Like a disciple, 2

I can’t leave Matthew 26 yet. Right where we left off:   38He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  … 43 “When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.”

He’s found them sleeping once already. Two verses later, his betrayer will arrive in the garden. James and John will prove themselves unable to “drink the bitter cup of suffering” they swore they would share with Christ. Peter will deny Christ over and over and over, just like he promised he’d never, ever do.

And 2,000ish years later, I’ll set out to live my day full of purpose, the Big Picture of life before my eyes, and five minutes later start sinking into the quicksand of distraction. I don’t doubt the disciples spent at least a few minutes in devout prayer before their eyes drooped shut. Lately my purpose for each day has felt like heavy eyelids.

I know my calling at this stage of life: To raise, teach, and lovingly live with four small disciples.

I’m as immersed in my task as Jesus’ disciples were in following him. In general, homeschool means that where I go, we all go. The five of us all together over a daily routine of breakfast, history, math, grammar (etc, etc.); errands; chores, cleaning up. So much cleaning up. Likewise, for those disciples, following him meant they spent all of their time with Jesus; walking, eating, watching, listening, learning from their Rabbi. Praying.

Sometimes he spoke cryptically, or in stories, and sometimes just plain and simple. That’s how it was when he told them (more than once, in fact) exactly how he was going to die:

“Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed …They will sentence him to die… to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” (Matthew 20:18-19)

You’d think they’d have been on alert! When Jesus brought Peter, James, and John with him to pray in Gethsemane, saying, “My soul is crushed with grief,” even this was not enough to rouse them from their sleepiness.

I wonder if they expected more fanfare; more recognition. James and John’s mom asked Jesus outright to save special seats beside Him in his Kingdom for her boys. She hoped for some payoff; I suspect they did too.

I can understand this. Once I imagined discipling, or ministering, would mean meeting someone for lunch and and hour of good talks, leaving with a nice warm feeling inside, feeling that I’d helped somehow. I didn’t expect to live out the painful process by being tried throughout the day, in continuous contact with my people, continually refined by the type of situations that will cause me to grow in patience (ugh), kindness and gentleness (ouch). Where a dripping faucet of kid complaints and sibling squabbles feels like I’m getting absolutely nowhere; like my the amount of Jesus inside my heart isn’t enough to overcome the all the humanity around here.

This is why those sleepy disciples captivate, and comfort. I’m as embarrassed for them as I tend to be for myself. Charged with just such a little task, and unable to even keep at it. A reminder that an imperfect Jesus follower is the only kind there is. But thank God that “he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (Psalm 103:14)

Otherwise Christ’s soul-grieving cup of suffering would not have been required. But in his goodness, he came, “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt. 20:28)

 

 

 

 

Lent: Like a disciple.

Do you know the story where Jesus asks his disciples to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemene? Riiiight about here —>

Matthew 26:36-46 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

44 So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

The disciples just. Couldn’t. They flaked out so quick on Jesus! He’s over there sweating blood and they’re falling asleep at the wheel. It seems so easy. I’ve always liked to think {secretly, of course,} that I’d have done it better. I mean this it IT! One of the big nights of the faith and this is how the disciples have to go down in history?

So this year I felt a stirring to move into the Lent season with more intention and reverence than my non-denominational experience dictates. Many faith traditions celebrate Lent, but the school of thought I’ve been around, mostly, is that it’s unnecessary, possibly even legalistic. And yet. The Church calendar calls to me in these seasons: “Slow down.  Look back. See. Remember.” And I always want to listen. I always want to learn.

After thirty-some years of carrying on as usual, this year I gave up, frankly, a crap-ton of things for Lent. I should have seen the writing on the wall. Ash Wednesday was great. The rest of the next week, sure. Then we started to get dicey. I learned that Sundays are “Feast Days.” (I finally clued in that the span from Ash Wednesday to Easter is, um, well more than the 40 days we all know Lent to be. Why is the 40-day span of Lent actually spread out over 46 days?? Well, Feast Day! Each Sunday, a “mini Easter” recalls the resurrection, and we can’t fast while celebrating that! Which sounded so much to my mentality like “Cheat Day,” that perhaps that’s a better description of how I appropriated this into my Lenten season.)

After several days, I jumped right off the wagon. “Too many rules!” “Too confining!” “And what about Grace!!”

