Sweet Community, or lessons from a kitchenaid

Making Swiss Merengue Buttercream is always a slightly nerve-wreaking process.  It involves combining egg whites with sugar to a precise temperature without actually cooking the eggs or burning the sugar, in a completely grease free environment, beating the tar out of it, then, adding the very thing you were trying so hard to avoid- grease (butter).  Adding it very slowly, because if it’s too early or too fast, you’ll destroy the whole thing.  (At that point I’m usually praying, please, please work out.  I didn’t add enough overhead on this cake price to pay for another 4 # of butter….)  And, for a while, it looks horrible.  It gets totally runny, a chunk of butter or two may go flying across the kitchen, and it looks hopeless.  Then, all of the sudden, it comes together and its gloriously beautiful, glossy, silky buttercream!!!   ….sigh of relief…..

 

So what’s the point?  As I was making buttercream today, I was struck by how much like community and the body of Christ it is.  Having spent the last several years in a close community environment, I have seen lots of the good and bad that can come out of that.  And it’s something that seems impossible and shouldn’t work for so many different reasons.  Like the egg whites and sugar, it starts off with people that get along well, yet still have to go through hard things together until they are doing well, which is right about the time that someone that is something they don’t get along with too well gets added into the mix….   And it takes time to rejoin the community and create a unified whole again.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work.  I don’t think it’s supposed to be that way, but sometimes it is.  And it’s costly when it doesn’t work.  It can totally destroy the community, or sometimes it can be salvaged.  But it’s never the same- there’s always a little scar where that person or group was- a sadness that it couldn’t be worked out.

 

But, sometimes, it works out!!!  The conflicting people come together, learn to work together with their differences and all, and WOW!  Beautiful, smooth, lovely community, with the whole so much greater than the parts.  Sweet fellowship, openness, depth of communication, and love.  Forgiveness and grace.  Joy.

 

Just something to think about next time you eat a piece of cake….  <3

James 1:2-4  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Flour and Treasure

In the book of 1Kings in the Bible, there is a well-known story that is told in Sunday school classes all over.  In the middle of a massive drought, a widow and her son are starving- down to nothing.  About to eat their last meal, then lay down and die.  Literally.  Desperation, survival, out of options.  Weak, tired, hungry.

And then this crazy guy comes by and tells her to feed him, plus theirselves.

What!  There isn’t enough!  What are you asking?! 

But to her credit, she does, and keeps feeding him throughout the drought, and neither her oil nor her flour run out until the end of the drought.  – Here’s the original story, which is told much better-

I Kings 17:8- 15

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

Now, there are tons of different aspects to this story, but a new one hit me today. 

Think of the value of that jar of oil and jug of flour.  Never emptying in the middle of a wasteland.  They would be priceless; highly prized and sought after.

We, as Christians, are the same.

We are filled with Christ, and overflowing with the treasure of Him!  We are never emptied of Him as long as we are relying on Him to provide for us and be in us.  We are something that cannot be ignored, a treasure chest sitting open in the middle of Times Square, highly accessible.  With our obedience of what God asks of us, we carry the most valuable treasure EVER.

And that, my friends, is worth and meaning for your life.

 

God’s Graffitti

 I have a confession.  I like graffiti.  Not the ‘for a good time call…..’ or the various obscene(ities) painted on assorted surfaces, but the great, artwork paintings usually found on the side of railroad cars and some buildings.  Some graffiti is so artistic it blows my mind that someone can do that with a spray can and under the stress of getting caught, and also knowing that, sooner or later, someone is going to paint over it. 

Now, keep in mind I am not condoning graffiti- I am aware it is illegal, and I am not saying that it’s great painted anywhere against the wishes of the owner of that property, but some of it is still amazing.  When my husband worked on the railroad, he said the coolest one he ever saw on a railcar was a giant purple gorilla. How cool is that?!?

And guess what?  God is a graffiti artist too.  Jeremiah 31:33 says

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel  after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds  and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,  and they will be my people.

God writes on us, labeling us as His- ‘tagging’ us.  And you know that anything written by God is going to be way cooler than a giant purple gorilla!!!

-proud to be marked by God as His.  :)

How to smell like a dog

I was out walking a friend’s dog this morning and noticing how she stops to smell everything.  As in everything.  A patch of grass.  Smell.  A patch of grass two inches away from the last.  Smell.  A crack in the concrete.  Smell.  Oy!  And, while I understand the whole dog physiology of smelling and marking and all that, it’s hard for me, being a human, to understand the appeal of smelling all that stuff.  To me it just looks like a patch of grass or a crack in the sidewalk.  Big deal.  There’s hundreds of both.

 

But then I thought- I’m only looking at it from my surface, 5’2”off the ground perspective, and she’s seeing it from a much deeper, and closer to the ground perspective.  Plus, she’s seeing with more than her eyes; she is using her other senses to figure out what is really there and what has been there in the past.  She’s seeing deeper- or maybe I should say, smelling deeper.

 

And I thought, how often do I do the same with my life, with others, with myself, with God?  Judge from the surface, instead of “using my nose” to really figure out what’s really happening, what the truth is.  That’s hard to do- mostly, I must admit, because it requires time and is inconvenient  to my scheduled busy-ness.

 

But if the things I am reacting to or doing are not based around truth, do they really matter?  They’re just empty fluff.

 

God, help me to see with Your eyes and to take the time to see with truth.  Help me to react only out of love, and to know that what is important to You is always worth taking time for.

retreating into life

I love a good retreat.  It’s a chance to get away from the normalness of life, a chance to slow down and get recentered on what really matters in life, a chance to get back in touch with that child with minimal responsibilities within us that we couldn’t wait to leave behind and now just want to get back.

 

Retreats are awesome. (In interest of full disclosure, I work at a retreat center that is amazing.) I eagerly look forward to the next time I get to do one, whenever that is.

 

But, what if, instead of retreating out of life for a while, we retreated INTO life?  What if we accomplished all that retreat stuff every day?  That would make crawling out of bed much easier…. And enjoyable.

 

Why is there such a separation between joy and relaxation and being centered on God, and work and family and everyday life?  Could even paying bills be a small retreat into life?

 

For example, I also volunteer at a small local house of prayer- a place that has been established to be a gathering point for people who want to worship God and pray with others outside of church hours, as well as a place to help others in whatever manner we are able to.  Within that building I have done some of the weirdest, non churchy or religious things.  I’ve decorated cakes and taught others how to, I’ve sewed and cut out cloth diapers, I’ve played basketball, etc., etc.  I’ve lived life.  And at home, I’ve done some of the most churchy, ‘religious’ things I’ve done anywhere- I’ve prayed with  very broken people, I’ve listened to and danced to worship music for hours at a time, etc., etc.

 

My desire is really to increase that in my life- that ability to be anywhere, doing anything, and have it be a ‘retreat’.  To have my whole life centered solely around God and what He desires me to do at that particular moment; to be filled with joy, knowing that my only responsibility is to serve God, and that He’ll take care of the rest of life, to not worry about what I get done or don’t.  He will supply me with the time I need to do whatever He desires as I am faithful to honor Him with that time.   For heaven and earth to collide in my life until they are so intermingled there is no way to tell where one ends and the other begins.  When I die, I want my spiritual transition from earth to heaven to be so smooth, it’s just like coming home to where my heart already is.

 

I pray it is your desire also.

Expecting the Unicorn, Getting the Vacuum.

Expectations.

 

You know that Christmas gift you thought would be a unicorn that instead turns out to be a second hand vacuum cleaner, or that book you thought would be so cool and instead was something you could have written yourself….when you were four years old….

 

Or more seriously, that job you thought you’d retire from that gave you a pink slip yesterday (and not the kind that goes under your now-threadbare skirt), or that baby you long for so much and the pregnancy test that came back negative…again….or the friend/spouse/family member you thought would always have your back and who now barely speaks to you.

 

Expectations.

 

So many things in life are based around what we expect.  And it seems that we are often wrong.  So, what’s the point?  Should we just not expect anything and live with the lowest standards possible, in order to not get hurt?

 

Expectations are, at their core, hope.  Hope is listed in II Corinthians 13 as one of the three greatest things in existence, and is also listed elsewhere as a byproduct of living by God’s Spirit and as He desires.  So, it goes to reason, that hope is a wonderful thing.  It heals wounds by the mere possibility of it being possible; it gives joy and light in a dark place by the mere suggestion of its existence. Hope assists in being faithful to another; in persevering through a tough situation; in giving a task or life meaning.  Hope is a strong cord at the core of all heartbeats- the expectation of another heartbeat.

 

All of which sound like really good things.  So why are expectations so often, well, wrong?  Are we putting our hope in the wrong thing? Or are we just assuming something, instead of expecting it?  Is there a difference?

 

Actually, there is.  Expectation is something that you want to happen, but that you aren’t sure will happen. The dictionary defines it as: eager anticipation; belief about (or mental picture of) the future; wishing with full confidence of fulfillment; the feeling that something is about to happen.

Assumption, meanwhile, is something that you think will happen, and are taking for granted that it will, or accepting it as truth without proof.  Assumption is, at its core, entitlement, or possibly pride.  It hurts relationships by putting itself first; it brings the darkness of self-absorption to an otherwise light situation; it takes all the meaning in life and makes it about only the self.  Not a really good thing.

 

So, I will be the first to admit, that what I so often think I am expecting, I am actually assuming.  For example, that pregnancy test negative would hurt a lot less if I looked at it as the anticipation of something that will happen, and not getting consumed by the idea that it has to happen NOW, and assuming that I know best how it should be.

 

It boils down to focus and control.  Who you are focusing on is who has control of your life, and who has the control shapes whether you eagerly expect something or selfishly assume it.  I know for myself, I definitely want my focus and control to be with God, because I definitely don’t want to carry around the burden of trying to make my life shape what I think it should.  UGH! TOO MUCH WORK!!  He’s way better at that than I am, and He sees the whole picture.  And I know that He will take care of me, and does all the time.

 

This is both an expectation and a bit of an assumption….

But that’s a whole other topic….  :)

 

A Box Free of Aseity

God’s Self-Existence

 

The first attribute of God that is explored in the first chapter of the second part of The Attributes of God, by A.W.Tozer, is God’s self-existence.  If you’re like me, you immediately reached for a dictionary or the online equivalent when you heard that.  According to Google, the concept of God being self-existent has several different parts, but boils down to the idea that God has always, and always will, existed, and exists independent of us, needing nothing from us, and also that God has within Himself the sufficient reason for existence and needs no source or reason to exist.  The concept is summed up very nicely in Acts 17:22-31, particularly verses 24-25 “The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone.” {For those of you who like to wow people with weird words (or need to file a new one away in case of a Scrabble necessity), this is also called ‘aseity’.  Which won’t work for my Scrabble, because it does not contain enough z’s and q’s without u’s…}

 

So, all that is really cool, but why do we care?  I know that it means that we can’t really totally understand God from our human mindset- and I’m not so sure the angels or anyone else can either, but that’s a different subject- and the subtitle of this book is Discovering the Father’s Heart.  What does this have to do with that?   I’ve been pondering that question for a few days, and I think I’ve finally come up with an answer.

 

I think this concept is what helps us understand that we cannot put God into a box.  His heart is bigger than that.  If I have in my mind that God created me because He needs me, then I feel obligated to do something or be something for Him, and I become nothing more than a slave to Him in my mind.  But He doesn’t need me.  God didn’t create slavery, humankind did.  God created freedom.  And therefore, He wants me, which, when I believe and know that, means that I chose to do or be whatever for Him because I want to.  He wanting me results in me wanting Him, hence love.  He needing me results in me needing freedom from Him, hence rebellion.

 

Also, if God needed us, that implies that, if there is a period of time when He is not getting something He needs from us, then He is lacking and hurting and less than God.  Like when my husband unintentionally does not give me something I need from him, and how I am then not good at doing all my good wife stuff because I don’t feel very ‘wifey’.  God always has all of His ‘selfness’, regardless of what we do or don’t do.  After Adam and Eve sinned, there wasn’t absolute panic in heaven.

 

But, that is just my thoughts on the subject.  It is very deep, and like trying to wrap a live cat in giftwrap without a box…  Any comments on the subject are appreciated, as well as thanks for the new Scrabble word.  :)

Focusing on the freight train, or a paradigm shift

Sometimes there are moments in life where your paradigm and thought changes so fast, it feels like a freight train just roared past at 200 mph, 6 inches away, and now your face is sideways, looking at the train and trying to understand it more, unable to understand all the things you thought pre-train, and knowing you will never be the same again.

 

I have just recently had one of those moments.  I was thinking about how much Christ gave in order to show His love, and how much we give and sacrifice in order to show our love to Him.  But then I thought- Wait!  Is it really a sacrifice?  It’s not easy, but, if we keep the mindset of the hugeness of the sacrifice, what’s the point?  I can give myself; someone else can give their selves and a ton of money, Jesus dies and gave everything to be with us, does it really matter? 

 

No, it doesn’t.

 

Now, don’t give up on me yet.  Let me explain.  On a certain plain, yes, of course all of those above things matter very much.  Especially what Jesus did for all of humanity.  It matters more than anything else ever has.

 

But.

 

Those things happened in order to pay the price for something else.  If what you are obtaining in return is worth the cost (or more than it), does the cost matter?  It’s like selling everything you have to obtain your deepest dream and desire.  Once you obtain that, would you bemoan the loss of all that you’d paid?  Would it really matter?

 

I give Christ my all, my entire life and breath and all my steps and existence for eternity.  In return I get ever-increasing, ever closer knowledge and access of His heart.

 

He gave everything for me, and in return, He obtains my willingness to love and desire Him in return.

 

While I cannot speak for Him, I know I’m getting back infinitely more than I am paying….

 

Which makes the cost not matter.

 

And I know, for me, I want to focus solely on Him and all He has for me, weather I perceive it as bad or good, because, if I focus on what I’m giving up, it’s much harder to give up and it’s much harder to receive what He has for me.

 

And that is a sideways-face-train-bypass moment that I never want to get over.

Anticipating the music of the shrew….

Earlier this week, as I was working the soundboard during live intercession at IHOPE, I began to notice a sound- sort of.  Not really a sound, more like a feeling.  It was a buildup of certain frequencies and feedbacks that are sub-audible level, yet they make your ear hairs stand up.  As I’m standing there trying to figure out where it’s coming from and what to do about it with the awesome, and much more sound-board gifted guy who is teaching me, a level of panic sets into my brain.  What do I do?  The sound keeps building and building and I can feel it gathering into a massive ball of energy that is soon to go very audible and cause everyone to look at me as it finally resolves into a sound not unlike an angry owl with a cold dancing with a rabid cat to music being played by a flute powered by the armpit noises of a gigantic shrew…. OY!!!

 

And then, later, I thought about it and decided that is someone what Jesus’ second coming is like, but without all the owl-cat-armpit noise.  Those really listening can sense His coming, even though it’s not something really heard or seen unless you really know what to look for.  But, that momentum is building, and it will very soon be harder and harder to ignore, until, at last, it will become a huge Presence, and He will call and say “HEY!!!!  You know that thing that’s been tickling at the back of your mind you try to ignore but really can’t?  I’m that thing.  And I’m HERE.  You cannot ignore Me.  You will listen to me and acknowledge Me.”  And just like when the cat and owl start dancing, we will have to look to Him, involuntarily or voluntarily, as our individual cases may be. 

 

And He will be magnificent and amazing and, like the cat-owl thing, totally overwhelming (but much, MUCH more so) I think our minds will break in that moment, no matter how prepared we believe we are for Him, as we come face to face with our Savior.  (Which is my theory of why we so desperately need new bodies and minds RIGHT THEN, which He will provide, if we are following Him?) Whether the overwhelming is good or bad, we have a choice, and I’m so glad I’ve chosen to have it be good.

 

Thank You Jesus for Your overwhelmingness!!  Thank You for Your love and that You will and have made all things right.  You are victorious, and I ache for the sound of Your call.

 

Come Lord Jesus, come.

Blessed amid Chaos

My life looks like a mess right now.  I honestly don’t know how it’s all going to work out, because all is chaos and unknown.

But I am so blessed.  I live with a husband who loves me to the best of his ability.  I also live with a cat who does a wonderful job keeping my head warm at night and giving me the gift of white noise to fall asleep to.  I spend quite a bit of my time with friends, people I trust who trust and love me in return.  I am surrounded by the beauty of snow and winter trees in their bare-branch glory.  I am usually immersed in music that is worshipful to my Savior, music I want to hear and that turns my mind to the larger picture beyond what I can see.  I have the freedom to read my Bible, I have a computer to type these blogs on.  I have clothing to wear, even if it is quite a few years old, or a bit worn-out.  There is a bit of food in the fridge- enough for today and tomorrow, at least.  I have a car to drive that usually runs well, and the physical ability to drive it.

And more than that, if all the above dissapears, I am loved by a God Who will always love me, and Who takes care of my life.  Who sees me and thinks I am important. 

And what could ever be better!?!?!

I AM SO BLESSED!!!!!

 

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The Happy Pastor

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