Gifts in the Gaps

There’s something about Good Friday that brings up a myriad of emotions in me. It’s a time of reflection, a time of emotional loss, and a time of almost expectant suspension. I have always loved Easter and never hated Good Friday but ever since I was a child I felt Good Friday and the sense of loss keenly. I’ve always felt, as long as I can remember, that there was a price to pay for the joy of Easter. That this joy in resurrection, this springing forth of life and forgiveness and salvation was bought through a trial of pain and endurance that seemed to resonate reflectively in my young soul. There was an emotional, physical, and spiritual price paid on our behalf. That always resonated in me. That Christ did not pay cheaply for me.
This sense of hardship and darkness and emotional trial was heightened for me when my Dad passed away in Good Friday seven years ago. He died too suddenly and too soon. I don’t think of the date of his death, for me he died on the day, Good, Friday. Every year about ten days leading up to Good Friday I have a heaviness of spirit. A sense of loss, a sense of shortness of life and an uneasiness and discomfort in my own skin. Grief can take you that way. For me, I see Good Friday in the same light as I did as a child but with more depth and clarity. As I read scripture, my favourite passages are the ones where the women go to the tomb. How they grieve, their sense of loss resonates with me because I too have lost.
But I don’t get sunk in that grief. There are pockets of light and hope and always have been. A very wise man who I prayed with tonight prayed about Good Friday saying “Friday is here but Sunday is coming”.
And it’s the hope. The hope and God’s promise that calms my loss. And it’s the gifts from God. Each year during this difficult time he shows me something new about himself. On Palm Sunday I was standing in church grieving and worshipping and looking around I saw a man who has become a spiritual father to me. God has given me, given us the gift of community. He has given us the Church, the bride of Christ. He has given us each other. He has given me two spiritual fathers who I can look up to and ask questions of and who love me.
It’s these light rays of hope in the midst of the difficult that remind me of God’s love for us. Not just in our salvation, but in our provision. Because of what he’s done Friday is here, but with certainty we know Sunday is coming.

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Changing the Lemonade Recipe

We get stuck. We get stuck in our routines, we get stuck in our outlooks, and we get stuck in our perceptions.
I get stuck. I sometimes look around me at my everyday life and feel the consistency of the routine and long for a shakeup. I long for travel, adventure, fleet-footedness and free-spiritedness. But this is not always possible and is not always to be. Maybe you have a new baby, debt to pay, a job that requires time and responsibility. And your routine is as spicy as, well, as you feel right now.
Coming out of a phase of life and child-rearing where I had an infant and a toddler in tow and into the phase of two toddlers, I’m noticing a restlessness. Maybe it comes from my children being older and more independant. Maybe it’s just the delay of Spring. But I’m gonna be honest, feelin a little sorry for myself. It’s the desire for the new and different that others seem to be doing. It’s a desire for something new to sink my teeth into (see prior posts for more on my unsettledness). So I’m a little discontent. The hamster needs new cage shavings.
I had a thought tonight in the middle of an envious sigh. I can speak proactively into my discontent. When life gives me lemons of discontent, I need to change the lemonade recipe.
With the new stage in my life (and I imagine, the new stages in yours), the same old isn’t the same old anymore. A wise person, my husband, heard my lamenting and said, “we just need to change it”. When you’re in a new stage, the old rules just don’t apply anymore.
Out of the baby stage? Take on something new as you begin to emerge out of the fog of new babyness. If you have an empty nest, what better time to tackle something new? Retired? Look around for how you can shake things up.
So much depends on our perspective, which is colored by old ideas. “But I can’t do…” Really? Are you sure? Maybe you can.
It’s a new idea for me. The idea of a life shift that is dictated by situation and directed by my willingness to enter a new phase in how I function and perceive myself and the world. I wonder where my courage will take me.

