getting comfortable with being ordinary

The oatmeal wheat dough is raising in the oven and I’m on my 13th cup of tea.

It feels like someone just boxed my ears and if I knew who it was, I might just let loose some Scrooge on them. But, I don’t and that’s probably better. The upside of this whole sick thing (because there is always an upside) is that there is bread dough in the warm oven and I’m on my 13th cup of tea.

Making bread is a big commitment and probably why bread machines and bakeries and sliced situations are so popular. Who has hours to linger around a warming oven and who has patience to knead a ball of dough for 6-8 minutes? Few people.

And it might be easy to make assumptions about those few people with that kind of time on their hands – that they are smaller or less important or less interesting. Those ordinary folks with rugged hands and simple lives.

I’d like to be that kind of simple folk – just ordinary, you know.

I’m not saying I don’t want to be great or that I don’t want to pursue the passions buried in my gut or that I don’t want to marvel and chase dreams. I’m not saying that.

I just never want to make life more complicated than it was when God sent a celestial choir to a group of simple folks hanging out in the fields. These were the kinds of folks who spent long hours doing ordinary things and these were the kinds of folks God wanted to tell about the Savior’s birth. These were the folks who heard it first, in a glorious arrangement of God’s best choir.

Anyway, there are a lot of lights here – buildings and shops and trees lit up for the holidays. But the lights are always on and people are always working, always getting ahead and afraid of falling behind. The lights are always on and people are always looking for something other than ordinary.

I know I get sucked in just like everyone else. I want people to know me and like me and appreciate my creativity. But there is wisdom inside this slow day. And wisdom in an ordinary life, the most ordinary there is, that can point more easily to a Savior who makes all things glorious.

It was not the shepherds – their stature or accomplishments or reputation – that made that middle of the night song so superb. It was the Lord who sent the host of angels, the Lord who made the starry night display, the Lord who wrote the music and the Lord who directed the song.

Maybe if we can get comfortable with being ordinary, we’ll be more prepared to hear and listen and participate in what God is orchestrating in these days.

I’m going to go pour another cup of tea and see if I need to punch down the dough.

what keeps my bones revived

I’m not sure if Smalltown Poets were ever cool when I was growing up, but their CD got major airplay in my little room with slanted ceilings. I’m sure they inspired some of the sappy journal writing I did or at least accompanied it. One of their songs came to mind recently when I was taking communion, the chorus of “Trust” reads,

Take this bread,
Drink this cup,
Know this price has pardoned you
From all that’s hardened you,
But it’s going to take some trust

When the bread passed by me in the pew, I pulled off a good-sized chunk (thanks to Kevin DeYoung, whose message on sanctification and communion inspired me to peel off enough bread to “feel the weight of it”) and stared at it in my hand. Jesus instructed us to take the bread and drink the cup, for as often as we take the bread and drink the cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (see 1 Corinthians 11:26). So, I weighed the good-sized chunk in my hand while I considered what it proclaimed. This price has pardoned me from all that’s hardened me.

Oh, boy. That was the price my hardening required – a pardon that looked like a broken body and spilled blood?

Yes. That is just exactly the kind of price. Even the good-sized chunk of bread couldn’t help me imagine the weight of my dead bones before Christ revived me. But feeling the weight of the bread during communion is something different than guilt and nothing like condemnation. The weight of my good-sized chunk of communion bread felt like freedom. 

But the challenge with communion, for me, is not believing that Jesus’ death and resurrection happened or that it is the event that brought life to my dead bones. I am redeemed and a child of the King, of that I am sure.

The challenge with communion is believing that Jesus’ death and resurrection is currently keeping my bones revived.

When a slave is granted freedom, we do not say that freedom existed for the one moment when his chains fell. Freedom is also every moment after the shackles break; salvation is happening in our lives as believers as much as it happened when we first believed. 

What Jesus accomplished on the cross was not millions of salvation moments, but rather millions of salvation stories.

Yes, Smalltown Poets, this is “going to take some trust.” We are freed to obey, freed to believe, and freed to trust that this Savior who secured my freedom is faithful to keep securing my freedom.

This is what I proclaim in the bread and the cup: trust that God pardoned me and He is keeping me pardoned.

That means I am freed from greed and fear and worry. I am freed from anxiety and pain and jealousy. I am freed from pride and guilt and shame. I am freed from sin and death and given a way out from temptation. I am freed and Christ is keeping me freed.

This is starting to sound like a broken record. I’m not sure that’s so bad.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the weight of the bread | the need of a Pilot

The kitchen smells like dessert but the taste of communion bread still lingers in my mouth.

At the Desiring God conference last weekend, Kevin DeYoung encouraged us not to be timid with the bread when communion Sunday rolled around – to tear off a big chunk, just to feel the weight of it.

Unfortunately, my church passes a plate with pre-torn flatbread pieces so I had to imagine a weightier loaf. And I did imagine. Sitting up there in the balcony during the second service, I imagined the humanness of my Savior who walked on this earth. I imagined him lifting up the loaf of bread and motivating us to holiness as He declared it a symbol for His body.

As I imagined a weighty chunk of bread in my hand, I thought my Savior’s identity and how it shapes mine. DeYoung pointed out that, in Colossians 3, “God calls us chosen, holy, and beloved before He commands us to be eager about the process of becoming holy.”

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)

God does not call us to become holy so that we will be chosen, holy, and beloved. No, we become holy – from one degree to the next – as we are motivated by the weight His grace towards us. We become holy as we dive deeper into the study of God and are stirred up to live in a new way. We become holy by the grace of God and with the power of God as we understand our helplessness without Him.

