Keeping in Step with Jesus (Vlog)

In the middle of all that goes into releasing a book and talking about a book and promoting a book**, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters. This entry from Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest” (October 12th) was encouraging to me; I hope it encourages you. (forgive my cough; of course, as soon as I began to speak, my voice got all scratchy).

 

**Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas

 

 

On Being Famous (and Writing a Book)

True confession: Last week my husband and I high-tailed it home from our Wednesday Night Home Group to watch the finale of America’s Got Talent. Did you see it?! Our favorite young contestant, Darci Lynne, won! No big deal you say, but hang in there with me.

Darci Lynne is an amazing 12-year-old ventriloquist who not only can talk without moving her lips. She sings. Very well. We had been following Darci Lynne’s journey and were overjoyed when she won. Television hardly captured the emotion of the moment. Oh, the sparkle and applause and tears and complete, stunning joy; it was a delight to see her innocence and authentic astonishment.

In interviews prior to the last evenings’ performances, another little girl, aged 9, with a voice like a pint-sized Celine Dion, beamed for the camera. When asked why she wanted to win, she replied, “My name would be in lights. I want to be a super star.”

Darci Lynne told the world that if she won the million-dollar prize, she’d buy her mom a new dishwasher and give “a bunch of money to missions at our church.”

No mention of being famous, or wanting to see her name on a marquee.

Darci Lynne’s humility reflected her groundedness—grateful and confident in the gifts she had, but knowing they weren’t for her glory. She wanted other people to be inspired, she said, and many were. A portion of the show featured video clips sent in folks from around the country-young and old-who said they wanted to be just like her.

Would to God we would all carry our gifts with such open hands.

/ / / / /

As I pondered what we witnessed that night on TV, I reflected on a conversation an hour earlier at Home Group. We are loved and cared for there like family, having walked a whole lot o’ miles with these dear friends. Prior to our gathering, my friend G. asked how the book I wrote** is coming. (You have friends like this, yes?) I told him the book is complete and I am waiting for a proof copy from the printing company as we speak.

“You must be walking one foot off the ground, huh? Like super-excited?”

“Uh, no,” I replied. “Not yet.”

“After people buy the book and I get to hear how the message helped them find new joy or be set free, then I’ll be excited. I’m passionate about what God has given me to share; if readers find my words beneficial, that news would have me walking a foot off the ground.”

/ / / / /

I don’t think any of us who process our world with words wakes up in the morning and says, “Hey, I’m gonna write a book!” (Well, actually that’s what I did. Because I.had.no.idea.) But still, when you know how much discouragement and discipline and stress and no sleep and fill-in-the-blank it takes to dream of a book, draft a book, revise a book and get the thing published, there’s no way anyone would want to do that.

Except. Unless. Unless you have a message of encouragement and freedom that’s burning in your spirit that you want to bring to others. Unless you’ve been gifted with a clarity that you want others to see. Unless you have a desire to inspire or edify or….. a hundred other things.

That is why we write.

Not because we want to be rich and famous. (Uh, no on the rich. Maybe on the ‘famous.’) No—we write because God has trusted us with the gift of bringing our words into the world so ultimately He gets the glory.

And if it changes one life or a hundred or a thousand, then it is all worth it. All of it. That is why we write. Not for fame, certainly not fortune, but to “cast our bread upon the water and you will find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1).

Keep on casting your bread, my friends, whatever you have in your hand to share.

It isn’t yours anyway.

– – – – –

This post is an expanded version of comments in the Hope*Writers Facebook group, as well as Glory Writers, a group for Christian Creatives that I facilitate. The label says ‘closed’ but just knock on the door. 

**Surprise! “Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas” is available sooner than I expected…Amazon doesn’t have the print book yet but you can order the ebook.

Next week I’ll write an actual, factual book announcement. There won’t be any golden confetti, but come back anyway.

Why I Stopped Having ‘Quiet Time’ {for all the right reasons}

“…the resolving of the conflict between sacred and the secular (or, better said, the repairing of the damage done by divorcing them) has been billed as the major problem of modern theology.”

-Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb, 1967

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The writer of those words penned his thoughts 50 years ago, and while the current world of practicing Christians may have different theological problems, I think Capon’s got a point. I have looked high and low in my Bible the last few years and I can’t find any mention where believers are encouraged to develop a daily “quiet time” or spend time having “devotions.” There is no mention in Scripture of a particular time of day that is more sacred than any other—so why do we make the separation?

Now, before you go yelling at me through your screen or hitting the ‘delete’ button faster than bees buzz, let me say this, yes: we ARE urged to study to show ourselves approved indeed. Don’t get me wrong; I know God’s word is my daily bread and living water, I need spiritual food like I need physical food, like I need air to breathe. And yes, Jesus modeled for us how to get alone in a quiet place and pray.

But we get into all kinds of unnecessary shoulding all over ourselves when we say, “First thing in the morning you must meet with Jesus, read God’s word, pray and write in your journal. THEN you can head into your day.”

In God’s kingdom all of time is sacred.  When we belong to Jesus, all of our life is sacred.

If your ‘day’ begins at 3:30 in the morning because you work as a cameraperson for a television station, like my worship team, bass-playing friend K, I’m guessing it’d be hard for her to fit in a ‘quiet time’ first thing in the morning. Then there’s the barista at the local coffee shop, pulling espresso shots for all the weary folks heading into their mornings. (Raising my hand. Espresso-drinker, not barista). How does said barista balance the want-to of a time with Jesus with the have-to of a job?

And what if you’re not a morning person?  What if when you wake up, there’s 6 things on the to-do list that must be out of the way before you can even t h i n k  about a set-aside time to focus and settle in and listen to Jesus? Things like getting your kids off to school on time or cleaning the kitchen floor or paying the bills or writing an email or calling your mom?

When we do come to a more focused part of our day—whether 4:30 a.m. or 4:30 p.m.—we can look at it, as my pastor recently said, not like a “quiet time” but a listening time. A time of coming and settling in before God’s presence, whether it’s only 10 or 15 minutes. (Many days, that’s all I’ve got).

We talk about active listening being the better part of communication; it is the same when it comes to our time with the Lord. Listening half the time, writing ¼ of the time and talking (praying) the other ¼.

That attitude of listening time translates to a more balanced living time, where there’s no division in our days. Scripture’s clearest model is to walk in an integrated way—spirit and soul inside lined up with our actions on the outside.

We have much to learn, not for knowledge sake, but to show that what we know about Jesus makes a difference in the way we live.

I think we forget the Apostle Paul’s admonitions about walking in the word or John’s encouragement to abide in Jesus. Walking, abiding (or dwelling) are continuous, ongoing states of being. Even the Pentateuch reminds us as we “lie down and get up and when we walk along the road, that we are to teach our children.” (Deuteronomy 11:19). We can only teach our children what we already know, and this makes it clear–God knows a lot of our lives we are on the move. Moving in the car, going on a walk, strolling through the store….teaching/talking/singing to and with your spouse, your kids, your friends.

Here’s what I know is true about spending time with God: He doesn’t care WHEN we come to be with Him, but THAT we do. 

How about you? When do find time to be with God? What does that look like for you?

Please share in the Comments. I would love to hear.

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I think it’s interesting I would be writing this post now, as if God wanted to remind what I wrote exactly four years ago for (in)courage. I guess I needed to hear this as much as anyone else. 

Linking with Jennifer Lee and the community at Tell His Story. More great essays over there! 1c9ac-tellhisstory-badge

When the World is Broken Along With my Heart

I hardly know where to begin these days, to write down my heart’s cry and soul’s sigh.

The world is splintering, shattering it seems, on every side. All I can do is re-center myself with a song. Thank you to my friend Laurie Klein for the nudge.

Here’s “Alleluia” by Fernando Ortega from the Odes of Solomon CD–Ode #40. It’s actually a YouTube link; there’s over an hour’s worth of his worship music. Good for the soul, I promise.

That’s all I have this week friends.

Peace.

 

The Body of Memories

I met a friend recently for lunch at a park near my home, desperate for her company and encouragement. Nerves were frayed, emotions out of whack, reserve tanks anything but reserved.

I apologized in advance for my undone condition. As I attempted to articulate my very frail feelings, blaming my 4 am wake-up call after a night of worrying about my new book, her simple response was, “You’re exhausted, Jody. No wonder you’re on the brink of tears.”

“Plus, it’s almost September 11th.”

