what to do with abundance

If you are not feeling like a long read, will you at least skip to the bottom and give me your honest vote? Thanks! I am such the typical Brooklynite today, riding a French vintage bike in a flowy denim dress in the July summer heat with an adventure backpack and no helmet. Wearing a denim dress and a helmet seemed like a decision I would regret in the heat (also I had managed to throw up the perfect little bun that a helmet would destroy). So, I chose danger.

It had to happen, really, because I did a bunch of homebody things this morning like laundry and cleaning and long distance phone calls (okay, fine... a little bunch) before getting out into the sunshine to meet up with some good friends. I like to string things together like twinkle lights... then this and this and this, until the whole day sparkles. Meeting my friends' baby Eloise Ruby was the first of many twinkles and I guess I'm trying to say that explains the adventure backpack. So many twinkle lights.

So, I am camped out in the hipster-est Fort Greene coffee shop while my bike Betty hangs out in the sunshine, proudly showing off her perfect wire basket and yellow fenders. Eye roll.

A little/a lot of me wants to be at something called the Cass County Fair. You've never heard of it, but I promise you wish you had. If I tried to explain the detailed fair schedule, as published in a little handbook by the Cass County Fair Board, it would sound like every stereotype of what makes rural ridiculous to city folks. It is tucked away in a regular county of a very regular flyover state.

But you've never been, so you can't possibly understand what it's like to walk through the long, white commercial barns to grab bags of free goodies or how it feels to know you have animals in the pig barn or the dairy barn or the beef barn that have your name hanging over their stall. You don't know the nervous frenzy of waiting to see if your 4-H projects deserved statewide recognition. You don't "get" the anticipation of the County Queen contest or the talks that happen around campfires or the solidarity of feeding animals at 6 am. This whole rant sounds like crazy, I realize.

You don't have to understand the irony of my being ultra hipster on a day like today, but that little slice of Midwestern American life is my kind of crazy. I wish (a little bit) that I was eating pancake breakfast at the 4-H food stand with my uncles and cousins or dipping my candy lollipops in my grandma's ultra creamy coffee like I did when I was seven years old. I know it doesn't make sense, but it was my kind of crazy for 18 years of life, so it feels appropriate to enjoy some nostalgia as my family lives inside that world this week. I'm living in a different crazy these days, making new memories and living the moments of future nostalgia.

It's been interesting to answer questions about marriage because it is hard to know where to put all the wonderful. It is surprisingly difficult to figure out how to manage all the abundance and I suppose that is the best way to explain this transition: I am learning to manage a new kind of abundance.

New normals, new abnormals, new routines, new breaks of routines, new escapes, and new dead ends. And really, I haven't been able to manage any of it. [Also, update on that July heat: full blown rainstorm outside this hipster cafe window.]

It's like that silly analogy about the way we see the world... the half-empty / half-full glass scenario. We always want it to be full, right? Regardless of our chosen perspective, the assumption is that the best way the glass can be is full. So what happens when a pitcher unleashes abundance over the top of that controversy - when the only perspective from which to see the glass is overflowing. Do we manage the abundance by sopping it up, even though the very thing we wanted has happened and more?

That's a tricky one. I would say this is a #firstworldproblem but I think it's everyone's dilemma if they have every felt abundance. What does the right kind of gratitude look like? How do you know when to jump in puddles and when to hold an umbrella? What is okay to stay a mystery and what should be known?

I know, I ask too many questions.

Maybe that's why the Cass County Fair feels like a good place to be today. I've carved out quite a few geographical escapes over the years (from my own questions) and the Cass County Fair is one of those places. I get to rally around someone else's success and ambition, chatting on those familiar silver bleachers under some shade (if we're lucky).

Abundance is worth pondering - worth the questions and the coffee shop afternoons and the confusing blog posts. I am learning, slowly.

Part of the beauty of an overflowing cup is the mystery of always being full but always being filled.

It is really never supposed to make sense or get figured out or be understood. Abundance is like sunshine, maybe. I could spend all day inside with thick books and light refractors and smart instruments and science stuff, but I would never get inside the beauty of sunshine abundance. I would never enjoy the mystery of being full of sunshine while still being filled with it. Sometimes the best explanation of mystery is swirling with outstretched hands and uplifted face under an abundant sunshine sky.

