Heaven’s kitchen

Bubbling soup was ladled into several thermoses and then strapped into a van. A bucket of nourishment strapped securely in so that it could buckle a glimpse of mercy to waning waists. Boiling soup served with a slice of bread that they might encounter a taste of the bread of life.

Last night, as darkness blanketed the city-scape, we did our best to serve a hearty meal, hoping to bring warmth to bellowing bellies and light to heavy lids. Some exchanged a blessing and others, too blistered by suffering, spewed hatred pus towards an evening prayer. In all of it, we held out trembling hands, cradling bowls of sustenance, steaming with Christ’s compassion.

We thought we were relieving their momentary troubles, doing these things that others may live. However, it was them who breathed relief into us. When we are other centered, we see God’s recipe brewing, trust his derived concoction, and stay out of the kitchen, wandering to the living room that all might sit as Mary did, awestruck by Christ’s creative creation.

So soak your heart in the broth of love. Serve as Christ has served you. Know though that we do not want to earn accolades or recognition from works, but serve from gratitude for the mercy and grace he’s sprinkled on us. In doing so, we’ll see him stirring in our life pot. Stop watching and do. Serve as he has served us and we might stop fighting our plight. If we do, we might begin to understand his stew and savor every bite.

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The Partridge Family

A friend regaled her recent breakup last night at young adult group.  During her story, she said something profound for a woman on the edge of 30’s cliff.  She said, “I’m alone, but not lonely.”  You don’t often hear such confidence about single-hood among young adults, let alone church attending young people.  Society and the church encourage us to be paired with someone.  We are told that our full potential can be reached with the support of a significant other.  Society sees that in many colors and rainbows of cohabitation.  The church sees it as marriage.  It doesn’t matter what spectrum you view it in, the point is that we’ve been given this notion that if we are joined with someone, we are better off.  It is a two is better than one mentality.

Why?

Does family mean I have a spouse, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a house in the suburbs?  That doesn’t look like most families I know.  Yet we’ve begun to think that this is the ideal for what a family is.  This image can be hurtful for the single man or woman who longs for a wife or husband, a couple experiencing barrenness (speaking from experience), a widower, and an orphan.  God says to care for widows an orphans.  Is this how we are caring for them in the church?  Telling them that they aren’t part of a family because they don’t have this?  I don’t think church has done this intentionally, but it is an idol that has propagated within our culture.   We inadvertently tell these individuals they can’t be used by God in family unless this is what they have.  

Let us redefine family.  Family is a group of individuals supporting one another.  My best friend is like a sister to me.  Have you ever had a family friend you called aunt or uncle?  Yeah, let’s get back to that mindset.  Family is a community that rejoices and grieves together.  Family is not how many offspring you have, whether he liked it and put a ring on it, an excited pup that greets you when you open the door, or a 5 bedroom- 3 bath cul-de-sac dwelling.  God can use us as a single person, a couple, or a a group with kids.  

May our focus be more on how our relationship with God is rather than the papers that state our relationship to others.  May we be confident children of God, knowing who we are as co-heirs with Christ rather than feeling the pressure put on by culture due to the “typical” family void.  Let’s see family how God sees it, not like the things of this world.  If we don’t than we can wind up striving for that ideal more than the only one who truly sustains and fulfills, Jesus Christ.  

 

 

Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner

“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, Who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands,[a] “Bring wine, let us drink!” —Amos 4:1

God is angry with his people, so angry in fact, that he essentially calls Israel fat cows.  Later in Amos 4:4, there is mention of Bethel and Gilgal.  Bethel is where Jeroboam erected two calves of gold to distract people from worshiping God and instead worship these idols. 

If we notice, the people are called fat cows in Amos 4:1 and then told that they love to worship at Bethel (paying respect to golden calves).  I wonder if this was a statement on humanity’s pride.  Was God warning the Israelites, through Amos, that their self-worship would be their downfall?  If so, that is definitely a warning we should take for ourselves, especially in America. 

My Bible study was studying the prophet Amos at Panera last night.  As I sat, I’d occasionally look around to the individuals around me.  I saw tables of folks mindlessly searching their phones.  They had tuned out to their sons, daughters, or significant others sitting on the other side.  (Yeah, my people watching might indicate I wasn’t fully listening to my conversation…we are too easily distracted in the US.)  Anyways, my observations grieved this wandering heart; it was a mirror of my inattention and tendancy to stray from the source of comfort and peace our souls long for. 

Our souls long for a comfort of community and a sense of belonging as we graft ourselves to the vine. In drawing close to the source we’d find strength to water our parched souls.  As our thirst became quenched, our cisterns would overflow to the caked land that surrounds us. Then instead of decay, we’d see plump fruit spring up from shoots rooted in his mercy. 

Yet most American churches have bought into the deception that Christian blessing is not in fellowship but rather in accumulating stuff that reflects a golden image of self.  Americans are all about gorging, myself sadly included at times.  Our daily food portions could feed entire villages for months in other countries.  Our individual wardrobes could clothe thousands if we didn’t idolize fashion.  Our facebook photos are a continuous thread of selfies (I’m guilty of this, regrettably).   We stuff ourselves with technology, food, and activities.  We are a nation with severe debt.  Our credit is high but the bank account, financially and figuratively, is negative. To fool ourselves into thinking this strive for more and the idol of self is somehow working, we drug ourselves with cups of bitter caffeine, antidepressants, and self-help books. 

We call ourselves the land of the free.  America is not home of the brave where we roam free.  We are just fearful of facing ourselves and the depravity of useless gain.  We are slaves to a material world.  We somehow think that bigger means better and that a fatter check defines success.  However, our suicide rates are skyrocketing, divorce rates are climbing, and the emptiness inside is widening.  We try to say anything works, that it’s all relative.  I think society shows that isn’t true.  We are a lost people absorbed in ourselves.  It didn’t work for Israel and it won’t work for us.  Have you ever noticed that the mere thought of death still brings most atheists bending on knees and pleading for eternal life? 

So let us share the gospel with boldness and gather as believers, giving thanks for community rather than glitzy chandeliers and streets paved with platinum.  May we feast on his word and shield our stomachs lest we binge on self-gratification and in turn become a fat delicacy to that prowling lion. 

 

Dollhouse on a Prairie

A status I posted on Facebook yesterday after watching the documentary, TINY: When did I get the notion that accumulation meant success? Life isn’t about stuff, it’s about memories and relationships. Perhaps the very thing I need to rebut the cracked, dry, and empty “success” dream that has been propagated by our culture, and refrain from consumerism, is a tiny house.

Elaborating:

My father has told me that my current space is too small for mine and Frank’s needs. Frank and I are a couple. Do we really need anything bigger than a one bedroom apartment? A two bedroom apartment would strap us financially. I’ve considered moving to a studio to save even more. Downsizing would jolt my father and have him shaking his head in disbelief. Perhaps downsizing is what Frank and I need to remove ourselves from this imagined impression of prosperity. I need to get over this approval addiction and live in freedom.

Our apartment looks cluttered because we’ve accumulated junk. Somewhere along the path of life we bought into the American misconception that materialism demonstrated richness. A rich life is not investing in rusted, dust covered stuffed shelves. Richness comes from an investment in community, in sustainable living.

You can’t sustain the economic output of a mansion. Mansions are deceiving. Their grandeur masks the emptiness in the lives of those trying to maintain its upkeep. Rooms can be stuffed with furniture and gadgets, but what is stuffing the souls of the consumer?

I want my soul to be stuffed with an eternal mindset. I don’t want a life puffed up with moth eaten goods. I want significant community.

I didn’t know what I had in my tiny apartment. When I first moved out of my parents, I lived in a 238 square foot space. There were plumbing issues and poor design that probably contributed to my detest of that living arrangement. The mold splattered walls also made me sick. However, I had freedom in my life. (Though I didn’t realize it then.) I had less space to clean and more money to give. This shelter wasn’t the best, but it freed me to devote energy to things of greater importance—Jesus Christ, family, and friends.

“ It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mk. 10:25)

Money is a tool. It is not evil. However, the American dream is a nightmare. It has turned money into a vessel through which useless goods have poured into our lives. Americans are busy. We are noisy. We are so distracted that we can’t sit and listen long enough to hear the still small voice. Our culture has made us blind and deaf to God’s presence in our lives. Then we blame him for not working. He is talking, if only we’d stay and tune in.

Materialism numbs our souls. Americans are afraid of vulnerability. When we open ourselves to community, we open ourselves to responsibility. As we invest in humanity and lose our grasp on stuff, we’d see the barrenness of hoarding and how materialism has made us severely bereft.

This 9-5 job, spacious apartment, and green packed wallet has sent me yearning. Could it be that I haven’t learned contentment here because I’m already packed; packed with suitcases of American prosperity, not God’s? Contentment isn’t found in trotting the globe, updated fashion, or ritzy homes but in relationships- relationships with Christ, family, and friends.

This little house idea might just be the ideal construction. It could clear my life of clutter, making space to see God’s hand moving and hear his voice speaking. Yeah, I’ve never felt at home here on earth and I’m not really supposed to. Though maybe this little house could bring me as close to home that I’m going to get this side of heaven.

Check out my current personal favorite: http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/products/b53

The Bomb

I dropped it.  F.

I could hear the snap of the injector port coming off the chamber.  Fragmented pieces littered my palms and the freshly waxed floor.  Then a clink and the torch was obliterated too.  The shards just kept coming.  Earlier in the morning I had words like sharp stones etch my ego.  The conference call left with client’s questioning my skill.  After a day like today the steam just left my lips.  I never meant for the boil to get so hot.  I just dislike feeling inadequate. 

This shaking sense of feeling inept keeps growing.  I seem to repeatedly prepare solutions incorrectly and find poor recoveries.  Then outside of work, in my day-to-day life, my body can’t seem to find a way to perform basic biology.  Others can do so without even a blink.  You see, for years my body has been resistant to impregnation.  (It wasn’t for a lack of trying, let me tell you…okay well no details, but yeah the effort was definitely there.)

It’s times when you feel like a failure that you have to remember who you are in Christ.  I keep trying to remind myself of this fact.  Christ equips.  (2Cor.3:6) My duty is not in the things of this world necessarily, but more importantly in spreading the good news.  Sharing the gospel must always be my goal and if I share in planting the seeds than I am a success.

The world, even the church body, can put expectations on success, but God looks at the heart.  He cares about our motivations.  When you feel like you can’t perform the most basic things of life remember that there is an eternity.  He defines who we are and the proper goals, not a lack of broken instrumentation or faulty plumbing, are what bring him joy.  He’s using it all for his glory.  We just have to remember that.  We have to refrain from impulse and crass words.  I only say it when frustrated.  That’s not an excuse though.  In all things pray and his peace will transcend.  Pray before the battle of failed projects and passionate encounters. 

May my words always bring him glory.  Yet I’m grateful that he condemns less than our brethren for the occasional use of foul words.  I repent and receive his mercies.  Tomorrow is another day with a fresh anointing of mercy.  He’s given me so much today and I’m eternally grateful. 

The Appearance of Self

There sat a lot overgrown with weeds. Within the brush were rusted homes on cinder blocks.  Broken windows were patched together with duct tape.  A smell of cat pee permeated the air and assaulted noses of intruders. A resounding gun shot punctured the air.  A few streets down a broken pickup truck splattered glass as the bullet burst into the windshield.  No one was killed.  It was an abandoned truck and country kids were simply practicing for the upcoming deer season.  In a town like this, that’s what teenagers without a dime do to pass the time.  That, or chase a sparkling dream too vast and complicated for them to understand.

Forks, WA.

I’ve been thinking about our trip this past February out to Seattle.  While visiting Washington, we drove to the Hoh Rainforest and happened upon the novel inspiration that was Forks.  There were no fanged beasts, except the one devouring any resemblance of stability and financial security.  It was a town in the middle of nowhere.  Here were folks removed from the bustle of Seattle.  Their homes were dilapidated and caving.  

Seattle was, on the other hand, shiny.  Steel buildings climbed into the heavens.  Individuals were sipping mochaccinos at Starbucks, a franchise monopolizing every corner.  In front of them would be a keyboard or phone.  A friend might be sitting right across but with their handheld device in tow as well.  

Forks appeared broken, decayed.  Seattle seemed fresh, new.  

We can be broken but plastered in casts of smiles.  We can be bruised but persevering in joy.  Our circumstances don’t determine our countenance.  People can project their perceptions all they want.  God looks at the motivations of the heart.  God sees our sorrows and thrills.  He can see the hidden emotions and the ones broadcasted on sleeves.  Yet through it all, let us open ourselves to his grace and his mercy.  So as we open up to vulnerability we will grow in honest expression and in Christ-like appearance.  

 

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The Pursuit of Happyness

Last night we went to see Chef, a reel performance which details a chef engrossed in work with the rest of his life frayed.  After a confrontation with a food blogger, he is offered assistance by his ex-wife and starts a food truck.  It is about a man who regains the proper perspective in life after starting his own business.  He is restored. 

Sometimes I think that I’ll get restored in a new location or new career.  I’m far more artsy than other lab personnel.  I’m also extremely social.  Most bench chemists would be squints, fearing exposure to sunlight over fluorescent lighting. Other scientists dislike consistent social interaction.  I’m definitely an extrovert; I thrive when speaking with others.  It often feels soul crushing to be working in a field that isn’t suited to my personality but pays our bills. 

I’ve asked myself if I don’t trust God financially.  Is money an idol?  Is the constant desire to be praised by my parents attributing to my employment in the scientific field?  Should I be reckless and travel while writing, working odd jobs here and there to put enough food in my belly and gas in the car?  My parents have stated this would be irresponsible.  We don’t have kids yet, isn’t this the time to throw caution to the wind and experience different cultures and meet new people?  Frank would not allow it.  He’s far too responsible for that.   Perhaps it’s that Frank’s soul is quieted by the calming presence of the Holy Spirit and I’m to busy wrestling God.  I see what I want, what I think should be and spend countless hours debating God when I know his plan is better.  I’m too focused on my desire to travel because my restless soul can’t seem to be stilled to experience the wonder and awe God has awaiting me here.  Christ is teaching me the annoying, but oh so wonderful, characteristic of contentment. 

He doesn’t care where I am.  He’s put me in Jersey.  While I’m here he wants me to do one thing, share the gospel.  I don’t need to be a missionary in the African bush to do that.  He can and does use me here.  It’s when we are uncomfortable and unsure that he can shine through.  I am called to preach the good news wherever I am, especially if it’s in a place where I feel out of tune with the culture. God hasn’t left America, he’s present if I’m willing to seek hard enough. 

The reality is that I won’t ever be satisfied anywhere unless I’m satisfied in him.  How do we get satisfied in him?  We communicate with him through his word and prayer.  We share his love.  We count blessings to remind our wandering hearts of his faithfulness.  We make the most of every opportunity to glorify Christ. Satisfaction comes in wanting Christ here and now.

The pursuit of happiness is not chasing happiness at all.  It’s dying to self, gazing at the cross and the empty tomb, and choosing joy (the peace of Christ) in all circumstances.  We have an everlasting hope independent of happy circumstances.  We can be suffering, but know that Christ is with us through it all.  We can grieve, but we do so differently.  We can think our selves misfit to do a job seemingly contradictory to our skill set, but Christ equips us for his purposes.  It is when we are weak that he is strong.  My inadequacy as a chemist allows Christ to shine through when I submit my work load to him.  I can share the gospel anywhere, not just writ in calligraphy sprawling on white canvases. 

It is when I pursue Christ alone with all my fervor that I might just learn what it means to be content.  When I pursue Christ, a new dwelling, job, or activity won’t become substitutes into an imagined, momentary pleasure perceived as satisfaction.  I’ll be content when I am content with the majesty of God rather than the box I seem to frequently place him in. 

A three for one

He said no to a desire of our hearts for the moment.

However, other prayers that Frank and I have been engaging for years have a glimmer of fruition. Those possible prayer answers would be incredibly sweet. We can see him lifting the veil already. He’s revealing himself.

Today was a good day of remembering his faithfulness. There are three prayer requests, unrelated to pregnancy, currently being answered. It helps to remind me that God is a God of hope. Prayer does work, for greater purposes than my happiness.

I praise God for the ability to a sliver of these treasured utterances delivered.

We serve an eternal God who hears our cries. He is faithful and working things for his glory in his timing. I thank Him for letting me see these answered terms, or these works in progress though.

I wanted to pass from earth immediately and be with Christ after the miscarriage. That would have been easier than carrying this burden and sorrow. Being with Christ is better than earthly passage, but seeing the sprouts of deliverance in others we’ve prayed so long for helps set our hearts ablaze.

So may I, like Paul, live life with a proper death theology and be submitted always to Christ. He is faithful. I thank him for the opportunity to see these other prayers answered. I know he has been with us through it all and he’ll continue to do so.

Though my heart grieves, it rejoices. A Christian has the promise of Christ and the assurance of heaven. God is always faithful for his glory. Thank you Jesus for reminding me of that when my foot was slipping.

It’s about perseverance. I’m grateful he is answering these other requests. He didn’t have to, but he’s answering three when I was growing feeble. His timing is perfect.

His presence never left me and won’t because Christ died and rose for me, for us. He died one for all that we could have fellowship with the Godhead three in one- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is working in these three requests mentioned. His timing for answers to these other petitions could not have been answered at a more opportune time to renew a steadfast spirit. Today is a Sabbath holy unto God and I will rest in him as I’m reminded of his presence.

Praise be to God.

Fly on Wings like Eagles

It’s all about perspective.  I like what pastor said the other day.  Problems and pains are possibilities if you reorient your focus.  Don’t zoom in on the trial or tribulation, rather think of how he’ll use this in a testimony.  This does not mean we can’t grieve or be emotionally raw.  Life sometimes sucks.  Yet we know that God will deliver us.  He’ll either free us from the struggle and use it for kingdom growth or he will welcome us home.  

Teddy Graham didn’t have to endure the heartache of separation.  We do, in more ways than one.  Yet Christ is our cornerstone.  If he is our foundation, we can sit on the roof and gaze at life from a lofty height.  If the house is built on faulty lines the roof crumbles or caves in and you are left in the pit of despair, seeing the gravity of your woe.  Christ lets me hurt and vent my frustrations, he’s able to empathize.  So though I am numb now, I will keep pressing into his word and communicate with him in prayer.  I’ll train my heart and tongue to align with what I know to be true.  Christ will reignite these ashes and from them beauty will arise.  

In Memory of Teddy Graham, Frank and I constructed a kite and had our first date of Summer 2014, our first one-on-one date in a while actually.  We need a retreat to regroup, but since our summer is so busy it doesn’t look like we’ll really be able to have a weekend getaway.  It was nice to get a date day with hubby at leastImageImageImage

(Professor and Skipper are our fish.  (If you were wondering why it said that on the kite.)  We treasure them dearly and right now they are our children.  Our mother’s are allergic to cats and we can’t have dogs in the apartment so fish make great pets, and children for the time being.) Frank calls me teddy bear and I call him turtle and that’s why those images are on the kite as well.

Also, we didn’t have much wind so actually flying the kite was a bit of a flop, but it was fun nonetheless.  

We’ll continue to run the race he’s marked out for us, even if it means losing a child.  His promises make us soar on wings like eagles.  His word is a lamp unto our feet and with him we walk, remaining steady even though this grief sometimes makes us want to faint.

Another completely different note:  Did anyone notice that yesterday’s post used language akin to someone who had cystic fibrosis? I don’t have it, but am a carrier.  Frank said he didn’t realize that.  I just wanted to see if anyone else grasped that.  If not, maybe I didn’t use proper terminology, but that was my aim.  

Gasping for air

I had an appointment with my fertility specialist.  She reminded me of some previous tests.

Cystic fibrosis and a rare disease, I can’t recall the name currently.  

Thankfully Frank and I don’t share the same recessive traits, at least for the sequences tested.  These are the countless screenings you endure while being poked and prodded, filling syringes to find out why a womb remains empty.  Even if you never wanted to know, it’s part of the procedure.  You will learn about the dormant genes that threaten to take the life you are trying so hard to create.  

Then again, we have a God who performs miracles.  Science can say what it wants, the supernatural still defies it.  Medicine said the chances were slim for conception, that our best bet for offspring would be an IVF.

The risk of IVF is that if it doesn’t keep then you are out 10-20k, possibly more.  Most have an oops night and nine months later their trying to contain the shock.  Those with the faulty plumbing invest in their kids even before there is a child to go to college.  The barren ones help pay the bills for the reckless, those of the broken barrier trial, and the planned zygote while they grieve, bearing the heavy weight of a formless babe.  

We had the answered prayer…and then it was lost.   We got the wind knocked out of us.  

Now we sit here trying to pick up the pieces of shattered hearts.  We clutch our chests as our lungs fill with over-bearing grief.  Another prayer is uttered, a plea not to choke.  There is begging in our whispers, a cry that we’d continue to function.  

He’s transplanting fear with trust, weaning fleshly desire to the nourishment of a gospel filled nation.  He’s the physician giving us oxygen.  May we use this breath to spread his gospel rather than heaving sighs, breaking body and bank.