Tag: spiritual formation (page 1 of 2)

What Do Formation and Escape Have to Do With You?

As I write this, I’m sitting in an airport lounge in Seoul, Korea.

We’ve been in the air over 17 hours and have 5 more to go in order to reach Hanoi, Vietnam, our destination.  I have something to drink, and a soft chair, and an internet connection, and I’m blessed to be heading to see the work of God in a new part of the world (to me). This is the best case scenario.

Still, travel represents one of the everyday experiences God can use for transformation. When we travel, so much is out of our control.

Think cancelled flights, lost luggage, crying babies, delays, and slow people who clog the TSA lines.

It doesn’t matter if it’s international travel, or going to Target with two toddlers in tow, our formation often comes in situations we want to escape from.

I think of another “traveler” – Moses – and his “toddlers”, the Israelites. If he had had his choice he probably would have gone it alone, and preferred straight line from Egypt to the Promised Land, bypassing the 40 years in the desert wandering thing.

When the Israelites are being difficult, Moses says, “What am I to do with these people?” Which is exactly the question you may be asking today.

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Gen Z R Us

Recently I listened to a talk about the characteristics of different generations that was…fascinating.

As I heard the description of Gen Z (also known as Homelanders because their generation started when Homeland Security was also birthed right after 9/11), I thought these are assumptions we ALL are tempted to make!

Gen Z R us! Take a look…

Our World Today
World is full of: So we may assume:
Speed (think microwave, INSTAgram) Slow is bad
Convenience Hard is bad
Entertainment Boring is bad
Nurture (super concerned with safety

in a world with 9/11 & terrorism)

Risk is bad
Entitlement Labor is bad.

The fascinating thing as I looked at these assumptions in the right hand column, is that these are all at odds with spiritual formation… at odds with the values and lifestyle of Jesus!

What we assume is bad, God uses for good…to form us into His likeness.

What does that mean for us? I think a huge win is actually just being aware of our assumptions and acknowledging that we are going to have to go against the flow.

When we engage in spiritual practices we intentionally choose what is counter-intuitive to our comfort-driven, instant-gratification, consumeristic bent. CRAZY!

How can we choose slow, silent, inconvenient, risky, or hard today? Not just for the sake of choosing it, but to step into it asking Jesus to form us into His likeness.

My hard, inconvenient, slow, boring choice involved being on the phone for 45 minutes with a customer service person. It forced me to think about the person on the other end of the line, not as an obstacle, but as a beloved child of God. It forced me to admit that the world does not revolve around me and my wishes. It forced me to consider acceptance and patience as better alternatives to anger.

The Waiting Room

I’m not a good wait-er.  At all.

As a wait-er you’re not in control (When are you ever, really?  But it feels worse when you’re waiting).

It feels like you can’t DO anything constructive.

It feels like everyone else is going on with their life and you’re on hold.

Most of us are waiting for something.

I have friends who are waiting for a husband.  Or a wife.

Friends who are waiting for a prodigal to return.

For an acceptance letter.  Or a baby.

Waiting for a diagnosis.  Or a cure.

Waiting for a job.  Or someone to need them.  Or a place where they feel like they’d be missed if they were gone.

Something I heard Holly Furtick say a few years ago really stuck with me.

She said, “What seems like a pointless or painful waiting room can be God’s most productive workroom.”

I thought “Aha!!  I love being productive!  Now she’s going to talk about what we can DO to CHANGE things and get out of the waiting room!”  Not so much.

The work that we do while waiting is most often soul work.  Inside stuff that requires patience (Does anyone like that word?), obedience, discernment and cooperation with God.

A few years ago my mom had surgery. In the waiting room where my Dad and I sat, they had this nifty flat screen and on it were listed all the patients in surgery for the day.  It tracked their progress, from pre-op, to surgery, to recovery room, to permanent room.  In addition, if the surgery was long, they’d send word out with a nurse as to how it was going.

When I’m waiting I could really use a spiritual progress monitor showing exactly how I’m doing and when it’s all gonna be over.

But instead of even enduring in the comfortable, clean lounge of a hospital, waiting often seems a lot more like we’re survivors of the Titanic, clinging to God among the wreckage in cold, dark water.  Disoriented and desperate to do something.

Every once in awhile we’ll flail our arms and try to swim to shore deluded into thinking we can swim the hundreds of miles on our own.  But we realize we can’t and we go back to clinging.

Clinging is the work of the waiting room.

We cling and we say “Lord, help me to see you. Somehow.  Today. Even for a second.

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And slowly, ever so slowly, the wait results in just a little bit more of the weight of His glory being formed in us.

