Saturday, November 27, 2010


We are taught from a very early age that structure and order are good. They provide stability and security, unpredictability is bad and leads to fear. Chaos is to be eradicated and peace restored within our lives.

I have been thinking about this concept a lot. Especially since I read Robert Grudin's statement that to walk in creativity is to walk at the edge of chaos. I think in images, each word has its own special picture in my head and when I link them together as they appear on a page, and as the individual words
conjure up their image and combine with each other a new image is made.

Sometime long ago I read that the original Hebrew of Genesis reads, "And the earth became chaos. . ." That became my picture of chaos, a cosmic pool of random color with no solid form, no definition just simply being. Random and beautiful, waiting for something, anything to give it purpose and meaning, and then God spoke and history began.

I do not pretend that this image of chaos is correct scientifically or even theologically, but that is my picture and I like it, so I will keep it. The thing is when I read Grudin's quote I added something to my image. Now instead of a cold distant cosmic mass, God walked at its edges.

Suddenly, the randomness had purpose. It was not simply something lost to the darkness of space, hope was present and life was near. Chaos became not something to fear or cause for despair. Chaos was the substance of possibility.

I thought about what this meant for an artist. All my paints laid out in neat little tubes, carefully arranged so that I can reach out and grab the one I want. My brushes standing at attention with clean bristles and handles not yet smudged by dirty fingers. A canvas pure white and waiting. It all starts out so orderly and almost pretty, and then I begin my work.

I pick up one of my pretty tubes and I smash it squirting pure color onto my once pristine palette. Pretty little pools of paint arranged in the order of the spectrum, separated by enough space so they cannot touch. I then take my palette knife and smear them into long lines of color that still retain the division I have imposed. I chose a brush, and begin to paint.

I select the proper color and then I do the unthinkable. I introduce chaos to the process. I pick up brown with the edge of my brush before I set it into the blue, or a touch of alizeran crimson goes into the cadmium yellow, no longer are my colors pure, they must not be to produce the desired effect.

I make a line or a cloud of color on the canvas, sometimes I paint the canvas black to make the colors more vivid. I have to destroy the clean orderliness of the blank canvas in order to introduce the elements that will allow my image to take shape. The entire process of creation is the introduction and the subduing of chaos.

We have been taught to fear chaos, like it is threat to our well order lives and will possibly destroy us. But chaos is an essential ingredient to creation, and it does not end with painting. My brother assembles chaotic notes and words into an order to create a song and expression of his thoughts. The writer picks from among the many words to create a poem or story, all come from the mass of ideas and images that float chaotically through our psyche. As the artists, we pluck them from the realm of the unknowable and place them in the form that allows the others to see the beauty of the random elements.

An artist introduces hope and possibility to a situation that the others see as overwhelming and impenetrable. Our work signifies the ability to find beauty and truth in an otherwise confusing realm.

There is a reason that people of all cultures have embraced the arts. Whether articulated or simply accepted, the work of the artist helps us make sense of our world. To put words to this idea will strike some as arrogant or baffling, their response will be, "I just like it." This is not uncommon most of us do not think about why we like what we like, we just accept that we do, but think for a moment. Remember that time when an emotion overwhelmed you and that song came on the radio that captured all the things you could not voice before.

In that moment, the chaos of feeling became solidified, clarified, and you could put words to what had escaped you before. It is more difficult with an image because they do not give us the words, but the images we are drawn to reflect some aspect of our hearts that calm us. We recognize that we can give form to some hidden part of us, hidden because we did not have a way to share it before someone captured it for us.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's Shake and Bake and I Helped!

Almost the first question everyone asks me is how we came up with the name Pagus? And since that answer is on the home page of our site, I will skip to the second question people always want to ask – and a few are brave enough to actually do it – Who are you to be doing this?

Got me.

It wasn’t exactly something that you just wake up and say “Hey, I think I will live the rest of my life filled with doubt and uncertainty, wondering if people would like to hear what I have to say, never sleep at night due to an overcrowded schedule, pray that there is funding for the next event, and slowly lose any shred of sanity that accidently slipped through the genetic code.”