On a completely unrelated note, would you help me do a little research? If I was to write a, ahem, lengthier piece... what would you like to read from me?

1. Hospitality / Neighboring 2. Something heavy with philosophy / doctrine thoughts 3. Anecdotes / Blog Excerpts / Personal Stories 4. Some combination... 5. Something obvious I haven't thought to have as an option

Ask your mom, friends, pets what they would want to read from me and then let me know. The rain cleared outside, so I better get Betty home before another downpour results in a wet mess of this unfortunate Brooklyn hipster.

the sun will rise

Love as Christ loved. That is the message of Maundy Thursday, the new commandment Christ gave to the disciples in his final, informal sermon. Love one another. He commands it because He knows it can be done, though it is impossible.

We are not naturally lovely people - not naturally kind or caring. We are selfish and proud and have been since that forbidden fruit. We guard our independence and vacation time and personal freedom and charity, considering others sparingly and only when we feel like it. To "love one another" is an impossible command, but Jesus commands it because He knows it is possible. His is a love that can swallow up every force that opposes it, even death.

His is a love that empowers love when the network of human nature fights against it.

Christ shows us love and then commands us to do what only He can make possible in our lives. "Love one another" is not a reason for Easter resolutions or a slogan for social justice. "Love one another" is an impossible command that Jesus obeyed perfectly on the cross, a command that we can obey by way of His righteousness.

Jesus commands us to love one another and then He shows us what love looks like as he lives out the prophecy spoken in Isaiah.

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. [ISAIAH 53:1-6]

I still do not understand it, but I read myself in these words. I hid my face, esteemed him not, and threw my grief on his bloody back. And today we remember that He was crushed. He was pierced and wounded because of our black hearts and secret sins. Today, we remember the sky went black when death killed the healer.

This is the darkest day, but there is hope on the horizon. There are rays hiding behind the dark sky, lit by the glory of the Creator - our God who knew all along that there would be a resurrection. And the resurrection lights the way for our love of one another.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/28486389]

hot pressure heartburn

It felt like heartburn, but I am sure it wasn't. The hot pressure pushing against my rib cage on Monday might be as close as I have ever felt to groaning with creation for the coming of the Lord (Romans 8:19). My body craves Jesus' return as much as my spirit, and together (I think) they press up against my bones to remind me of my true home.

This week is about death.

Even in the triumphal entry on Sunday, we know it is death toward which we process. Even as we sing "Hosanna!" on the road into Jerusalem with the redeemed, we save our breath for the "Crucify!" in the center of the city with the masses. The true drama of the scene churns up this hot pressure heartburn behind my rib cage.

It is frightening, unless you believe in the God who keeps promises. This God, who loved the world so much that He threw His seed to the earth to be sown in death. The evidence is in the palms of His hands and the scars on His sides.

The resurrection is waiting on the other side like the buds breaking through dead branches and the sprouts peeking out from dry ground. Resurrection is hiding, buried safe in God's plan for redemption.

This week is about death, but it was always about life to God.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called  children of God; and so we are. In this the love of God was made manifest  among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live  through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us  and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 3:1, 4:9-10).

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For  one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person  one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we  were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be  slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

Passages from the Journey to the Cross devotional.

claiming the abundance I cannot feel

This post is part of the Skinny Dip Society Blog Tour, scroll down to find out more! I moved here in the sweltering heat of August for all the wrong reasons. Well, for the one main reason most rational people would caution you against moving across the country.

I moved to New York City for love.

It happened fast, but it had been building for something like 10 years so it didn’t feel completely irresponsible to fall in love with my best friend who showed up on my doorstep in Des Moines, Iowa after a year of not speaking to say “I love you.” (Yes, he led with that.)

The excited mess of planning over late night skype calls felt very silly and romantic. I flew out to visit and again for job interviews - a guest in his high-powered and hipster concrete city. I sold my car and purged my belongings, keeping important things like handmade crafts from high school and souvenirs from service trips. I finagled vacation time and work schedules and organized all the little roots I spread out in the two years of life in Iowa. I held my breath, quit my job, bought my ticket to La Guardia, and then found out I had an offer to start on the exact weekend I would be arriving in Brooklyn.

In March, it will be a year since that cold, brown night on my doorstep on Dunham Avenue. I feel pretty reckless and young and silly sometimes, but I am not a stranger to adventure. I chase it and it chases me, on the regular. That's part of what makes Patrick and me a pretty perfect pair. We both love adventure.

