Sunday, November 29, 2020

Bubble Mowers & Psalm 146

It's the Sunday after Thanksgiving and I haven’t been able to sleep.

A peek at my study of Psalm 146
Maybe it's from three days of rich food {there’s lots of leftovers when you prepare a full Thanksgiving feast for only four people}. Maybe it's because I miss being with extended family for the holiday. Maybe it's because I have kids who have problems I need to solve. Even though they don't realize they have problems. Maybe I'm creating problems. Maybe I'm the problem. 

Yeah. It's because of all that. And, you know, also that we're living in the middle of a pandemic.

Anyhoo. Instead of stewing in my thoughts, I decided to get up and read the psalm that my small group will be studying together this week (bundled up and distanced outside).

And, as He always does, God met me in Psalm 146 with balm for my anxious, angry, helpless self.

This psalm literally begins and ends with a Hallelujah. There is so much praise in this psalm

The psalmist calls us to praise so many times, because there are so many things to praise God for. Here's the psalmist's list:

  • He made heaven and earth
  • He keeps faith forever
  • He brings about justice for the oppressed
  • He feeds the hungry
  • He sets prisoners free
  • He opens the eyes of the blind
  • He lifts up people who are bowed down
  • He guards strangers
  • He upholds widows and orphans 

What a compassionate, powerful, personal God we have! He has and is and will continue to be all of these things to me and to you and to us as we walk, run or stumble through life...

As I read through this list a few times, it eventually  occurred to me that these are not only things that God does abundantly, but they are also all things God calls us to do, throughout Scripture, too. Me.

I'm supposed to work, and have faith, and do justice. God tells me to feed the hungry, set prisoners free and bring light to people's darkness. He tells me to help people who are oppressed or depressed. To stand up for immigrants and care for widows and orphans. God tells me - us - to do all of these things.

But, what about when I can't? Or don't? Or we won'tWhich is where so much pain and hurt and anger and helplessness sweep in, no matter who we are. Because none of us does these things all the time, or very well at that.

And so I backed up and started reading again. And I realized that a verse I'd considered to be a separate thought from the praises, is actually inextricably tied to them.

This recounting of everything God does - and that He commands us to do throughout  Scripture - is preceded by a warning to not put our trust in mortals. 

The juxtaposition in my head between God’s ability and reliability to do these things and mine,  reminded me of when God repeatedly tells His people to "Be holy, for I am holy." Which is absolutely, metaphysically, impossible.

And that is precisely why we cannot put our hope and trust in the ability of mortals - me or you or anyone else - to ultimately pull these things off. Because:

    • Only His work is perfect
    • Only His faith is perfect
    • Only His justice is perfect
    • Only His sustenance is perfect
    • Only His rescue is perfect
    • Only His revelation is perfect
    • Only His lifting up is perfect
    • Only His love is perfect
    • Only His guarding is perfect
    • Only His advocacy is perfect

And that is exactly why we praise Him! He is and does everything that we are not and cannot.

Which is why the psalmist warns us to not trust in mere mortals. We will hurt each other. Disappoint each other. Anger each other. We will hurt, disappoint and anger ourselves, for Pete's sake. And, if 2020 is any indication, we will relentlessly tear one another apart in our zealousness to prove that everyone else falls short of God's perfection and His call.  

And there's the rub. On one hand, I must be passionate about these things. I am, after all, created in the image of the One who does them perfectly. So my very being should be straining to pour myself out in all these ways. And so should yours.

Yet, on the other hand, all of my attempts to love my neighbors in these ways - even the ones under my very own roof - are imperfect at best. Deeply flawed and selfish at worst. 

As I wrestled with this in my heart, the Spirit whispered a verse in my head:

"Therefore be imitators of God, as children dearly loved." Ephesians 5:1

We are imitators. I am an imitator. I am not the real thing. I can and must aspire to imitate the ways God works and loves, but I will never act on any of these things perfectly. And neither will you, this side of heaven. Expecting myself or anyone else - my spouse, my friends, my government, my church - to do so is...idolatry, really.

from the Fisher-Price online bubble mower game

Then, after giving me a verse, the Spirit gave me a mental picture. Did you ever have a bubble mower? Well, that’s the image that came. 