Maybe the moment when we get the job or the baby or the whatever, isn’t the big deal, but rather the thousands of moments you choose courage and hope as you cling to the One who loves you.

One more thing…With my dad in the waiting room, it was easier because we had the company of each other.  So, today, if you’re waiting and you’re reading this, know that you’re not alone.

What’s your experience of waiting?

The 3 Words You Need in the Costco Parking Lot or ________________

I’m taking a blogging sabbatical this summer, but will occasionally be sharing some posts from the past.

In spite of my vow never to leave Minnesota in the summer, Friday I leave on a trip to Northerwestern Kenya to take a closer look at the work World Vision is doing in maternal and child health and learn how to be a better advocate. Traveling in the developing world always requires me to lay aside any agenda or timetable, so this post from a few years ago is a good reminder to me. Maybe you too.

I was maneuvering laboriously, with stops and starts, through the parking lot at Costco yesterday, thinking for the millionth time that the Costco parking lot is either an outer ring of hell or a brilliant opportunity for spiritual formation.  

As I dodged runaway giant shopping carts,

and waited for pedestrians absorbed in studying their shopping lists wandering blindly in the middle of the row,

and backed up for cars in front of me that slammed on their brakes upon spying the tell-tale white reverse lights of a car vacating a parking place they could nab

I thought of a spiritual practice a friend of mine has been advocating.  The simple practice of saying “Come Holy Spirit” throughout the day in situations like this that require patience, understanding, and discipline beyond me.

When I say “Come Holy Spirit” it reminds me that God is with me in every small moment.  It encourages me to try to see the situation through His eyes.  It reminds me of His character.  It says, “I’m depending on your power because I’m weak as a baby and about as mature.  I need you.  Your power perfected in my weakness.”

I love to think about Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…

Which of these names do you most need to be reminded of today?

Come Holy Spirit.

Come Counselor.

Come Mighty God.

Come Everlasting Father.

Come Prince of Peace.

Come.  

Even to the Costco parking lot.

The Rest of the Story on the “B word”

On Monday I wrote about reading the Bible and my plan for this year.  I mentioned that I hesitate to write this kind of post because it can sound so legalistic which is not how I feel or what I want to communicate. I have friends reading this who are not yet into the Bible. Just the word can seem threatening, so I feel like my words on this are extra important.

So I tried…But when I read back over the post, it felt…kind of 1, 2, 3-ish. Not the whole story. Like saying Jonah is about a fish. Just a few facts.

My relationship with the Bible has changed over the years, just like my relationship with Jesus has changed.

I have such a deep love for God’s Word in this season that it’s hard to express it.

I am drawn to the Bible. I savor it. I feel tenderhearted like Mary, and awe-struck like the shepherds in the starry night filled with angels. It is intimate and conversational and life-giving.

There is a foreverness about God’s Word that is deeply reassuring. But it hasn’t always been that way. Continue reading

Soul Detox, part 1

So, Lent is over. All of you who have been fasting from chocolate or coffee are celebrating the return of All The Good Things. The season of entering into Jesus’ experience of sacrifice and cross-carrying, to the other side of Easter is over. Dark to Light. Death to Life. Winter to Spring. Vegetables to dessert (How lame are we, right?)

I was a little late to the Lenten party (so to speak), but I shared how I was trying to be intentional about being present to Jesus during Holy Week.

Part of that meant a social media detox – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest – and also turning off the radio, because these are things I suspect can distract me from Jesus, and foster a less-than-healthy soul.

I thought it was going to be a terrible, awful, no-good, very boring week.

I was wrong. Continue reading

The Genius of Inconvenience

Our family loves travel like E.T. loves home.

But travel is often tough. Uncomfortable, patience-stretching, anxiety-producing tough. This is what we’ve learned – it doesn’t matter whether it’s a road trip, or driving a carpool, or taking a bus downtown, or business commuting to 3 cities in a day, or something more exotic.

We heard a leader once say that he doesn’t make any major hires unless he has traveled somewhere with the candidate because travel can reveal so much about a person’s character.IMG_5483

(In case you can’t read this it says there may not be a toilet on the plane :))

Although travel can reveal our character, God can also use it to refine our character.

Recently, we were headed out on a trip and John discovered the night before that he had booked his flight for 7 P.M. and mine for 7 A.M. (Uh, no…I have no idea how that happened).

When we arrived, we found that he had booked our rental car for a different city (on the opposite coast) where he had traveled not long ago.

While walking to the car rental desk we got a call from our friends who were supposed to host us in their home, saying they had food poisoning and we’d have to find a hotel.

