A Spark and a Bridge (Part Two)

A Spark & A Bridge Part 2

“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small SPARK.”  James 3:5

In his book, “Chase the Lion,” Mark Batterson says this; “I have a theory; your favorite scripture will become the script of your life.”  That feels pretty weighty to me although I don’t disagree with the theory, in theory.  I like the focus it presents.  It’s like the “one thing” verses, the 3 point sermons, the 5 easy steps… It feels like the narrowing in on guidelines while the rest of the world shouts a thousand things I should be doing, be being… a sieve to shake my life through.

I don’t know that I will ever commit to a favorite scripture for life.. Specific verses are like beautiful words and new books, I love them too much to forsake all others.  But, as 2018 has landed on my doorstep, ready or not, I have found my way to James 3:5.  It boasts my first word for the year, and even uses and adjective I can get my heart around in the early morning hours of the New Year.  A SPARK.  A small one in fact.

In the context of James 3, the small spark is in reference to the tongue, and not in a positive way either.  The very next verse says, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil…” (James 3:6).  Yikes!  So this scripture is saying that much can be burned down and destroyed by the tiny flames a careless tongue may throw.  Obviously, we know the truth in this.  There is not one of us that doesn’t bear the scars from such a burn.  And let’s be honest, we have all thrown a few flames ourselves… kindled a few ugly fires with our tongues, our words.

But I love the redemption Romans 5:20 promises; “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”   If a tiny spark can be used to burn down, to destroy, how much more can a fire of inspiration, of hope, of grace be started by a spark just as small.

Does the idea of finding your calling intimidate you?  Worse than a word of the year even, a favorite scripture for life?  I have shared my own journey to my “Open Door Calling” here before… how I have found it not to be the crossing of a chasm from uncalled to called, but just through the next door that creaks open before you.  Even still, sometimes I have walked through that door into a space crowded with others, voices louder, testimonies stronger, words wiser, lives neater, and wanted to turn around and walk right back out.

What is my part to play?
Be a SPARK.  Even a small SPARK 

(Click on the image to download an 8×10 Print)

A spark is; “anything that activates or stimulates; an inspiration or catalyst, to send forth gleams or flashes, to kindle, animate, or stimulate.”

A spark inspires, even in a tiny way.  It starts something in you that may just build into the great fire of your life.  And we have all been given sparks… places we feel passion, things we are better at than our friends, natural abilities, subjects we just can’t get enough of.  The Bible calls these gifts, and tells us that each child of God has some.  When we use our gifts for the kingdom of God, modern Christian culture calls this Calling.  So what if a Calling could really just be a small spark?  Does that feel like less pressure?

See, we have crushed ourselves with the expectation of Calling… it feels like committing to one verse forever…like picking a major in college… like choosing a career path- and sometimes it is.  But gifts were not meant to be given with crushing weight behind them, like cannons blasting through our lives… Gifts were meant to be shared.  What if it was as simple as a Spark?  Even a small one.

Let me tell you a few things I will never spark in your life, never provide inspiration for: healthy eating habits, anything financial, really precious mothering, simplified/minimalistic living, anything to do with business, and SO SO SO many other things.  Those are all great things, good passions FOR SOMEONE ELSE.  I cannot spark that in anyone because those fires do not burn inside of me.

A few things I pray I spark in the people the Lord brings into my life:

A love for the Word of God.  I just love it with my whole being.  I don’t just write that because it is the good Christian thing to write, I genuinely love it.  It feels like a giant cheeseburger to me… like I can’t wait to get my mouth around it, I’m hungry for it, I need it to fill me (see what I told you about the healthy eating… I said cheeseburger!!!).  I want to study it and talk about it.  I have realized after years of doing life with other wonderful, godly women, not everyone just naturally feels this way.  They can grow in the discipline, but the fire doesn’t bun as freely as it does in me.  I know that this fire was first sparked by my mother who fans the same flame.  She inspired me, and now I know that part of my “Calling” is to “send forth gleams or flashes” from my fire to yours.

