Musings: July 2018

Life Together gets messy.
People stand in our way at the kitchen counter and leave toothpaste in the bathroom sink.
Mired in the muggy heat of July, we mess up each other’s routines and call one another at inconvenient moments.

And yet, the truth is that we need each other.
We need the jolt that sends us careening out of the center of the universe and into another soul’s perspective.

Summer, with all its shipwrecked routines and glorious gatherings around picnic tables and marshmallow fires is the perfect season for reading Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Just in case your eyes are busy elsewhere, I’ll share these favorite quotes, because that’s  what friends do:

 

Reading, Writing, and Rejoicing

 

One unexpected gift of the blogging life has been the warm connection with others who are also writing, and some of them even manage to publish books! It’s a great privilege to help them with launching their books out into the world. Michelle Van Loon’s  Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity explores her thoughts on the pilgrim life while sharing her own story, set against the narrative of wandering found in Scripture. I shared my review here along with my story of “pilgrim-ing in place.”

Chances are if you live in the crucible of ministry, you’ve given some thought to your soul-ish self, and maybe you’ve even felt the danger of losing touch with your real self in the course of a day’s work. This is more than just an academic concern, for the spiritual leader leads from the soul, but it’s easy to lose track of one’s own soul in the care and feeding of the souls of others. Ruth Haley Barton felt the insidious slippage in her own ministry and gathered lessons from the life of Moses as a lifeline back to herself and a vibrant relationship with God. In July, I reviewed the results of her gleanings which have been re-released in the expanded edition of Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry (Transforming Resources).

Reading Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, I felt Jen Schmidt and the whole (in)courage team nodding and smiling their reassurance that true hospitality is nothing more (and nothing less!) than “an ordinary couple [making] a deliberate decision, intent on getting to know the people around them from more than a polite distance.” (2) In Romans 12:3, the Apostle Paul puts a strong verb in front of the word hospitality when he urges Roman believers who were facing persecution to “pursue hospitality.”

Each chapter of Just Open the Door unpacks a different facet of the hospitable life with words of encouragement and stories lifted from Jen Schmidt’s own parenting, inviting, tail-gating, pot-lucking life. For every “have to” moment in your day, Jen invites you to switch the sentiment to “get to,” as in “Today, I get to change the sheets in the guest room.” A life marked by gratitude opens up the floodgates to all kinds of hospitality. You can read more here.

 

Day to day parenting decision are deeply rooted in timeless truth. #OrthodoxyG.K. Chesterton and his wife Frances did not have children, but even so, I found plenty of wisdom to apply to my own parenting life as I pressed into Chapter 7 of Orthodoxy this month. Every decision that we make in the run of our ordinary days has roots in something deeper, or, as Chesterton put it, “There must be something eternal if there is to be anything sudden.” (165) May we find grace to lean into the practical impact of our theological underpinnings even in the day-to-day decisions that govern the way our home functions and they way we shepherd our children’s hearts toward orthodoxy.

Summer Ministry

Packing up the lesson visuals and the juice, the song flash cards and the c.d. player, the prizes and the fake mustaches for our church’s summer children’s outreach, it occurred to me that I can teach a room full of women for at least 45 minutes with nothing but a Bible  and my notes. Children’s ministry is exhausting. Truly. You need all the dogs and all the ponies, and a lot more charisma than lives in this 55-year-old carcass.

But then, God the Holy Spirit is a force to be reckoned with, and so I’m grateful for five days of living the blessing of being a vessel, holding the Truth and pouring it out for our own church kids and for a few who just don’t get it anywhere else.

 

Joel, Rohobot, Sena.jpg

These great teen leaders were a joyful part of the experience, and my prayer for them is that God would continue the great work He has begin in their lives.

God is at work in the humdrum and repetitive tasks we perform. This is the Way of the Cross.Gardening on the Hill

The green rows of growing things draw me like a magnet this time of year. The work inside suffers from neglect, but it will wait, and as hot and dirty as I get out in the garden, it never seems like work to me. Already we are enjoying salads of fresh-picked greens, and there are a dozen jars of dilly beans on my basement shelves. This month, I wrote a piece inspired by the quotidian task of piling rocks into a rusty wheelbarrow and the harvest of blessing that comes from simply showing up to gather stones.