Okay, so that begs the question why do we do it? But let’s stick to the original question. Who am I to be doing this?

I really wish I knew. I argued with God about it for a long time. I even ran hard and fast the complete and opposite direction. Any good Bible scholar (or attendee at their local Sunday School) can tell you that usually means you wind up swallowed by a big fish, and I did. (Whale vomit, yuck!) I made every obstacle that I could to keep me from this life, but in the end I just had to climb over some and drag the rest along with me waiting for the right time to climb over them.

I could give you the credentials, that is what most people really want, and I have a few. I have a Masters degree in Biblical Literature (that is just the fancy way to say I can read Hebrew and Greek), and two other degrees one in psychology and one in fine art. And a couple of really odd certifications, that still confuse me. Only God can weave together an education like that, and somehow that’s what He did.

The truth is what makes me the person to do this is the reason everyone else who is part of Pagus is qualified to do this. We love God. We want to see great things for and from His Church. We believe that all of us have a story, some beautiful and some horrifying, but we serve a God of redemption and He is redeeming our past as we move forward with Him. None of us can imagine not participating in the things of the Father.

Oh, we realize that He is much more efficient on His own, and we are a lot like the three year old who is helping make dinner with mom. Mom doesn’t need the “help”, but a good mom can’t resist her child’s smile when the kid proudly declares, “It’s shakin’ bake and I helped.” That’s all we are really doing at Pagus, getting in the way in the kitchen and loving the time we get to spend with the Father, and if I read my Bible right, He likes it too.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Stay Together," and Other Stupid Things Moms Say

Since my children were tiny there has been one event that defined their day – if they could go down to Grandma’s house. My mom and dad live next door and the houses are within shouting distance, but just barely. A wide open pasture stands between us and the greatest risk to my children’s safety are the handful of cows who share more in common with lap dogs than their other bovine relatives. When they were smaller I would watch them out the door and call Mom to be expecting them, both of us would stay on the line commenting on their progress from our respective windows. We would only hang up once the gate into Grandma’s yard had been hurdled.

When I was small I did the same thing, my grandma lived next door too. Every day as the door swung closed behind me my mother would call out, “Be careful.” Now if you know me very well at all, you know being careful in no way appeals to me. If I have to be careful, I would just as soon not waste my time. I have raised my children with this mentality and they are fabulous risk takers, but since a mother has to yell something out the door to her children, I had to come up with mine.

Now, there was no cognitive thought put in my selection of words, but this morning as I yelled after them I found myself wondering why I hear myself saying, “Stay together.” There is an inherent risk in my children staying together and it can involve bloodshed and bruises on a good day. The truth is they fight. Not your usual “Did not, Did too” fights, it’s more of the apocalyptic nature which I am convinced is simply preparation for Armageddon. So all wisdom would dictate that I encouraged them to stay as far from each other as the forty acres allows. God knows they are safer facing the cows than each other sometimes.

Even they see this and complain about having to tolerate the other. Lydia could make case that would convince a Supreme Court justice, and Lauren has a way of putting her head down so she can figure out a way to circumvent my command (in a completely defendable manner, of course). What they don’t see is that I have a reason for them sticking together and it is more than one of them might need a kidney one day.

I want them to learn to walk together in the midst of conflict. I want them to face challenges and difficulties with turning to attack the other, and sometimes I catch glimmers of hope. Too often we face a hard situation and our answer is to blame someone else, let our tempers flare, and demand to be vindicated or martyred for our stand. Separation is easier than relationship. Peace at all costs demands we sacrifice friends and loved ones because often they seem to be the source of our problems.

Sometimes they are. Lauren would not have anyone to yell at if Lydia picked up her dirty clothes, and Lydia would not have a reason to be inflamed if Lauren did not try to boss her. In their child minds the answer is simple, remove the offending party.

As adults we know this truth far too well, and so often we simply stop inviting people into our lives. We keep them at arm’s length where they have not opportunity to do anything that might hurt or anger us, and therefore, we never have to deal with conflict. The problem with this approach is we never learn how to truly love someone who remains at this distance. Sure we can have nice thoughts, wish them well, or even share pleasant Sunday afternoon meal, but we will never know them well enough to love.