This song is a story of such helplessness that motivates me to holiness. It’s kind of like holding a weighty chunk of communion bread in my hand and then letting it dissolve on my tongue. His calling me chosen, holy, and beloved is just as real as that piece of bread dissolving in my still-becoming-holy mouth and as gracious as the Pilot who enters the storm to navigate the castaway safely to the shore.

I’m not becoming holy so that I can get to shore.
I am becoming holy because I love so dearly the One who pilots my helpless ship.

Jesus, Savior Pilot Me by The Bifrost Arts

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

Though the sea be smooth and bright,
Sparkling with the stars of night,
And my ship’s path be ablaze
With the light of halcyon days,
Still I know my need of Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey Thy will,
When Thou sayest to them, “Be still!”
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
’Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me,
“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”

strange day explained

It’s 9:32 pm.

I’ve got dream bars in the oven (with a variation that has me puzzled about cooking time), I’m munching on tortillas with sun-dried tomato hummus (the strangest before-bedtime snack I’ve ever been a part of), and I’m looking at what I picked up at the grocery store: fake milk in a box, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, pumpkin, and oatmeal (wondering why these are my first purchases after paycheck), and I’m thinking it’s a strange day.

Oh, well. I’m sure you have those days too. Nothing especially wrong or out of place, but you feel like you are moving around in someone else’s skin and it’s just uncomfortable. At this point, all of you who haven’t felt this way have at least one eyebrow raised. Which, I guess, is kind of my point.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with everything I want to do or read or hear or say or know and I go into overload mode. Hm. I imagine this is what a baby bird might feel when it first discovers its wings. There are so many endless possibilities – so many adventures and birdies to adventure with and trees and clouds and…

then there’s that typical picture of the not-yet-ready-for-flight
birdie falling clumsily from the nest.

There’s no better way to explain than to give a few examples, so here they are in NO particular order:

  • I really want to know if there is a connection in the Hebrew word “paneh,” which means presence and the Spanish word “pan,” which means bread. We’re studying the story of David right now and when he ran from Saul he stopped and asked for bread from a priest who only had holy bread on hand. This bread was called “paneh” because it was the bread of the Presence. I thought, how neat would it be if there was a connection because Christ (the Word) became physically present and is the bread of life. I have searched and can’t make sense of etymologies in several languages… The farthest I got led me to some Polish explanation of Mr. and Mrs. (which is pan/pani).
  • At what point are liberties counterproductive in recipes? I mean, a little more butter, flour, and sugar would naturally just increase quantity, no? And peanut butter always adds value, right? Tomorrow we will find out! I’m sincerely hoping that my scheme to encourage “Taste and see the Lord is good” (Ps. 38:4) leads them to understand GOD is what the need to taste! (More joy and satisfaction, less tummy-ache!)
  • Why does pride always wiggle its way into the category of “self-preservation”? That is a lie through and through.
  • I hope with every hope in my heart baking becomes drastically cheaper.
  • I have been reading an absolutely amazing book called, “Competent to Counsel” by Jay E. Adams and I love how he challenges the excuses we make for personality by saying, “It’s just who I am.” We are in a sanctification process, here, folks – there’s no settling for “just who I am.” So, I started to wonder (out loud) about how I should change my personality… what needs refining? I was wondering this and talking to my friend Sarah, when all of a sudden I wondered if I could still do the splits. I paused, slinkered down as far as I could and then popped back up above the countertop and said, “not quite.” She burst out laughing and then she said, “More of that. You should definitely change your personality to include more splits.” I don’t know…
  • There’s this student. She is amazing, beautiful, inspiring and God is transforming her right in front of my eyes. I’ve never had a front row seat to something so spectacular! I mean, here I am, sitting next to her just listening to her talk with such seriousness about faith and plans. But, it’s not just fluffy, future talk. This girl is making it happen in her life the way some kids can only make it happen at summer camp or youth conferences. I’m just thinking, “What’s up with this?” God is SO amazing to be working and restoring and growing such a beautiful heart! And I get to watch? WOW!
  • I’ve got Asia on the brain and I don’t know why.
  • I want to read and understand and memorize the Heidelberg Catechism… and then try to start understanding what Bach has to do with it (thanks Justin Taylor for planting that seed in my already crazy day!).
  • I want like crazy to sew an owl costume right up for Halloween, but I’m not sure where I would go with it… which makes me want to have a costume party at my house, which reminds me of the mammoth weekend of 4 am sushi-making chaos that is barely a week behind.
  • There’s a crazy urgency in me to take each of these seniors by their ALP uniform shirt and shake them a little bit (friendly, of course) to make sure they know how much I love ’em and how important it is for them to know how much more MASSIVE God’s love is for them. I just want them to get it, as my Dad used to say.
  • I talked to my mom on Sunday and she added the greatest news – Dad finally sold the calf that was the Lord’s! I know it sounds strange… in fact, every single person I told today asked for a repeat. Buying and selling calves makes absolutely no sense to people outside the farming/cattle industry and that’s okay. What you should probably understand is the way God is using my Dad’s hobby operation to bless people around the globe. This time, he gave the calf to the Lord and said the money would go to Honduras. What joy I had as I wrote in a large sum under the current total of money raised by the sleepout. Praise the Lord!!

Oh, boy. Now do you understand a teensy bit more? My brain is like a crazy factory! It makes crazy all day, non-stop! I think I should tone down on the coffee.

It’s now 10:17 pm and I hope this day found you less strangely inclined.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

this is an example of some serious STRANGE happening!