Faith for a Feeler

In many respects I am my father’s daughter.

  • For years my watchband was sewn together with dental floss because “it’s three times stronger than regular string!”
  • I can eat breakfast at least three times a day.
  • I like my coffee extra-hot (which is pretty darn hot for an americano that’s made with 200 degree water).
  • This morning as I was loading six bottles of V-Fusion (known as “Granddaddy’s juice” in our abode) onto the conveyor belt at Grocery Outlet because it was only $1.79 (yes, Pappy, it’s true: total stock-up price), I realized, “I’m stocking up.  On juice.  And I’m super-excited.  I’m so my DAD!”

My dad reads a lot.  I read a lot.  Lately he’s been sending me his books so I can resell them at our local coffee/bookstore (also known as our home away from home: the boys’ nightly prayers always have a Chapters trip request for the following day).  I filter through Dad’s reads, pulling out what I find interesting *and* might read: as a mother of three small tykes, that’s a surprisingly narrow category.

The latest book I’ve discovered and have been soaking up is Andrew Murray’s “Living the New Life”.  This is also known as “The New Life” for some reason.  It’s written for “the young Christian”, a sort of manual of basic spiritual formation.  Each chapter is concise, starting with scripture, a small teaching with plenty of scriptural footnotes, questions for individual or group discussion, and a prayer.  In fact, it’s all here!  In the words of my father, “How cool is that?!!” [insert arms going out to the side, palms up].

Today I sat a bit with “The Life of Feeling”.  On the Myers-Briggs indicator, I’m a high-level F (Feeling); as high as I am an F, my father is a T (Thinking).  That has made for some interesting father/daughter dynamics as well as perceptions of Papa God.  Wikipedia, source of all information is true, sums up:

Thinking and feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. The thinking and feeling functions are both used to make rational decisions, based on the data received from their information-gathering functions (sensing or intuition). Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it ‘from the inside’ and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved.

As noted already, people who prefer thinking do not necessarily, in the everyday sense, “think better” than their feeling counterparts; the opposite preference is considered an equally rational way of coming to decisions (and, in any case, the MBTI assessment is a measure of preference, not ability). Similarly, those who prefer feeling do not necessarily have “better” emotional reactions than their thinking counterparts.

I know these are different uses of the word “feeling”, but I find it interesting to think of how they could easily get muddled, and likewise get me muddled.

We do not find the word “feeling” in Scripture. What we call “feeling” the Scripture calls “seeing.” And it tells us without ceasing that not seeing yet still believing–believing in opposition to what we see–gives salvation.”(Abraham), not being weak in faith, considered not his own body” (Romans 4:19). Faith simply adheres to what God says. Those who see, yet have no faith, will not partake of the glory of God. Those who have faith in God, but do not see, will witness His glory.2 The man who seeks for feeling and mourns about it will not find it. The man who does not care for feeling will have it overflowing. “He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39). Faith in the Word later on becomes sealed with true feeling by the Holy Spirit.3 (ref)

This seems to be my heart’s cry at the moment: for me and my worship gathering – “Feeling always seeks something in itself. Faith keeps itself occupied with what Jesus is.” What if my day-to-day activities were solely occupied with what Jesus is? What if my worship, individual and gathered, was solely occupied with what Jesus is?

Another dad-ism:  “It’s easier to find a job when you have a job.” Maybe it’s easier to find faith when I have faith, becoming aware of areas where I am occupied with what Jesus is.

I think the point is to retire my preference for decision-making and lean into that Great Mystery despite feelings or logic; this requires faith that I can’t produce but can accept if I’ll just take a step.

 

Spring Up, Oh Well (splish splash)

“Drench my soul with your living water.”

I attended a conference two weekends ago.  A friend caught me on Facebook in the early morning hours:  she had been praying and interceding, I had been syncing podcasts before making a slew of cheese eggs (because boy howdy, my kids can eat cheese eggs).  She told me about this conference:  The Sound of Heaven.  I knew about it but thought I was going to be out of town at my folks.  I mentioned it to my mama casually and quickly received an email from my dad saying he’d love to go with me, my mama would watch the kids, and Jason could do whatever he’d like:  win for all!

I was scared to go, honestly.  It’s a worship gathering that seems to shine Truth and Love, with a strong abiding in the prophetic, and I was a little scared that I might get scorched … or that I might not.  As we drove to the evening conference, a double rainbow blazed overhead.  No, it didn’t end on the building, but it was the most vivid rainbow I’ve seen in a long time.  Perhaps it’s brilliance was amplified in comparison to the dull grayness I’ve existed in for the past many months.