Gathering people in my home.  I love it so much.  I can throw a party with my eyes closed.  A late night around my table with good humans, decent food and wine, lots of cheese, and great conversations are what my dreams are made of… except not just my dreams.  It’s what Friday night was made of too.  My house is not always clean, my table is too crowded, I’m not the greatest cook… but my door will always be open.  Usually there are 20 kids running around interrupting the adults, a dog escapes, and on Friday night the garbage disposal gave out before the spaghetti dishes were clean, but there was laughter and belonging.  And magic happened as we shared old stories with new friends, and new stories with old ones, eventually (always) ending up around the fire pit in the yard.  That’s not by accident.  My husband and I know that our Ranchito, our home itself, is a spark we are to use to light inspiration for community and relationships, and S’MORES whenever possible.  My Nannie’s spark burns on in me here, the spark of hospitality.  Her parties looked a lot different, a lot prettier and were a lot quieter.  An Australian shepherd never stole the ham off the counter at her house, but it is her flame that burns on just the same.  See, years after she is gone, thousand of miles away from her where she set her perfect table I can take her spark and light the lives of many.

I can reach down within me and light a torch for marriage restored.  That is my story so that is my passion.  God will honor obedience.  He can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  He is in the business of restoration and it is worth it.  18 years in and I can tell you that no matter what, it is worth it.  It’s never too late and it’s never too far gone.

One more spark I can give you from a fire deep within me; I seek to always honor the childhoods of my children.  It’s never going to get too serious around here; not grades, or sports, or achieving much of anything but a good time and a kind heart.  Why?  BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS, and in a culture that wants to steal that from my children’s generation at an earlier and earlier age, I will be the gatekeeper for childhood here.  I will wrestle “testing” and expectations and often my own pride because I really do believe kids with kind hearts who know how to have a good time will be better off than the hoards of little league select stars and straight A students in the long run.  We will buy go-karts and footballs before we buy gaming systems.  We will always say yes to friends walking home from school to have a snack at the picnic table, to forts in the pasture, and another pet.  We will forever add one more family to the pool party invite, and come visit the “mud pie shop” in the backyard because childhood is holy and, on my watch, it will be honored.

That’s really not so many sparks.  There are fires I wish I could sit around that I am not a part of, that aren’t mine.  I know those that are mine, and now you know them too.  It is my job, my calling if you will, to give you what I have, only what I have, and maybe inspire a great forest fire in someone else’s life. Fires always start with sparks.  So, be a spark.  Be a small one.  Look inside, name your fire… and then throw your spark!  And do the work of gratitude and recognize those who first lit the spark that burns in you.  I would love to hear their names.

Sparks are one thing.  Bridges are something entirely different.  I hope you’ll join me next week for Part 3 as we cross a few together.

A Spark and a Bridge (Part 1)

A spark and a bridge

For last year’s WORDS belong to last year’s language and next year’s WORDS await another voice.”  T.S. Elliot

Have you found it yet?  This year’s voice?  It feels like a lot of pressure, like a lot of weight.  And it comes so fast… before the last of the Christmas mess is cleaned up, before the leftovers are gone.  Red and green are traded for glitter and fireworks and a thundering demand to “be intentional, set goals, tackle the New Year” blasts over “Old Angzine.”  SHHHH 2018!  I’m still in my Christmas jammies….

We all know that New Year’s Resolutions are SO  2015 and now we are to declare our “word for the year.” And listen, I am here for that!  You know how I love all the words so that is enough to get me out of the Santa flannels pronto!  Therefore, as all good bloggers do in January, I will share my word of the year with you today.  But, here is the thing, I have two, because OBVIOUSLY I do.  And they aren’t brand new.  And they aren’t just words.  They are the filters God gave me as I desperately circled the drain of exhaustion and disillusionment back in the Fall.