Paul warns us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Many people think that this means go to church on Sundays, but I think there is a bit more to it. Church is a great place to start, but how many times is that where it ends? I love to go to concerts, and sit next people at every one I go to, but I am not there with these people. I know nothing about them, their life and habits in no impacts mine, nor does mine theirs. To say our relationship is shallow would be an understatement, nonexistent comes much closer.

In some respects the relationship among concert goers is far superior to other relationships we may have, if we use peace as the criteria. I believe peace is a good thing, but it can’t be everything. Jesus even fought with his disciples, correcting their misconceptions, going to toe to toe with them when they dared disagree, but he never cut them out of his life. He never washed his hands of them and said he was done trying to get along with quarrelsome men. He understood that when you walk with someone there are going to be difficulties, problems, possibly a shouting match or two, and maybe even some punch thrown somewhere along the way.

The quality of the relationship was not defined by the absence of conflict. It was defined by the ability to resolve conflict and build stronger relationship through confronting conflict honestly. Coming to gather as believers should entails conflict, fights even. It means we are really walking together, and if we can stop seeing conflict as the death knell of friendship, we could begin to appreciate the diversity of thought and method that God has equipped his body to use to reveal his desire for relationship to the world.

The girls are growing up, and after over a decade of duking it out, hours of hysteria, they are learning to appreciate the strengths of the other. Strengths they have tested and found to be worthy of their trust through conflict. I don’t worry about them leaving the safety of our house when they are together, because I know that even as they scream at the other, no outside threat better come near.
My hope is that we all have someone yell at and to yell back at us as we work our way through this thing called faith.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Training Wheels - Packing too light?

On our first trip our after our honeymoon, Ty told me I had one saddle bag to carry everything I needed. I packed light. I really did, at least for me. I took one change of clothes, my laptop, my make-up, and an extra pair of shoes. (I put the curling iron inside them). He questioned me with every addition, do you really need that? Why are you taking that? Couldn’t you leave that home? Who are you trying to impress anyways?

Listening to him you would have thought I had tried to load my entire closet on the back of that bike, and I was getting a little irritated with his constant commentary. I finally gave in and left the make-up at home, except for the mascara – I can only sacrifice so much. In the end, everything else barely fit, but we secured our load and took off into the blue.

It wasn’t long until an approaching storm front forced us off the road to dig out some warmer gear, but guess what wasn’t in my saddlebag? I didn’t have a single jacket or even long sleeved shirt, but my husband pulls a hoody from his side and says, “I packed this for you.”

He’s like that. He remembers things I don’t and is prepared for the emergencies I don’t even consider. What’s more, he gave up space in his saddle bag to make sure I really had everything I needed when I wasn’t smart enough to take care of myself. In some ways it would be a beautiful thing to end this story right here, make it all about Ty’s loving provision, but there is more.

The trip home was miserable hot. The sun was blistering and baked us to crisp. My nose peeled for days, and I was completely disfigured for awhile. Ty commented on how I had never burned like that before when I rode with him, and I reminded him of what I had left behind – my make up bag, the one with the moisturizer with sunscreen, and the foundation with sunscreen, and the powder with . . . you guessed it, sunscreen.

Ty never considered that my beauty stuff might also have some practical applications, and I never thought that riding in July would require a jacket. I think that is why God puts us together with other people, to fill in the holes of our knowledge and experience, to teach us the things we need to know. Now I always have a jacket stashed when I ride, and he doesn’t grumble so much when I want to put in my make up bag. I accept that he has all the practical stuff covered, and he is learning there are just some things about “woman stuff” he doesn’t get.

It is in the learning to embrace the other’s strengths that we find unity, and we are having to learn how to strike that balance between perpetual deferment and pig-headness. I did no one any favors when I gave up my make up bag, but I also failed to plan when I didn’t pack a jacket. I needed to Ty to be the man I love, to make up for my lack of insight and understanding, but I should not have surrendered what I needed just because he thought I was being vain.

I am finding that in a marriage, or any other committed relationship, there has to be room for both people to bring their strengths, knowledge and experience to the table. We have to be okay admitting that we might not know as much about a particular topic as the other, but what we do know still has value. And if we can combine forces and not turn it into some sort of perverse competition, we are stronger together than we ever were on our own.

