Saturday, May 17, 2014

Soul Food

My mind has been all over the place today as to what to post.  When you are home with one child down for the count with the flu and the accompanying cabin fever all week and then the second one drops like a fly, you have time to realize God is slowing you down for a purpose.  He uses everything and sometimes it is {ahem} inconvenient. 

My oldest and his dad were planning to be off to our church's Youth Group Camp Out for an overnight and this morning my son says, "Mom, I think I'm getting sick too."  By mid-morning it was obvious he wasn't well and by afternoon he was immersed in Calvin and Hobbes books on the couch while downing this special tea I got on our trip to Bend Oregon for just this sort of thing.  Tonight he had the classic coughing while falling asleep.  So, it looks like we're homebound for a while longer. 

In the middle of all this cabin fever I had the privilege of going to the Annual Conference put on by Biola's Center for Christian Thought.  Unbelievable, I know.  I was supposed to go for two days, but with my youngest son coming down with this nasty sickness, I stayed home the first day and then when my husband could take over I went.  It is too hard to sum up all I gleaned from the conference.  It was sheer goodness - at least my flavor of goodness: lots of big words discussing lots of amazing thoughts about God and the way we grow in Him. 

After "coming down from the mountain" I've been mulling over a few things.  I really want to share them here with all of you in hopes they'll bless you the same way they did me:

1) God is way bigger than we act like He is.  
Now I know that sounds like the biggest "duh" ever, but when you think about it, we just go about thinking about God in such small ways.  As a result we relate to Him in somewhat routine and disconnected ways sometimes too.  I don't just mean that we pray small or expect too little, I mean we just don't grasp at the immensity, depth, breadth and fullness of God.  Sitting with those scholars through plenary talks and breakout sessions and even the closing "root beer float reception" I was in awe of the magnitude and intelligence and freshness of God.  Here's an analogy (I always think in analogies): All week I've been in my home.  It starts to feel like the world begins at one bedroom and ends down the other hallway.  There are moments when I "break out" and step into the back yard and that expands my remembering of exactly how wonderful and big the world is.  Then, one day, I go to this conference and I drive to another city and hear all sorts of thoughts I hadn't been thinking and it is expansive to say the least.  That's how it is with God.  We're used to walking around in our own perception and traditions and experiences with Him and we don't step out into the expanse very often.  I hope somehow you get to do that as I did and you get to lift your eyes and stretch your faith muscles and get a bigger glimpse. 
You don't recover from it and you won't want to. 

2) God's will is good and for our good.
Again, the obvious.  But, when you think about it, we live so often like we have to fear something or worry over the future or hang onto things or take control because we believe God just doesn't exactly like us and He might just change His mind about "letting us in" or whatever.  We shrink back from the freedom He has given us.  A friend shared this from Dallas Willard with me this week and it pretty much sums it up:
Hearing God makes sense only in the framework of living in the will of God. When our children, John and Becky, were small, they were often completely in my will as they played happily in the back garden, though I had no preference that they should do the particular things they were doing there or even that they should be in the back garden instead of playing in their rooms or having a snack in the kitchen. Generally we are in God’s will whenever we are leading the kind of life He wants for us. And that leaves a lot of room for initiative on our part, which is essential: our individual initiatives are central to His will for us.

I loved the backyard analogy.  I'm an analogy girl, I guess. And, I do love backyards too.  What I resonated with the most was the thought that God has this will for how we live out what He made us to be, but He isn't always so fussy over the particulars.  This give us freedom and also helps explain why sometimes we struggle so over whether to buy the Toyota or the Ford wondering which is HIS will, when He is allowing us to choose either.

