Archives for category: Religion

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How to let more light in

For the second week in a row we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, told why we were interested in reading a novel about four women who meet on a spiritual retreat and why our hearts were pulled to discuss the book with others.

This woman had been there before, had driven the 45 minutes to hear what we were learning from the characters and from our questions. But this time, as we told our names and our stories to the new people, she mentioned owning an apple orchard.

I told of my three crazy boys, of make-shift wrestling matches in the living room and of being suspicious of silence in our house. And once we were no longer strangers, we talked about “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” and how we could see sticky notes and dog-eared pages in the books we held in our hands.

“What parts did you underline? What parts meant the most to you?” I asked.

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One woman turned to page 15, where Hannah, one of the main characters, is being reminded of a sermon she preached about God pruning things like a gardener would. Hannah had told her congregation that pruning isn’t punishment – it’s improvement.

“I had never thought of that scripture that way,” the woman said as others chimed in about pruning and its painfulness.

But the woman with the orchard shook her head and waited for a turn to speak.

Pruning is essential, she said, and we do it more than once a year because the trees need space. The fruit needs nutrients. And pruning allows for more light.

That last thought – the one about the light? That’s the one that keeps ringing in my ears. That’s the one that has me asking what I need to let go of so God and love and light can more easily find their way through my muddled mess.

Maybe it’s my own expectations that could stand to be cut back or the binge watching on Netflix that could be trimmed a bit. Maybe I could take the scissors to my spending, my procrastination and a hundred other bad habits that pull time and nutrients from my soul.

The gardener knows with each snip, there would be room for more light and stronger growth.

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how to use what you have to teach kids about faith
how to use what you have to teach kids about faith

Mama used to joke that I’d be the only bride who registered at junk stores for wedding gifts.

I think that started after I found a pair of wooden theater seats tucked away in a store that looked like a chaotic indoor flea market. Or, now that I think about it, maybe she said that after I drug home that old Army chest.

Regardless, no one was surprised when I bought what looks like a shallow wooden basket and put it – chipping paint and all – on our coffee table. I, however, am surprised by how helpful it has been in talking with our family about faith.

I started by filling the basket with seasonal items and stringing a tiny banner made out of scrapbook paper across the handle. Within minutes, I found out that this was prime real estate in our house. Anything I put in the basket would be touched and read and rearranged by our boys. So, I started using the basket more purposefully.

In the spring I scoured the house for anything bee related and brought it to the coffee table, along with books on God and animals. Soon I’m planning to borrow the wooden fruit and vegetables from the boys’ pretend kitchen and talk about what we learn about God from watching seeds grow and be harvested.

Eventually I want to pull together quiet bags that inspire questions and conversations much the same way the basket does – only in a portable fashion for those times when we find ourselves waiting or needing to be silent.

I also mix in storybook bibles and other faith-related books with the stacks of Star Wars and train titles we read, and religious music is in the rotation for family dinners. I write scriptures and prayer requests on the chalkboard in the kitchen.

If I want faith to be at the center of my family’s lives, it helps for faith to be at the center of our home. So, I use what I have – even a wooden basket with chipping paint and crumbs of chalk – to teach and shape, to question and invite.

And I pray that God will take my chipped and broken efforts and use it all for his glory.

If I want faith to be at the center of my family’s lives, it helps for faith to be at the center of our home.

Sensible Shoes Sharon Garlough BrownWe were so thankful to have Sharon Garlough Brown, author of Sensible Shoes, spend time with us on Facebook as part of the Simply Faithful Book Club. She is full of wisdom and grace, so I wanted to capture that conversation for you here.

Click on the comments button (the one that looks like a speech bubble) to read along… Be blessed!

image image imageI was in the hallway of Woodcliff Hotel and Spa the first time I mentioned it. My husband and I had just been upgraded from a regular room to the Orient Suite – a difference of about $200 a night – and I made my confession right there by the elevators.

I know it doesn’t seem theologically sound, but sometimes I feel like I’m really Jesus’ favorite.

I said it in a half whisper then just in case anyone rounded the corner, but I’m saying it louder now because I’ve decided it’s true.

A couple of weeks ago, the person in the car ahead of me at Tim Horton’s paid for my bagel and sugar-infused coffee.

Clearly, Jesus likes me.

Then, something I had been struggling with at work came together better than I expected.

Are you noticing the same pattern I am?

A week later I had a terrible stomach bug. The worst I had had in at least seven years. And no one else in my family caught even a tiny bit of it.

Thank you, God.

My 12-year-old car? It’s still running.

My family? Quirky and crazy – and loving and funny.

My refrigerator? Disorganized but full.

Sure, there are times when I don’t get what I want or am certain I need. Times when I don’t understand why God doesn’t step in and tidy things up in this world and make it a little better for all of us, especially those in need of a safe place to even put a refrigerator.

But being his favorite doesn’t mean having all the answers or always having things my way. It simply means I can trust his love for me in the thank-you times and in the no-thanks-I’d-rather-not times. And it means I should reach out to his other favorites, the ones who – like me – he calls beloved.

That mama trying to keep her daughter safe and off the war-torn streets. That man struggling to fight his way out of the bottle and into a job. That teen who can’t seem to understand math no matter how many days he stays after school. That child who is scared and alone in the court system.

All of us beloved. All of us in need of God’s strength and grace. All of us equal.

All of us favorites.

How to choose joyIt was a morning when I already had a case built against my husband.

There was a list at least three pages long of things he hadn’t done the way I wanted them – when I wanted them. Important things, like getting rid of that eyesore of an aquarium and taking millions of water bottles to the recycling bin.

So, I set off for work with this list running through my head and about the time I hit Lake Avenue I saw these three women out exercising. I probably wouldn’t have noticed them except that they were dancing as they walked.

I smiled and thought it was nice that someone was having a good morning. And then, I had the little thought: Maybe they’ve just decided to dance anyway.

I pushed the thought aside. I had a lot to figure out before I made it to work, and I was hungry. There was that to think about, too.

Halfway to work, I pulled into a drive-thru and got out my wallet while I waited on the person in the car ahead of me to order.

I found no cash.

No debit card.

No credit card.

And I had no packed lunch for the day.

I turned the car around and drove home, sure to sigh heavily when I opened the door and asked my husband for the card. It was a simple miscommunication, but it meant my early-to-work day changed to a 15-minutes-late-to-work day.

I got back in my car and back on Lake Avenue and I saw the three women again. Their dancing had slowed a bit but they were still smiling and laughing. Good for them, I thought as I drove a little faster.

I was over a bridge and almost to halfway to work again when I noticed a man who looked like he was walking to work. As I passed him, though, I saw his head bobbing and his shoulders swaying. I caught him in my rearview mirror just to be sure.

Yes. He was dancing.

I rolled my eyes and took a deep breath. Maybe there’s something to all this dancing – all this joy. Nobody’s life hangs in the balance if I turn on my computer 15 minutes later than expected. I can love my husband even if the recycling takes another day, I thought.

So, I turned up the radio. And I chose joy.

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