Monday, November 15, 2010

H.G. Wells, Full House, and My Strange Father

Early on in my education my father said something to me that shaped how I learned. He said, “You don’t have to know everything. You just need to know how to find the information you need, that’s why they have books. But it is not enough to know what’s in the books you have to know how to use what they say. Once you understand why something happens or why a person does something then you will be able to use that information in your life.”

Of course like every child my preferred way of gathering information was to ask questions, but my father had sadistic habit of answering my questions with a question. And when I would object, my father would respond with, “So what’s wrong with a question?” or hand me a book.

Once I asked a question about a television show, and he handed me H.G. Wells Outline of History. He told me to ask again when I finished reading the 500 page tome. I was twelve.
And like every child, I let him see me reading it a few times, skipped over the boring parts, and asked again. (The part over the Mongol warriors was pretty cool though.) He answered my question by asking me why the great men in history were considered to be so great. I replied because they won. He agreed and said that was just it, they won. If they had lost they would be discounted as renegades or rebels, but it did not mean that they were always the best men. He asked me what would motivate these men to take such risks, to fight these great fights? He went on to answer his own question that time, which I learned he would often do if I stayed quiet long enough.

I learned a lot from my father, how to look at people and ask these sorts of questions. Why do people do what they do? Answer: because of what they believed. What caused people to take certain courses of action? Answer: because of their environment and heredity. What shaped their environment? What formed their beliefs? Why were they allowed to prevail were better men had failed? How did this apply to my life, what I believe, what I think and ultimately what I will do?

My education was not endless barrage of facts that needed to be memorized. I was taught how to learn, and is something that I am for which I am immensely grateful. It is a skill not often taught to us in our culture. It meant my father spent much more time telling me where to look for answers he could have rattled off without a second thought. It meant that he would have to entertain prolonged conversations with a child when he could have been watching the ball game.

At times I considered his techniques rather heartless. After all I only wanted to know why I could not watch a sitcom with a laugh track, and I got a college history book shoved in my lap. I know to many of you it seems like an odd way to answer a question, and maybe it is, but thanks to Full House I now know that Mongol warriors were amazing horse men and use human skulls as dinnerware. I also know that I have a responsibility to teach myself, to learn from the people who have lived before me, and not to repeat their mistakes.

Unfortunately, not everyone had a father as committed to their children’s education as I did. And our society has taught us that simply regurgitating facts is a close enough to pass for an education. On the whole, our culture has taught us that we should not ask questions or if we do, keep them simple. As a consequence we often fail to grasp the impact that our world and our history has on our lives. We don’t’ examine how our perceptions are shaped by the nuances, or how we have the power to change our perception through educating ourselves.

And it is okay if we need to dig deeper to gain understanding. Dad finally had to tell me why I could not watch TV with laugh tracks. He did not want anyone to tell me what is funny. He did not want me to grow to think that serious issues were something to laugh at just because of societal dictates. He wanted me to think and form my own opinion based on something a little more authoritative than a sitcom.

Our world is filled with people who are willing to tell us what is and is not important, how to interpret events, and what our values should be. It is our job, especially as Christians, to know our history and know the heroes of our past so that our perceptions are shaped by the light of God’s word and not the latest fads or even by time honored traditions. We have a responsibility to see past the surface and understand what each voice is truly trying to say.

Finally, we need to be okay with seeking out the information. We were given a great source, one that you probably already own – It’s called the Bible, and it is not enough to simply read it. We should read in the purpose of understanding why things happened as they did, why he did what he did, and maybe we will catch a glimmer of how this wonderful history plays out in our lives.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Don't Know, Maybe Never Will

I guess when you set yourself up as someone who knows something about the Bible people think that you should have the answers for a lot of their questions about God. Usually, you get off with the easy ones, like “How was Jesus both God and man?”, “How did God part the Red Sea?”, or “How does the Trinity exist?”. I say these are easy because the last few days I keep bumping into the hard ones, “Why?” and “Where was God when my life fell apart?”