I remembered the flannel-graph story of Noah that I learned as a child and sensed a voice reminding me:  “The rainbow is a promise:  I promised never to destroy the Earth again.  And I promise not to destroy you.”  I realized I had a fear that God was going to wipe me out:  a lie.  This moment would be the first of the tears that flowed all weekend, and into the next week, and that are still present when I abide in certain moments.

During one worship session the speaker talked about God raining down and wells springing up.  Having grown up in the church, I figured I’d have a mental image of rain falling from the roof of my meeting for worship flowing out into the streets.  Instead, typical of God, it was the complete opposite.  I saw wells springing up in my neighborhood park, flooding the houses, kids playing, adults being drawn out of their closed homes to see what was going on.  I saw wells springing up in neighborhoods all over Newberg.

And I saw in particular geysers in the neighborhoods around Newberg Friends, gushing, flowing over into the streets, parks, parking lots, and into the church building.  Beginning in the social hall/kids Sunday School rooms the water rushed in, flowing upwards to the sanctuary, up past the balcony, blasting off the roof, shooting powerfully into the air and raining back down on the flooded streets.

My hope is kindled.

My family attended a worship gathering on Sunday night.  The theme of the night centered around dreaming about the future for this gathering.  One person commented that he dreamed about the gathering looking more like the people in the neighborhood:  that our physical neighbors would be drawn to participate.  I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my image because we don’t normally worship with this group:  it felt intrusive.

This picture feels like it was meant for the larger Gathering.  So I share it here (if anyone is reading this little blog still). 🙂

I’m not sure what it means:  I don’t need to know.  I get to abide, watch God work, and participate where He calls.  I want to spread the call of Love and Hope and Joy that God blesses us to live in.  Outside of the box.  Magnified in community.  Showering down love.

“Come like a flood and saturate me now:  You’re all I want.”

“And Thank You For This Day …”

My sons enjoy praying at night. At least, they like to draw out their adult interaction just a few more minutes, and what parent can turn away the cry of “please pray with me!” More water, tomorrow morning. Additional books, you have plenty in your room. Complaints about one brother doing something to the other, a resounding “work it out and get back to bed!” But praying: well, that’s the “get out of sleep free” card, and they cash that in every night.

I often wonder if any of it sinks in. My oldest is a creature of routine and following-by-example. When he was younger, I thought he was creatively broken: I’d give him legos, and he’d look at me blankly. It was only once my father sat down with him and a lego kit with instructions did we realize he.follows.instructions. Gasp. So with his prayers, he says the same thing often: prayers for healing of owies, thanks for a good day and playing on the playground, and and requests for “more screen time tomorrow”. Ah, the heaviness of being six.

My middle child likes to hear himself talk – he so rarely gets an open forum. He often directs the pre-prayer discussion. “Mama, you ask who have a good day. Me or Judah go first? Okay, you ask who had hard time. Me or Judah?” And often his responses don’t correlate to anything I’ve asked. Last night he thanked God for getting to go to school and play on the playground: it’s been a week since he’s been at school. I ask for praises: for his owies. I ask for prayer requests: he talks about the kids his brother plays with on the bus.

At the end of our corporate prayer time each of the boys prays their own prayer. Judah repeats word-for-word what he stated before. Abel keeps the prayer going – never a moment of silence. “Thank you for this day and thank you for school and thank you for this day and thank you for recess and thank you for this day and for my owies go away and thank you for this day and thank you I get to go to school and thank you for this day ….”

All I want, of course, is thankyouforthisdayamen. Loveyoumama, sweetdreams, goodnight, GOTOSLEEP. 🙂 But as I sighed, leaning against the wall, waiting for the thanks to end, I realized: I don’t want the thanks to end. Annoying and inspiring all at the same time: to draw out the day giving thanks over … and over … and over. Of course I have my own thanks for the day – coming to a close – while I sit on the couch, next to my husband, watching tv on the computer, knitting or reading a magazine. Like I do almost every night. To each his own, I guess.

Wanting to Want

Today at Women’s Bible Fellowship a woman commented, “I don’t know how you do so much!” “Oh, it’s not that much,” I said, shifting my littlest one on my hip, trying to wipe off the evidence of her spitting up on my clothes – clean, nice-looking, “adult” clothes that I find myself wearing fewer and fewer times during the week …. month …. year. “Oh, yes,” she insisted, “Nursing her, facilitating a group. I don’t know how you even get your study done.” I let her in on a secret: I did most of it before WBF even started because I *knew* that quality chunks of quiet time would be packed away with my Grown Up Clothes.