About two days after that, (pretty sure it was a Monday,) I jumped right back on. “Going to see it through! Finish what I started!”  It will shock no one I did not entirely finish. Maybe typing this as I polish off some chips, a truffle, AND a glass of Malbec.

Further complications: Do I want more Jesus, or do I really just want more of a beach body? Is “both” an ok answer? What am I trying to do here?

The spirit may be willing, but the body is weak, indeed. I flip and I flop. I’m off and I’m on. I want Jesus, and yet, I despise discomfort.

And so, as if I needed a reminder, yet again I see it.  I am the disciples in the Garden; eyelids too heavy to wake up to the reality my Lord is in his darkest night. I’m even Eve, in the garden, too much a know-it-all to follow just.one.rule. I’m the Israelites in the desert, complaining that my diet is sooo limited by this bread {from Heaven} and that water {miraculously} sprung from a rock!

I wish to be the hero, but the fact remains: There is but one hero in this story, the crucified, resurrected, ascended Christ Jesus. 

“Help!”

I may be allergic to the act of having to ask for help. The thought of having to do it makes my heart race and my chest tighten, as I think of all the reasons the person I might ask has to “no.” I know they are busy; I can think of how many things they probably have to do already and decide for them, no way can you take a moment to help me out – how embarrassing of me to have even thought of asking!

My allergy was confirmed just this week, when I did, in fact, need some help.

It had been a good idea when I arrived at the park to meet my small group — taking my key off the key ring with the intention to tie it up in my shoelace as we sat, so then it would be ready when the sun set and heat dropped and I went for a quick run. No keys to hold onto while running; I’ve done it a zillion times.

You can see where this is going, right? Of course when we all convened, I forgot to tie the loose key onto my shoe; I didn’t even notice that it wasn’t in hand with my phone and water bottle – until it was time to go.

Suddenly the setting sun wasn’t my ally. The power of the phone flashlight didn’t seem as helpful as usual when I combed the grassy spot where we’d been sitting and retraced my steps across the park. Twice – thrice! I prayed a fervent prayer for rescue.

Then I noticed that as the parking lot had cleared out, a few cars remained – two of my friends were still there talking. I felt a little prompt in the calm deep within, “Just ask for help.” Oh no, will I need to ask for a ride? Ugh! It’s too far out of the way, there’s no way I’ll do that. Even if I did (!!) ask for that, what would I do about picking up the car? And home is in the opposite direction from where they’ll need to go. Again, “Just ask.” Um, no thanks, think I’ll just keep scouring the area with my little flashlight and a growing sense of helplessness. I can just as well do it myself! But again, “just ask.”

And here, I began to realize, yes, the Lord can work even in my tiny, self-inflicted tragedy – His ongoing work of bringing me to humility, breaking me out of my walls of imagined self-sufficiency. It’s a big work. It happens in a million tiny moments, just like this.

I crossed the park again, this time to say – out loud – “I need help!” Three flashlights and three pairs of eyes now in the game, barely five minutes later, they key was found – not by me, in the same area I’d already searched.

Recently, as my own dear mom has been discovering, when you let people into your need – even just telling them, matter of factly, as she did, “here it is: breast cancer” – kindness comes pouring in. Comments, prayers, kindness graciously given; proving that help – even without her having asked for it – is willingly given.

We are made in the image of a God who gives – even to the point of giving up his Son. We are made for helping, for laying ourselves down in ways big and small; most commonly, small.  We often don’t even know how to ask for His grace when we need it, just like I didn’t know just to ask for help when I needed it. I thought I needed to ask for a ride across town; all I needed was to have friends along with me. Like Mom, who has gotten to witness the small miracle of being surrounded by support everywhere she goes, since she let everyone in.  We will have plenty of times to pray that “rescue” prayer, but we never need to suffer alone.

Creativity, sometimes you are harder to find than the perfect pair of shorts. Harder, even, than it was to find dress a couple seasons ago it was all the baggy-with-a-belted-waist style that was just ridiculous on someone of my height. Either way. Sometimes I’ll try every place I think you may possibly turn up, and, just nothing. Hours of effort wasted – hands still empty.

