Tis the Season of Preparation

During 2016 Jesus graciously led me to focus on receiving from Him, resting, and pursuing joy. It was a year like no other before it. It was a year of surrendering my striving and discovering He is my friend, not just my teacher. Like a paint-by-number, He walked me dot-to-dot until I saw that the destination of this life I walk is JOY.

It is his JOY to be with us! What says “I love you” more than wanting to be with someone? Jesus, Emmanuel, God-With-Us, came to earth for a short time and suffered death for the JOY of having us be with him. The anticipation of this complete joy is what motivated and guided His every action while on earth. As we receive Him, so it becomes our anticipation of this very same joy that motivates and guides our actions every day.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are tangible, temporal expressions of the joy that awaits us in eternity. All the delights of these celebrations: family, fun, and food, beckon to us as we plan and prepare. The joy of it all gives us patience, perseverance and purpose as we deal with the governing lists of preparation details these days.

If you are one whose holiday gatherings are a joy, then the burden of preparation is light. Each task, however mundane or bothersome, is infused with a bit of the joy ahead through the anticipation of it. For you my prayer is that you follow the thread of joy throughout your days and let it lead you to our destination: Joy!

However, if you are one whose holidays are bothersome at best, painful and wounding at worst, then preparation becomes almost a mockery. Each task is drudgery, a press of sharp flint into a scarred and painful place. Your hope is simply that it speed by as quickly and painlessly as possible. For you my prayer is that even in the pain and burden of it all, you bravely expect Jesus. He has no fear of the dark places and wants to meet you there. Joy and suffering do mix. Paradoxically, it was His great joy to suffer death. He went before you in the darkness and will lead you out of it. Joy Himself stood in the tomb.

Jesus says in verse 11 of John 15: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” What was the “this” he told His disciples so that they could live in joy now? It was to remain in Him. The verses before are peppered with his repetitive “Remain!” Rabbis of the time used repetition to teach important points, much like parents and teachers today. In the span of these eleven verses He says “Remain” eleven times! This is how you prepare for joy – remain with Him wherever you are.

As eternal guests at the table of joy, we need to be well-practiced at receiving. If a guest is uncomfortable receiving hospitality, the joy of the giver is incomplete. Think of the guest who self-deprecatingly turns down every offer. Or the guest who jumps up to help with everything because they are uncomfortable receiving hospitality. As host, you may feel disappointment or even irritability because your gift is being negated. Likewise, we, in our proud, broken ways we sit not with our Host, but constantly say “That’s ok, I don’t need that” or jump up to help Him. Jesus’s joy, nor ours, is complete then. So fellow guests, practice well your reception. Receive with gratitude what the Lord has for you today. When we receive well, we remain more comfortably with the Giver.

Jesus honored Mary’s choice to remain with Him. He urged Martha to do the same. The great Host told his host that it was better to receive from Him than strive to make a perfect place for him.

As you prepare for the holidays ahead, let their promise and joy color your plans. Let them remind you of our destination: JOY. Practice being a guest by focusing on your Host and receiving from Him. May your season of celebrations and all the preparations they entail bring JOY to life in your soul this year.



Posted by k2mulder in Spiritual Formation, 0 comments

Prep Work Season

Autumn gardens are not pretty. They are all mold and cold, dark and decay, mess and muck. But if autumn death is not plied into the ground, no spring is nourished. Spent and anemic, the soil will respond to the force of spring with random, unintentional growth of opportunistic, oppressive weeds. Spring will draw great jungles from them, jungles we did not want when we plotted the plot.

But autumn is hopeful preparation. Why else would any gardener go out in almost freezing temperatures to fork another layer of compost into the dark ground under gray skies?

A week or so ago, I spent the majority of my day winging walnuts into the forest behind our house, then mulching and fertilizing our lawn. The light was the seepy white gold of October, the air refreshingly not too hot.  Our yard was peppered liberally with puce orbs fallen from the scraggly-leaved trees arching overhead. These same trees had been the “wow” that convinced us to make an offer on this house just three months before. Now I understood why the grass underneath was so pocked. Every autumn it is pummeled by thousands of black walnuts! And now it became my task to undo the happy work of autumnal ripeness.

As I practiced my pitch (something I hadn’t done for, oh, 20 years or so), I prayed. Not that I wouldn’t hit a squirrel, or a neighbor child playing in the woods (thankfully they were all at school), but the listening kind of praying where I am delighting in the moment and aware of Jesus being there. He drew my attention to the fact that I was doing prep work.

I thought of all the ways I engage in prep work: commercial kitchens, my own kitchen, my garden, for the school year, for travels, for blogging, readying for the day, the season, the year. I felt in my spirit that I was in a season of prep work. This put a context on my life that had previously been missing and I found it encouraging. For that means I am being prepared for a future, for a purpose, that Jesus has a place and goal for me. There are seeds he plans on planting! It has been a year of great change, of digging up roots, and in the transition it has felt scary at times. But He has placed me now in this new “plot” of life where we are working in the soil of my soul.

This context has cast new light on my life. Typically I think of autumn as a time to wrap things up, to finish and to put away. It is that, and in some ways I am finishing with previous pursuits in order to prepare for new pursuits. Apparently, what I choose to spend my time on this autumn will have ramifications many seasons ahead. If there was no decay and dying of these things I am to leave in the past, then I will not have the rich soil I need to grow come spring. The work now is to dig in the decay to replenish the plot of my soul.

He has a vision for the plot of my soul, of fruit and flower born to brighten and sustain. To create this life in me he is faithfully working in the soil of my life. He is deeply digging into my foundational understandings of who He is and who I am. Some of those ideas need to die and become food for the future.

Take a moment and consider what season you may be in. Maybe you are in full flower and can trace the edge of the shovel in seasons past and now you can say thank you for that. Maybe you feel like a piece of abandoned land with no purpose and you need Him to lay hold of you as His own. Maybe you have just been planted with new seeds of ideas and plans and now you need careful watering. Maybe you, like me, are in a season of preparation, of deep soul work. In every season of your soul, let Him do his work. Tend this life He’s given you with attention and care.

Posted by k2mulder in Spiritual Formation, 2 comments