Sandcastles

texas

I read the chapter out loud to Becky in Texas. We sat at her kitchen table, screen door open to birdsong and breeze. Backyard pool and palm tree and so much sun, and all I could see was vacation – and all she could see was WORK. Tasks undone and plants not growing and nothing finished. She’s all apologetic and I’m laughing out loud. You need to see what I see!

 We’d been talking nonstop since my arrival, so much catching up. No trouble picking up on life and friendship, joys and struggles – years of stories of kids who were toddlers when we lived in the same state. Now adults and teens. My own family expanding and growing and all that’s happened. We’ve both had our share of hard, but God has been faithful. We know.

So now I sat at her table and I read this chapter from Dekker’s book. The Forgotten Way. And I told Becky about how even the title is just what I needed. He’s taking me back to a Way I once knew. Dekker describes two kingdoms – one of this world and one eternal, and we live in them both.

Imagine for a moment that you are a child standing on a wide beach with brilliant white sand…

We’re building sandcastles. Here, now, in this earthly kingdom. This life is simply the sand. And Dekker reminds us – the child at the beach doesn’t fret about water and waves. It’s just sand. And I get it. I get it! – and I want Becky to see it, too.

 Everything that is seen with your earthly eyes is the sandcastle…perishable, yet what a gift it is.

 I confessed it to Becky. How anxious I’ve been defending my sand.

A few days later and I’m back on Minnesota soil. It’s only February, but it feels like spring, and I’m still savoring Texas. Surprised at what a gift it was. I’d been conflicted going, thinking about all the things I should be doing, and other places I should travel. Kids in Iowa and a brother in Wisconsin – and here I am flying off to Texas for my own vacation. But now in hindsight seeing God’s provision. This trip a chance to soak up His Spirit and relish His presence. To hear His voice.

I have been hearing. His voice has been clear. He’s leading me back to the Way I’d forgotten.

And then Wednesday happens. It’s the first day since coming home I’m not working at church, and it’s time to catch up at home. I start my day happy, reflecting. There are piles of laundry and I’m thinking of sandcastles and it’s working. But then.

I’m not sure what happens, or why or when. But something changes. I’m feeling offended. Too much too do, and too little help. The penance for going on my little vacation, and I’m in over my head. My day interrupted by scheduled appointments, and I’m overwhelmed trying to fit it all in. Boys come home with so much stuff, and quickly my efforts at cleaning are swallowed up in a trail of food and notebooks and jackets and garbage. And I stomp around like THIS IS MY KINGDOM. And I’ve forgotten. Again.

Next day, I’m reading more from Dekker, and it’s like he’s here in my house.

If your sight isn’t clear you’ll see darkness, and offense, and grievance… Indeed the fruit of the fall IS grievance.

 Offense and grievance. No kidding.

So I confess it again, and God knows I mean it. He knows I’m trying to live in His Kingdom. And He’s all Grace and Patience – the God of Do-overs. He’s teaching me slowly, and I’m glad to be learning by trial and error. His arms are wide open – His Kingdom still welcomes me in.

Love Notes

zephaniah

If I were brave I’d describe for you the insanity of creating romantic moments in the chaos of all these boys and dog. But I don’t have Jen Hatmaker’s gift of being crude and hilarious and tactful all at once, so I’m better off leaving that tempting topic alone, and perhaps to imagination.

Yesterday my Valentine from my sweetheart was an Apple Music playlist. It’s mostly country, splashed with a little Buble, Ben Rector, and throwback Chicago. Perfect. I love it and I love the man who gave it to me. But that’s not what this post is about today.

It’s about love notes from God. And before you write this off as too much boring, let me assure you it’s not. At least not for the one receiving the notes.

The first came as a “word” from God and a Bible verse scratched on a scrap of paper. I was at a seminar two weeks ago, and the young woman sitting just down from me pulled me aside at the end of the event. We’d not spoken two words, but she claimed to have received a word from God to me. Now this is not my normal, but given my recent season of re-finding Jesus, and the fact that I’d just asked for His supernatural leading, I knew I’d better pay attention. And if the sign of the prophet is a word fulfilled, I am willing to say this sweet gal had indeed heard from God.

God is in your midst. She says it quiet and slips this reference into my hand. Zephaniah 3:17. I look it up later and I’m blown away by His Word to me. I write the whole thing out on a couple of handprints like I’d seen somewhere online, a love note displayed on my bedroom mirror.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (ESV)

Rewind the story. A week or so prior I stumbled on this trailer on Facebook. To this day I don’t know why I paid it the slightest attention, except that God meant it to be a love note for me. It’s an ad for a book by Ted Dekker. And long story short I’ve never read him before. For some reason figured he wasn’t my style. But my friend who knows me better than almost any other human says he’s one of her favorites, so I pick up not one book but two. One a novel, the other a 21-day experience through meditation.* And I’m blown away. This is SO what I needed – both fiction and non paint this picture of two kingdoms – one of this world, and one not. Another day in another post I’ll describe this in detail, but for now I’ll say this this. God is crazy awesome.

Fast-forward the story to this past Sunday evening and our Special Needs Ministry at church. I’m leading. We’re about 16 gathered in a circle upstairs for a time of worship and God again does something I’m not at all expecting. I’ve come this night feeling slightly beaten by a battle at home and who-knows-what-else. And every song Cali chooses is like it’s just for me, so I look around the room at my special friends –wondering if they’ve noticed. What did you hear God say? I ask them. And it’s Vicki who answers. Vicki, the least likely of us all, groaning her praise there in her wheelchair while the rest of us sing. Groaning loud now with something she’s trying hard to say – which Lacey interprets, and I still don’t know how she does it. Vicki says you need to listen. And I know this love note is for me.

And now this morning. Just as I’m about to head to the shower Nils texts from school. Worship chapel at 9:05. Rats. I’d forgotten, and not ready. And not to mention my long list of tasks to finish before I fly to Dallas THIS AFTERNOON. No time for chapel (or writing a blog post for that matter) – but when the Spirit calls I’d be fool to ignore Him. (And when my 17-year-old son is the one inviting. Well there is not option B.) So I shower fast and do what I can and make it to school with time to spare. And again. Wow, God. Amazing.

My boy leads songs that lead straight to the Altar and students are praying, repenting and praising. And the next thing I know the kids circle up around a teacher with cancer and I watch as it’s Brandon – Jimmy’s best buddy – who prays my own heart and lifts hands to Heaven. My tears are flowing and I’m undone by knowing this LOVE. Oh God, this love.

There’s more. Much more. Jimmy and me going on a mission trip together. Nils hearing God’s leading and picking his college. Felipe’s heart poured out in oil on canvas. All love notes and stories for another day.

Dallas is calling, and I’ve a suitcase to pack.

*Ted Dekker’s The Forgotten Way

Upside-Down Kingdom

breakfast

I’ve been thinking about this more often than not these past couple of weeks. Ever since it came up in the teaching videos we’ve been showing to our students on Sunday mornings. And truth be told the kids don’t really seem to be into it. We draw blank stares whenever we ask the questions. What does it mean that we’re part of this upside-down kingdom?

Yes, what does it mean? Forget the kids and ask myself. What does it mean?

Living with a houseful of teenaged boys can feel pretty upside-down, that’s for sure. Upside-down and inside-out and one step away from just-plain-crazy. But that’s not the point and I know it.

It’s probably the answer to all of my questions. The questions that have tormented my soul and kept me stuck through this long dark season. The problem is ME and how I see this Kingdom.

Aren’t we all quite desperate to have our own little kingdoms our own little way? My life the way I want it now – and if I’m to be honest I’d have to admit, I’m wearing myself out trying to carve out this kingdom for me.

And it sucks… to use a very popular boy-world phrase. (In my perfect kingdom I’d ban this saying, along with a host of others. I would also ban mindless media consumption, rap music, and pop cans. But I digress.)

What does it mean that we’re part of an upside-down kingdom… where the King’s name is JESUS? I need to know this.

Our world’s a mess. Have you noticed? Protests and tantrums and social-media ranting and every sort of battle wherever we look. Our best efforts are getting us nowhere. We’re stuck in a perpetual January funk.

During the days of my own funk I got stuck on a particularly bothersome question. How long, God? How long? Why are you waiting such a ridiculously long time to DO SOMETHING? This Christmas story is over 2000 years old and goodness, haven’t you had enough time. What in the world are you doing? I asked this question like a broken record until I nearly lost my mind.

And then I heard THIS on a Sunday morning:

He (Jesus) unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

And then the guy on the video said – Jesus is the King of the Upside-down Kingdom. And that’s when it stuck me.

I need to live THERE.

 There. Here. Now. In THAT KINGDOM. With that King.

Yesterday a war nearly broke out in my kitchen over a missing candy bar. I’m not even kidding. You can’t imagine the intensity of feeling and the strong opinions – and all of us had them. Over chocolate.

And I’m happy to say this was the last straw for me. I’m packing my bags. Today. I’m moving.

New Kingdom.