busy

Sabbath: A Foothold of Grace

The magnitude of our responsibilities and breadth of our busy-ness often leave us short of breath. I’ve heard recently that we make 35,000 decisions a day! (Thanks, Emily P. Freeman, for that astonishing tidbit!) I will not regale you with a list of how busy we all are, for you know your particulars. In scaling our mountains, we need footholds, niches in the immovable rock face, somewhere to pause, hot-faced and trembling for some deep oxygen before moving on. Our lives depend on it.

How better than to settle our lives on him on whom we depend? God created us, and he created the spaces for us to inhabit. The creation account in Genesis 1 is of God establishing boundaries and shaping spaces so that all life can flourish in each their given niche. First the spaces, then us to fit our niche. In our arrogance, we cling to the mandate to rule over creation in Genesis 1:26, forgetting that in order to fulfill this mandate, God and his order of the world precedes us. We are placed within that order, not over it. We easily usurp God when we think we can do it all, or have to do it all. When God first made us, he didn’t make us slaves to scurry at his bidding with no rights or place to call our own. He made us to walk with him, in his created order, ruling with blessing as we image him. He didn’t say, “Now, go impress me with what you can accomplish!” He said, paraphrasing Genesis 2:15-17 and 3:8, “Tend this space, feast, and walk with me in the garden.”

God foreknew what we specifically would need to flourish, and intentionally created that for us. This extends beyond our spatial domain, the earth and geography, and includes the temporal domain. There are limits on the length of our lives, the length of our days, and he established in the created order the rhythm of six days of work, one day of rest. You could say that it is even part of his essence, certainly important enough for him to model for us. “The Sabbath was created for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27, NIV) The Sabbath is gift, made to bless us, but not be controlled by us. We are not God’s gift to rule over the Sabbath. When Jesus spoke these words, he was teaching the legalistic leaders that they were not honoring God with their strident Sabbath. As they controlled every possible outcome with their regulations, they made the Sabbath a jail rather than a spacious, life-giving space. There are people and churches today that do the same. If this is your experience, hear the invitation of Jesus to enter a restful Sabbath, one that delights you as you rest in his goodness. (I would love to hear from you if this is your experience and help you enter the gift of Sabbath.)

But most of us (in Western Christianity today), have the opposite problem of not knowing and valuing God’s established rhythm of life. In that Mark 2 passage, the Pharisees are upset that Jesus’ disciples gleaned a bit of grain as they passed through some fields, hungry from their travels. We are not gleaning out of hunger, but getting up at 5 a.m. to mount our combines and thresh every inch of wheat before the sun goes down again. This goes for our ministry, even. In Matthew 9:35-38, Jesus is busy teaching, preaching, and healing. He talks to his disciples about the busy-ness of ministry. He doesn’t tell them to get moving and help him out, but to “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” His message honors their limits, establishes a deeper dependence on God, and invites others into the collaboration of working with God and each other. Many hands make light work! The creation of his kingdom mirrors the creation of the universe: God is the originator, we have space and a job to do within it that is limited, and those very limits engender a proper dependence and collaboration which results in multiplication!

When we acknowledge and value the space and limits he’s given us, we “make space” for God. We can no better create space than we can create the universe. But we can inhabit our space humbly and wisely, thus not abusing the precious life God has given us but welcoming and cherishing it enough to take care of it.

Take comfort that in the exertion of your life, there are God-given footholds. The Sabbath is a temporal foothold where we rest our weight on God’s provision in deep trust. If you are not in the habit of taking Sabbaths, it can feel very scary indeed to push all the work to the other six days! But this is the first step in clearing our paths of gravel to find the solid rock underneath. The natural formations undergirding our lives are firm, we just aren’t used to walking on them. As we become more familiar with them, we find we are no longer trying to shape the rock, but we are able to work with it, trusting its support, and moving with greater ease.

This is just the beginning of a conversation, and I’d love to hear about your experiences with Sabbath, your questions, and to encourage each other not to make space for God, but honor the space he’s given us. What does that look like in your life? Leave your comments below!

