Happy Birthday, Mom!

I’ve known my mother my whole life.

She was there when I was born.  She held me when I cried and fed me when I was hungry.  She was there celebrating when I took my first step.  She was there grieving when the doctors thought I had 1927879_522898230691_8177_nleukemia.  She was cheering when I scored my first basketball goal.  She was crying when I broke my two front teeth on the court.  She was patient with me when I yelled at her and made her cry.  She pleaded with me when she thought I was doing drugs or making bad life decisions.  She woke up earlier to take me to band practice.  She stayed up late when I would leave the house and go to parties.  She woke up earlier to make us breakfast before she went to work.  She stayed out late to see me in plays.  She was there when I packed my car to move to the same city with a girl I hardly knew.  She was there when I married that same girl.  She drove fifteen hours to be there when my daughter was born.  She drove fifteen hours again when my son was born.

I’ve learned so much from my mother.

My entire life my mother has behind me, supporting me, encouraging me, loving me, and challenging me.  She was always there in the background, 10400297_7624090644_9314_nnever drawing attention to herself but always being the first one willing to help out if necessary.  She was always giving out of what little she had.  She taught me discipline.  She taught me love.  She taught me grace.  She taught me hope.  She taught me how to be grateful for what I had.  She taught me not to take things for granted.  She taught me what it looks like to always be there for being who you love who will inadvertently hurt you because she had not just one boy but four and boys can be jerks sometimes.  She taught me what it looks like to wait for fruit of the labor of love to be harvested after decades and not just after dinner.

I’m still learning from my mother.

She teaches me the value of laughter.  She teaches me the value of home.  She teaches me the value of love.  She teaches me the value of acceptance.  She teaches me the value of parenting.  She teaches me the value of a shared meal.  She teaches me the value of hugs.  She teaches me the value of hard work.  She teaches me the value of giving.  She teaches me the value of sharing.  She teaches me the value of a cup of coffee and ice cream after a long day.  She teaches me the value of time spent with family.  My mother teaches me so much and I know that she will one day teach me how to let go.  She will teach me how to endure.  She will teach me how to remember.  She will teach me how to create.  She will teach me how to hope.  And now, I see the cycle starting over again with her grandchildren.  It is such a wonderful and humbling experience and I’m blessed that I get to see it start over again.

10387189_10152490926730645_6892918563564137815_oI’ve known my mother my whole life.  I know that she’s not perfect.  I know that she’s not everything she wants to be.  I know that she’s made mistakes.  But I know that’s what makes her human.  And in light of all those truths, she still pursues her identity of mother with compassion, endurance, grace, and love.  For that reason, I am celebrating her life today.   I wish I could share with you her story.  But it’s not mine to share.  All I have is my story and my life.  But you should know that her influence runs through like the threads in a cloth.

I am a mommy’s boy.  I am my mother’s son.  I love you mom!! Happy Birthday!



Experiential Transformation

Experiences are the context for transformation.  Knowledge in action creates an experience. When we put into practice what we know, and consequently what we believe, it creates the context for encounters that change our life.

Knowledge is culturally defined as the facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.  If our lives are experiences that are the result of our present knowledge being put into action, then we are always acquiring knowledge of some kind.  This is our reality.  So knowledge is that stuff we learn and information we have and things we believe.  Knowledge can be intimidating when we consider the body of information presently available to us to access and process.  If we’re not careful, we can spend our entire lives simply sifting through everything at our fingertips without having it change us.  That fear of never knowing the full picture because there is too much information, never being able to process it enough, and never putting it into action can stop even the heartiest person from trying to think thoroughly about an issue.  In that sense, knowledge can be intimidating.  But knowledge alone doesn’t change us.  Experiences change us.  Experiences are the result of knowledge put into action.

Action is simple.  It is the process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.  I used to think that my life was segregated by those moments I lived in action and those I didn’t live in action.  So when I thought of action, I would ask myself, “When are you doing something?”  I’ve since learned a better question to guide me through the process.  It is “when are you NOT doing something?” When we look at our lives through that question, we realize that we live in continuous action.  Everything we do is action.  The question is what we’re attempting to accomplish through our actions.  That can be as personal as spiritual growth or as  economic as building a corporation.  We are never living life in a place of inaction. Doing nothing is still doing something.  If this is true, then our lives are actually being shaped by our current knowledge being put into action everyday.  We create experiences for ourselves on a daily basis.  Why is this important?