Until she voiced the obvious, I wasn’t aware that, too, was weighing on my mind.

“Our bodies have memory and you’re remembering that day.”

—–

In September of 2001, my daughter and I were going to celebrate her graduation from culinary school with a trip to New York City. We’d arranged a 10-day visit with my nephew who lived in Brooklyn and also a meeting with Ruth Reichl, then Editor of Gourmet Magazine and author of 3 of our favorite books on cooking. The first five days in and around the city were glorious. A drive to the beach and back, subway-riding to Manhattan and the New York Public Library. Strolling through Central Park and jaunts all around Brooklyn. On the evening of September 10th, we met my nephew after work for drinks at a restaurant high atop the Marriott Hotel.

 A tremendous thunderstorm came through that night. We watched in awe from our cloud-high window seats at the lightning strikes, rain storming down in buckets. When we ventured back to the street, we found the air charged with heat and pressed on through the rain. Although we got soaked, we dried out on the subway ride home. (I wrote about the kindness of the people we met that night in this poem.) 
The next morning was the day of our appointment with Ruth back in Midtown at 30 Rockefeller Center.  I remember the voicemail from her assistant,  ‘See you at 11 on the 11th.’ The morning broke with a crystal clear blue sky, scrubbed clean from the previous nights’ storm.

And then the earth moved, the sky filled with ashes and paper glitter and we were forever changed.

—–

As an educator I know that we remember 10% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we see and hear, 70% of what we say, but 90% of what we do. (Romain Rolland, 1866-1944).

In other words, our deepest memories are those that come via our body, the muscle, skin and bones that take in those experiences.

With ashes falling this week throughout the Pacific Northwest region where I live, the sight of black and gray dust landing like powder on the hood of my car take me back to that morning, standing in the street while pulverized concrete and the dust of singed papers fell through the sky.

cars in drew's neighborhood

I’d rather not remember, but I can’t separate my mind from my body.

It is impossible to forget that day, which is a gift, really. Not everyone has the experience of that kind of tragedy, chaos and destruction. Sixteen years ago a generation of children weren’t even born–all they know about September 11th is what they have heard and read.

 Those of us who live to tell the tale need to remind the rest of the world about those days, not because of what has been lost, but because by God’s grace we are still here, while so many, many people are not.

When I talk about the day the sky rained down glitter, I can never identify it with the shorthand of “9-11;” the day deserves every syllable of sound in the phrase—“September 11th.”

Our bodies remember.

 

August 29th All Over Again

Psalm 29-A Psalm of David.

‘Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!”

* * * *

Every year in August I remember that day in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury on the city of New Orleans. We have life long friends who live there– pastors Frank and Parris Bailey, who were displaced for more than two weeks when the waters rose. And rose. And rose.

Several days passed before we knew where they were and whether they were safe. By the time I finally I heard from Parris via a message on my phone, I wept for joy. I kept that voicemail for several weeks. When my husband and I visited four years later and drove around New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, the devastation of what too much water can do really sank in. Witnessing the blank slates and empty lots of neighborhoods, the decimated vegetation in City Park, the destruction of so much history, brought things into very painful focus.

It seemed chillingly appropriate when I turned to the 29th Psalm that day as I did once again this morning, only this time with the unprecedented power and destruction of Hurricane Harvey in mind.

I don’t like August 29th. I’m guessing my dear friend doesn’t, either, as Hurricane Harvey is dumping on their precious city again.

I do not mean to diminish the loss, the grief, the displacement, any of it, that Texans are facing. It’s incomprehensible. But the scars are still there for my friends and thousands more like her who had to rebuild and took several years to do so. New Orleans actually “never came back,” as the locals will tell you.

There are losses in Texas that will never be recovered. Homes, loved ones, keepsakes, places of family and friends lost forever that will carry deep, deep scars. For nothing carries scars like the land.

May God give us the wisdom and grace to serve those around us, near and far, touched by natural disasters and life disasters of every kind. Those that threaten to rush in like a flood and drown the unsuspecting. May we pray at all times and in every season to be ready to help in time of need when the waters rise.

Dear God, help us bring the arks that are needed for deliverance in your time. Keep us above the waters that threaten to drown us. And when we need a lifeboat, send one our way. Amen.