Living Like a Monk…

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I Am Going To Start Living Like a Monk – an exercise* in poetry from Christine Paintner’s book, The Artist’s Rule

(*The exercise: Take the opening line “I am going to start living like a monk…” and write your own poem, borrowing the first line from another poet and building on it in your own way.)

 

I am going to start living like a monk,

Embracing solitude as a long lost love,

Counting my steps and measuring moments

Like grains of rice that tumble to a pot.

I will absorb You in every fiber of my being,

And welcome You in each part of my day.

 

I am going to start living like an artist,

Finding life a full-color canvas to be explored,

Chastening words to the task of description

And imagery to the work of the heart.

I will uncover the beautiful and celebrate its shape and form

With thoughtful expressions of hope.

 

I am going to start living like a creative,

Infusing artistry, story and design into my call,

Bringing to life and light what many reckoned dead,

Dancing with the angelic host to be among them.

I will present the unthought thoughts

And show the world new patterns and precepts,

Never settling for what has been,

But always pushing for what God is calling us to be.

 


CGF

 

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A Prayer for 2013

BLESS the Lord, O my soul,

Let all that is within me BLESS His holy name.

 

REST in the Lord, O my soul,

Let me cease striving and learn to REST in His holy name.

 

PEACE in the Lord, O my soul,

Let my innermost self find that Abiding PEACE is His holy name.

 

TRUST, HOPE, and WAIT on the Lord, O my soul,

Let me live expectantly this year. BLESS His holy name.

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The Foolish Tree

There stands quite a foolish tree
In the middle of my back yard,
He holds on to dead brown leaves
While his friends are majestically sparse.
 
Though the wind whips and whirls,
And January adorns my wall,
The tree can’t relinquish his crunchy old past,
Still dressed in the hues of last Fall.
 
Spring brings promise of newness and birth
After Winter has held us all bare,
But if we, like that tree, still are clothed in the dead,
How will we be remade this year?
 

-CGF

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For When You Bury A Dream

Recently, I heard “no” three times in two weeks. Three different people, three different situations. The no’s came with mighty disclaimers of how great I am, how fantastic my work is, how needed my ministry is. But, they were still no’s. Ouch.

Sometimes, I feel like my dreams are dying.

It can feel terribly sad to bury a dream. Even in the midst of the emotion, I am realizing that it’s not all together a bad thing to let go of things for which we’ve really hoped. Today, as I was driving home and processing it all (for probably the 100th time), it occurred to me: I am not alone in feeling this. Some of you who are reading this blog today feel like you could have just written these words, don’t you? The truth is, all of us bury dreams sometimes.

All of us.

So, God gave me a powerful image today as I prayed through the sadness of letting go of pieces of what I’ve hoped would come to pass. The image hinges on this verse:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” Ephesians 3:20-21

This past week, I heard a great sermon on the parable of the mustard seed, and I was reminded how God makes big things out of little things. So, today, when I told God that I felt like I was burying my dreams, the parable of the mustard seed came back to me.

And I began to wonder, what if my dream is the little thing? What if the dreams of humanity are really small, like those little mustard seeds?

If, in fact, God plans to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or imagine, wouldn’t it make sense that we can bury our own dreams, confident of God’s plans to bring something that we couldn’t even imagine?

I am preaching to myself today. Don’t we all have days like that? But, since I know I’m not alone, I am also preaching to you, friend. If you feel like you’ve buried a dream, or if you’ve heard “no” more often than you’d like in the past days or weeks, I am here to encourage you.

God has a plan for your life. When you are able to let go of your own dreams and lean in to His plan, He creates far better things. Bigger things. Unimaginable things.

Be encouraged.

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Butterflies and Bones

Saw this on a walk up the mountain at Crossroads Campground in Virginia.

On a walk up a mountain road today, I stopped near a bench to take in the rumbling river. Lingering for a moment, I tried to soak it all in. On my left, my eye caught subtle movement, and I to my delight, I saw butterflies.

A group of six or seven stunningly beautiful butterflies were gathered, wings slowly flapping, resting. I wondered if I had somehow stumbled in to a butterfly sanctuary of sorts. As I leaned in to take a picture, I realized what they were resting on: a carcass. Perhaps a large bird, or some other mid-sized animal…I’m not sure. But definitely, definitely a carcass. Instinctively, I pulled back. This image stretched me. I didn’t expect to see the butterflies resting on bones.

And then I thought – isn’t that just like God, to layer beauty atop brokenness? To place butterflies in all their glorious array in the midst of bones? To put exquisite life in the midst of unmistakable death? And then, to allow it to linger there?

