ordinary glory | mysterious miracle

There is nothing singularly spectacular about this Saturday, but that makes the mystery of all its ordinary glory so much more beautiful.

This ordinary glory is a mysterious miracle.

The clouds broke open early, uncertain of whether to hover or hibernate into the autumn wind. I still can’t figure out the morning rhythms – of the few footsteps that pound the city pavement in the early weekend hours. Maybe it’s because the pavement gets such a beating in the Monday – Friday traffic and the millions of feet have declared moratorium for Saturday and Sunday.

But I don’t mind the quiet traffic and few pedestrians. I don’t mind that I can hear the wind and appreciate the rustle of autumn leaves. I don’t mind that I can sit for over an hour in my favorite bagel place with no one crowding me out of my seat.

Because the most ordinary things – the man in full red track suit with a mini boombox walking on Nostrand Avenue, the little child making eyes at me inside Lula Bagel Cafe, the successful scavenging for a free bed with my adorable roommate, the spontaneous errands with new friends who prefer the windows rolled down, the swapping of life stories over tacos and margaritas – the most ordinary things are all mysterious miracles.

Yes, there are defeated and damaged days in this busy-hungry place, but there are also those days (like today) that stretch out in ordinary miracles. They are strung together like garland, wrapped around slow moving hours you can feel through your fingers as you ride the wind outside the car window.

Ordinary moments.

I call them miracles and perhaps I am too cavalier with the term. Perhaps “miracle” is a word that should be guarded and ordered and sequestered for more holy conversation. I’m not sure.

I just know that it feels miraculous to live today. It feels like a slice of heaven to walk and breathe and stretch out my living deep into this Saturday as I sip espresso and plan the evening’s activities. It feels like an impossible gift when the sunlight hits my cheekbones and when a laugh escapes my lips. The impossibility of this day – even the ordinariness of breathing in and out – is enough of a miracle to me.

And so, I walk and breathe and stretch out my living tonight, in the impossible and ordinary crisp Autumn air. I fill up my lungs with everything regular and I know that there is nothing ordinary about life.

The breath in my bones is a testimony, a moving monument constructed so that I remember my Creator.

All Glory Be to Christ

What a wonderful thing to sing.

This morning, reading in my advent devotional (Good News of Great Joy), I wondered again at the miracle and mystery of Jesus’ birth. A magnificent story because it is true and it started before time began.

The mystery of the birth of Jesus is not merely that he was born of a virgin. That miracle was intended by God to witness to an even greater one—namely, that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed “from of old, from ancient days.” from Good News of Great Joy

This mysterious, miraculous birth changed the course of history because One who had always been entered in to our chronological timeline, just as it was prophecied in Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

All Glory be to Christ, the Ancient of Days.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

how does He love me? let me count the ways

Too much. Too full. Too wonderful. Too magnificent.

I don’t know where to put it all – the love, that is. It’s like I’m a bucket sitting under a faucet on full blast that someone forgot about. Except there is no mistake – no forgetfulness or neglect. The water running over all my edges is every bit intentional.

Maybe I can give a glimpse… a little slice of the millions of miracles that burst like the morning in my life. There is power in naming blessings, even if our attempts to name miracles make them sound like they are less than miraculous. May God be glorified by my grateful heart today.

You might read these and think, “I see a few things there I might call miraculous, but even those are stretches. I can explain most of these away with reason (or lack thereof) or chance.” To you I boldly say: “Friend, everything can always have a different ending. Always. These endings are miraculous because they happened when they didn’t have to. Join me in my gratitude or don’t, but let me know if your heart feels lighter if you choose the latter.”

I’ll start from last Thursday, just because this list must have a beginning and an end. But, I’d like to try to count the ways.