Really, life feels more simple these days. Daily routines, check-off lists for chores, homework, bills, well-child checkups. Planning a meal, shopping for a meal, cooking a meal, eating a meal, convincing others they want to eat the meal, wiping up the meal, cleaning up the meal. And beginning it all over again in about three hours.

One of the questions from our weekly homework looked at anointing and serving: when God gives us a Word about something God calls us to, our journey begins by serving rather than leading in that area. A homework question asked something about what area did we feel called to that we might begin serving in. For me initially: Writer? Pray-er? Baker? But this week I reversed it and wondered who am I serving and how might that speak into who I’m called to be in the future: my kids. I realized I serve them most of the day, and I actually want to be more like them: joyful, carefree, innocent, curious, full of hugs, and seemingly full of endless energy (as evidenced by putting my son into quiet time for the fourth time in 20 minutes).

I have a piece of paper next to my bed with a quote from the previous week’s homework: “God, I want to commit to starting every day by asking for you to remind me of your presence with me.” The author didn’t start off with “I want” – that’s more Perfectionist Me knowing I can’t perfectly commit; but I want to commit, and that’s gotta be something, right? I overheard my kids’ playing in my room last week. Abel: “Play with dis piece of paper!” Judah, “No, Abel, put that back! Mama needs that: it makes her feel better.” How do they know? Wanting to want seems to be a good first step. 🙂

The Gospel of Weed Management

Summer’s here!  Technically:  though in these parts, it’s still feeling March-ish with the cloud-cover to sun ratio still substantially in favor of the clouds.  People are getting their gardens in, posting pictures online of their burgeoning (and potentially drowning) crops.  We have a small garden:  a couple of beds modeled after the square-foot gardening technique.  One bed is a carryover from last year.  My husband built an additional “adult” bed and two “kids” beds which the boys got to help with.  The other day my eldest came running in:  “Mama!  Mama!”

“Yes, son.”

“Mama, did you know?”

“Know what?”

“My lettuce!”

“Yes?”

“It’s *growing*!!”

I never thought my heart would skip a beat to hear such words.  In the past I could care less about growing things, and in fact, only had luck at keeping a sucker-fish alive.  But since my role has morphed into a Manager of Consumption, I find myself more concerned about food – where it comes from, how it’s grown, what the cost of that food is – to eat and to grow.  My creative side enjoys tending to the harvest:  what sorts of berries should we stock up on to make smoothies or cobblers with this year?  What color of peppers should we grow?

I told a friend of my son’s excitement.  He shared his own story about getting his kids excited about weeding.  “I asked them (in an excited voice) ‘Do you guys want some strawberries?!!’  They went tearing outside to our strawberry bed, but there were no berries:  just plants and weeds.  I told them that they needed to get rid of the weeds if they wanted those berries to show up, so they started working away!”

He noted that if people share a “hatred” of gardening, it seems to be in regards to one thing:  “My parents always made me weed.”  But when people (kids) could have ownership over then entire process, from picking the types of produce to grow, to prepping and planting, to seeing them sprout and encouraging new growth, to weeding and eventually harvesting and eating, they enjoyed it so much more.

This friend was our teacher in Sunday School for the month of May.  He shared on the idea:  “What is Truth?” or rather “How is Truth?” and “What does Truth taste like?”, exploring whether or not our concept/experience of truth is anemic (restricted to ideas) or more robust (people, places, feelings, a person – Christ, etc.).  We ended talking about soil in comparison to our spiritual lives:  the quality, the types.  If our soil (like Truth) is anemic, our lives/fruit reflect that.

I thought about our previous conversation of weeding, how when it’s removed from the full experience and focused on as the sole task, people believe they hate gardening.  What’s a thing we hear complained a lot about in regards to Christianity?  Sin management.  Without the church helping to give a full picture/ownership over the process, it’s just weeding, but sins instead of invasive greenery.  I hope to live in a space where I hear people exclaiming “Guess what?  My lettuce/patience/endurance/love is growing!” and to have my heart skip a beat in joy.