I think this is important for us to think about because I fear that many of us don’t consider how our lives are presently being shaped and formed constantly.  If experience is the context for transformation, then what we may or may not realize is that we are being shaped everyday by something into something.  I think for many of us, a transformational experience is associated more with a momentous or even cathartic event:  a message we hear, movie we see, a trip we take, or a cause we participate in.   As a result, we think about transformation more like a hole being created by dynamite than a canyon being formed by a river.  That comparison clearly shows us the difference.  One takes centuries while the other takes minutes.  One shapes along natural contours while the other is invasive.  For one, progress is indiscernible and for other, it is undeniable.  I don’t want to deny that we all have those recognizable shifts for ourselves.  I just don’t think they’re accidental.

So what’s the point of all us?

As people of faith, we believe God uses everyday experiences to shape us.  But I believe God gives us more freedom to shape those experiences than we believe or want to acknowledge.  How do we long to be shaped and how are we participating with God in that shaping process?

We believe that God can use exceptional experiences to transform our souls in discernible ways.  But I believe that God also gives us more time to change than we give ourselves.  How can we trust God in the process while recognizing the progress without feeling discouraged in the meantime?

God loves us because of what Jesus has done for us.  He loves us enough to call us from where we were.  He loves us enough to take us where we are.  He loves us enough to call us forward to whom He longs for us to become.  Trust our Lord God and His work.  He is faithful.

2014 08 06

Spirituality: Linear or Chromatic?

My wife and I sat at the kitchen table last night deconstructing what we believed about spiritual disciplines and the lies that we protect because they make us feel safe.  Trust me, it wasn’t as sexy an experience as you think it sounds.  I can’t remember the last time we did that but it was so necessary for us and for our souls to confront some deceptions with truth in Jesus.  There’s no order to what I am going to share with you.  It’s more twilight contemplation than theological criticalness, which also means it’s slightly more fun.  There are probably more questions than answers here as this is simply a tousled reiteration of some new approaches and various conclusions that we reached in our conversations, something better done over a cup of coffee and pastry rather than technologically.

We started by acknowledging that all of us have a vision of the type of person we want to become.  This person might be more loving, more caring, kinder, gentler, or handsomer than where we find ourselves currently.  In short, perfect.  In our conversation last night, Alison and I discovered that we seldom spend time reflecting on who we are because we always compare ourselves to who we want to be and find ourselves falling desperately short of this unattainable perfection.  When we do spend time doing this, we feel guilty because we have fallen short of the promises we made to ourselves and to God about what we’d do to be more like Jesus.  I think there’s a reason behind that.

I think that most of us view our spiritual journeys very linearly and on an axis.  The more spiritual disciplines we practice consistently, the more mature of a Christian we are.  We do these things, we take one step forward and if we do these other things, we take one step back.  All on a line.  And it’s true, in one sense, that becoming perfect as God is perfect will find its realization fully in Jesus’ return.  At the appropriate time, God will complete the work He set out to finish. What that means, however, is that in this life we will not reach that destination.  It means that in one sense we won’t ever fully become that person we strive to be.  It means that we will fall short in some way or another and find ourselves always yearning for the future.  It as if we have boarded a ship set out to sail towards a land that we will never reach.  In these cases, we fear self-examination because our view of spiritual maturity is linear and it reveals that we are less than what we should be.  But what if this approach was wrong?  What if there was a better way of understanding our spiritual journey?

What if our spiritual maturation was less linear and more chromatic?  Each of us represents a different color on the palette, all existing within the same wheel.  As we learn and grown and stop and go we shifts positions, sometimes paler than we’d like and sometimes richer than than we know.  But we would never cease being a color; it would be as impossible as being a bird that never yearns for flight.  The shift here is that we realize we are no longer on a journey moving towards a destination that we hope will change us.  We are presently being changed by the hope we find along our journey.  Our hope is not in the fulfillment of the promise of perfection but in the process of perfecting.  In that way we are never left to drift or to wander out upon the open seas.  We judge not on how close we are to where we think we’re going but how brilliant we are in that moment.