Because, like a small child pushing a bubble mower next to a parent who is pushing the real thing, I can stick close to the expert. I can look up, and be inspired and energized. I can follow His gaze and see all the yuck around me, and I can work my hardest to help smooth the rough edges of people’s lives, to spur growth, to bring beauty. And all the while, I can maneuver in tandem with the Expert, glad that He's invited me to join in the work, and growing with every step I take with Him. 

And, then, in those {frequent} moments when I realize that my plastic blade fails to leave perfectly crisp diagonal swaths like God's blade does, I will not berate myself for my humanity, but will instead praise Him for His perfection all the more.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Crown the King!

Crown the King! It’s Rosh Hashanah / The Feast of Trumpets, and we eat round challah to celebrate the King in our midst as He opens the Books of Life and Death.

I love making this six-strand braided challah “crown” because it reminds me:
  • God created for six days (six strands)
  • He is King of all creation, to the four corners of the earth (four sides/corners)
  • The Old Covenant nation was made of twelve tribes, the New Covenant people began with twelve disciples, and the New Jerusalem will be built on twelve foundations with twelve gates (twelve strand ends)
  • Our Triune God is in all and holds all things together (three strands braided on each side)
  • Our Messiah God is the Bread of Life, Who nourishes and sustains us all with His spirit and His Word
Happy {round} Challah Day 👑 

Friday, September 4, 2020

The King is in the Field

Today, we're exactly in the middle of the Jewish month of Elul.  It's a quiet month.  No official feasts or fasts. 

So all eyes and hearts rest quietly while looking forward, to the first day of next month. 

When the blast of the ram's horn will shatter the silence on Rosh Hashanah.

When those startling blasts will propel us into ten days of repentance leading up to the Day of Atonement.

And when we will close that most holy day on the calendar by praying to be written in God's Book of Life. 

It is a powerful, weighty time. 

So Elul, in its peaceful repose, sits in quiet contrast.

Rabbis teach that during this tranquil month, God is like an ancient king, who would walk through the fields on his way into the city, receiving anyone who would like to approach him before he re-entered the palace. They teach that this is a time when God makes Himself fully accessible, greeting any and all with kindness and compassion before returning to His throne, from which He will dispense judgment and mercy on the High Holy Days. 

It's a beautiful parable, inspired by God's thirteen attributes of mercy toward us, which He shared with Moses in Exodus 34:6-7. And it is undergirded by the understanding that God Most High initiates a relationship with His people. Pursues His people. All of his people.  Even us ordinary workers in the fields.

Then he passed in front of Moses, calling out, “The Lord, the Lord, a compassionate and merciful God, patient, always faithful and ready to forgive. He continues to show his love to thousands of generations, forgiving wrongdoing, disobedience, and sin.  Exodus 34:6-7a GW*

As a Jewish believer in Jesus, I love this parable all the more, because it paints such a beautiful and perfect picture of the Messiah.  Who left His throne and came to walk the fields of the earth with us. To welcome any and all who wished to approach Him, no matter what field they called home. To show the way of mercy.

For the believer, every month is the month of Elul. Because the King is still in the field. Greeting anyone and everyone with kindness and compassion through His Spirit. Drawing anyone and everyone to Himself while He may be found. Lingering in the fields, until that final day. Not wanting anyone to miss their moment to join Him. To enter the sanctuary eternal by His side.

“Your procession, God, has come into view, the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.” Psalm 68:24 niv

The King is in the field. With welcoming arms and kind eyes. Whispering words of life. 

*Learn more about God's 13 Attributes of Mercy

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Working or Feasting?

I'm writing here at the dining room table these days, having been displaced by remote learning.  And the truth is, I like it.

Here, I am surrounded by: 

Candlesticks from my grandmother.