But this is different. 

There is something very vulnerable about involving another person in my adventure - something unnerving about another someone walking through the good days and the bad days and caring which kind of day it was. I slip into silence often. I shake off questions I can't give good answers to. I stack my schedule with good things. I slide into smiles when I can't find anything better to do.

This year I learned I am picky about my adventures and selfish about how I would like them to play out. When I've had enough adventure, I want the freedom to hide away without anyone wondering why I'm hiding or where. I want to be reckless on my own schedule and I moved to a city where it could be done. Selfish recklessness. Self-centered, ambitious adventure. 

Sometimes, inside adventure, I am especially aware that nothing can be poured out from emptiness. No matter how many times you tip over an empty cup, nothing will always come out. Because we cannot make something from nothing, only God can do that.

Only God can take what is empty in me and fill it with abundance. But He is not just able, He has promised. Christ came to bring life abundant (John 10:10). God loves to give good gifts to His children who ask (Matthew 7:11), because He is the only One who can give good gifts (James 1:17). These truths remind my soul I cannot conjure up abundance on my own.

God promises to fill me up when adventure has left me empty and when I want to hide away. And I believe it. He promises that in His presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11) and He will give us the desires of our hearts if we are delighting in Him (Psalm 37:3-4).

I can choose to believe the abundance I cannot feel.

And the most beautiful thing about abundance (apart from the miracle that it can happen in empty space) is that it cannot be contained. Overflow pushes out beyond boundaries. An abundant life reaches beyond self and into the lives of others with the good things I cannot own or create.

I am daily aware of my emptiness in Brooklyn and the emptiness of selfish adventure. But the bigger adventure and the greater delight is in adventuring while believing God for the next step. I can claim His promises of abundance when I feel most empty, because He is a promise keeper. He will not only fill me up, but He will overflow my life into joyful relationship with neighbors, friends, co-workers, and fellow adventurers. He is abundance and today I am believing.

Patrick is still my favorite person to adventure with. Heck, he is kind of my favorite person all together (I don't know anyone else who would consistently walk me home at 2, 3, and 4 am). But this empty-to-abundance thing is something only God can offer and we both need that on a daily basis. Knowing and claiming God's promises means I am not asking Patrick to be the miracle I need for emptiness.

Only God can do that.

I kind of feel like I should be in a good place, a better place, to write a blog post for the Skinny Dip Society blog tour. I should be more positive or more focused or more free. But it is winter in Brooklyn and I don’t feel those things and I refuse to be dishonest. I am in the place I am in today. Profound, I know.

Right here is a good place to claim the abundance I cannot feel.

I am a work in progress, but I am learning to believe abundance is something that can overflow every moment, even the forever winter Brooklyn moments. I am shaking the should be's and the more of's to believe abundance can happen here, where I am.

*****************

This post is part of a series of 25 bloggers over 25 days sharing as part of the Skinny Dip Society Blog Tour, hosted by Katie Den Ouden. Be sure to check out Lauren's post from yesterday, on Forgiveness, and Bonnie's post tomorrow. Katie will also finish up a 21-Day Freedom challenge tomorrow, but don't worry you can still get in on some of the wild and free action! Find out how you can enroll in her 12 week immersion program. She is a beautiful inspiration, so you won't regret spending time checking out her stuff. You can catch up on the past few weeks of her blog tour--over here

 

we are chance creators

There is this thing in soccer called "chances created." It's a statistic that tracks how many times a soccer player has created chances for plays. I heard about it yesterday at church because our pastor's favorite soccer player is known for his "chances created" statistic. And this matters because the friends of the paralyzed man in Matthew 9:1-8 were about creating chances. They knew that carrying their friend to the door of the home where Jesus was preaching was not enough. The crowd craned their necks from all windows and doorways to see and hear the teaching; there was no way to get their friend to the front where Jesus stood.

Oh, sure, they could have turned back and no one would have asked why. But they were about creating chances - they were determined to get their friend to the feet of Jesus because they thought something unbelievable could happen.

There was no guarantee, just a chance to witness something beautiful.

And that belief was big enough to motivate their deconstructing a roof and their Macgyvering a lowering system to interrupt Jesus' teaching with the presence of a disabled man.

The presence of Jesus was that important.

They created a chance for their paralyzed friend to meet Jesus because they believed it could change his life forever. Even just the chance was worth the sweat and trouble and questioning stares. Worth it.

Do I think getting uncomfortable and awkward and tired is worth the chances it creates for others to meet Jesus?

Good question.

Sometimes I waste time weighing out my options. I wonder if the invitations will be received well and if the conversation will be offensive. I wonder about future conversations and wonder if I will keep or lose friendships. I wonder about looking silly and feeling ashamed. I wonder about how much the other person even wants a chance to meet Jesus.

But these guys, they were relentless. And when their paralyzed friend finally got lowered down with the Bible times version of duct tape and WD 40, Jesus surprised everyone.

He looked past the paralyzed man's obvious and most debilitating physical need. He looked past the years of struggle and got inside his heart... and what He saw needed forgiving. Whatever it was, we can all relate. We are all the paralyzed man, inside. We all need to get to the foot of Jesus so He can expose what is dark apart from any physical anxieties that knot us up on the outside.

So, this was the man's chance at the feet of Jesus - his chance to experience something that would transform everything else about his mat-constrained life. And then Jesus healed this paralyzed man of sin. He forgave him for all the darkness hiding out in his heart. That was the magic and that was the mystery - the play that happened as a result of the chance created.

After the crowd backlashed and questioned, Jesus also healed the man's physical body so that "you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He is Lord over the spiritual and the physical. All of it, everything.

"There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” - Abraham Kuyper

This is why we are chance creators.

Because God is the best at unearned surprises - the eternal and physical, the now and future, the simple and complex kinds. He is the best at surprises and we must be about creating chances for friends and neighbors and strangers to sit at His feet.

We don't know what will happen, but it will never be bad. God will always be glorified and it will always be worth it.

Definitely love your local church, but if you want to be encouraged by mine, listen to this sermon from Sunday by Vito!

just keep singing

Okay, rough week. Are you feeling more frail and fragile as you watch the news? Bad news seems like the only news this week - floods, explosions, man hunts, lockdowns, bombs. And we can get buried in the bad, squirming six feet under the weight of it.

But today God is the same promise keeper! He has not forgotten His good news and He has not forgotten His good promises to us. Meditate today on the Word of God that weaves good news of God's promise keeping through horrible struggle of human failure.

The birds are singing outside my window as I write this and I tilt my head to hear their song. If creation is singing today (even as it is groaning for Christ's return), will you sing along?

Psalm 91:14-16 is a good place to start. Scroll to the bottom of this link to hear the verses put to song by Robbie Seay and then download this song and 40 other songs to benefit relief efforts in West, Texas at Noisetrade.

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

 

what the Lord requires

Nobody told these birds to dance.Nobody orchestrated their motions into something wonderful.

They did it all on their own.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/58291553]

The music they heard was not a symphony or a rousing indie anthem but the wind rushing underneath, giving power and form to their soaring.

Why?

It seems silly that these birds would make such a display just because - that they would cause such a great, choreographed spectacle in the sky caught on camera by chance.

It seems silly.

Tonight, I'm headed to the city of brotherly love to conference with a crowd of thousands to hear people like Eugene Cho and Leroy Barber and Dr. John Perkins talk about justice.

I'm not going because it's hip to believe in something, because it is. I'm not going because I think I'm some big deal - some gift to the cause of justice, because I'm not.

I'm going because I want to learn what to do with the awe I feel when I see birds dance for an audience of One. I'm going because God created this world to reflect Him and there is a whole lot that doesn't. I'm going because part of loving and treasuring Christ means putting one foot of faith in front of the other in my everyday. Because believing in His promises means I think sin and injustice can be overthrown.

I'm going because I know God's heart for the lost and the suffering and the outcast, but sometimes I don't know how to make my knowing come out my fingertips.

If God's grace allows the birds to dance in glorious display of His creativity, then His grace allows me to treasure Him in the dance of justice seeking, with the wind of His power and pleasure beneath me.

It is not mine to win or gain or give, justice that is. God alone is sovereign in how His plan is carried out, but I can walk in obedience and in the footsteps of Jesus. I can do that. And I think what the Lord requires - doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly - might look like a dance.

Pray with me that God would work on my clumsy heart?

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/58116060]