Instant Gratification

It’s hard to outgrow the idea of instant gratification. It sneaks up in me subtly, sometimes with warning, sometimes without. But it does longer, way past times when I should be above and immune to such things. But it’s there.
It sits in envy and discontent. It sits in dissatisfaction and tired routine. It sits in endless winters and plunging the toilet for the third time while seeing someone else’s tanned face and beautiful pictures. It sits in the same four walls and same old things and same old same olds.
It also sits in ministry. In the desire for a jolt of recognition of the movement of God. In the expectation of results; the excited new believer, the movement of the Spirit, the transcendent experience of worship.
So often I get trapped by right now. I want what others have, want to do what they do, want the results that they get. Want to be a part of what they’re a part of.
And when you don’t get that it’s hard. It’s hard to persevere, hang in there, take one for the team, wait your turn, keep the faith, be steadfast and stalwart. It’s hard to wait. And expect, and long, and desire, and hope and dream without apparent foreseeable fulfillment.
I’m learning in life and in ministry that we all need reminders of the long term. The budget, family, work, ministry, for the greater good choices that we make are about reflective gratification. Short term stretching for long term gain. Realizing that my decisions are forward reaching. That the aches and envy come out of a deeper discontent then the desire for the new and latest.
I think the maturing comes with the reflective gratification. I’m starting to see the fruits of labours in a different way then I did ten years ago. I’m more conscious of missed relational opportunities. I’m starting to see the return on long term relational and ministry investments. I’m starting to see the change in me as I start looking inwardly and acting outwardly.
I’m not sure if the desire for instant gratification entirely goes away but now I can recognize it better. I can start to recognize when it’s selfish or motivating towards the good. When it’s spontaneous and building or filling the distant-from-God void. Whether its healthy wanderlust or escapism. Now I see it as a check and balance. A barometer for where my heart is pointed and where my eyes are trained. In ministry, are the results about me or about God? In my personal life, is it about schoolyard fairness or for the greater collective good? Is it about where I leave off and God begins?
Is it about now or is it about eternity?

I may have trust issues…

It’s funny how often I get gobsmacked by things. My husband laughs at me when I fail to realize that something so obvious to other people throws me for a loop and when I make plans that never seem to come to fruition. These plans don’t go off the rails because I can’t commit but usually because God’s got something completely different in mind.
I’m glad I amuse my husband and it is funny, but then sometimes those things you realize about yourself aren’t so funny. Like in two posts ago when I realized that trusting is hard for me. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately because I’m seeing plans fall through. In the past when this has happened it’s one of those epic stories of God’s different direction for me and I end up somewhere better than I could have imagined. But this time feels different. I’m looking forward to my next year or so and wondering what God’s got in store for me. There are options and I start to make plans and they (insert Whoopee cushion noise here). And it’s different this time. Usually when God does this it’s like he says “not that, but this” and there I know and there I go. But not this time.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had a time like this in my adult life where this has happened. Usually I have a plan and see God’s plan and sometimes what I had planned works out to have aligned with God’s idea and sometimes God’s plan is different but I go with that. But this time, I’m holding plans really loosely. That’s not my usual. I’m a processor. I think through plans from beginning to the multiple outcomes. I’m prepped. But not this time. For once in my life I’m really up in the air. I don’t see a clear direction and where God usually points out the path to take, he’s actually just showing me closed roads. It’s limboesque.
As I sit here it almost feels like those awkward situations where you sit with a person and you know they’re going to tell you the plan, need to tell you the plan so the plan can be accomplished and they sit there, fingers interlaced on their stomach leaning back in their chair silently and peacefully contemplating you and your agitation.
But I know God’s not teasing me or torturing me or has any malicious intent in this situation. I think it comes back to trust. God has guided me to wonderful things beyond what I could have planned for as long as I can remember. Yet I still worry and fret and itch to be active on plans I know not what. And I forget. I forget his faithfulness and his nature and I chafe at my plateau.
Because this is new and not like before. Because this is unfamiliar and not like before. But I’m also not like before. I’m different, I’ve grown in him and more into myself. So why wouldn’t he give me the opportunity to experience his guidance in a way that might require more trust and more discipline and more maturity? I’m trying to take it as a compliment.
But what I do know is that God hasn’t forgotten me, hasn’t taken his eye off me for a second. My future is in his sight. And he will remember me. Like he remembered his people not only with thought but with action. And I know in his time he will remember me too.

Remember me Lord when you show favour to your people
Come to my aid when you save them,
That I might enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
That I might share in the joy of your nation,
And join your inheritance in giving praise Psalm 106:4-5