Do you ever feel like your voice gets lost?  If so many others are living your exact life, only better than you, why try?  If so many other’s are closer to the calling you thought God put on your heart, what’s the point?  When the to-do’s and demands feel overwhelming, do you find yourself longing for clarity… for ONE THING?  I’ve always been attracted to the “one thing” verses in the Bible, the 3 point sermons, the “5 easy steps to _____.”  I suppose it’s because I don’t ever feel the luxury to focus on one thing at a time in my “real life,” 3 points always end up being 27, and there are no easy steps.  There are good steps, yes, but they are never easy.

So this is where I found myself, so many balls in the air I was dizzy.  Opportunities coming my way I had prayed for, and yet the laundry still needed to be done and groceries bought.  Was there room to be the old me but do new things?  Could I be faithful to old roles and forge new territory?  To do the things that made my heart sing, and do the things on my to-do list?  Was there room?  Was there time?  Is there ever?  Currently I am reading “Chase the Lion” by Mark Batterson and “Chasing Slow” by Erin Loechner.  Can I do both?  Chase a lion and chase slowness.

What divine rhythm does God have for me?  What divine rhythm does He have for you?

Dizzy I tell you.

“God, give me my one thing… give me a measurable filter for my days, my yes’s and no’s, give me a grid for my focus.”

Be a Spark and a Bridge.”

A spark and a bridge

Wait, isn’t the saying something about burning bridges?  Don’t sparks = fire which burn bridges?  How can it be both?  How can there be room for both?

Can I tell you something hard.  On the very weekend that my daughter’s hundreds of hours of hard work paid off in a breathtaking performance in The Nutcracker, I said goodbye to the best dog I will ever know.  So I smiled and cheered and checked eyeliner, and then laid on the floor beside my favorite nonhuman ever on her last night and sobbed my eyes out.  See, there is room for both… it’s always a tension.  New and old.  Lions and slowness.  Life and death.  Sparks and bridges.

So, that is it.  When the confetti welcoming 2018 cleared, when I quieted the voices and lies and expectations and noise, when I got up off the floor, that is what I heard.  Be a Spark and a Bridge.  Now, it’s not ONE THING, it’s two.  It’s not my WORD of the year, they are WORDS.  But they have given me a clear window view to my role.  Those signposts point me to what I need to focus on and what I need to let go of.  They are the rumble strips for my attitude and calendar.

I can’t wait to share with you how each of them will (prayerfully) play out in my mothering, gathering, and ministry this next year… I can’t wait to discuss ways we are all called to be sparks and bridges and to pay homage to those who have been that to me. Join me for part 2 and 3? And tell me, at this precipice of a New Year, what do you hear calling to you?  What is imprinted on your heart for 2018?  I can’t wait to hear.

 

 

 

Rest

Rest: A 3-part blog series on Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat

Let me just confess this right here at the beginning… This last stop on our Golden Hour Tour of beautiful words and sacred practices is not one I frequent enough.  I am a poor tour guide, the blind leading the blind.  The residents here do not know my name or recognize my face as I step off of the fast moving train breathless.  Rest.  Here is a vulnerable truth about me… I still haven’t learned to rest well.

But I want to.  Or at least I want to want to.

After we have Savored every last drop out our “lot in life” blessings, those common beautiful graces, and after we have recognized, remembered, and reclaimed Celebration from the world, then we must rest to do it all again (repeat).

In a world that has hijacked rest as much as celebration, what does real, soul-restorative rest look like for the people of God?  Very few Scriptures have impacted my life in the last year as much as the Message’s version of Matthew 11:28-30.  Slow down, breathe this in deeply, and picture it as a balm being poured over the cracked places in your spirit as you read this divine prescription for rest:

“Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Real rest is not found in the lies or trappings of the world… in the Netflix bingeing, or sleeping late, or even the vacation in the fancy hotel.  None of those things are wrong, and they can certainly be savored and celebrated!  But when your soul is fatigued to the point of exhaustion, you will still be worn thin when the show is over, the alarm finally goes off, check-out time comes.

Real rest can only be found in Jesus. 

