astonishment…

 

Things that astound:

The idea that Jesus is not overly concerned with my filthy rags before seeking to grab a meal with me, continues to consume my thoughts. It is JUST REALLY AMAZING in the context of his holiness / my lack thereof, that he would keep choosing to engage me, a sinner; perhaps because I am finding it such a challenge to stay on level ground. Or maybe it is in thinking about how much time and energy I have spent trying to clean myself up, only to realize he really doesn’t care; or not so much that he doesn’t care, but he is not at all put off by my stench. Granted, I’m a set-free sinner, but one who continues to get tangled up in the nets of selfishness, wounded pride, arrogance, worry, anger, the despair of failure. I feel like a retro vending machine – SO MANY BUTTONS TO PUSH on me…

My reflection didn’t start there. I was simply thinking back over God’s faithfulness through the challenges of the past year. There were a few – personal, family, public, community. The list of astonishing ways in which God has faithfully shown up. began to grow… 

I really am stunned that God would choose to hang out with me. One because I’m kinda boring; and two, because I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. You’d think he’d give up… The ‘dinner with a sinner’ is grabbing me because it’s the same mistakes, but the attitudes behind those mistakes are starting to be revealed, and well, it isn’t pretty, nor socially acceptable, nor polite…

provision. The list within a list. Material: One of the ways my husband reflects God is that he is an amazing provider. He works, diligently. I think in 30 years, he has taken approximately 7 sick days, 3 of those post surgery. That’s 2.1 hours per year.  His daily efforts take care of our family,  but also other families, sometimes with little thanks from anyone. His wages pay for food and clothing and electricity and healthcare and educations. His thoughts provide wisdom. There is a lot of thinking of the other in him; of me, our kids, or what would be best for our family. Space – God has shown up to provide needed space – tiny moments of it, or rooms worth at the neighbors for visiting family. God has pushed wide the borders of our thinking to allow much needed processing space: time for asking honest questions and grappling with the answers. Friends – even though, due to confidentiality, I don’t share everything that is going on with me or someone else I love; God has provided friends whose laughter and discernment have held me up in the lonely places. Counsel of the Holy Spirit – this one gets its own asterisk.

comfort. It is in the nature of life as a Jesus follower to persevere. I think. The other day a friend suggested that it might be good (in the midst of that) to allow God to provide me comfort. The next day, just to reflect, I scratched out a list.  The depth and breadth of ways in which God regularly provides me comfort was astonishing. Things like the owl who tu-whoos deep and long into the night, the deep waters of the smile of a child. Even more astonishing was that on my list were places that sometimes feel hard, difficult, conflictual. But there they were on my list as places that provide comfort – not surface comfort, but deep, resonating consistent comfort – like a tuning fork for my personhood. Tim.

Counsel of the Holy Spirit. When we built our house, the tile mason found fossils of God’s creation in the entryway slate. It seemed apparent, that this was to be God’s house, his welcome at the door. I, however, am a stressed hospitalitarian. I like to cook, but I am not so good at greeting. We have other family members who rock that aspect of it, so I guess we are covered, but it is a skewed distribution for sure. 2018 has been a year FULL of hospitality, and it has stretched me to live into God’s story in the entryway. My prayers have been: God, HeLP! What is this supposed to look like? Where is your priority? Can you hold the wicked witch of no sleep at bay? God has answered every prayer…seriously. Astonishment.

When we built our family, we knew they were God’s, too. There have been a few questions…Why? When? Will you?  He seems to answer many of those with ‘Wait’. In the meantime, his faithfulness, his counsel to help us navigate, has been evident EVERY DAY. I don’t know anyone else who can sustain EVERY DAY like God can. There was evening, there was morning, there is a sun and dawn…

The Blossoming of Extraordinary Capability. It amazes me to watch God take the wraps off someone, and let their talents, gifts, capability explode. Or just blossom quietly in the nutrient rich soil of being true to who one is and what one believes and values. Our oldest daughter got married this summer. She and her husband value community, and so they planned a wedding that invited people into the process, sometimes letting go of their own expectations more than they imagined, to let someone else contribute a gift. The week looked really different than I had imagined, but there was a whole lot of blooming going on.

The wedding is just one example. Time after time, I have watched someone really young pull off something amazing with hundreds of details. How do they make these things happen??? At church this morning, our young pastor told us that from Genesis, God was purposing for us to be makers with the stuff of his earth. Hmmmm…

The Art of Orchestrating. As a mother of youngsters, on a household budget, I used to pride myself on being able to ‘make something out of nothing.’ I could put real food on the table, out of bits of this and that, and not have anyone say, ‘Yuk.’ Although I do remember suggesting that if my children didn’t like what was being served at home, perhaps they should check the menu at the neighbors (my husband said I couldn’t offer that…)

That is nothing, however, compared to what I see God miraculously putting together out of bits of dust. How does this Triune God orchestrate just the right word, for just the right soul, at just the right moment out of 11 billion moving people? He does it way too often for it to be coincidental that the chapters of 2 persons’ stories collide with meaning and hope. Or that nano-bytes of information drop into the correct diverse palm with split second timing. Does it surprise you, that in an individualized society, capable of fiercely guarding one’s own ideas and opinions, God can with a word, change that same one’s perspective? “Way too often,” is part of what is astonishing. Is there anything that his glance cannot touch? I think I will close with the following exclamation:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, neither angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Romans 8:1 (ESV) – There is therefore now no.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 30 Dec, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/rom/8/1/p1/s_1054001&gt;.

Nothing can get in the way of God showing up – faithful. May the God of hope astonish you with the depths and precision of his life-changing love. May his faithfulness to show up midst the challenges, along the twists and turns of your journey to trust, give you an ever-deepening knowledge of who he is, and what he does, and perhaps, what he does not do. May you be amazed, to dine at his table, and find him good company. May your mourning turn to comfort, your despair to hope, as you trust in him. Amen

jfig   12/18

 

 

 

 

 

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