If you’d like to go more in-depth, find examples of Sabbath, wrangle with the many questions that arise around it, I recommend these books:

Sabbath Keeping, by Lynne M. Baab

Sacred Rhythms, by Ruth Haley Barton (especially chapter 8 on Sabbath)

 

 

 

 

Posted by k2mulder in Humility, Spiritual Formation, 2 comments

Michelle DeRusha on Letting Go

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Today we have the honor of a guest post from author Michelle DeRusha who just released her newest book,
True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created on January 1, 2019. I’ve read a few books about uncovering your true self with God, and this one really encompasses the journey well. The metaphor of fukinaoshi (Japanese pruning to an open center) is so perfect for structuring the book and the topic. She weaves her personal story, Biblical story, historical story, science, and gardening into such a beautiful exposition of this essential journey. She leads you into some difficult to grasp concepts and the challenging place of facing things in ourselves we’d rather not see, with wisdom, encouragement, and clear ideas. Each chapter ends with a “Going Deeper” section so you can spend some time with God reflecting and implementing practices to help you let go of your false self. And I loved that she finished the book with an exploration and example of how important it is to uncover your true self within the context of community, even though it’s an intensely personal journey. Enjoy her post, and don’t forget to enter my giveaway (which closes on Tuesday, January 29 at midnight) by sharing this post or another from my blog on Facebook or Instagram and entering your email here, “True You Giveaway!”


I never noticed that oak trees are the last to lose their leaves until I began a daily practice of sitting still.

It all began with a whim. One sunny November afternoon while I was walking my dog, I decided to stop and sit on a park bench. As I rested there for a few minutes with Josie sprawled at my feet, I decided I would make this bench-sitting part of my daily routine. I vowed I would stop at that same spot along our walking route every day, and I would sit for five minutes. I would sit in silence, I determined – without music or a podcast in my ears; without dialing my mother or texting my sister; without snapping photos with my camera phone or scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. I would simply sit in silence for five minutes. It would be good for me, I reasoned. Turns out, five minutes on a park bench seems short in principle, but is a surprisingly long time in reality.

The first afternoon I sat on the park bench, I looked at my watch after two minutes and then again after four. The next day I took a cue from Josie, who sat still, ears pricked, nose quivering. I looked at what she looked at; I sniffed, trying to smell what she smelled. When she twitched her ears, I turned my head too, trying to hear what she’d heard.

I noticed a little more of my surroundings that second day, like the fact that the leaves of the burr oak on the edge of the ravine still clung stubborn and tenacious to the branches. Unlike the maples, birches, elms, and ash trees, which had dropped their leaves like colorful confetti more than a month ago, the oaks were still fully dressed, their dry leaves scraping together in the wind like sandpaper.

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I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing there, just sitting. All I knew was that I felt compelled to do it, even though I didn’t particularly like it, and even though I knew, after only two days, that I would resist it in the coming weeks. At the same time, I knew this sitting in stillness was something I had to do. Somehow I knew that the stopping, — the interruption to my daily routine and my incessant push to get from Point A to Point B — was important, maybe even imperative.

Turns out, I learned over the weeks and months of sitting in quiet solitude that I am a lot like the oak tree that clings so fiercely to its leaves. In fact, I suspect a lot of us are. We, too, clutch our camouflage — the person we present to the world, to our own selves, and even to God.

We, too, are unwilling to shed our false selves, to let go, to live vulnerably and authentically. We are afraid of what might happen if we drop our protective cover, afraid of how we might be seen or perceived, or how we might see or perceive our own selves. We spend a great deal of our time and energy holding tight-fisted to our leaves, simply
because we are too afraid to let go, too afraid of what, or who, we will find underneath. The thing is, though, even the stubborn oaks have to let go of their leaves eventually. New growth can’t happen until the old, desiccated parts fall away. Spring only comes after winter. There is a rhythm here – relinquishing, stilling, rebirth.

The truth is, God does not wish for us to stand stubborn like the autumn oak tree, cloaked in a façade of protection, our truest, most authentic selves obscured beneath a tangled bramble of false security. Rather, he desires us to live open and free, our true essence revealed and flourishing, our true self front and center, secure and thriving. God yearns for us to live wholeheartedly and truthfully as the unique, beautiful, beloved individuals he created us to be. Most of all, God’s deepest desire is for us to know him, to root our whole selves in him like a tree rooted by a stream, and to know his deep, abiding love for us. God yearns for us to live in the spacious, light-filled freedom of Christ and to know ourselves in him, through him, and with him.

As we slowly begin to let go of our false selves, branch by branch, leaf by leaf, and layer by layer, as we finally begin to relinquish, open up, and allow God to prune us from the inside out, we will grow in ways we never imagined: in our relationships with loved ones; in connection with and love for our neighbors; in our vocation; in our heart, mind, and soul; and in intimacy with God himself.