I am not writing this to say that I know the answers to any of these questions. And the last two, the really important ones, the where the rubber meets the road questions are the hardest. The truth is I don’t know why, and while I believe God is in the midst of our tragedies I don’t know how to point him out to you. I wish I could, maybe then broken faith could be mended and we could begin to make some kind of sense out of the chaos of our world.

Sure I could give some pat Christian answer, “Just have faith and God will get you through this.” But when has that ever been enough for a heart that has been shattered by disappointment and loss? I could remind you that the Bible is true, and that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose, but seeing the good, or even the purpose, of suffering isn’t always possible in the dark.

It is in our darkest moments that we begin to search out some way to make sense of the cruelty of life. We ask ourselves the hard questions, is this because I have sinned? Maybe, I don’t know. Is it because God doesn’t care enough to move on my behalf? Or is He powerful enough to move on my behalf? Maybe I don’t have enough faith or strength or my breath isn’t fresh enough. All of these thoughts we entertain trying to find a reason. In the end we all pretty much end up at the same place, “I don’t know.”

Is it an issue a faith? Absolutely, but the thing about faith it is a tricky substance. Sometimes it is like a hundred dollar bill that has been run through the washing machine a few too many times. The ink is faded almost past the point of recognition, and if you hadn’t known what it was in the first place you might be tempted to toss it out like any other scrap of paper. Other times, faith is so crisp and clear you almost want to frame it.

Lately it seems like everyone I talk to is hanging onto a tattered piece of faith, hoping they haven’t mistaken an old Wal-Mart receipt for what was once a thing of value. People who are wondering if they were fools to believe in the first place.

I could give them a list of facts about how I know that Bible is true, but honestly that isn’t what they need. I could try to console them with trite clichés or even pray for them, which I do, but there is a need that goes beyond all the pretty church answers. There is an ache that no one person is going to satisfy. A place so deep in their heart only they and God can touch. I wish there was an easy answer, a magic wand, a secret word, but if there is I haven’t found it yet.
The other thing about faith is once you have had it, once you have experienced what it is know that gift you can never be content without it.

“Where is God?” “Where is God when I am crying out in pain for him?” “Where is God as people suffer and he seems not to care?” “Why did he allow this happen?” “I don’t think I can believe in a God who does this to his creation.”

These are the questions that have ripped at my heart the past two days. Over and over again I have heard them coming at me from all directions, friends, loved ones, and strangers who speak the questions through tears of brokenness or in defiant rage. And I set there repeating the few words I know to be true, “I don’t know.” I don’t know. At times I wish I did so I could offer an answer to help them through these times of pain and doubt. At times, I am thankful that the mysteries of the universe are not mine to bear.

I have sat with those probing their hearts trying to unearth some hidden sin that prevents them from hearing God’s voice or keeps them from his blessing. I have looked into the scornful eyes who demand why I can so blindly believe the unbelievable. Each time I have found myself at a loss for words, knowing that arguing will win nothing, and empty words will bring no comfort.
All I can say is I have seen his hand at work. I have experienced his presence, and though I may not see him now – I know he is here and he loves you. Experience is all I have to offer, experience that is lost to the day to day struggle, but reclaimed in those moments when life threatens to overwhelm me.

I don’t know why God does what he does. I don’t know why he allows those who have sacrificed to serve him suffer. I don’t know why children die, and I don’t know why dreams must be killed. I don’t know.

All I know is he loves you. He has orchestrated history so that you could know him. For you sake others have suffered and died. For your sake many have been persecuted so that you could hold his word in your hands, speak his name with no fear, and assemble with others who love him. All of history is one big bloody effort for you to be here, for you to have this chance. Perhaps it is your suffering that will pave the way for the next person to hear his voice, maybe this is greater than you.

Because when you strip away all of my conjecture, all my theories, all my hopes, all I truly have to offer is I don’t know, but I will stand beside you until we do.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spider Solitaire, Chaos, and Our Puny Minds

I have been having some difficulty lately that is becoming more of a problem than it should be, but I find myself obsessed with winning spider solitaire. Why is too great of a question to explore here, but it did start me to thinking. You know that moment when the cards are dealt out by the computer with that simulated shuffling sound, supposedly giving you a randomly dealt hand?

I got to thinking how it isn’t really random at all. Computers run through programs, mathematical algorithms that tell it what to do in response to set of predetermined commands employed by the user to accomplish a task. So in theory every hand is winnable if you know the sequencing and patterns that the computer is using to provide the player with the fake randomness.

The problem is I am not smart enough to determine this pattern, nor is my mind designed to grapple with the complexities of the mathematics that simulate randomness. I just can’t see it, the scope of the problem is too large for my mind. So the effect is good enough to accomplish the desired result. It appears random to me despite the fact that I know that it truly isn’t. As such I am forced to comply with the rules of the games in hopes that I might be able successfully bring order to the supposed chaos of the cards.

In a lot of ways life is like that card game. I look at it and I see randomness, chaos, and confusion. However, I know that behind it all is a program of sorts, running in the background providing order to what I can perceive, and the problem is never that the program isn’t working. The problem is in my inability to see beyond what is placed before me. To make matters worse, the program is so sophisticated that even the best of minds will never be able to unravel its sequencing.

Now some might ask how I could arrive at such a conclusion, that life has meaning and purpose when too often all we witness is chaos. I could tell you that it is simply a matter of faith, and to some degree it is. I could tell you it is because the Bible says so, and once again, to some degree it is. The thing is were given a mind and intellect for reason, we were gift with the ability to consider the mysteries that are laid before us, and when we shut it off simply in the cause of faith we are failing to live up to the potential that our creator placed within us.

He has given us key bits of information and startling revelation that he intended for us to use in a quest to know him better. He expected us to look for the meaning of our existence, why else would so many of us grapple with the question? He wanted us to look into this world and universe to evidence of his hand. Faith does not preclude asking a question, faith means asking even if you are scared of the answer.

And sometimes the answer does frighten me. I don’t like to think that my God is responsible for earthquakes, famine, or disease. I don’t want to believe that chaos that so often surrounds me is something that he is doing, but he tells that he is the one who causes it. But I have found that so many things that seem chaotic up close when emotion skews our perceptions have type of symmetry when viewed from afar. History when seen as a whole, and not disjointed snapshots of the human experience, attests to the planning and care that went into bringing this moment into being. I can see how great tragedy was the fuel for great achievement and triumph.
I can see how not one second is wasted, each event serves a purpose, and we walk in world that was wonderfully crafted with a complexity we may never fully appreciate. And when I can see that, when I can recognize that my God didn’t just allow history to unfold with undirected randomness, I can stop trying to figure it all out and allow myself the privilege of standing in awe of him.

There is sublime beauty in that moment, when I acknowledge him as the all knowing creator. There is freedom from fear and futility. And in it I find that there are answers, more amazing than I could have begun to formulate without his help, and I find that each answer leads me into deeper mystery.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Training Wheels - Curling Irons DO Fit in Harley Saddlebags!

When Ty and I got married we had a few obstacles to overcome, not the least of which was how I was going to get my curling iron to the honeymoon. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but we were leaving the wedding on his Harley and there is limited room in the saddle bags.

Ty wasn’t even for sure that Harley could function with such a feminine device on board. He hemmed and hawed about the space it would require, studied the layout of the things he had packed, and finally, with a scowl acknowledged that it would fit. However, before I could breathe a sigh of relief, he announced that I really did not need a curling iron so it didn’t matter.

Let us pause for a second and think this through- I had spent the prior three months planning ways that I could be beautiful for this man. I had designed and sewn the perfect wedding dress. I had colored my hair the perfect shade of auburn, had my body painted the perfect shade of tan, and assembled the perfect honeymoon equipment with the help of my friends. And now this MAN, decides I don’t need a curling iron! What was wrong with him? Did he miss all the effort I had put into making sure that everything presented to him was pleasing to his eyes? Not need a curling iron! He might as well have said I didn’t need my left leg.

I think he realized his mistake once the words were out of his mouth, because he immediately recanted with –“Well, we can take it if you think you really need it. You always look beautiful to me, baby.”

Now, I blame him for distracting me with the curling iron debacle and causing me to arrive on scene without a hairbrush, but the curling iron did make it to our cabin. And, no, I never used it.