China from my husband's great-grandmother.

A pomegranate-embroidered table runner I bought in Jerusalem's Old City with family.

A coffee mug connecting me to a very dear friend. 

A chandelier, hung by my handy husband. 

Wedgwood wall plaques from my father-in-law's parents. 

The table itself, a gift from my very special aunt-in-law. 

And the bible given to me by my "adoptive spiritual parents."

I no longer feel displaced. I feel like I am at home. Feasting on God's Word at a table set by love. 


Monday, August 31, 2020

My Challah Fail

No pretty picture of a golden, braided challah. No delivery of warm loaves to friends. No handfuls of soft, pillowy goodness at sundown.

Here's the "after" photo of this week's challah fail...

Nope. Friday's challah was a fail. Not just a "looks lumpy and weird" fail.  Not a "baked too long and burnt on the bottom" fail.  No. Those are all salvageable fails. This was not. And the reason is that it wasn't really a challah fail at all.  

It was a sabbath fail. 

The reason I started making challah every Friday back in the pre-pandemic spring was to incorporate a ritual of rest and worship.  To really sabbath.

But this past Friday, my challah fail revealed a deeper problem: making the challah had become routine and religious, not restful and reverent.

I am no longer making challah in the wee hours of the morning, when all is still. I am no longer reading scripture and praying in the dark while the dough does its rising. 

Instead, I've been snatching an extra bit of sleep and then squeezing in the baking process later in the day. Which is like playing Jenga, really:  timing the mixing and rising and kneading and braiding and rising and baking in between running and shopping and cleaning and laundering and virtual-school-assisting and dog-momming and also {hopefully} writing. Hoping it doesn't all topple over. It's dizzying just reading it, let alone living it.

So this past Friday, when the timer on my wrist let me know the rise was done, I distractedly dismissed it while finishing a chore. And completely forgot to turn out the dough for punching and kneading and braiding. For a very long time. When I finally dashed into the kitchen, the dough was bubbly and fermenting. And not in a good, Prosecco kind of way.

I decided to bake it just for grins - heat fixes all sorts of things, right? Wrong. Even my always-affirming husband, who gives me great latitude in my cooking {because I'm notorious for burning things}, took one bite of the warm, mangled mess and said, "Nope." 

And so, as I texted my friends to let them know their personal bread delivery was canceled due to unforeseen circumstances, I realized that the circumstances should have been foreseen.  I realized that we - I - are all in danger of turning the most worshipful of rituals into rote routine. That we - I - are all at risk of transforming what is meant to be restorative into something that is depleting.

What is your challah? What practice do you practice that is now just practice - or performance - instead of worship? 

But I do have something against you! And it is this: You don't have as much love as you used to. Think about where you have fallen from, and then turn back and do as you did at first.  Revelation 2:4-5a CEV

I encourage you to return to your first love, to rediscover the joy and passion and worship and rest that prompted that practice in the first place. To reignite it. Fan it into faith-full flames with a tender heart to receive God in the way you used to. 

Or even better than you used to, knowing that His love has never grown rote, that He continues to call you to His bountiful table, no matter how burnt or mangled or unappetizing you've made the offering. 

After all, the Bread of Heaven can, and does, make all things new... 

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Fab Five (a/k/a Love as a Witness to a Watching World)

People love to hear about the supernatural moment of my testimony. The moment God broke through and spoke to me. They weep. Heck, I weep. Every. single. time.

The room where "it" happened. Haden Chapel (Palmyra, Virginia)
Photo from Charlottesville District UMC website

But the quiet preface to that moment is just as powerful. It's what God used to prepare me. To physically get me into Trevon's one-room church. And to pre-assemble a support group to help me through the fraught family fallout in the days that followed.

And now, thirty years later, during the summer of 2020, I can't stop thinking about it. Well, about them.

I fondly call them the Fab Five of my testimony. Five fellow college students that grew from complete strangers to close friends during that fateful summer in Charlottesville.

Three guys, two girls. Very different backgrounds, personalities, and politics. Different tastes in everything from clothes to music. Leaders in different student organizations. Who didn't really run in the same friend groups, but who were spending the whole summer together - along with me and about fifteen others - for required leadership training. At the time, I couldn't see a single thing that united them. 

The rooms where it happened...

And yet. They treated each other with a kindness and respect I'd never seen before in people my age. Certainly not in my party crowd that I called friends. Or even among most of the highly opinionated adults in my life. 

The Fab Five laughed together - sometimes at each other. But in a sibling kind of way. They debated, but with respect. They listened, with full attention. Sometimes they rolled their eyes at each other, but always ended with a wink and a chuckle.  

I didn't get it. But I liked it. I was drawn to it. Such acceptance and kindness filled a void I didn't know I had. Provided a safe place I never imagined to exist. And they included me in every bit of life that summer. We ate, we played, we simply did life together. We were friends.

Eventually I learned that one of the guys was one of those "born-again Christians." But he never pushed his religion on me, so it didn't make me feel uncomfortable or like an outsider. What he - and the others - did push was inclusion and kindness. Toward me, and toward each other. Which didn't make a lot of sense to me. But I was just enamored by this group. Who really were - and are - fab.

Later in the summer, when I heard God's voice on that fateful day, I knew exactly who I could talk to. I figured the "born again guy” was the only person who wouldn't think I was totally nuts. But as I snuck downstairs to his suite that afternoon to confess my revelation, I ran into another one of the five, who wondered why I was in such a rush to talk with TJ. I sheepishly told her. Lo, and behold! Donna was a believer, too. Over the next few days, I learned that so was Travis. And Jack. And Jenny.  

Now I understood why the Five was so Fab. 

"For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.”  John 13:35 TPT

God did the supernatural work. These believers did the daily work of submission. Of loving their faith siblings as Jesus loved them. Day in and day out. Were they perfect? No. But they strove to love each other well in the midst of a watching world. And they drew me in with this radical love. Love with their hearts (kindness) and their minds (respect) and their strength (weekly softball). 

Today, as I sit here outside a coffee shop in Raleigh,* I am wondering if I would have been willing to step inside that little church - so very far outside of my comfort and culture zone - if the Five had been feuding about politics all summer. I wonder if I would have entrusted myself to their care during the difficult days ahead if they had been mocking each other's views behind their backs or on social media.

And so these days I also wonder, as I scroll Facebook and Twitter, and as I overhear heightened voices in open spaces, how many people out there are tuning out Christians in the news or in their feed or in their lives because angry, mocking, polarizing words communicate that Christian community is not a safe place. And that, by extension, the Cross is not a safe place either.

Oh, please, please let it not be so.

*Traveled the two hours with my daughter so she could have a picnic with her boyfriend {yes, major mom points today}

Sunday, July 26, 2020

United in the Mystery

I'm happy. 
Emerald Isle Sunset 2020
Photo by Tammy. Beauty by God.

After months of frustration and lamenting and anger and anxiety (cue the shingles), I'm feeling something I haven't felt in awhile. I'm genuinely happy today.

I'm sitting on the beach, with my husband and my children, socially distanced from the people and the news feed that surround us. We are playing in the water. We are eating popsicles. We are blasting tunes under a rusted beach umbrella.

Blasting Needtobreathe. Van Halen. Miles Davis. Sting (my disc jockey husband explains to the kids that this is especially for me).

But I decide to leave my Englishman in New York, because it's sweltering and the ocean is calling. And I realize, after taking just a few steps toward the water, that Sting's voice is gone. Not quieter. Just gone. Vanished. Stolen by the ocean wind without warning.

I don't give it much thought, and I keep moving toward the water's edge, passing a group of teenage girls blaring their own music. By the time I recognize Carrie Underwood's voice, I am a few steps past them. And just like Sting's walking cane, Carrie's Louisville Slugger has vanished into thin air.  

For a moment, I marvel that music playing loud enough to drown out my thoughts could be silenced so quickly. But the moment washes away with the waves until I make my way back to our chairs an hour later.

And then I notice. 

I notice that, no matter where I'm walking or sitting, there is one thing I can hear loud and clear above everything else. No matter how loudly anyone's music is playing.  

It is the ocean itself. The rhythmic crash and spray and soft ripple up the shore before sliding back into the deep. 

And I'm struck by the fact that no matter what music my tribe plays, or what sound the groups up and down the beach prefer, we are all united by the overarching soundtrack of the ocean.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. Psalm 29:3 NIV

And then it occurs to me that this is what the church is supposed to look like. Both the church universal and the church local. 


Catholic or Protestant
immersed or sprinkled
pre-trib or post-trib
free-willed or predestined 
quiet reverence or raised hands 
wingtips or flip-flops
Democrat or Republican
English speaking or Spanish
Darker or lighter 
...we are all seeking to listen to the same mysterious God. The one God who washes over us all with the truth of His sacrifice and resurrection. Who is revealed in part and concealed in part. 

In this season of unrest, can we please stop drowning each other with words of division? Can we please remember, instead, that we are washed together into the wide ocean of the Messiah's living water? United in the mystery that is Christ.
And HE IS before all things and in and through Him the universe is a harmonious whole. Colossians 1:17 WNT

Lord, thank you for creating us with such diversity. Sometimes it's hard for us to love each other well. Help us to learn from and appreciate each other as different parts singing together, so that others can hear the beautiful, "harmonious whole" of your salvation song. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Cry of the Oppressed

In our childhood days, we sat criss-cross applesauce in Sunday School while listening to exciting accounts of God rescuing oppressed people.  As adults, we underline our Bibles and share pretty social media images about God's deliverance from suffering.

We love that Pharoah's daughter defied her father's murderous edict against God's people. 
We love that Moses triumphantly led God's people out from under the weight of Egyptian slavery. 
We love that Esther and Mordechai caught Haman in his own web and saved all of God's people from genocide in Persia.

We love it when God rescues the oppressed.  We proclaim it in countless hymns and worship songs.  But I'm afraid - after scrolling social media this week - that a lot of us don't love it or proclaim it when the oppression doesn't oppress us personally.  I'm afraid that when people are being victimized who don't look like us - like me - then we dismiss the very word. Explain it away.

And if this is the case, we should be very troubled.  Not about anyone out there.  But about the person in here.  Me.  You.  Our own selfish, wayward, blame-shifting hearts.

Consider these sacred words:
"Justice, justice you shall pursue..." Deuteronomy 16:20
"...what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"  Micah 6:8
We love these verses until they make us uncomfortable.  But that's exactly what these verses are about.   The fact that God has to command us to do justice means that it doesn't always come naturally.  That sometimes we need to stop and look around and discover oppression in our midst that affects our neighbor. Open our eyes to things we’d never considered before. 

And then we must do something about it. Pursuing justice means that it takes work. That it will cost us something.  That it may {indeed, should} upend our own view of circumstances and replace it with His. 

"Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharoah hardened their hearts?"  1 Samuel 6:6

A gospel-driven pursuit of justice must push us to uncouple from the political pundits of our day and cleave only to our justice-loving, grace-overflowing, merciful, eternal God and to our fellow image bearers.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Pentecost Prayers

Today is Pentecost...
...may the firstfruits of our hearts be grace and love and justice, instead of suspicion and hatred and fear.

Today is Pentecost...
...may I bring you my best, my firstfruits, instead of my leftovers, my afterthoughts.
Today is Pentecost...
...may I be more focused on what I bring to You {my all} than what I want from You.

Today is Pentecost...
...won't you please bring unity like you did that day 2000 years ago, uniting people of different languages and nations together as one beautifully blended family. Somehow, someway.

Today is Pentecost...
...may we have more reverence for your thundering justice on the mountaintop than the mortal, murmuring voices of politicians and pundits.
Today is Pentecost...
...please refine us and burn away all that is prideful, selfish and evil in me - in us - so that we can care for one another in Spirit and in Truth.

Today is Pentecost... may your Spirit have His way in me - in us - so that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control reign in me and overflow from me. In us, from us.


Thursday, May 28, 2020

I Can No Longer Lament

To be perfectly honest with you, I don't know what to do with myself right now.  If you don't know immediately what I mean, then I don't know what to say.

Growing up as a Jewish kid, I always thought it was poetic when people tore their clothing as an expression of mourning.  But I honestly never considered it to be anything other than symbolic.  

Then came Spring 2020.  

As the pandemic spread across the globe, fear and grief captured us, and then began to divide us.  And it drove me to lament.  

And by lament, I mean crying out to God against brokenness, in faith -- to borrow the teaching of our pastor, Ryan Showalter.  {See, I can still learn and grow during an online worship service while sitting on my couch wearing pajamas!}

I was sad and I was disheartened and I could put words to all of it.  And so I was lamenting.  A lot.

But then.  The news about Ahmaud Arbery {finally} surfaced, and I could no longer lament.  We watched George Floyd die under the weight of a white officer's knee, and I could no longer lament.  Human beings are being dehumanized before our very eyes, and I cannot lament.  

I cannot lament because I cannot find words.  And now I finally understand why people tear their clothing.

I feel like a child in distress who doesn't have the vocabulary to express the thoughts and emotions churning inside.  I feel a perpetual urge to tear my garments because I simply cannot express the depth of this grief and rage and bewilderment and helplessness.

If you call yourself a follower of God, then racism and violence against fellow image-bearers should absolutely rip your heart apart.  And so should hearing other people minimize it or justify it.

Jesus died to destroy the barriers between us.  Yes, between us and God, but also the "dividing wall of hostility" between races and nationalities.  Heck, if He hadn't, most people who call themselves Christians today would still be called Gentiles, and I would be shrugging my shoulders saying, "sorry, you're not part of the vine."  

But Jesus came to abolish all of that division and prejudice and hatred.  He abolished it in His torn flesh.*  And if we each don't do everything in our power to work out that ministry of reconciliation in our lives and our communities in His Name, we will be gutting the Gospel.
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.  Amos 5:24

*See Ephesians 2

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Be the Branch (aka alone on Palm Sunday)

Maybe today you are craving community.  

Maybe for the first time in a long time, you're longing to be part of a Palm Sunday gathering. 

To celebrate the arrival of the Messiah into Jerusalem.  Knowing the horrible, beautiful thing that is to come.

Wishing you could be part of a throng that is throwing palm branches on the ground, crying out "Hosannah!"  Save us.

But instead of mourning the aloneness on this day of community, maybe we can celebrate it.  

Instead of being part of the crowd, let's be the palm branch.  

Picture laying yourself, your life, before the One who is life.  Who sacrificed Himself but then broke the grave wide open for you.  

Ponder it.  Rejoice in it.  Accept the gift that is today, in a new way.  Instead of mourning, sit in wonder and worship.

On this day when you cannot be part of the crowd, be the branch.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Blessings in the Distancing

So, here we are in the age of COVID19 and social distancing.

My college student begins online classes today. My high schooler is on day three of online learning. My husband is the lead for his health care system’s handling of the virus, so he’s on Day ?? of 24/7. And I’m on extra pound number 4.

My sisters and their families live in NYC, D.C.and Orlando. Things are beyond joking, the way they are here in N.C., where we’re earlier on the curve and people don’t understand why they shouldn’t go to the mall or why their favorite restaurant is offering only curbside service.

We’re still so early on the curve that people are still throwing around media conspiracy theories and political agendas as the reason for the current shutdown.

I’ve muted these people.

The reality is that perusing social media has made me anxious, angry and agitated. It’s not healthy. So I’ve decided that I’m just going to post snapshots of beauty in the midst of all this. That I will seek out things for which to be thankful. To open my eyes to the gifts in front of me and share them, in hopes that they brighten someone else’s day. Or just mine - I’m okay with that, too.

So this morning I created a new hashtag: #blessingsinthedistancing. Maybe you can join me and post/tag your pics!  Here's my first post. Peace and grace to you today ❤️

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Jesus wept.

Lazarus was suddenly sick. Shockingly gone. His sisters were suspended by grief. Disoriented, despairing. 

Then God. The Messiah entered into their pain. Not as one above it all, but as their friend, hating death and its sting right there with them. Jesus wept. 

Yes, He knew the resurrection miracle He would work. But that would come later. The comfort He brought to Mary and to Martha was Himself. The ministry of presence. The consolation of eternity. The grave-defying miracle would be for everyone else who needed proof of who He really was. God in the flesh.  

But for the sisters devastated by grief, Jesus’ comfort came before the miracle. They were consoled before it, without it. Because the comfort He brings isn’t the miracle. 

The comfort Jesus brings is that He “simply” enters into our grief with us as someone who has felt it.  As one who has tasted death.  And as the One who defeated it.  Yet who still weeps over the pain it wields in our hearts. 

Jesus wept. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

It Was {Very} Good

My reading nook/loft. I won the beautiful  "Abide in Me"
banner at a recent women's retreat, it was created by
@mossandmudpies. God was preparing me for this day!
God...saw that it was good.
God saw that it was good.
God saw that it was good.
God saw that it was good.
God saw that it was good.
God saw that it was good.
God saw was very good.

I began 2020 in my pjs, curled up in a chair that I've always intended to use as my quiet place but never have. 

I opened my new one-year chronological bible (thanks, bro- & sis-in-law!) and started the new year determined to regain an intimacy with God that, I confess, suffered this past year.  I did a lot of doing for Him, and teaching about Him, but not spending time with Him.

(I also did my share of grumbling as I struggled to recover from foot surgery, and parent teenagers, and juggle jobs...  And, just an FYI, I discovered that grumbling tends to keep you from genuine, surrendered intimacy with God.  Ouch.)

I know I'm not alone, because people have told me so.  A lot of us are in a rut.  Ruts of busyness.  Ruts of worry.  Ruts of expectations.  Ruts of religious habit.  After decades of faith, sometimes we rest on our laurels.  We recall with joy all that God has done for us, or that we've done for Him, or we become content with "our way" of serving or worshipping, and we stay there.  Blissfully stagnant.  Loving Him in the familiar fishing hole, when the great wide ocean is calling.

And so yesterday, as I sat in that sun-faded-but-not-worn chair, under a beautiful new banner created by a beautiful friend that says "Abide in Me," I read the oh-so-familiar creation account in Genesis.

But (as is His way) God made that oh-so-familiar passage strike me with new insight, targeted exactly for my current yearning to launch out of my deep rut.

You might think it's simple and not worth the wind-up of this blog thus far, but it was an incredibly impactful way for me to begin the first day of this new year.  So here it is...

After each stage of creation, God stepped back and assessed, declaring that what He'd made was good.  As if there were any doubt...?  Even the perfect Creator modeled that it's good to reflect on what we've done.  For us to take time to assess, to affirm, to celebrate what He's done in and through us. 

And then He modeled something else.  {Cue the rut-exiting exhortation!}  After God assessed that something was good, He moved on to the next work.  Always building on the previous work.  Never stopping until the work was absolutely complete.  Only then was it very good.

Imagine if He'd stopped after separating light and darkness? There would be light to see, but nothing to actually gaze upon.  Or if He'd separated the land from the water, but didn't fill it with flowers and trees?  Or if He'd created land and sea but no creatures to fill them?  Or no us?

God impressed on me the importance of both celebrating and then moving forward.  That I am not finished and should never be satisfied simply affirming past endeavors.  That I don't want to miss out on amazing things that He has in store if I will step into them.  That I should continue to build on what He has done in me and through me until it is absolutely finished.  Until I am finished.  In His Presence.  

That will be very good, indeed.