Our true, essential self, the one beautifully and uniquely created by God, is there, deep inside, hidden beneath layer upon layer of leaves clinging fast. Within each of us is a spacious place, waiting to be revealed.

Letting go is the way in.


Michelle DeRusha for www.kimberleymulder.com

Michelle DeRusha, author of True You

BIO: A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of chickens … and God. She’s the wife of an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun and mom to two teenage boys and the laziest Corgi-beagle in the world. Michelle’s newest book, True You, released January 1, guides readers on a journey toward letting go in order to uncover their true God-created selves.

This post is adapted from True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created, by Michelle DeRusha, released January 1 from Baker Books.

Posted by k2mulder in Being Present, Giveaways, Guest Posts, 0 comments

Still Life for Christmas

As I sit, still, in the curated Christmas décor of my living room, I see in the imperceptibly shifting sunbeam, the motionless candle-powered nativity carousel. Like me, it is locked in still life. In a week, it will be spinning above the flicker of flame, Mary always flowing backward round the center pillar, with Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men chasing her forward, Jesus sleeping blissfully in the middle. Likewise, I will be flitting around the kitchen trying to turn back time to get all the baking done, while my kids chase each other from activity to activity, my husband blissfully enamored with his game on his first day off of work. 

Christmas Carousel for "Still Life at Christmas" for kimberleymulder.com

Christmas Carousel by Kimberley Mulder

In my still life today I consider the stillness. I revel in it and welcome it, especially after the full weeks preceding.

Still life paintings have always repelled and attracted me. In one sense they seem futile—why capture a bowl of fruit on canvas for ages to come? Was the fruit so special it deserved a legacy beyond its ripe lifetime? What message is there in such common things?

What an oxymoron—“still” “life”! Life is, by definition, not still. It is characterized by growth, activity, and change.

In another sense still life artwork captures, and creates, a beauty otherwise missed. We can enter, at any time, a glad contemplation of these exquisite momentary gifts. Their legacy, born of stillness, is the growth of wonder and gratitude, of seeing the world a different way.

On the wall to my left is another nativity scene, inanimate in its painted composition, but it elicits in me wonder and gratitude, focusing me when I am still enough to look at it—to enter it. Frequently it is in stillness that we can find life.

 “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Cody F. Miller's "Birth of Jesus" for "Still Life at Christmas" blog at kimberleymulder.com

Picture of Cody F. Miller’s “Birth of Jesus”

The flurry of our efforts can bring us closer to death, to stillness. When we carelessly rush about, trying to make things happen without considering their purpose, their toll, their role in our lives, we will fray. Our physical bodies will tell us in its relentless mental fog, high blood pressure, aching muscles, headaches, anxious sleeplessness, and more. This psalm was written most likely in the midst of war, in the midst of trying to save themselves from attack, and in the middle of that, he says: “Be still.”

Is your December feeling more like a preparation for a battalion to go to war with all the logistics of schedules, provisions, and preparedness? Is your body trying to get your attention? Is God?

“Be still.”

Your life, body and soul, depend on it.

Be still in God. He’s got this. Like in the psalm, it’s his actions that protect us, provide for us. He wants to be with us. And isn’t that what Christmas is about? Emmanuel—God with us, infusing our lives with the rejuvenating stillness of being together, of faith. The legacy of the still life of our fruit bowl of the soul is a rioting, wild world around us slowly taking notice, as the exquisite characteristics of our still lives in the spirit catch their eyes. And then the rest of verse 10 erupts: “I will be exalted in the earth,” as wonder at our solid faith draws people into their own still and solid lives with Emmanuel.

Posted by k2mulder in Advent, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments

Step Aside A Moment

When life is coming at you full-on force, clarity and intention drain away in the torrent like watercolors bloated with water. The picture we were so carefully painting becomes nondescript, even unrecognizable.

water spray window

Photo by Kimberley Mulder


These weeks tailing our summer feel like this, and I am gasping. At a time when I have emptied my reserves, I find I must rally all strength—not to push through the onslaught necessarily, but to shelter and rest.

Automatically, I push back at force to prove you can’t get me down, and it can seem too vulnerable to go with the flow. It requires strength of spirit, mind, and will to step aside into a quiet space, remember and renew my intentions, and trust I am not losing ground as I catch my breath.
But in these lulls Jesus blots the swollen, running colors until the picture is recognizable again. He is creating my life with me and it is his brushstroke that becomes permanent on my page, not the tearing, striking stormrains motley mess.