Because let’s be honest: we judge.  We judge others and we judge ourselves.  Everyone does it.  The only thing that differs is the criteria each of us uses to do it.  Another conclusion Alison and I came to last night was that we cannot judge ourselves by the distance we are from who we want to be.  Instead, if we must judge ourselves at all by distance, we should judge ourselves by the distance we are from who we were.  The difference in approach is subtle but important.  For most of us, we spend way too much time thinking about how far we are from where want to be and not enough time reflecting and celebrating how far God has brought us.  When we do this, we fail to see the work that God has done in our life.  We fail to see the vibrancy of our faith and get lost in assuming its ineffectiveness of accomplishing what it set out to do, namely, making us more like Jesus.

Who knows if any of this makes sense.  All we know is that there is a certain sense of freedom we find in trusting God to continue to shape us and form us to become more like Jesus in the process of this life, even if the process is a bit shakier than we hope.

May you go and find freedom in trusting God to shape you in the process of life.  May you embrace His love for you as He conforms you more to the likeness of His beloved Son, Jesus.

Spirituality Linear or Chromatic

Rest for Work, Not From It

Rest for work does not sound intuitive.  I’ll admit it was an idea that was new for me but one I wanted to share as we head into th weekend.  The last few days we’ve talked about how Jesus Set Us Free to Rest, which should empower to develop a Rhythm of Rest in our lives.  For many of us, work can be so draining or laborious that our breaks from work are less of a recharge point and more of an escape.  We work for rest rather than working from rest.  We view weekends and holidays or any time not working as simply an isolation from chaos rather than a launching pad for vitality.

I remember working at Starbucks and having to wake up at 4:00 am each morning in order to get to work at 4:30.  I don’t always remember what happened from the time I got there until the store opened but I do remember being exhausted each day getting home at 1:00 pm only to have to go to school and write papers until 10:00 each night.  Days off stopped being times that I would use to do the things in rest that fueled me, like riding my bike, writing, reading.  Instead, they were excuses to not do anything at all except maybe sleeping in a little.  This turned out to be horrible for me because I found myself working for rest, just trying to get through each week, just trying to make it every day.

What if we stopped working for rest and began resting for work?

What if we spent as much time preparing for rest as we did preparing for work? 

There’s a story in Exodus where God explains to Moses how He wants Israel to treat the Sabbath day, the day of rest and celebration. It’s in Exodus 16v22-26 and v30, all before God gives Israel the law.

Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two oemers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a Sabbath observance, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath there will be none.

16v30: so the people rest on the seventh day.

Rest for Work, Not From It

As you head into your weekend, spend some time preparing for rest.  No one knows you more than you.  No one knows what fuels your heart and soul and breathes life back into you more than you do.  Maybe it’s spending time with God in the Scriptures.  Maybe it’s a good movie.  Maybe it’s a trip to the beach, the forest, the desert, the Philippines, or the park.  Maybe it’s a huge barbecue or a cup of coffee at a local shop.  Maybe it’s planting a garden or writing a blog.  Maybe it’s building a fence or building a fort.  Whatever it is, plan for it.

If we are going to work with excellence, with hope, with excitement, with energy, with life, and with love, we need to rest in Jesus.  If we are going to work from rest then we need to rest for work.  I cannot emphasize enough how ripe the world is for seeing people of faith living their lives with the enjoyment of God evident in everything we do.  I am becoming more and more convinced that it is not the world that must first transformed by Jesus but ourselves that must first be continually transformed by the gracious gospel of Jesus.

This weekend, may you find the inspiration you need to begin creating a rhythm of rest in your life, living in the freedom Jesus has freely given you, in order to start resting for work.  May you find yourself revitalized in your rest.  May you find a renewed passion for life in your rest.  May you find Jesus in your rest.  May rest fuel the life you live.

Rest for Work