Make It or Break It

A few weeks ago while chatting with a friend about her current faith community experience, she made a comment that startled and stuck with me:  “This is a make it or break it point.”  We were reflecting on her participation at a fledgling worship gathering.  Either her passion to see this community grow, thrive, and fly or her cynicism that “institutional” church squashes most creative/emerging sorts of worship expressions was so strong that this experience is an ultimate for her:  ultimately uniting or dividing her from her present faith community.

I couldn’t quite figure out why her declaration bothered me so.  Is it that I didn’t anticipate her feeling that strongly?  We usually see so eye to eye.  Or perhaps it’s that in times past I would’ve been right there with her believing that this new expression was needed and absolute and of course not understood by the ‘stodgy institutionalized’, but in present day I wonder what she’s hollerin’ about:  how can the way we worship be more important than who we worship with?  My youthful fear:  have I slowly melded comfortably in with that that I railed against?

Today I read a post about the current attack/think-to-complain-about in the emerging/institutional church circles.  Jason asked what I had heard about Brian McLaren’s new book:  “Nothing.  I don’t really read emerging church blogs anymore:  they’re just kinda blah.”

The emerging church and mothering sites are what drew me initially into the blogosphere:  daily I would check for new Quakes or young adults crying out for more authentic living and worship (and new funny ‘here’s the many colors of poo of my child today’ stories:  when you’re sleep-deprived, they’re a hoot).   As blogging’s become more normalized, posts feels very mechanical, formulaic.  The topics are rehashed, and unless serious digging takes place, the grand sense is evangelical white males talking about oppression:  something’s a bit off in that scenario.

While listening to a podcast about the need for Free in today’s crafting business world, a comment stuck with me:  “The only thing you have to offer is your self.”  He said there are a million people putting beads on wire or crafting pictures, but only you can sell your experience and your self.  There’s a fine line, though, between offering your experience and personality and stories and views or becoming a commodity to be consumed, and a lot of the blogosphere feels like the later as of late.

I’m not done blogging.  I’m not done seeking for authenticity.  Is the lack I see enough to drive me away, to say that it’s a ‘make it or break it’ experience?  I hope not, either online or in my corporate community.  In an age where people seem to believe only extremes are heard over the roaring buzz of constant information consumption, I’m thinking the quieting hum that soothes my baby girl to sleep is the way to go.

[Plus, the extremes remind me way too much of my toddler, and sometimes it’s hard not to break out into giggles.  “WORSHIP THIS WAY OR I’M LEAVING!” versus  “MY SOCKS ARE TOO TIIIIIIIGHT!”  “You picked out your socks.”  “TOO TIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!” 🙂 ]

How Resolute?

The new year has arrived, and the webosphere is giddy with posts reviewing the past 365 days of blogging fodder.

This year the rolling over from oh-nine to twenty-ten took me by surprise.  A friend emailed to see if we’d like to come over to her house:  my thought, “Why does she want me to come over so late on a Thursday night?  Is something special going on?”

It used to be such a big deal:  school papers turned in, payday, a time to start over.  I would give thought to what I wanted to do, how I wanted things to be different:  making resolutions to eat differently, dress differently, balance my checkbook, be a responsible member of society, read classical literature, better myself as a person.  Now, my brain has too many other things occupying the idealistic space where I could imagine lofty goals and dreams.  Current dreams – to someday sleep through the night, to eat a meal without having to get up fifteen different times, to have the eternal mental grocery shopping list retired, to have no more sticker bits in my carpet (it’s worse than my childhood dog’s hair, and he was a Husky/Malamute).

I talked about listening to the Bible every day, which I might not have done every day, but I did listen to every podcast (sometimes a bit more distracted than others).  Scripture has certainly become an important part of my life; however, I’m feeling antsy when thinking of listening to the podcast again this year, which generally is a God-poke-in-my-side to do something differently.  I’d love to hear how others incorporate it into their lives.

I also had a word for the year which was “present”.  That I presently forgot about until 3/4s of the way through the year.  Fortunately I remembered right as I added another member to the family, and the only thing I could really do in life was be present because having three tykes ages 5 and under means a productive days is people out of pajamas with teeth brushed at least once and sticker bits somewhat contained before bed.  This year I’m sensing the words “forgiveness” and “truth” will be woven throughout my daily walk – not necessarily the words I would prefer (“rest” and “endless energy” and “roomba” sound a lot more attractive).  It will be interesting to see where the wanderings of the year end up.

