differences that define all of us on this country road can be traced back to what we believe about the meaning of life and what we value and hope for as we go about the business of living our own unique versions of the American dream.

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This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.