Lastly, when we were heading home, a freak snowstorm hit and our flight was cancelled.

We’d like growth to happen while we’re flying first-class with wine and fluffy pillows, but that’s not the way it works. Growth is uncomfortable – found in the middle seat at the back of the plane or in the driver’s seat of a mini-van carrying toddlers.

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How to Untangle Christmas Lights Without Swearing

I’ve never heard either of my parents swear, but I have many memories of my mom, frustrated with a task, saying “I’m gonna swear.  I’m gonna swear! Close your ears kids!”                                                                                                                                                She never did, but she threatened to.  A lot.

There are some things that tempt a person to swear more than others. For me, the job of untangling Christmas lights brings out the worst in me.  I spent hours doing it this weekend, growling under my breath:

“I’m sure this must be a job people have to do in Hell.”

“If God really loved me I’d be rich enough to buy new lights every year.”

IMG_0597I was muttering, and resenting my husband who was off doing “spiritual” things, having “spiritual” conversations with colleagues, while I was relegated to “unspiritual” homey decorating chores.

As I glared and growled, and pulled and unknotted, and muttered some more I got to thinking about Mary (who had no lights to untangle btw) and how spiritual she felt during the 9 months that Jesus was being formed in her. Continue reading

5 Questions About…Risk

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Sharon is a dear friend who both inspires and intimidates me with her amazingness.  She has guest-posted here before.  I’m so thankful that in the midst of a busy, stressful time, she was willing to share some more of what she’s learning.  Here’s the next in our 5 Questions About…series.

1. Recently you took what must have felt like a huge risk. Can you tell us about it?

Eight months ago, I resigned from a job I had loved and made the leap to running my own business. This happened after an extended season of prayer and discernment, so by the time I made the change, I felt certain it was the right thing to do.

Yes, there were practical risks involved: leaving a certain income, benefits, 401K; losing the familiarity of my office and team. And as a single person, I didn’t have a safety net of a second income, back-up insurance, or a support person to pick up slack in other areas of life. But I was also very clear about why I was making the change: 1) to be faithful to what I understood God was putting in my hands; 2) to learn and grow through a new challenge.

So when I framed it that way, I realized that even if my business failed (and I had to move into my parents’ basement), I would experience God in deeper ways and learn things I wouldn’t otherwise. Continue reading

What to do When You’re Stuck, part 2

Tuesday (yes, I’m a little off schedule with the holiday weekend) I wrote about the universal experience of feeling stuck from time to time.  For a week, or a month, or maybe you feel like you’re living a “stuck” life.

I shared some things I’ve been learning and trying to apply from Nehemiah who never acted without praying, and never prayed without acting.  Like peanut butter and jelly, prayer and action were inseparable in Nehemiah’s life as he got the Israelites unstuck and lead them in re-building the walls around Jerusalem.

But it turns out there was more.  Instead of pb & j, it was more like a BLT.  There was a third distinguishing characteristic in Nehemiah’s life – praise.

Over and over again he acknowledges dependence on God’s character – His power, His help, His care.  Nehemiah doesn’t lose sight of who’s God and who’s NOT.  He prays on behalf of the people “whom You redeemed by YOUR great strength and YOUR mighty hand.”

He reminds others “our God will fight for us” and says “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…”  He tells others about “the gracious hand of God” repeatedly, and acknowledges the work is done “with the help of our God.”

So…PRAY, ACT, PRAISE, REPEAT.  But what if this “magic” formula doesn’t work in 52 days like it did for Nehemiah?

Sometimes I believe we stay stuck because God is at work “unsticking” other stuff in us that we’re not aware needs unsticking.  Character stuff that may not be our priority, but is His.  Like the stubborn leftover egg in a frying pan, He scrapes away.Unknown

What if our prayers in these seasons included, “Lord, help me not just to obsess on getting unstuck, but for as long as I’m here, show me what You want to form in me.  Help me to be present to You in each moment.”

Our friend, Steve Hayner, is “stuck” in a season of scary, debilitating cancer.  He is beautifully living out a life with similar character qualities to Nehemiah.  The other day he wrote this:

 In J.B. Phillips’ translation of the New Testament, he renders Romans 5:1-5 this way: 

1-2 Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through [Christ] we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.

3-5 This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.

 

These were great verses to wake up to this morning.  Life is lived in the grace of Jesus through and through–whether the grace is obvious in our immediate circumstances or not. With Jesus at work in our lives, God’s “good” is always being done and we always continue to grow and to be transformed.
Have you been in a situation of feeling “stuck” over a long season?  What do you feel like God was forming in you?
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