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

 

 

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.”

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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.

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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!”

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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.

Bob Goff, Keith Green & Gratitude

“We’ll know we’re living gratefully by seeing how our love multiplies itself in the lives of the people around us. People don’t follow vision; they follow availability.”

-Bob Goff, founder of lovedoes.org

Last week I rewarded myself for five days straight of computer-gnashing a.k.a. book writing, by getting a pedicure. I dropped into my usual place downtown, grateful they had an open chair. Deciding to switch up my summer electric blue, I reached for a new color before I sat down, something closer to candy apple red, in honor of fall.

Instead of tapping on my tablet, playing Words with Friends (where my brother and sister always beat me), or checking Facebook, Instagram or email on my phone, I vowed to just be available, focus-wise, and opened the magazine in my lap.

As it turned out, there was a new gal taking care of me that day and we didn’t have any kind of conversation, per se. Instead, I found someone speaking to me through the pages of The Magnolia Journal (Joanna Gaines’ inspiring print endeavor).  The piece I read was entitled, “Time for Gratitude,” by Bob Goff. The article began with Goff’s retelling of how he wrote a letter to Keith Green one year when he was in college. And how Keith took the time to write him back.

Keith Green was probably one of the best-known Christian musicians in the late l970’s and into the 80’s; his music was a huge part of my newfound walk as a Christian.  Back in the day when the Jesus Movement was bursting the seams of Southern California, many, many musicians and singers were also being birthed. Every other weekend there was a Christian concert of some kind. (Free, I might add).

My husband and I were living in a Christian community at the time and the leadership decided to organize a weekend-long Christian music festival. Keith was invited and just like that, he and his wife Melody drove up to our Central California location, sharing their life and music with us.  Keith and Melody were part of a Christian community similar to ours in Southern California. We shared several conversations with them over the weekend about what it was like working and living in close proximity to brothers and sisters. I will always remember how the two of them took time to speak with us, exuding grace and giving, embodying the way Jesus would live.

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Goff continues, “Keith Green passed a few years later in a tragic airplane accident, but the few intentional moments of his life he gave to me blossomed into a pattern that has changed the way I connect with people who reach out to me.

“Each of us is a conduit of love … We have the ability to shape and transform one another thought acts of love. The reason is simple. God doesn’t pass us messages; God gives us each other.”

The words seemed to shout from the page, leaping right into my soul. “Yes! That’s how I feel.” I want to live with a grateful heart, available for those God connects me with in my corner of the world, living as a conduit of his grace and love. I want to live a grateful, expansive life, welcoming those God puts in my path, and pour out the gifts He’s given me.

That’s my want-to, an everyday, regular-Joe kinda gal, but sometimes I imagine my life as an Uber-Famous Author, Speaker Extraordinaire. Well-known. Important. I waste my days living into the future, unaware that the simplest acts of slowing down and being thankful for right now where I am can help me pay attention to the life I already have.

With my eyes ever forward I miss what’s already in my life instead of being thankful for the small but important ways I can take time now to live well. I want to to be intentional about noticing my neighbors, knocking on a door when prompted. I want to be attuned to blue skies and lovely breezes, knowing that both are from the hand of God.

All of life is from the hand of God, really, even pain and loss. Especially pain and loss.

Goff’s wisdom continues, “Pain isn’t graded on a curve. Whatever form it comes in, it just hurts. It will either take us out or lead us forward. Let gratefulness be your trusted guide. Follow its footsteps and it will lead each of us to kindness, patience and wisdom.”

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-Yosemite National Park, 2015

There are byproducts of gratefulness, changing our hearts to see all of life through the lens of Gods grace. I want to see the big explosions and the tiny miracles, too. “We don’t need to fire off a thousand fireworks to express our gratitude. Sometimes lighting one candle will do.”

“People who live their lives filled with gratefulness see more waterfalls.” 

I want to see more waterfalls and light more candles.

Join me?

Linking for the first time in a long time with Jennifer Dukes Lee and the #TellHisStory crew. So many great stories over there.