Other days you appear unbidden, saying things like “abandon that dinner plan – let’s cook something funky!” or “I don’t care how late it is, let’s MAKE something!” You are very convincing. Or maybe it’s just the fact my nature is imprinted with you – and a need to create – that when you appear, I can’t say no. You’ve gotten me into so many ill-fated craft situations – painting (never turns out, but I still can’t quit it); sewing, (nothing good has ever come of that one), baking (mixed results), miscellaneous crafts (apologies to the laundry room, in which the bits and pieces for such are stored indefinitely); gardening has some element of creativity and shell hunting works, partly because just think of all the fabulous things I could do with those sea treasures! And very occasionally, do.

Oh! And writing! Can’t give this one up, either. Even when the thought-threads are all stuck, more tangled than after-beach hair. Even when it’s been years since I thought in complete sentences and since those beautiful, beautiful, long – but now-long-gone days when my (then) little children took synchronized naps. Ahhh… those were the days. But these are too! Time to brush up the brain skills – read books that take a little work . Go for the occasional longer run (apologies here to my knees) just for that blissful thinking-rhythm feeling. Time to seize creativity where she finds me and not let her go till it’s done.

I’ve made peace with organizing (to an extent), schedules, routines; these are good things and I can’t function without them, but it’s taken work to learn to work with these systematic ways. Grabbing onto the inner creative is core-deep for all of us – made in the image of Creator himself.

Our Father, In Heaven…

“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” The Lord’s Prayer. For some churchgoers, words memorized to the point of insignificance. In yesterday’s message, we asked “Lord, how can I make your name seen as holy in my life today?”

Longer than any of us could remember, the tide has been rising and falling. The gravity governing its motion hasn’t changed; nor has the futility of building a castle at the edge of the tide line — or the impulse to do just exactly that.

Family beach day: As the tide crept back out to sea I watched Merrick, gaining bravery and feeling strong, jumping into the waves. He would reach his arms toward each crashing wave – in his eyes, his small hands are a weapon capable of knocking the wave down before it knocks him. From where he can see it, the ocean looks like a series of waves nearly his own size, but standing at just the right depth renders it powerless to his force as he knocks each one down to ankle-high whitewater.

Beside him a smaller friend crawled, turtle-like, straight out. The tide and her mother easily kept her from making much progress. From her vantage point just inches above the sand, the ocean is a lapping tide; little bubbling white swells and swirls around her elbows, sometimes even as high as her neck.

A few more years and they will swim out past the breakers; appreciate that at any moment a wave can pound you right onto the sand or a current pull you away from where you mean to stay. They will understand which wave is a fun ride and which you’d rather dive under.

And now, from the adult-height view – I watch the horizon and begin to realize how little I can understand of this kind of bigness. I can recognize the map shapes version of the ocean, but still barely imagine the reality of it; an expanse far, far bigger than my eye could see in every direction; powerful enough to crush nations. And part of the thrill of being near the ocean is being reminded again each time how very small I am.

It’s the same with God himself:  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm 111:10

We fear the waves as we can see them coming; when our feet begin to lose ground or we get thrashed in whitewater we grasp for a lifeline – but Holy God himself, all goodness and gravity, is the ocean.

“All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with that overwhelming problem of God: that is, what He is like, and what we as moral beings must do about Him.” A.W. Tozer

Not until we see Him face to face will we comprehend the weight of His glory.  But today we can look up to the Creator whom, by grace, we call Father, and ask for a horizon-big picture of His plan; for eyes that can see that the waves are part of it, terrifying or thrilling as they may be, the real power is much, much bigger.  With eternity-seeking eyes, we can join in making His name kept holy here.  With eyes fixed on the horizon, the power of those waves before us is dwarfed by the magnitude of God himself.

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

What on earth is more evangelical than a weed in the yard? Nothing seems to spread more easily or effortlessly than dandelion and rattlesnake weed. (Yeesh!) Except maybe those vines, I don’t know the name, that seem to come from nowhere and become so hopelessly entangled in the trees at the edge of the yard that it’s near impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Historically, I’ve not been a green-thumbed individual. But Lord knows I’m not happy to leave well enough alone. I will garden. However badly it’s gone in the past, I’m bound to keep trying. It’s my dream and my destiny to attempt beautifying the corners and edges of every part of my home with living green things. I’ll check on my watermelon and basil and everything in between most every day and be thrilled with a blossom here and a few new leaves there, and then turn around to see that where I pulled up half a yard worth of dandelion – roots and all – last week, there’s been a population boom and they’ve all come back, inexplicably, with roots that seem to have been there for years.