New Song

Worship Fully:  Today at Women’s Bible Fellowship a friend shared about the process of grieving her mother’s death.  She said eventually her tears and sadness were turned into praise, noticing that each morning instead of the gray, she woke with a praise song running through her mind.  It was a true example of God giving a New Song.  I notice that sometimes in my life, when something a child does that would’ve annoyed me to no end in the past I now find amusing, or a circumstance that would’ve made me angry I choose to let go of.  I’m thankful for that transformative God.

Spend Less:  I sent a link onto a friend full of homemade recipes to give away, mostly because I thought some of the recipes she’d like to make and keep for herself.  Funny thing:  she had the paper edition and actually filed it away already.  Glad my research skills are on target.  😉

Give More:  My son had his school Christmas party this morning, attended with Jason.  They went to a local Christmas-y store, sang songs, had goodies, and did a book exchange.  But the thing he was most excited about?  Giving Jason and me our Christmas surprise gifts that he’s been working on all month.  Each day he would come home, telling the adventures of the day, pointing out “And I worked on a surprise, and I CAN’T TELL YOU so DON’T ASK”.  Which, of course, became the game of me trying to wheedle it out of him, and him being all grins and dimples and shouting, “NO!  TEACHER LOEKIE SAID NOT TO TELL!!”  It was his day, but he was more excited about what he created to give to us.  That kid …

Love All:  During a sharing time at WBF a friend (who I actually grew up with as a kid in Idaho:  crazy life) reflected on her experience with Yvonne.  She said that she never really personally connected with her, and yet being in our community and walking alongside her in that group has forever changed and affected her.  Apparently one of Yvonne’s fears was that she hadn’t done enough to affect those around her with the love of Christ:  we all begged to differ.

A Love We Don’t Have to Earn

Worship Fully:  I really enjoy the work that Mustard Seed Associates puts out.  Christine Sine has been very helpful to me in following and celebrating the liturgical year.  Her work (and the work of others) is really quality in regards to Advent this year.

Spend Less:  Today I listened to a great interview on CraftSanity.  It was so refreshing to listen to something creative while being able to putter around the house (Judah was at school, Abel had a box to play with, and Josephine napped for a bit).  Creativity and reusing:  great combination.

Give More:  Today I gave more time to Christmas goodies in the kitchen.  Waffles for lunch (just because), peanut butter popcorn (fail:  need to learn to work with hot sugar and temperatures), eggnog scones (for dinner and tomorrow), and some kind of German spice cookie (just because):  it felt nice to create with ingredients that I already had to nurture and nourish others (and for me to hear yummy noises – love that).

Love All:  “What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension. To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason. It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians who try to dogmatize their fear by lashing out at other Christians, because tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God’s love, a love we don’t even have to earn.” – Madeleine L’Engle

On the Interwebs

Worship Fully:  I’m an avid podcast listener.  Multitasker to the end, I love learning and hearing from others while doing the mundane of folding laundry, sweeping, chasing those every present crumbs.  And, when I’m feeling pushed to the brink, it’s really nice to hear adults talking to me rather than the demands of the Little People (darling as they are).  A few podcasts I listen to are keepers, but I find that many of them I listen to for a season:  they resonate for a while, and then my mind starts tuning them out along with the constant question of  “Can we eat our Advent calendar chocolate *now*?”  Other podcasts I try on for a bit, and they don’t connect, so I let them go.  One such podcast was from The Village Church in Texas.  Having heard great things about their pastor Matt Chandler (and having had a friend who I adored of the same name), I listened for a bit.  But one can only listen to so many sermon series from churches one doesn’t attend before it’s just gluttony, so I let that podcast go.  Then I read the story of what’s happening at that faith gathering, and I listened to Matt’s last sermon, and it just hit home.  Talk about worshiping fully.  It’s a challenging listen, and I’m finding my heart laboring with those from The Village Church, looking forward to where the Spirit will lead them in this.

Spend Less:  So I went against the grain and ordered a few things for Christmas.  Yeah, the orders didn’t go through.  I had a choice:  meltdown?  Or welcome it as a blessing?  I went with a little of both.  🙂

Give More:  of combining help and food and volunteering and donating and just giving more.  Food bloggers rock in this area.

Love All:  Today at the doctor’s office I did not have a hard time loving some little kids playing with Josephine:  she smiled, they giggled, it was great.  I did have a hard time loving the doctor who told me that he can’t do anything to make me feel better.  Love is a choice, not a feeling.  Love is a choice, not a feeling.  Love is a choice, not a feeling … 🙂