So step aside a moment today, take a breath, clear your vision, and let Jesus paint your picture.

Shortly after writing this first part I stopped at the lake nearby to clear my mind. God gave me a speech in the fluid painting of sky, the rush of cloudburst, the whisper of water lapping, the silent wing of swallows, and the flow of colors mutely inscribing awe as it seeped into my heart’s depth with their molten heights. 

sunset over Alum Creek

Photo by Kimberley Mulder

My heart rested in new understanding, in something I didn’t even know I needed to know until God said it through his sunset speech. A sudden intuitive understanding rose within like the glowing gilding of the clouds in relief before me, causing my own cloudburst of relieving tears. And as the sun sank beyond my horizon, I laid some things to rest that had passed away and needed to be let go.

Now the new day can rise without the burden of the old.

I encourage you to turn aside into quiet pockets when life is blasting you with busy-ness or trial to reorient yourself and receive Jesus’s loving strength.

 

I hope and pray you are encouraged by these blog posts, and that your quiet soul is thriving. I want to provide more resources for you, and to do that I have a short questionnaire for you to give me feedback. If you would take a moment to fill it out, it will help me bless you as I build and grow this little ministry. Thank you!

Click here to access the questionnaire.

Also, I am embarking on my Master’s in Ministry at Portland Seminary starting in a week! As I become more equipped to assist you with your spirit thriving, I will need to dial back my blog posts to twice a month rather than weekly. As always, feel free to contact me, comment, share my posts on Facebook, and follow me on Instagram @writerkimberleymulder. I will often write short, in-the-moment, thoughts and observations on Instagram, so it’s a good way to stay in touch.

Posted by k2mulder, 0 comments

Where Can I Find Peace and Quiet?

My soul hungered for quiet with just Jesus. With an unexpected hour of uninterruption before me, I took the opportunity. I rushed to the bench we usually meet at, and hurriedly sat down to commence “The Time of Being Present” (cue soundtrack indicating an important moment!).

Only I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t stop talking. I felt as if tiny flashes of electricity were flowing under the surface threatening to shock me into action any second. I kept flicking my eyes to see who might be coming, ready to look busy. And Jesus wouldn’t say anything! He just sat there. 

In my discomfort I began to realize that Jesus was holding the quiet for me because I couldn’t.

He was guarding our peace, refusing to bow to the busy-ness of my brain. He remained in quiet peace, because it was in him. There is no confusion in him, no conflict, no tug-of-war in his being, like there is in mine.

Awe washed over me, chasing my pesky, distracting thoughts away. 

Take a moment and let that sink in: Jesus holds the quiet for you.

When you are having difficulty quieting yourself, focus on Jesus, knowing He is there holding the quiet for you. Be willing to surrender your thoughts to his. You could say, “I’m here, Jesus, and I want to lay down my thoughts to hear yours. I welcome you.” Then allow Him to be quiet with you, allow Him to speak to you, allow Him to show you something. Whatever He chooses to do with you, He does for you, not against you, with your best interests in mind. 

Sometimes that means saying nothing, just being present.

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Being Present, Encouragement, Spiritual Formation, 2 comments

Being Hospitable is Central to Following Jesus

Being hospitable is all about making space, a push to the jumble of our commitments, a pull of invitation for someone to enter despite the topsy-turvy evidence of messy, beautiful lives.

Whether having someone come to my place or meeting someone elsewhere, if you are like me, you have a mental, maybe physical, closet stash of hustled miscellany out of sight. These thoughts tumble into my mental space frequently, like ubiquitous dust bunnies floating about the space. Mental dustpan in hand, I sweep these distractions up again so that I can direct my attention to my friend.

This making space – temporal, mental and physical — is hard. I confess, as an introvert, it is all too easy to not rise to the challenge, choosing instead to let TV and books entertain me. It is easier to anesthetize the bunny thoughts, ignore the mess about me, and not interact.

Sometimes I have approached hospitality as an encroachment on my turf, something to be tolerated out of necessity, or a cost of following Jesus. It’s as if I see myself as a can of soda in God’s vending machine, out of which I am dispensed to be drunk dry in service to others. Can you see how fear-based this is? These are the times my decisions to be hospitable are not led by love, but are pushed by fear.

Usually, I am a decisive person. I get things done. I soldier file my thoughts and march them through my project-filled day like a general issuing complicated drills, so why do they trip over hospitality?