We are learning how to make room for each other. Ty is learning how to redefine his list of what is and is not allowed in the saddlebags, and I am learning how to take only what I need. And that is really at the heart of the matter, what do I need?

Ty is practical. Limiting his load to the bare essentials, but I am a girl, need I say more? Our list of essentials is wildly different and it means we make space in our lives for different things. He is happy as long as I am with him, but I want to look my windblown best. It is taking some time, but we are learning to appreciate what the other values. And truthfully, it didn’t take me long to appreciate the fact my husband always has an extra jacket in his saddlebag.

Ty is figuring out that it is important to me to look good, and he even made provision for it. Provision that doesn’t require a curling iron in his saddlebags, and is a little more in keeping with the Harley image. He bought me bandannas in girlie colors and a hair glove to lace my hair in while we ride. He stopped laughing when I color coordinate my bandannas to my outfits, and he even helps me snap my hair glove into place.

We are different, and we are finding out that it is okay. I will never understand all the things that my husband knows almost instinctively, and he will never completely get why I still sometimes insist on packing things like a curling iron, but we have found that there is room for each of us to be who we are even as we become one. We are learning that we can make room for curling irons, and maybe even accept that sometimes there are better alternatives.

And I am finding that every time my husband finds a little extra space for “all that girlie stuff”, I feel a little more valued as his wife and as a woman. It means there is space for me in his world, a world I am just beginning to understand but one he desires to share with me.

And yes, there is a lesson from all of this-

God has a great and wonderful adventure he wants to share with you, but are you willing to turn loose of the stuff you thought you needed? Will it turn out just to be a curling iron you won’t use because He provides you with something so much better and suited to the situation? Can you trust that he has exactly what you need hidden away somewhere and it will be given when you need it?

Turning loose of what you think you need is sometimes the only way you can make the journey. And every now and then we all need to sit down and look at our lives to see what we are holding onto and what is holding us back. Every now and then we need to reevaluate what we deem to be important and accept that we are in a new season where yesterday’s needs are today’s wants. Maybe it is time to ask, exactly how attached are we to that stupid curling iron anyway?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Worship in the Bible

At first glance the Bible doesn’t really seem to say a lot about what we call worship. There is the book of Psalms that records the songs of the Hebrew nation, there are few descriptions of people who sing and even dance before the Lord, but there is really very little to tell us about how music was used as worship.

There is no set number of songs, there is no description what the songs were to sound like, and there is no prescribed method that we are to employ when use for proper worship. Now it could just be me, but I don’t believe that I have ever heard anyone acknowledge this little bit of information. We tend to get rather adamant about worship, the proper form, sound, and words are matters of great debate for many Christians. It is something that has led to hurt feelings, heated arguments, even church splits.

What is talked about a lot in the Bible is worship. It just doesn’t look like the way we do worship. There was no four song program, one fast, two slow, and leave them on high note with a closing fast song. The Bible rarely talks about worship in simply terms of music. Music is an aspect of worship, but worship is always presented as something more.

The New Testament makes even fewer references to music than the Old Testament, and those references are vague. So what does the Bible have to say about worship? How does it define worship? And how do we follow the example it gives?

In the Old Testament worship is more than a song. Worship is the real and right response to God. Worship is exemplified through the lives of the men and women who responded to God in an intimate way. Usually their worship is characterized by a life that is devoted to following the word of God. Abraham offering Isaac is an act of worship, Joshua leading his men in war is an act of worship, and Hannah pouring out first her sorrow and then her praise is an act of worship. Music was just a component, worship goes deeper than just a song.

We often find the word worship associated with the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. Okay, fine, but we don’t offer sacrifices any more. Jesus was our sacrifice, and besides the Temple is gone. So even if we wanted we could not offer a sacrifice to God to worship him this way. The question becomes how do we worship God today?

The answer is found in the Bible but to see it we may need to realign what we believe worship to be. We may need to rethink our definition. We would not be the first ones to do this. When the Temple was destroyed, just as Jesus prophesied, the Jewish people had to totally rethink their definition of worship. The Rabbis gathered in place called Yavneh and decided that worship, even the sacrificial kind could be observed through giving. They believed that doing acts of Tzedekah or loving kindness fulfilled the intent of the mosaic covenant. It is a custom observed to this day.
Music is a part of the Jewish holidays, but worship is the doing the acts God would have us do. Music is a joyful response to his presence and provision. Worship was the proper and right response to God in any given situation in whatever means the situation dictated.

It may just be me, but I have a feeling that God is waiting to experience true worship yet again. I think he is wondering when it will cease to be just a four song event once a week and become a way of life for his people. We have portioned it off like it is an isolated event when it was never meant to be just one more thing on a check list. True worship never ceases, it flows throughout lives, dictating and demanding that we move concert with Him. It is the voice of our awe over a wonderous God who loves us and compels us to acknowledge him with our every move. It is something that flows from intimate knowledge of one who created the universe and wraps his arms around us.

The Bible doesn’t seem to say a lot about worship because the whole book is about worship. The message is overwhelming and we need to stop trying to distill it into sound bites or clichés. It just doesn’t work and we miss the forest for the trees. So if you want to know about real worship, study his word, get to know him, and worship will become an irresistible expression of faith.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Grumbling Along the Way

Sometimes there are moments when you know that you are capable of so much more than you dare to attempt. For me these moments come with a headache and a gut wrenching nausea that can leave me paralyzed. It usually happens when God is calling me to move away from a place that is comfortable, a place that seems good enough, and one that others would never fault me for staying in. In fact, many times people question why I would consider making the move at all.

I would like to say that I take these leaps of faith because I see a great and wonderful opportunity. I see a chance to do something greater for the Lord, and I rejoice over the fact that he would allow me the chance to serve in such an audacious manner. The truth is it is usually because I know I will be miserable if I don’t. God has this way of picking at me until I give in, and scream “Enough already.” And then I pick up my knapsack and begin trudging in the general direction he has indicated, all the while grumbling that he would require such a thing of me.

Fortunately, he is used to surly traveling companions and laughs off my grumbling with a certain amount of divine humor. I guess I really don’t have anything on 2 ½ million former Egyptian slaves.

I have heard a lot from people about the irresistible will of the Father, but I really don’t believe that. To me God is so much more than a cosmic bully, pushing me around to suit his whims. I do, however, believe that he extends the chance to walk with him in some pretty scary and amazing places. Places where we have the chance to know him better, to experience the part of him that can only be seen in the wilds of faith. Places where we become even more of who were designed to be, places where we can be more than we thought we could be.

And maybe mostly importantly, places that keep part of us alive. A deep secret part of who we are that can only exist when we are clutching the hand of the Father. I think this is why I go when he calls me, I don’t want that part of me to be extinguished in the drone of the expected. I want that chance to see him do something incredible, and I want the chance to be a part of it. And there a big part of me that is scared to death of missing out on anything he does that is so much bigger than my affinity for comfort and security.

I woke up yesterday with these words in my head. Sometimes you find a safe place and playing it safe will keep you there. The question for me is, is playing it safe what we were called to do?

I have ransacked my Bible looking for just one verse to justify playing it safe. And all I find are stories of audacious daring, people who were willing to deny the demands of their society and culture in order to catch a glimpse of him. Women who elbowed their way through crowds, argued with Jesus himself, all in attempts to hear his words, see his face, feel his touch. Men who weren’t content with the status quo who dared great things, even their lives, to be where he was and do what he was doing.

And in the end the words proclaimed over them were, “Your faith has made you whole.” Whole, what an interesting concept, the idea of shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, but so much more than we usually understand it to be. The reality of “nothing broken, nothing missing.” Shalom, knowing that a piece of us that only lives in his presence, alive and vital.

I sit here this morning lost in the paradox of faith. Wholeness comes through sacrifice, peace in struggle. And I know that I will be at rest only when I begin to move in the direction he is leading. Playing it safe isn’t an option any more, and risk is the pathway to true safety.

It is time to be whole, wholly his, wholly in his presence, and wholly committed to being who he has called me to be. I don’t know where this new path will lead, but I know that he is already there and that is enough.