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On God’s Timing (and Rejection Letters)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will

reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Why does it always seem like the final hours of a long trip last forever when all you can think about is your comfortable bed? My husband and I had just spent a recent weekend with our son and his family so the two of them could work on car repairs; their family van was kaput primarily because of a timing belt.

Clearly life and car repairs mirror each other often—timing is everything.

Now, I have no idea what a timing belt does but I’ve heard my husband moan more than once about the challenge they represent when something is off. I realize we are beyond fortunate that he can repair our vehicles (and our kids’) but sometimes the task is easier than it sounds.

As our tires lapped up the miles in the dark, I began a conversation that would keep Mr. Mechanic occupied while he drove. It was a simple question. “So honey, how’d that all work out with Aaron’s van? Obviously you guys got it running…..”

Thus began an explanation in my husband’s usual animated style, making a long story longer. Smile. I pretended to listen to his response; all I know is he talked pretty much nonstop for at least 30 minutes about pulleys and rotator thingys and notches and tension belts and… Well, he lost me at “top dead center” and “serpentine.” My innocent question prompted way more information than I bargained for.

You get the picture. In fact, I was so impressed with his auto repair recitation, I actually pressed the recorder app on my phone to document the conversation. Feigning attention, I have to confess I had my own running dialogue inside my head. “How does he remember this stuff? He can’t remember six things on a grocery list once he’s gets to the store.”

Then my thoughts turned to timing of a different kind.

I was thinking about writing in particular and the dream or desire of many people to be well known for their words. Since I’m currently working on a book, this is a frequent thought of mine. Imagining my name of the cover of a book, stopping shoppers as they pass by in the bookstore. Oh, the power. The fame. The glory.

Then there’s the other voice in my head, God’s voice via the Apostle Paul, reminding me that all good things take time, not just recognition for a well-written book.

Sometimes when you’re doing good, it may be awhile before people notice. Actually, you can count on it. Whether that ‘good’ is everything from sharing what God’s given you via voice or writing, serving others, teaching and investing in your kids or grandkids. The list is a long one of good and noble endeavors.

There’s no magic formula to “success” and if success is what we’re after, we will come up empty. If there’s to be any recognition for our accomplishments at all, they manifest only when we show up and do the next right thing, whatever it is.

And showing up, whether it’s for an audience of 1 or 10 or 100, is what we are called to do with the gifts we have. The holy spirit reminds me often, “what you have came from God to begin with. Just offer it back to Him with an open hand.

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As a writer, I haven’t had a lot of rejection letters (yet) in the short time I’ve been serious about my work. Okay, I’ve had three. I know those “Dear Jody” letters are an expected part of the publishing process, but it doesn’t make it any easier. When I feel a little discouraged, I’m reminded of my hero and inspiration, author Laura Ingalls Wilder who published her first “Little House” book at 65. Sixty-five. I imagine she had a few rejection letters along the way. Talk about perseverance. She then went on to write 7 more books. Seven.

I read a comment recently by a Christian writer who said it took her eight faithful years of writing and blogging until the time was right for her first book to be born. This perspective encouraged me; in fact, she strongly urged new writers to keep a file of their rejection letters as a way to later recall God’s faithfulness when the fruit of their work showed up. I liked that idea; sort of like a paper trail, but the best kind. I’ve got my three.

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Positive results are always about timing—the message I have to share will resonate and reach people when God makes the way for them to hear. There’s preparation that needs to take place first, not only in my life in the process, but in the lives of whoever will read the message. And in the publishing business especially, it is often the simple fact of the words falling on someone’s desktop or laptop, when your gift meets the need and the timing is just right.

An old French proverb came to mind last week when I thought about how we build our lives and our work and our words.

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“Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.”

Little by little, the bird builds its nest. (from the French)

One piece of straw at a time, some yarn or spent leaves, (eraser dust? wadded up paper?) moss or downy feathers—they’re all part of the perfect environment for something to be born, all in God’s perfect time.

Keep on, my friends, whether you’re writing or painting or singing. Keep plowing, investing, pursuing….for in due season you will reap if you faint not.