Thank you for meeting here for words about the garden and the rock pile, theLife Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer blessings and the challenges. Thank you for the times when you have been that other “Christian who speaks God’s Word” to me and for letting me do the same for you,

 

 

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February Musings — 2017

What February lacks in length, it has more than offset with depth — of SNOW and MUD! No sooner do we shovel our way through two feet of fluffy beauty, than the sun comes out and melts it all, turning the world into chocolate pudding!  It’s almost as if God is telling us to slow down — to stay home and enjoy these days of crazy boys and middle-aged marriage.  And so we have — with joy!

On My Desk

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It’s been great to get the women’s Sunday School class started up again at my wonderful church home.  We have been using Jen Wilkin’s study in I Peter, and it’s really keeping us on our toes with homework and a persistent (and important) reminder that we need to stay close to the text, reading repetitively and in context.  What that boils down to is at least one trip through all five chapters of I Peter each week, lots of marking up the text in our search for repetitive words and big picture concepts, and regular use of the dictionary (or Siri) for deeper understanding of the words Peter chose for his letter to all of us “elect exiles.”  I reviewed Jen’s book last spring and couldn’t wait to use it in real life with my friends who join me around the table each week.  The study is every bit as challenging and helpful as I thought it would be.

Vacation Bible School veterans will not be surprised to hear that I’m sorting through curricula and staffing for this summer’s ministry to kids, and so I’m wondering . . . what’s everyone else doing for summer ministry in 2017?

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Somehow I missed taking Economics in high school and college, so, in this third round of teaching a high school senior here at home, I’m switching gears, leaving our curriculum behind, and reading a book in tandem with my big, brown-eyed boy.  Emily Whitten has been sharing one classic book per month on World Radio, and her suggestion of Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics has been just what I needed to bring the theory and the charts and graphs and specialized vocabulary into real world application for my future welder (and for this present day domestic diva!).  You can listen along here.

 

On the Blog

One of the lovely benefits of blogging has been all the new friendships I’ve made with other bloggers — and every once in a while, one of those friends writes a book, and I get to review it here at Living Our Days.  When my friend Mary Geisen wrote Brave Faith, she dipped her brush into the lives of inspiring biblical characters and shared their stories alongside her own journey of moving outside her comfort zone and into the soul-enriching pilgrimage toward living brave.

Another blogging friend, Holly Barrett, invited me to join her on her weekly podcast, and the program aired on February 3.  Click here to listen in to the fun conversation as we chatted about family, books, and living this following life in pursuit of wisdom.  You can subscribe to her podcast here.

The dialogue at SheLoves Magazine is always lively and uplifting, and I was thankful to share a reflection on my mid-winter canning jars and the truth that the container is secondary to the contents.  It’s good new that my emptiness is an invitation for God to pour His fullness into me—whatever my assignment for 2017.  You can read more here, and be reminded of the Apostle Paul’s testimony that God met him faithfully in the midst of his own deep need.

The most-read post at Living Our Days for the month of February was my review of Humble Roots, by Hannah Anderson.  Using metaphors as earthy as our clay-based bodies, Hannah cooperates with the Word of God to reveal that the quality of life we most desire will not come to us through power or reason or productivity or any number of quick fixes, but, rather, through roots that are sunk deeply into a theology of need and answering grace — and a humble acceptance of a life that is lived close to the ground.

And, unbelievably, for those of us who are reading C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, we have only two more weeks left in our discussion group!  The book was already my favorite of Lewis’s fiction, and now I’m blessed by the great insights that have come from other readers through this group experience.  As we begin Part II, Orual realizes, “I must unroll my book again.”  We’ll be joining her in the process of sorting out the threads of her tangled memory.

Just for Joy

We did it!
The women’s fellowship at my church planned and executed a Family Valentine’s Celebration including a lovely dinner and a fun and wacky program.  We started brainstorming waaaaay back in November, and it’s encouraging to see what a small group of women can accomplish together as we celebrate our ministry to women and work toward greater opportunities and initiative for ministry by women.

captureThanks for meeting with me once again here at month’s end.  I am blessed by your generosity of spirit as you read, share your comments, and invite others from your circles into our conversation.

The beautiful and poetic words about snow in the image above come from Luci Shaw’s “Light Gathering, January” taken from her collection of poems What the Light Was Like.

Be sure to join me over at Leigh Kramer’s place where many of us gather at month’s end to share What We’re Into.

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 box 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.