Because I haven’t been committed to it, not like I am other noble things, such as prayer, or making healthy meals, or completing jobs for work, or preparing to lead a meeting. Remember those dust bunny thoughts I have to corral to pay attention to someone else? They are the natural result of a life lived to produce, to find its satisfaction in getting things done. These are the thoughts I am committed to, and, because they rule, they demand to be given precedent. I am afraid to give up time to “shooting the breeze” because there is an internal general barking orders to “get things done. You can be hospitable when the work is done, when you are off duty.” Inherent in this attitude is that hospitality is “just play”, a luxurious activity undertaken only after the work is done.

I only truly notice my lack of commitment to hospitality when I find I am in need of someone else’s. Then, I wonder who to turn to. I consider who has turned to me for a bit of welcome, and the past stretches behind like a savannah with sudden mounds of shrubbery sparsely greening a patch, for my hospitality is, at best, unsteady. It has lacked commitment. Strange for one who takes commitments seriously! But the reason follows.

Tucked succinctly in a litany of best practices, Paul wrote to the Romans to “practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13b NIV) The Greek word for “practice” actually better translates as “pursue”, meaning to press on, strive, or make every effort. Most notable is that hospitality is to be pursued just like righteousness, godliness, faith, gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11), the good (1 Thess. 5:15), love (1 Cor. 14:1 NIV), and peace (1 Peter 3:11 NIV).

Even though I have followed Jesus for thirty years, I did not know this! Until Natasha Red pointed this out in her five-day devotional on hospitality, I had not known the absolute importance practicing hospitality is to following Jesus. I have been wrestling with this conviction ever since! I am going through a mindset reset about being hospitable. 

This is what I’ve understood so far.

Hospitality is not a luxurious activity. It is not a superfluous activity. It is not peripheral or optional. It is essential. It is central. It needs to be woven into the fiber of our characters and exuded in all interactions as we go about our duties and activities. It is an attitude our hearts inhabit. That’s why we are hospitable.

Jesus made space to be with his Father regularly (Luke 5:16 NIV). He made space for everyone, even for the woman with the bleeding problem who was considered untouchable (Mark 5:25-34). He makes space for us, awaiting our approach, our turning, with delight. If ever there was an icon for being hospitable, Jesus was it! Notice it’s his character that is hospitable, his hospitality didn’t depend on a place to carry out his welcome. He did it without home to call his own! Everywhere he went, he ministered as he welcomed.

Ministry of any kind is really practicing hospitality. In ministry we intentionally make space for someone. So, conversely, hospitality is really practicing ministry. And through it, I grow and the kingdom of God grows. My capacity increases. Jesus knew this, he knew the vitality that hospitality gives us.

And that’s just it, as I make space for someone, intentionally sharing a piece of life with her, what I thought would overwhelm instead enlarges me. My experience, my heart, my understanding is enlarged as I make space for another. What is mine is not being chipped away and eroded, leaving an emptiness, rather, that space grows as we receive one another. This is what CAN happen when I stop thinking of MY time, MY quiet, MY space, remembering and actively believing it is Jesus’s. He provides it, He is the author of all best practices, and He teaches me to share it.

Practicing hospitality is no longer about what I have to offer, or how much I can give, or how much it will “cost” me.  Rather, it’s about the grace of God inviting and calling me into something bigger, something eternal, something essential.

As I commit to pursuing hospitality by allowing this attitude into my activities, infusing everything them, and shaping my character in the process, I expect I will find a rich and spacious world of blessing. I will be living in the kingdom of God on earth. It is described as a living, EXPANDING thing (Luke 13:19-21 NIV), not as God purchasing and dispensing with me to whomever needs me. I need not be concerned with running dry, because at the table of hospitality He is providing for me and my guest. Not only the guest eats at the table, but the host as well. We are both nourished. These are the transactions of God. We give, thinking we will be depleted, only to find that there is a filling in the giving, and we come away satiated. At least, that is how it is meant to be, how it can be when we pursue the things of God: righteousness, godliness, faith, gentleness, the good, love, peace and hospitality.

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Hospitality, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments

Be Hospitable to Your Own Soul

This is for the caretakers, the ones who always volunteer, the ones who say, “Someone has to do it, so I guess I will.” This is for the weary leader so busy caring for others that her own needs groan into a stifled discomfort and disillusionment. This is for the one always bending to accommodate another’s dilemmas, demands, or desires. The one who others count on to be hospitable, always.

Is there space at your table for you?

Do you find it easier to see how Jesus loves the other, but not so easy to see how he cares for you?