To quote (or maybe paraphrase, depending how good my note-taking was Sunday,) Hunter’s message from Galatians 6:6-10, “What’s true in the yard is true in our spiritual lives.”

I listened to Galatians 5:19-21 read aloud and felt deeply uncomfortable as I recognized several things from my life:

“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.”

No, don’t go on! Enough already! I see my own selfishness portrayed in that passage and wonder how someone (in this case, me, but perhaps you know this feeling, too!) who intends to live a life of walking closely with Christ can become controlling, selfish, discontent, hard hearted. (I, too, could go on.) And I know – and Sunday’s message was the same — every detail matters. Every detail is either an opportunity to exploit my surroundings to get what I want – OR – to seek the bigger picture; the eternal perspective: What good is God working in this?

I need no encouragement to parent selfishly — our morning homeschool session is a fabulous-slash-horrible example of this.  I can sit with my 10-year-old scholar trying to force my agenda for the school day while the older wants to insert trivia and jokes at every intersection and the littler interrupts with a million questions and get so incredibly frustrated with him.  (In truth, his conversation manners need some work.  But then, he’s 3.) I see Stella’s frustration, too. Our voices and faces tighten with attempted patience.  He’s in our way – an obstacle to checking off our to-do list. OR – we can slow down, adopt a bigger view, and invite his prescence; admire his drawings, and marvel that a 3-year-old can learn with us, too.

The world pushes hard to root in my mind that life is all about ME. It’s quite an alluring fantasy; as soon as I neglect to set my mind on Christ, the weeds take root. It takes no effort at all to have a mind entangled by the weeds of entitlement and momentary comfort. Pulling the vines down and the roots up takes longer — separating tree from vine; Truth from fiction; God’s promises from my fears and doubts — bit by bit learning to be a useful plot of soil for the Master Gardener’s work.

“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:8,9

the Accidental Minimalist Easter

Oh how I love tradition: Easter surprises, Easter dresses, Easter baskets; not so much the Easter bunny. (Why that universal terrifying Easter bunny costume? WHY?!)

I can still taste the jello salad that joined a million other dishes on my Gramma’s holiday table growing up. Maybe b/c I’m eating some right now. No, just kidding, but I did replicate that “salad” (it’s jello with strawberries, and a layer of sweetened cream cheese on a buttery pretzel crust. Not much salad but plenty delicious still) for my family’s Easter dinner on Good Friday. We ate good food and had an egg hunt for the kids.

We painted eggs on Saturday and celebrated with our church family on Sunday. And as far as tradition, that’s where we left off.

No Easter surprises, baskets, or chocolate bunnies. No well planned crafts or games. Just one Easter outfit (for Stella) just because I thought she’d get a real kick out of that (she did! And was so adorable!), just one child (Stella, in her new dress) photographed hastily on the way in to set up and serve at church. No family pictures at all.

I was tempted – hard – to feel horribly guilty about this. It wasn’t that I planned to fail at Easter traditions, it was just that I failed to plan. The only thing planned was our people — circling up and soaking up plenty of friend time. Finding time in our days to gather. Hours upon hours of kids playing outside, moms watching and talking (and talking!) on the deck, catching up in the way our non-Spring Break life doesn’t allow. We soaked it in.

Even my extroverts got enough people time, which is rare, which also means the rest of us (we are in the minority in this house) were totally fried by the end of the week, and still with the big Church celebration day ahead of us! (It’s a Big Deal day for pastors and church staffers — the day that symbolizes our reason for centering our entire earthly life around Jesus, and wanting to share that good news with everyone.)

Friday’s family fun night could have been sacrificed for some secret Easter bunny shopping, but no, family fun night must not be sacrified if at all possible! There are a few things we hold sacred, and we choose them carefully.

And this no-frills Easter season reminded me why. Dragging my ragged self to sit in awe of the cross is enough. This is the thing we hold sacred. I have been tempted to bask in the warm fuzzies of my accomplishments in creating fun memories for my kids; of having us all decently dressed up and photo-documented for once; of the joy of making something adorable for them to ooh and aah over… oh, these are such good things! But in the absence of them – in the “am i a failure?” feelings created by that absence, I found myself driven again and again to look back at the cross — the empty cross of the risen Christ — and say, yes, yes – Christ is Enough.