  • Praying with high school girls on the streets of Ames and sharing my heart for the harvest party on Saturday to be a time of love, community, fellowship, and blessing… and praying against the weather the meteorologist predicted because a fall party really must happen on a cool evening with the leaves dancing in a gentle breeze. (Miracle – ever thought that praying for miracles is a miracle?)
  • An impromptu gathering of friends to laugh and share and make decorations for said harvest party… which ended up also being a sleepover.
  • Sharing pumpkin apple pancakes with a beautiful friend while listening to her heart to love youth and grow in ministry… and praying again against Saturday’s weather, claiming clear skies with severe boldness. Miracle.
  • A volunteer on Friday with a heart of gold willing to share in all the tasks at work that drain energy from my veins. Nothing short of a miracle.
  • An afternoon of errands and baking and listening to the weatherman… and praying again against Saturday’s weather (tornadoes predicted and severe storms likely).
  • Despite numerous adjustments and a desperate lack of mathematical skills (one should not only multiply ingredients when changing a recipe, but also take into account the cooking method and container), chili for 40 was set to simmer in the crockpot and another pot safely stowed in the fridge.
  • A clumsy maneuvering around several kitchen mishaps (spilled liquid Crisco, sketchy ingredient substitutions and clumpy powdered sugar) still resulted in delicious desserts.
  • A phone call from across the world that came at the precise moment of baking, preparing, decorating, planning exhaustion when I needed just that kind of diversion.
  • The safe 2:00 am arrival of my Honduran sister and the hours of catching up that followed until we resigned ourselves to sleep at 4:30 am out of sheer willpower. Seriously, a miracle.
  • Baking pumpkin muffins early Saturday morning and filling the kitchen with the flavor of fall right before laughing every minute of a mile run for charity with a dear and silly friend who didn’t mind a threatening sky.
  • Sitting snuggled together in a wet stadium with family (new and old and adopted), cheering on our favorite team in our favorite colors at the 50 yard line. Miracle.
  • When we left the game, Alejandra and I had absolutely no idea where we parked in the residential area by the stadium. Not an idea. At the point of exasperation, we prayed. When we looked up, my car Eddie was looking back at me. Miracle.
  • Opening a trail of gifts from my Honduran sister that told the most beautiful story of friendship. Every card I opened had so much meaning and so much laughter. If you had told me 5 years ago that this former student would now be a close friend, I would have given you the crazy eye. Miracle.
  • Though the morning was full of rain, the afternoon cleared and cooled enough to hang lights outside and accomplish all our pre-party planning without any funnel clouds in the sky. Miracle.
  • Mulled spiced wine happened and it was just as delicious as I imagined. Seriously, that one is a miracle.
  • Invitations to +-25 people which read, “bring friends and a fall-inspired dish” draws the most beautiful and diverse crowd with the most delicious and surprising spread. The combination of people present at the harvest party last night will never happen again, but it was exactly the right and best group of friends and strangers. Miracle.
  • A sister who set up a photobooth to capture memories and laughter and stories like only a sister knows how. She knows exactly the kind of gift that makes the most sense to the person on the receiving end. Her creativity and thoughtfulness comes out in all sorts of joyful ways and blesses others like candy at a parade. Miracle.
  • Conversations with friends (new and old) that were just as delightful as the absolutely amazing spread of food. Moving in and out of conversations was a dance I’ll to any day. Miracle.
  • Flowers, coffee, and some of the best hugs I’ve had in a long time. Impromptu songs, piano playing, games, and the kind of laughter that makes strangers walk in wanting to be a part of whatever is happening (because that happened, too!). Miracle.
  • A gift that somehow appeared from around the world wrapped in all kinds of thoughtfulness, a card in the mail with sweet, sweet words of encouragement and love, hearing the voices of friends from different places and my niece say, “Happy Birthday.” Miracle.
  • Laughter is a category all its own. I could marvel at laughter all day if you’d let me. What a mysterious and wonderful thing it is to laugh. Miracle.
  • When the last person walked outside, the raindrops finally fell. But no tornados, no severe weather, no tropical catastrophes made a mess of the harvest party. Miracle.
  • Sunday morning coffee before college Sunday school class, where we thought about how Jesus stepped toward brokenness and evil and sin in order to speak Truth amidst confusion. Miracle.
  • A sermon that spoke to my heart – learning about friendship with God through the life of Jesus and understanding how that gives us a boldness that is out of this world. Miracle.
  • Sweet, uninterrupted conversation with one of my favorite miracles – hearing her heart and desire to seek the kingdom first and trust that “all else will be added.” Miracle.

Miracles, all of these.

My heart is full to overflowing with blessings and I know the Giver of all these gifts. I know the Maker of everything good before it was made.

How does He love me? Let me count the ways. Let me tell you all the benefits of having such a friend.

But, it might take forever. Just FYI.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

God the author, we the actors

I assume a certain posture when words escape me. Thankfully, it’s a much more culturally acceptable posture than the one of my mind in the same moment (jumping, leaping, and exploding with wild gestures). It looks like pursed lips, furrowed and thoughtful brows, shoulders bent in, and eyes fixated on the thought threatening to wriggle free of my grasp.

This is how I spent the weekend – with body borderline catatonic while my mind raced after revelations that came as a steady stream through the preaching and teaching from the Word at the Desiring God Conference. My pen sped across journal pages to scratch out notes and doodle inspirations; every once in a while I would nod or grunt or breathe out an “Amen!” with an agreement my heart could feel.

I think I would say this is one of many postures of praise, informed by a grace I still don’t fully appreciate. It is in this posture I heard these words,

God works in you as the Author of the miracle and then you act the miracle.

Jesus gave sight to the blind, but it is the blind man who opened his eyes to do the seeing.
Jesus healed the lame man, but it was the lame man who stood up to do the walking.
Jesus canceled my debt of sin at the cross (Colossians 2:15), but it is I who must do the living out of my new sinless status. Through faith, it is I who must daily conquer that canceled sin by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Imagine if the blind man had not opened his eyes or the lame man had not stood up to walk. Imagine the miracles begging to be acted out, already authored by God but with hearts unwilling to be the actors. If the blind man does not open his eyes or the lame man does not stand, there is no evidence that he can see or stand. We must act out this miracle because in its acting out we see its reality.

I must act the miracle God authored because, as John Piper said, “Killing sin – pursuing holiness – is essential for salvation. The will to kill sin is the SIGN that sin is canceled.”

Whooooosh. Like the thrill in knowing a roller coaster must descend with the rush of gravity after climbing to its highest height, my heart raced with these words that explained a truth already hidden in my soul.

Though my arms waved wildly in my mind, I maintained my outward posture of praise as I considered sanctification. I felt literally swept up in the joy and exhilaration of acting out the miracle God has already authored in my life. The process of becoming holy begins with the reality that God is holy – and we are invited to share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).

We are invited to be like God (1 Peter 1:14-16) as we effectively conform our feelings, thoughts, and actions into complete harmony the infinite worth of the transcendent, trinitarian fullness of God.

What. an. invitation.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy