Don’t Rush the Soup!

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My Grandma used to tell me “you can’t cook a pot of soup in a hurry”. Her method of cooking was one of allowing the meat, spices and the onions to simmer for an hour before adding any other ingredients. Once the rest of the components were added, she allowed the soup to continue bubbling on the stove until it tasted “just right”. I occasionally think of her when I’m cooking soup; often in a hurry at the end of the day. Tasting it and thinking, “there is something not quite right with this”; my impatience leads to mediocre results.

Our walk with God can be compared to making a pot of soup. At times we are in a rush to see what God has next for us. Waiting in that “in between stage” can be a difficult, stressful and uncomfortable time. But it can also be faith building. We have an idea for how things will turn out, and a desire to see that happen. Oftentimes we want that to happen now and not later. And yet, God asks us to wait, simmering the soup that is our lives, to deepen the flavors and bring increased satisfaction.

In the end, our patience pays off when we wait for God’s timing, rather than pushing for our timing. It’s hard to wait in that messy phase, where we don’t know what is happening or how things are going to turn out. We hope and pray that a youth will come to know Christ in a deep and meaningful way. We wait for the timing for a new ministry to get up and running.

Esperar is a Spanish verb that can be used to mean both “to wait” and “to hope.” In essence, waiting and hoping are the same thing. I don’t think that is insignificant. It’s not just waiting but also hoping. Patience= hoping + waiting*

When we have the patience to wait in the in between for God’s timing, we can be assured that we will have the best results.

What are you waiting and hoping for in this season? How can you practice patience (hoping and waiting) even in the midst of a lack of clarity?

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my savior; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7

*Special thank to Jen Hubbard for insight into the Spanish Language

The Path of Love

THThe pathway to Bethlehem this year is crowded. It is full of people making their way, schlepping their stuff, from all of the towns and cities nearby. We were commanded to go there, in order for Caser Augustus to take a census. Although why he couldn’t simply send some of his employees to count people in their own cities rather than making us walk 110 kilometers, I’ll never understand. It seems entirely inefficient to me. But here we are. Plodding along to Bethlehem. Me, on a sad, tired little donkey, and Joseph walking beside us.

I was exhausted before we even left for Bethlehem. I had just visited my cousin Elizabeth for three months; staying in the home she shares with her husband Zechariah. They were gracious enough to receive me, to let me stay with them, given the fact that I’m pregnant with no logical explanation for it. The Holy Spirit made me pregnant? Ha! No one even knew what the Holy Spirit was!

My parents were so angry, my dad threatened to disown me, and it took him quite a while to come around. My mom did a fair bit of convincing him on that one I think. My fiancée Joseph was no better. He thought I had cheated on him and was ready to pass me over. And then he had that dream- God telling him that this wasn’t an ordinary baby- this was The baby. The Messiah. The one we have waited for so long for. The one my grandfather would speak of with longing in his voice, with hope and expectation that it would come in his lifetime. Oh, if only he were still here with us in this life.

The journey to Elizabeth and Zechariah’s place wasn’t as long as this one to Bethlehem, but it was long enough. When I saw Elizabeth, I was startled, to see my oldest cousin, heavy with her first child. I had heard this news through the grapevine, but seriously, to see this at her age! It was hard to wrap my head around! As I got to their gate, Zechariah waved to me from the window, and Elizabeth ran out to meet me, and she told me that as soon as she saw me, her baby jumped inside of her! It started kicking like crazy, and she knew she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit. The same “being” that came over me when the angel Gabriel told me I was going to have a baby. The Holy Spirit. Something I don’t understand at all, and yet, feels completely comfortable and reassuring to me. The Holy spirit. When I arrived at her home, a poem bubbled up in my heart, and I couldn’t help letting it out…

I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

~ Luke 1:46-55 The message ~

Will this baby really be my Lord? The Messiah that we have been awaiting for centuries? The one that will come to save us all? To deliver us from all this wretchedness? Or was it all simply a dream?

Elizabeth and I sat up late, many nights, talking about our babies, and life and the gifts that Yahweh had given us. Zechariah sat with us too, pretty quiet since he lost his voice when Elizabeth conceived. But he’d nod, and smile and every now and then he would scratch out a little note or thought for us.

Zechariah reminded us of a passage, in the scriptures. He’s a priest and always seems to have a knack for knowing the right scripture for the right moment. Elizabeth read it for us all, in her beautiful soft-spoken voice:

The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies
until the woman in labor gives birth.
Then at last his fellow countrymen
will return from exile to their own land.
And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
Then his people will live there undisturbed,
for he will be highly honored around the world.
And he will be the source of peace.
~ Micah 5:3-5 ~

That passage though. Will this really be it? With each passing day, I become more convinced that it might be… That as I travel this journey of motherhood, I am also walking along a much more important path. As much as I know that this child I am carrying and already love so dearly is The One I still have no idea how that’s going to work. What will this look like? How will he lead us? How will love and peace come upon our earth?

There are so many times when I find it hard to love. When I see beggars sitting on the street corner, asking for money and food. I often find myself walking past them, looking up at the sky, anywhere to avoid looking them in the eye. It’s just too hard, I don’t know what to do for them, or how to help them. Joseph says to just show them kindness, to treat them with love and respect, but some days, I struggle to do so. I guess that’s a journey of love that I must continue on…

And what about my sister? She drives me nuts. Especially these days with my wedding coming up, and the baby on the way, she seems to think it’s all about her. How can I show her love? How will this baby bring love to this whole earth? To each one of us that is broken and struggling? I simply cannot fathom how…

It’s so dark out. Each day seems to be darker than the day before. I’ve been feeling a few pains on and off all day. I’m so scared, and I wish my mother were here with us. She would know what to do. She would encourage me to be brave and remind me of her favorite saying “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”

But we’re almost to Bethlehem now. We’ve had a really long day, but Joseph says he wants to push it. We’re so close to the city, we can see some of the lights in the distance. Joseph says he knows the city will be full, and it’s better to get room tonight rather than wait until tomorrow and chance it… I think this baby will be coming sooner, rather than later, and I desperately hope we can find a room…

 

 

Note: A great followup to this piece is “There Was Room at the Inn” by Rachel Held Evans

Joy in Anticipation

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There is no doubt about it! Christmas is coming!

Yesterday was the beginning of advent; a time of hopeful and joyful expectation leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Let us share an advent prayer to help us reflect on Jesus, the one who came to bring joy to our world.

Advent Prayer  

(Written by Christine Sine)

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait in joyful expectation,

Draw close, Lord Jesus Christ,

Shed your light on all that is filled with darkness.

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait with hope filled hearts,

Draw close, God’s beloved son,

Teach us the wonder of your all embracing love.

As you reflect on the prayer above, ask yourself these questions

What brings me joy?

How can I bring joy to others during this advent season?

 

Slow Down for Loving Union

Slowing down can often be difficult in our fast paced society. We are often rushing from one event to another; to meeting after meeting. And when we are not, we feel as though we should be. We feel as though the more we have in our schedule, the more valuable we are. Rest and reflection can be looked at as “wasted time” and we often end up trying to wedge in our time with God whenever we have extra time to spare.

What would happen if we intentionally scheduled our time with God? If we put that in our daily planner first and worked everything else around our time of Abiding with Christ?

In his book The Emotionally Healthy Leader Pete Scazerro writes, “ Bearing fruit requires slowing down enough to give Jesus direct access to every aspect of our lives and our leadership. Just because God has access to everything that is true about us does not mean God has access to us. Loving union is an act of surrender- giving God complete access- and we can’t do that in a hurry. We must be humbly accessible, with the door of our hearts continually open to him. Jesus doesn’t force that on us; it is something only we can do…” (P.118)

Just as Jesus slowed down to live in loving union with the father, we are also invited to take part in the same practice. John 15 :5 reminds us, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Slowing down to spend time in loving union with the Lord is not only life-giving to us, but also gives life to those around us. If I make time to be filled with God’s love, it is only a matter of time until that same love flows out of me. This love (or sometimes the lack thereof!) affects everyone around me- from my spouse, to the barista at the coffee shop to how I react when some cuts me off in traffic when I am running late.

In what ways do I need to slow down to take part in loving union with the Father

The Good Gardener

IMG_0702In John chapter 15, Jesus told us “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”

As someone who has a love for gardening, this passage has held special meaning for me in the last few years. God frequently meets me in my garden, planting seeds of truth and love in my heart.

A few summers ago, my friend Will taught me how to prune a tomato plant. His system was to look at the plant, and in every spot where the vines branch into a “Y”, take some pruning shears and snip off the branch, so that only the original vine remains. Initially, this felt a bit harsh to me but I thought I’d give it a try this year. The results were well worth the effort, when I found myself with more tomatoes than I ever had before.

Conversely, my pumpkin plant right beside the tomatoes produced no fruit at all, because I had forgotten to prune that plant as it grew. There were a lot of vines, and even a few flowers, but not one single pumpkin on the plant! Without some pruning to this plant, all of its energy went into growing vines, resulting in nothing being left for the actual fruit. While the vines were lovely and green, the purpose of a pumpkin plant isn’t solely to produce vines; the purpose is to produce pumpkins!

If I am not being pruned back by the Good Gardener, it may look as though I have a lot of growth in my life, but I may not be producing any fruit. I can spend hours each day reading my bible, but if I am only doing this as a duty and not abiding in the presence of Jesus, it will come out hollow and meaningless.

There are times when it feels like there is nothing happening, but there is always something growing under the surface. One needs to put down roots in order to grow. Others might not be able to see the roots we are putting down in our walk with God, but they are present, feeding us and preparing us to grow. Just as a plant needs to put down roots to flourish, we need to take part in spiritual disciplines in order to produce fruit.

A garden, like one’s walk with God needs constant tending in order to see fruit as the end result. If I am not willing to put in the time to nurture, water, weed and prune my garden, it might look like there is great things happening, but in the end, there will be very little to show for it. It may feel like a lot of work initially, but it is well worth the effort when one sees the beauty that comes from all the hard work.

Thoughts to ponder this week

  • What weeds do I need to pull out of my life to leave room for the fruit to grow?
  • What do I need to prune (or fine tune) in my life and ministry to send my energy in the right direction?
  • What is a spiritual discipline that I want to practice this week to help deepen my spiritual roots? (Prayer Examen, Lectio Divina, Solitude, Worship
    etc.)