I have no idea why these butterflies were drawn to the carcass. (I’m sure there is a scientific reason, but please don’t tell me.) I just want to linger in the tension of butterflies and bones, and to remember that God does this kind of work all around us. I want to soak in the fact that yesterday’s death often sits so close to today’s life. I want to reflect on how God has created a world that can handle both life and death, side-by-side.

I want to revel in the ways Life swallows death and…yes…today, even rests atop it.

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Provision…and Socks

One year ago, it was back to school around here for almost all of us. Two of my kids going to elementary, one to preschool, and me…to my second year of seminary.

If you’ve had even one kid in school, you know that in the days and weeks leading up to school, it seems the expenses never end! There are mounds of school supplies to be purchased, piles of text books for me, and activity and enrollment fees coming out of every direction…and then, there was this.

Back-to-school wardrobe assessment. My daughter checked out beautifully. Everything fit, and we had darling outfits for her. This is because an old friend often passes me clothes that fit my girl perfectly, both in style and size. It’s such a blessing! My girl was totally ready for Kindergarten.

My son, on the other hand, seemed to have grown 2 inches overnight. In every pair of jeans, he could have waded through flood waters. You get the picture. We needed new jeans.

And new shirts.

And socks. (Somehow, every time I fold laundry, I pull out a pair of holey socks. Does this happen to anyone else out there?)

Well, I figured, time to head out and do some shopping. An all new wardrobe for a kid can easily cost hundreds of dollars, you know. As I prepared mentally to outlay more cash, I got a phonecall from my mother-in-law.

“I have another bin of clothes for you from Mandy!” Mandy is the friend who passes me clothes for my sweet girl. I made arrangements to get this new bin, but secretly wondered where I’d put the clothes…my attic was swelling at the seams.

Imagine my surprise when, a day later, I popped open said bin.

I sat a tied up Target bag to the side, and sat, stunned, as I looked at a burgeoning bin of jeans and shirts…for my BOY. Size? 8 Slim. Seriously. 8 SLIM, people. Are you hearing me on this? I hadn’t voiced the need for new clothes for my son to anyone but my husband. Immediately, I was overcome with gratitude for God’s provision.

These jeans looked like they’d been never worn. Then there were shirts.

I feel the need to clarify again that we could have purchased the items for Ashton. It wasn’t a matter of not being able to do it; the cost just represented one more place we’d spend money in a month where there were many, many calls on our finances.

As I worked through the bin, I shook my head in disbelief. Everything was there that we’d need – and I would have picked these items out myself at the store. They weren’t just going to fit, they were also our style. God is in the details, you know.

Sometimes I talk to myself, and this day was no exception.

Right there, out loud, I said…“The only thing I’m going to need to buy for him is socks.”

I was still in total disbelief at this provision when I turned to leave the room, and saw the Target bag that I’d cast aside from the top of the bin. You already know what was inside that bag, don’t you?

Because God knows our needs before we even speak them, and He makes provision in ways that can raise the hair on our arms and put chills down our spine, that bag was filled with 12 pair of like new SOCKS.

So, I cried. Right then and there, I cried. Because, seriously…we could have gotten all of it. But God blessed us with jeans, pants, shirts, and yes, even socks. I didn’t have to spend time in my first month back at seminary trying to track down these items. I didn’t have to spend money buying them. He brought them…right to my door.

God is teaching me all the time about His provision for us. This time, His teaching tool was socks. And every time I fold them, I’m reminded of how He cares for His own.

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A Beautiful Life

“But I trust in You, O God. I say, ‘You are my God, My times are in Your hands…” -Psalm 31:14-15

Sometimes I need to be reminded that my times are in God’s hands. In those moments, I turn to this passage in Ecclesiastes, which talks about divinely appointed times for certain activities in life:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his toil?
I have seen the burden God has laid on men.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.  (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, NIV)

I think that last line is so interesting. It’s unexpected. “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Everything? Really?

It’s hard to understand how being uprooted or mourning a loss can be beautiful, especially when we are in that moment of turmoil. Looking back on several years of feeling like my life was summarized by those scattered stones, I now can see that these years have been lovely, indeed. But in the midst of it, most days didn’t feel very beautiful at all.

That’s where the trusting comes in. I am not always able to see that the seasons of life are beautiful as I walk through them, but I can say with confidence that my times -my long days, sometimes restless nights, and all the moments in between – are in God’s hands. That alone makes each dawn-to-dark lovely in it’s own right.

My moments are held by the Creator of all things beautiful. Remembering that helps me to refocus on my beautiful life.

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