Does it feel luxurious, even selfish, to be hospitable to yourself – because it means saying no to someone else?

This is how I felt for a long time, especially when I tried to balance leading at church and mothering my three children through their first six years. And although I’ve never really wanted, deep down, to disconnect from the church, I was tempted to because of my desperation. There is an unequivocal absolute about mothering, so if that took all my energy, so be it.

But I felt, oh, so guilty! 

Grace came through gentle permission to step out of leading for a season, and into community, to be hospitable to my own soul in their presence.

I learned what it was to be welcomed at the table as me and not for my leadership or my abilities. I learned it was good, and deeply necessary, to spend time with my soul in God’s presence. Even more, the community I was in practiced a new hospitality towards me, one that warmly, quietly, cherished what was going on between me and God. I learned what it was to receive grace, to be one of the group relying on others and God – just as much in need of grace and hospitality as the next. Once driven by all the shoulds of good Christian living, I found I couldn’t do it all, and now I know, I shouldn’t.

Three days ago I remembered this lesson.

I went for a walk in the world turned fluffy, as if the bare black branches had bloomed a profusion of double-petalled white hydrangeas overnight, so that the morning dawned so brightly we thought we had slept in. Everything gently curved in cotton-ball whites, taking the muster of gray wood and dressing it up like scrappy Cinderella in her shimmering, glorious ball gown. This April snow would only last an hour or two, and so I roused my sleepy, overwrought self to find its peace in this fine fairy forest.

For two months I have been gunning it. Surpassing milestones before expected, churning out thoughts and plans as from a factory at full operation. And it’s been good. Exciting. Worth it.

But I’ve noticed my deteriorating patience, my mental freeze at simple requests turned difficult by the fog. What once felt easy, now is uphill.

As I walked uphill on my return trail, now watching the sloppy, slippery, muddy morass at my feet with less light-heartedness and more measured determination, I realized I was no longer looking at the trees and the snow and feeling the tingling breeze. I was tiring and the thrill was gone despite the beauty surrounding me. I thought of those benches sometimes installed at perfect outlooks for people to catch their breath, simultaneously in wonder and relief. Where was one of those?

I also thought how fitting it was that what had drawn me forward this morning was the fleeting beauty, how it invigorated my lagging body, and gave me purpose. My purpose was to enjoy. Just like two months ago when I embarked on new paths for my life. They were beautiful in hope, invigorating in promise, and gave me purpose. They still do; however, I am tiring of my walk and I need a bench for this day, at least. Somewhere to catch my breath in the exertion of living out my calling, somewhere to just enjoy the view with Jesus, and not be making or planning anything.

I can tell when I haven’t been hospitable to my soul. I get tense. I get short and become inhospitable to my husband and my kids. Instead of delighting in the care of these precious ones, every innocent request I interpret as a demand. I grudgingly help find whatever was misplaced, I go through the motions of care, but gone is the heart of care. All this dimming of life, trudging into drudgery, just because I walked passed my built-in bench.

My built-in bench is Sunday, when I typically observe the Sabbath with worship, rest and joyful activity. But sometimes I need more, or a Sabbath is pulled out of shape by sickness or strange schedules or just lots of people. I love people, but I also love my quiet.

We hosted friends for Easter, after a week of having neighbor kids over, spending two days being hosted by other friends, and the intervening times filled with fun and errands and my kids. All delightful, all a blessing, and I treasure every connection and laugh and joy we had.

But I needed my built-in bench. I needed a place to be with my own soul and no one else’s, to be with Jesus, and no one else. A place to be hospitable to just the two of us. I am so glad that Jesus finds quiet a hospitable place. He knows how to hold silence and make it special, how to fill the quiet with presence, and in so doing, warm my heart into relaxation and acceptance, into creativity and gentleness.

“But Jesus himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” Luke 5:16 (NASB)

Jesus took to the silence to find the presence of His Father. This warmed his heart, and made him creatively focused. When he returned to the crowds, he never appeared torn about what to do for whom, aggravated by the magnitude of the needs before him, or capitulated to another’s plans. Instead, with daring directness, he did only what the Father told him. He healed many, but not all. He taught many, but not all.

Jesus did not go through his life saying, “Someone has to do it, I guess I should.” He delegated like crazy, sending people to do things easy, and impossible. He relied on others! He empowered them by asking them to do things like find donkeys, feed five thousand, and steer boats. 

 

We get so caught up in ministering, in what needs to be done, that we stop hearing the particulars that God is leading us to. In our over-serving we inch slowly away from the table. We give up our chair, and like a servant at royalty’s table, stand ramrod straight and proper against the wall hiding our fatigue under our starched uniform and pasted smile, as we serve those at the table.

But our King invited us to his table, to sit, be fed, listen to him. When Jesus said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all,” (Mark 10:43-44) he is not speaking about who gets a seat at the table, for we all do, but to use your guest status to welcome others to the table. 

So, come back to the table, draw up a chair, pass the food around, and eat!

And, when you get up to walk again, make sure you enjoy the view at your built-in benches!

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Hospitality, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments

Humility Brings Abundance

Abundant life comes, paradoxically, through humility, not through “to do” lists. Among other descriptions, humility is realizing and accepting you can’t do it all. It is simply recognizing that you are a created being under God, that God is great and giving. It is not putting yourself down, or being a doormat for others. Most picture humility as a person kneeling and bowing, which is something we do only to those in great authority. Thus, we are focusing on who, not what or how, when we practice humility. As we bow to God and not our accomplishments, He gives us life.

This morning I had the familiar feeling of indecision and forgetfulness that leads me to write down all I need to tackle today. The list, of course, is enough to fill three days minimum. With each scribble, my heart nestled more tightly into the cushions of denial, while my adrenalized mind spun into superwoman orbit tightly circling the tasks that peopled my day. But I have enough experience with my ways to know that this dichotomy would only split me into a frazzled, frustrated, commando by the end of the day, if not sooner!

Instead, I heeded the nudge in my spirit, the desire that drew me out into the sunshine away from the glaring white light of my “to do” list. In order to make enough space to experience God’s presence, I had to leave the couch, the house, the computer, and enter the world. As I did so, I simply enjoyed being outside. I enjoyed the chirping chickadee, my skittering, flamboyant dog, the brisk breeze frying my ears with freeze, the blue backdrop and the white steady sunshine. My heart came out to play then. And to play gladly with it, came the presence of God.

Soon creative ideas danced in my mind, the agenda left behind. A basketball hoop made by “Goaliath” connected me to the idea that David didn’t kill the mighty giant, Goliath, with a “to do” list. He didn’t map out: “I’m going to kill a giant someday, so I need to train myself how to shoot a slingshot perfectly accurately, accommodating for distance and wind speed and the height of the sun.” He didn’t set for himself a schedule of practice sets to accomplish each day, enter competitions, or master the calculations required for making such a hit. He didn’t focus on the accomplishment, which is what “to do” lists do. He focused on the “who”. And not the “who” that was humiliating the Israelites – Goliath, but the “who” that was filling David with courage. David knew that only God was worthy of kneeling down to, in humility. He knew Goliath was not worthy of that. And because David was in the habit of bowing to God, he could overcome the impossible.

So, without having mastered a program on how to take down giants, God inspired his willing, brave heart at just the right time (God calculated the wind speed, sun’s zenith, and distance) with just the right tool (God provided the right stone and used David’s familiarity with the slingshot) to accomplish the impossible. This is what happens when we humble ourselves before God.

I am entering a season in answer to the call of God that is bound to be impossible. I am not slaying giants, but if I were to write out a “to do” list for the next year, I would hibernate with my heart in a safe cocoon hoping the giants will pass without noticing me. He’s asked me to do big things. They require a great deal of faith. I cannot do these things by way of an agenda. The only way will be to continually humble myself, confessing my inability to do it all, pressing into His presence and not into my abilities. He gives us more than we can handle. He does this so that we will honor him and demonstrate his loving might.

How do we stand up courageously under the towering giant of “too much”? By bending down in humility, picking up a stone of remembrance, standing in the courage born of knowing that God is far stronger than the giant, stringing our slingshots with the tension of faith, and letting fly the weapon of the Word that admits I am not enough, but God is. This is the promise:

“God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

I’ll take you back into the day I wrote this post because it illustrates in microcosm what God does on a macro level with our lives.

Instead of dragging myself from task to task, I found that I was filled with energy and joy. What had looked hard became easy. The indecision went away, I had space to be creative (something I thought would have to wait for another day), and I accomplished everything but one on my list that I had thought would take three days. In addition, I did a few extra things. The even more marvelous part was that I did it with a deep sense of God’s presence and accompaniment and strengthening.

I will be honest, this does not always happen, for there are days that do drag and are difficult, and I don’t have a sense of God’s presence, even after humbling myself and meeting with Him. My spirit feels lean and hungry then, so I (try to) lean into the promise that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3) The abundance promised here is not felt yet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The challenge here is not to try to fill my hungry spirit with accomplishments, but to carry on waiting in humility.

Then God shows up big, like he did the day I wrote this, and as I experience the fullness of his presence I am empowered in my tasks. I get a taste of heaven, and I am humbled all the more into joyful awe that today, in my life, his will was done on earth as it is in heaven.

He’s arranged it so that our small days are filled with promise, with provision, with Him. Whether it’s a day that you taste heaven or a day that you hunger for it, the more we recognize our inabilities and stand courageous in His abilities, the more we will be full of hope and peace and joy. Our interior worlds will not be constrained by worry, or “to do” lists, rather, they will be full and spacious. An abundant life is not something achieved; it is given.

 

 

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Humility, 0 comments

Three Questions to Ask When Your Spiritual Appetite Has Disappeared

Apparently over a quarter of the students at my kids’ school are absent this week due to the invasion of influenza. We, too, have succumbed. And along with it our appetites have disappeared.

Sometimes our spiritual appetite disappears too. Praying, reading the Bible, going to church feels like eating dry crackers without water. Guilt sets in, further alienating us from living water. Like when we are physically sick, we’d rather go lie on the couch watching TV.

What do you do when your appetite for God is near-gone?

First, stop trying to evade it or to increase your efforts to feign hunger. Accept it, face it, and sit with it. It will be uncomfortable, but you need to know what is causing the loss of appetite. Its remedy depends on it. Then ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you exhausted? Have you been taking care of yourself? Relationships require energy, even your relationship with God. Fatigue and exhaustion can be great spiritual appetite suppressants. If this is you, give yourself grace and ask for the Lord’s help to rest. If the exhaustion is due to your choices and commitments, admit and confess them, then listen for His guidance on what to keep and what to get rid of. If the exhaustion is not of your making, then let your exhaustion lead your appetite with the prayer: “Lord, may my desire for rest draw me to You, the true resting place for my soul. Fill me with your rest, and as you replenish me, show me who You are. Thank you for your gift of rest and care.”
  2. Are you busy? Is there something that you are allowing to take center stage in your life? Something that is demanding lots of your mental energy? Something distracting and all-consuming? It could be a good endeavor, it could be a temptation, it could be an overwhelming circumstance of life. Whichever it is, allow Jesus to walk on the stage and direct you regarding it. He may say to cleanly turn away from it (as in the case of temptation), he may say to allow him to control it (as in the case of overwhelming circumstances), he may say something else. The key is to let him enter it, let him speak to you about it. Then you can discern whether you’ve been stuffing your appetite with a substitute, or you’ve simply been ignoring your hunger.
  3. Is it that you are bored? Maybe you have been following the same Bible reading plan, going to the same church service, doing the same things, and it has become too comfortable. In this case, change things up. Change the time of day you regularly pray, or take a walk, or read a different translation of the Bible (I especially like using The Message or the The Passion Translation for their more modern language). Try a different way to serve: volunteer for kids ministry or serve in a food pantry. Try practicing meditative prayer or lectio divina. Richard Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home is especially helpful for learning what these and other prayer forms are and then employing them in your life. I am looking forward to reading Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson which also converses on just such topics. Like reaching a plateau with your exercise routine because your muscles have gotten too used to it, your spiritual routine needs to change too. We need to stretch and challenge ourselves in new ways. When you change a workout regimen, you also change your appetite through new stimulation.

How did you recognize that you weren’t hungry for God and what did you do about it? Do you have any resources you recommend? Please share in the comment section below this post, I’d love to hear from you!

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Hunger, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments

Series for 2018 : 10 Heart Attitudes to Cultivate for a “Mary” Life

I am excited to announce the inaugural series for my blog “Living a Mary Life in a Martha World”! Over the next 10 months (starting in February) I will be featuring an attitude needed in order to live as a “Mary” in a “Martha” world. If you desire to be more attentive to Jesus and live your life from this center, not being pushed around by the world, then join me in this investigation. I would love to have you be encouraged and challenged by what I write, and to hear what works for you to be like Mary. Here is the monthly schedule:

 

 

 

If this piques your interest and you would like to join in, please subscribe to my email list so you can be sure to get the weekly posts. I pray it will be a blessing to you and I look forward to spending the year with you in this endeavor!

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Encouragement, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments