A Big Hope

I read this morning from Psalm 86:5: “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.”

I pray that no matter how hopeless you feel, how weighed down by sin, or how far from the tangible goodness of God, that you would call out and experience the abounding love of God today. Might it flood your heart. Might this love seem fresh and new and alive.

It’s a big prayer for you and me, flowing from big hope. Is there any other way to live?

Forgiving. Good. Abounding in love. Might we know this God. Psalm 86:5 Click To Tweet
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The Syllabus for Yourself

I’m much more attuned to the academic year than the calendar year. Instead of New Years’ resolutions, I set all my intentions in September. I list out personal development goals and imagine where I want to be in 15 weeks (the average length of a fall semester college course). Are you that way, too? As August rolls into September in just over 15 days, do you feel as excited as I do to start something new?

It’s almost as if I’m building my fall syllabus for myself. If your September marked the beginning of a course—with learning outcomes and projects delivered by December—what would you put in your weekly calendar? And if this imaginary class were to meet on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday for just 2 hours, what content would you want to impart to yourself and for what reason?

As a course designer for Penn State, I layout a fresh syllabus template with 15 weeks. Every few weeks, students will have reached key skills and will have completed significant writing projects. You could do this, too! We both could! What if we thought about ourselves like this, in semesters, too?

We could create a document with 15 rows representing 15 weeks. In those weeks, let’s think about what we might read that week, how we might increase physical activity, what we might create, and what friendships we want to build.

You’re a student in your own life. You’re setting goals, working hard, and wanting to graduate on to harder and more complex courses each new semester. And by the end, what project will you hand in?

I pray you have the best new academic year ever!

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Capturing a Feeling

I’m reading the 1957 Paul Tournier classic The Meaning of Persons. The book makes me long for an authentic experience of being a real person connecting with other real people as he outlines the problem of finding the true person. It’s an invitation to live honestly with ourselves, God, and others and to embrace the joy and vitality of our present lives. Why is it so hard to simply be ourselves? I want to be the kind of person who encourages this kind of authenticity in others and myself all the time.

Tournier also unmasks the problem of always longing for another, truer life. He writes, “Such people’s hearts are not in their present lives, for they are always waiting for the time—which never comes—when their true lives will begin.” I’m challenged to live more in this life, just as I am, in honest dialogue with myself, God, and others.

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Green Tea, Kombucha, Seeds, and Nuts

I’ve become one of those people who drinks kombucha. And green tea. And I eat all the seeds. Chia. Flax. Hemp. Pumpkin. And the nuts.

It’s because I feel better. I don’t have migraines. I sleep well. Inflammation has gone down everywhere. So I’m now one of those people. I even have favorite kombucha flavors (watermelon and the green algae one). I even talk to people who make their own kombucha.

Well. Here I am.

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Pliable, Malleable, Teachable

I’ve been opening my heart and mind more and more to learn from others, to embrace new ideas, and to question more. I want to get outside of my own experience and inhabit the stories of others to gain understanding and growth. I want to grow in love and wisdom. I want to stay fresh and vibrant instead of stale and stagnant.

But it’s scary sometimes.

So many of us don’t want to listen to other points of view, and we don’t know what it might mean for our identity to change our positions or our ideas on various issues. We’ve maybe attached too much to certain ways of thinking on anything from parenting to nutrition to politics. Or maybe how we’re thinking now is exactly right and the best representation of biblical truth. That could be. But what if we were all teachable and wisdom-seeking together as a posture of humility?

What if I allowed the possibility of changing my mind? What if you did?

(I’m amazed at how resistant I am to new theories of pedagogy as one small example or whenever someone tells me something about shame. I like to be the unchanging expert!)

Instead of always reacting, I’m listening more. I’m learning. This kind of posture matters as we age. I’ve learned that we have two choices as we grow into our late forties, fifties, sixties and beyond: We can stay teachable, or we can calcify.

We can harden. We can stop growing.

I want to say pliable, malleable, and teachable in God’s hand. He might send someone into my life with a different point of view in order to help me grow. He might have me grapple with a difficult sermon to help me grow. I might ask Jesus, “How are you teaching me here? How is this shaping my character more to be like You? Is there something I need to change here?”

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Completely Yielded

Today in our Sunday School class, we talked about yielding completely to the Holy Spirit.

What I love about the Spirit-filled life is this idea of going before the Lord and saying to Him, I don’t know what I need. I don’t know how to live my life. I don’t even know what will bless people. Jesus will you take over everything and teach me how to live my life?

We do nothing on our own. We yield completely.

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When You Need the Ravens

As I walk around the neighborhood, I feel the weight of a life’s purpose, of mission, and of knowing Christ-followers are sent into the pain of the world to heal, serve tirelessly, speak truth, and comfort the broken. It’s too much. There’s too much to do and too many distractions. And there’s a shadow always following me on the journey that tempts me into a life of ease and wealth and special experiences that represent a certain kind of life narrative. In this story, I laugh a lot with friends; I travel to exotic places; I feel fulfilled and joyful and always at peace. In this story, everyone succeeds and nobody suffers.

But that’s not the true narrative. I’m in the biblical story of being sent by God–as we all are–into the crucified life. It’s a journey of obedience, uncertainty, and sacrifice. As I walk, the reality feels painful. It’s doesn’t feel joyful or peaceful or anything like abundant life.

But then I remember a bird and a brook. I tell the Lord: I need the raven! I need the brook!

When God speaks to Elijah in 1 Kings 17, he sends him out. And before he goes, God tells him how He will provide: There will be a river. There will be birds.

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

The scriptures unfold in a moment of beautiful and astonishing clarity: God provides on the journey through the water and the bird. He does this in Elijah’s life and He does this in ours. How can I not see the theological continuity of another source of water and another bird? Was not God already giving me my own brook and my own bird even now? Consider this: When Jesus arises from the water at His baptism, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove to confirm, strengthen, and love. When Jesus teaches on how we might survive this thirsty existence, we’re told He is “living water” in John 7. We have the living water (the brook), and we have the strengthening and loving Holy Spirit (the bird).

Like Elijah, we have the brook and the bird.

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Press On

This morning I remember to press on. Philippians comes to mind where Paul writes in Philippians 3, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Press on!

Pressing on means we haven’t arrived yet. We haven’t made it. We’re not finished yet. There’s always more to learn and new ways to grow into maturity. We’re in process, and we feel the weight of that incompletion each new morning.

But we don’t despair. We press on!

Pressing on means to keep seeking God through the Bible, through prayer, through fellowship, through worship--in every way you can. To press on means we run and run after God in hopes of catching Him anew every day. Click To Tweet

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One New Thing

The kitchen now features a new stove to connect to our town’s gas line. It’s shiny, new, perfect. But what I immediately notice is this new object’s effect on everybody else: I exclaim that now I need new dish towels. Now I need to scrub up the cabinets and any dirty thing around this new, gorgeous stove. Beauty has a way of multiplying itself. It has a way of spreading out, of influencing, of uplifting everything else.

I want to add more new. I also want to be the new thing.

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