Monday, April 28, 2008

One stitch at a time...

I just knit 126 knots.
Can you tell?

No?
Me either...

The 126 stitches I have added equal two rows of a project, that when complete will have approximately 260 rows. At 63 stitches per row that would be, wait let me get my calculator... 16,380 knots (give or take a few hundred) I just completed .7 percent of the finished project...
No wonder the 126 I've just added don't make any discernible difference!!

Do you ever feel like that too? Like all you're doing, no matter how diligent you are being, just isn't adding up to much?

I think about the repetitive tasks that consume most days; preparing meals that take ten minutes to consume but that take all that planning and shopping and preparation and then, a mere four or five hours later, everyone is hungry again! How many times have I washed this particular t-shirt, or vacuumed this floor, or hung up this coat yet again? How many pencils have I sharpened and homework papers have I gone over with my children? How many times do you find yourself doing the same things you've done for the past ten years or longer? Over and over and over....

How many times have I made a phone call or listened, sent an email, or written a note? How many times have I said, "How are you?" or "Tell me about it" or, "I love you"?

How often have I opened the Bible and sought encouragement and instruction for that day? How many times have my prayers ascended to heaven?

But you already know where I am going with this don't you?

It is these small things that we do repetitively, or shall I say consistently, that do add up and make a difference.

Because I keep shopping and cleaning etc., everyone has what they need to function in the things they do.

Because I say "how are you?" I have these amazing, affirming relationships and am blessed by being able to share in the lives of others.

And, most importantly for me, because I regularly seek the face of my God, I recognize His hand in my life and am familiar with His voice (John 10) and I am aware that He is continually with me: even as I am going about doing all those same things I have done a million times before!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The part I play...

I am currently a baseball mom and, truth be told, not a very good one either.

I go to the game for only one reason; to watch my child play, and when they are not playing, I'm usually doing something else, like I am now...

I look around I see other attendees, and each one has a role they play. Here are three moms with their fold up chairs huddled together as they share stories and cheer for their sons that have known each other since kindergarten.
Scattered throughout are grandparents, complete with head scarves and blankets: here the middle age men all wearing the team’s hat; they are the coaches and the guy with the stat book and the man at third base telling the kids to run, steal, or stay.
Within the diamond is the umpire behind the catcher, whose identity is indiscernible as he's wearing so much protective covering.
And now the batter stands tall and proud as he holds out his bat to the boy in the opposite colored shirt who is winding up for the pitch. Sixteen other sets of eyes are watching this bit of drama play out as they punch their fists into their gloves and hope and pray that it either comes to them, or that it doesn’t!

And because all these people have gathered together, each with their own particular passion and interests; there is a baseball season and a community assembled together in the park. Children are learning skills of ball playing and of life and these men, that feel so recently they were boys themselves, have an opportunity to pass along the things they've learned along their way.

A church gathering is so similar with the number of players it takes in a variety of roles in any given week.
For if there were no workers in the nursery, the parents of the infants would not be in the sanctuary, and if someone had not readied the sanctuary or the classrooms, they would not be a fit place to meet.
If the Sunday school teachers did not take their places, not only would many parents of young children be missing but also the environments of the schools, homes, and community would be different.
There are bulletins and registration folders because someone is a place where these things are taken care of.
The sermon is heard because someone has been attentive to the sound system.
There is music because there has been individuals selecting pieces and practicing scales and because each member of the choir has come together so that there could be such a group.

And then... and then there is a visitor who has been invited by someone or one who has come on their own and who will come again because someone, who may fill no other role in that congregation, has simply turned to them and made them feel welcome.

Because we all have a place and fulfill whatever responsibilities it entails, be it apparent and seemingly crucial, or unseen and unknown; God has fitted us all together as living stones (1 Peter 2) to make up His church and together convey to an individual, and then thereby a community, of His love. No part is small, no role insignificant, because it is God who has placed us in this body, at this time, and in this particular place.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Just add water....

I look like a grown up but still possess the mind of a child. Or perhaps I should say, I am still fascinated by the simplest things.

We are hoping for a garden this summer so this morning the kids and I were at the dinning room table planting seeds in a little domed tray.

In this tray were small hard peat pellets: an inch in diameter, maybe a 1/4 inch high. However when you added a scant 2 tablespoons of water they magically grew into 1 1/2 inch tall peat pots filled with moist soil all ready for seeds. We did this with 72 pellets and marveled each time!

I am part of a group that is thinking and talking through a book by Chris and Kerry Shook, One Month to Live: 30 Days to a No Regrets Life. The premise of the book is simple: if you knew you had only 30 days to live, how would you live your life? The hope is that after thinking through how you are currently living and how you would live, that you will start to really live your life instead of just slogging through your time here on the planet.

The first section is about living life purposefully and that means using your time and pursuing your dreams. It then had a follow up question of, "What are your dreams?”

Now that's a great question for a group of kids, even college students – “What are your plans you who are still filled with idealism and invincibility?”
It's a different question when discussed among a group of people twenty years or so into adulthood. I remember, I did have dreams…what were they again???
Old dreams. long ago dried up and forgotten.
But what if a little water was added?

I was given water in the form of someone, quite randomly, saying to me “I think you’d be really good at….”. There was a time I’d thought the same thing but then, well….you know how it goes.
Then someone else said something similar, and when I was telling several friends about this idea they all said “Oh yea, I’ve always thought you’d be great at that”.

This dried up, flattened dream began to expand: and I started thinking about it’s possibility and how this could work and a seed was planted and some plans have been made.

My dinning room table is a long way from my garden and an expanded peat pot with a seed is a long way from a sunflower but it is a start. If it blossoms or not, the process has begun and it feels good to be hoping for the possibility of fulfillment.

At one place the book says that, "Sometimes we don't even realize what we were made to do, what really energizes and delights us, until we're forced into it, kicking and screaming. C.S. Lewis said that too often we're like children who settle for playing in mud puddles when the beauty and immensity of the ocean are just a few feet away." (pp 44)

It seems strange that you could be all grown up and still not realize that you are uniquely gifted for a particular thing. Or maybe it’s something you realized about yourself a long time ago and then forgot, that was swept away to a corner in the busyness that is making a living.

Are there any small dried up dreams in your life that just need the support of a little warm water?

Are there dreams you recognize in the lives of those you love that could just use a little encouragement?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

If a tree...

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? well...?
If a man speaks and no woman hears him is he still wrong? Of course! :) (sorry guys!)

If a person forwards an email to exactly 11 people in the next 5 minutes, will they receive an unexpected blessing? Not a chance.

If a person serves the Lord faithfully and yet sees no apparent success from their endeavors, is the Lord honored? Absolutely!

Isaiah is in this very situation and he laments "But all my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose at all." (Isaiah 49:4) Do you hear the slight whine in his voice masking his frustration and defeat? Sure you do, if you've been in that situation, you're hearing it just like I am.

In many, many areas we labor and don't see the reward we expect to: we do the work and someone else gets the credit, we're faithful in our responsibilities yet someone who never seems to care lives an easier life than ours, we're diligent in the daily stuff yet it just needs to be redone, sometimes even sooner than the next day!

I've discovered that cleaning my house is not a good thing for me because it makes me very crabby like "Don't put your book bag down there. Get those shoes off the couch! Don't even think about leaving that newspaper looking like that!! Where do you think you're going with that crumbly cookie?!!" I told my kids today that I am going to ban them from the house after I clean...seriously, come see my living room, you wouldn't believe how much better it looked four hours ago!

But what about the last question? What about the service we render faithfully to our God in both big and small ways; be your delineation that of "minister" or "lay person"?

What if you taught and shared God's love for six years and before a single person came to Christ? Wouldn't that feel like failure to you? This was Adoniram Judson's story and yet at his death 32 years later there were sixty-three churches in Burma, under the care of one hundred and sixty-three missionaries and helpers, and over seven thousand converts had been baptized, and the entire Bible had been translated into Burmese. But Adoniram did not know that was what was in store for him as he labored without any success for those first six years, yet, he continued.

Isaiah reached a similar conclusion. After he told God how he felt about his lack of success he says " Yet, I leave it all in the Lord's hand; I will trust God for my reward."

Easy to say, when you can look around and see that your service has made a difference: harder to verbalize when, no matter how impassioned and diligent your service, nothing seems to have changed.
When we come before our Lord these are the words we long for Him to say over our lives "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. (Matthew 25:23).
Not "great job you brought a lot of people with you", or "You wrote 15 books and a video series", nor " 30,000 people heard you preach in the Astro dome, way to go!"

No, what is valued in God's eyes is our faithfulness and we leave the rest of it, where it already lies, in His hands.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Planting Seeds

Planting Seeds
I'm planting seeds today - basil to be exact.

I bought basil this winter and couldn't believe how much it cost me.
So now I'm planting seeds.

They're so small though; it's hard to remember what they'll become in three months.

There are other seeds I'm planting:tucking my children in at night
emails, chats, and phone calls
times for coffee
smiles
hugs
listening purposefully

I don't know, exactly, what these will blossom into but I can suspect the high price I could pay later if I don't invest now -
children who are not confident in a parent's love,
friends with whom I'm no longer connected,
loneliness as love needs to be given to be received,
and poor judgment as I have not learned from the experience of others.

I know that if I eat a 1/4 cup of blueberries a day it lowers my chance of something by a significant percentage, if I exercise regularly I may not pay the price of an infirmed body as I age - seeds I'm sowing; tiny, tiny things that will become exponentially greater than what they are now.

What seeds should I sow?

Which ones need to be thrown in the trash instead of the soil of my days?

Which ones need to be sown in the lives of those around me?

What seeds do I need to plant in my own heart?