We have to watch how he does it, like Matthew 11 says.  We watch how he savors a breakfast of grilled fish on the beach, early morning chats with His father, friendships with the simplest of people.  We watch how he turns water into a divine vintage at a wedding celebration.  We watch how he participates in the feasts and festivals of his culture and how he brings others in close and rejoices with them as well.  And then we watch how he rests… how his earthly life was simply following the Holy Spirit from one place to the next, from one life to the next.

Over the last 6 months I have been neck deep studying the Biblical principles of Fruitfulness. One of the most interesting concepts I came access was the idea of the Sabbatical year for the land itself.

Leviticus 25:1-7 says, “The Lord said to Moses at Most Sinai, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them, ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord.  For six years sow your fields and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.  But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord.  Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.  The land is to have a year of rest.  Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you – for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired workers and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land.  Whatever the land produces may be eaten.” 

I love how practical our God is.  He knew all about water levels, PH balances, and nutrient deficiencies in the soil centuries before farmers ever would.  He knew there was wisdom in letting a field go fallow for a year, in taking a rest… and He always has a spiritual truth for us in the physical.  Think of the faith it took for the Israelites to be obedient to this command.  Most families only had one field.  If they weren’t growing crops on it, there was not grocery store.  This was it.  Their land, their one field, was their source of sustenance. Their crops, their harvest was their life.  Could they trust that the sowing and laboring of past seasons would provide enough of a harvest in the resting?

The same is true for us.  We can only rest when we have learned to trust.  We trust that God will provide, that we don’t have to hustle for everything in life, that we don’t have to make it all happen or that we won’t fall apart in the fallow season.  He has promised not to lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on us.  We can trust the harvest because we can trust our God.

So, October was a whirlwind for me.  I was honored to speak at 2 out-of-town retreats and another local women’s night.  We also CELEBRATED fall in a big way with our 4th annual Family Fall Festival, inviting the whole city to the Ranchito.  I have committed to projects I haven’t started yet.  My kids are taking gymnastics, playing basketball, and rehearsing Nutcracker 20+ hours a week.  There isn’t a night off right now.  At the dawn of November I felt myself circling the drain… running on empty, forsaking what matters, unreasonably affected by the smallest thing.  I began to believe some old lies… “You can’t handle this.”  “Quit trying to be more than you are.”  “Close the gates.  The sacrifice for community is too much.  No one cares.”    My levels were off and nutrients low, just like the Israelite’s fields.

Time to rest.

I’ve taken a few practical steps in the last couple of weeks.  I have made peace with the term “self-care” in measured quantities.  (See, I even typed the word without rolling my eyes.  Progress).  I joined a Yoga studio and am giving myself the gift of something I really love.  I have released hosting Thanksgiving.  I have visited a friend who practices wholistic healing and let her do a little work on me, body and spirit.  I literally have “breathe and pray” and “HYGGE” on my daily to-do lists.   I am preaching rest to all of you so please hold me accountable as well.

The Golden Hour is coming to a close.  I can see the last rays of its sunset melting away.  The dawning of the next season will be wonderful, “the most wonderful time of the year” in fact.  But it will have a different pace.  For all the Hallmark commercials and hot cocoa propaganda, we women know.  We know that for every beautiful meal, every perfectly (or imperfectly) decorated home, for every gift under the tree, and Christmas card sent, there is a woman staying up late into the night planning, baking, working, wrapping, and addressing.  And we love it.  And it is worth it.   But it can leave us circling the drain as well.

So I pray the treasures we have found on this tour of beautiful words and sacred practices stay close at hand through the holidays.  I pray we will savor all of our “lot in life” blessings, those common graces and we will view all that the coming months bring through a HYGGE filter.  I pray that we will reclaim celebration, especially during the Advent season… that we will build alters and remember and celebrate others really well.  And I pray that we will find rest when our spirits are circling the drain of exhaustion.  That we will simply watch how Jesus did it and trust in a God that commands a sabbath.