3) God is unchanging in His goodness and peace and we can be too.  
I'd better explain this a bit.  This week during our sick-fest I have been continuing to read Book 1 of the Narnia series with my five year old.  In it, we see Narnia being created and C.S. Lewis dreamed up a wonderful analogy (yep, I'm in love) to Genesis 1.  It is beautiful.  As we are reading along and Aslan comes into the picture, my son bursts out, "That's God!" and he said it as though it was a familiar friend.  It was something else.  Anyway, as the book describes Aslan (who represents God) moving back and forth in this rhythmic walk, singing a song of creation, all of a sudden two of the characters walk by him.  But, He doesn't change his cadence nor is He ruffled in the slightest.  He just keeps on with who he is, doing what he is purposing to do - not with disregard or ill will, but because he knows who he is and his purpose is for the highest good.  I started thinking about a lesson God has been teaching me for years.  We can be steady in who we are and what we are about when we are grounded in Him.  He doesn't change based on our mood swings, attitudes and reactions.  We don't have to be swayed by those around us either.  We can be constant because we are rooted and grounded in His love.  We can have that secret inner place that goes deep and draws up from unseen sources.  We can be secure in Him and walk accordingly. 

Well, those are the gleanings from this week of unexpected rest and a feast for the soul.  I would love to hear what blessed you this week - even if it was something I shared here. 

Photo of Girl in Sprinkler by Au Kirk on Photobucket; Aslan picture by; Biola Photo by Hammyhammy88


JViola79 said...

#1 resonated with me probably because Faith is my one word for 2014. It is as our faith is stretched & grows, we catch a glimpse of the bigness of our God. May you have a wonderful weekend! II was your neighbor at The Weekend Brew).

Kathryn Shirey said...

Love #3 - to keep following Him steadfastly. To trust in the path He's laid out before us - we might take detours from it, but His path is steady. (Visiting from the Weekend Brew)

HeartsHomeward said...

Yes, Kathryn, thank you for sharing that word, "Steadfastly." HIs path is steady and He is steady. Just being with Him makes us able to be steady as well. I'm so glad you came and shared your thoughts here.

HeartsHomeward said...

Faith is a beautiful word for 2014. My word ended up being two words: Draw Near. Our faith is stretched so we see Him more clearly ... then our faith grows, so we see Him more clearly and then our faith grows more! I love it. And, there are times when we can't see Him (or sense Him) as clearly -- which is another kind of stretching -- but that is part of the rhythm of growth too. I'm so glad you came and shared your thoughts here. Have a wonderful weekend too!!

Krista Sprankle said...

I LOVE number 1! It's so true! I think it's something we all tend to take for granted at times.
Seems like this year God keeps showing me that I have my plans but his plans always prevail. Glad you were still able to attend the conference and get some refreshing! :)

HeartsHomeward said...

Thanks, Krista! It was an amazing conference - very meaty and uplifting. We had topics like "Lament" and "Embodied Prayer" and "Spiritual Formation at each Developmental Level." It was something else. What is beautiful is when we can sense His loving hand when our plans flop. That allows us to rest rather than struggle. I sure am not always there, but it is wonderful as I increasingly find that to be my response to disappointment.

Barbie said...

#2 is something I've been reflecting on. How, when you hurt, and you ask why God allows something, it's keeping that steady faith that says, "Yes, God, You are Good!". And everything He allows in our lives is working for our good. Love you friend.

HeartsHomeward said...

Barbie, I am going to quote a prayer that was sent out from a leader in our church during a difficult situation (it is in the Book of Common Prayer which has prayers even from the early centuries after Christ lived, died and rose):
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which sanctify and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of His Word and the example of His life; for His steadfast obedience, by which He overcame temptation; for His dying, through which He overcame death; and for His rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grand us the gift of Your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make Him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

The part about the failures being something for the purpose of tilting our heads upward and causing us to lean on Him alone was the part that got me deeply. I hope the whole prayer blesses you, my friend. Love you. I sure have been where you are and it is part of the ebb and flow of our faith journey to be in places like that where we wrestle through pain and questions. I hope to write a post on Lament based on the seminar I attended. I'll flag you when I do (maybe in a few weeks).