Friday, January 30, 2009

the way of the easy yoke

It is rest,
sweet and easy and
It is hard, though never
Hard as hell.

It is natural like my next breath
And it is
Pulling a beating heart
From my chest.

It burns
and cuts and injures,
But still I find it is
The only balm.

It is clear
As perfect glass
And shrouded, darkened,
Hidden

Yet able to be found,
Revealed.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

trust

Ever notice how it is a lot easier to talk about spiritual truths than it is to actually live them?

I was spouting out all kinds of fine-sounding words to a friend the other day (thanks for listening, Stephanie), explaining to her how I'm not holding on too tightly to any plans or dreams I have because I know God will fulfill them in His way, not mine, blah blah blah. Sounds great, good stuff, aren't I just so wise and wonderful.

A few days later something happened that, on the surface anyway, seems to have knocked one of my future plans off track. What was that you were saying the other day, Haley? Something about not being tied up in the details of how God will fulfill His vision for your life, about trusting that His version of your future is better than whatever you're envisioning?

So this is where the rubber meets the road, isn't it? We can talk real pretty about what it means to trust God, but there comes a point where talk is very cheap. If I trust God, then not only should my words reflect that, but also my thoughts, actions and reactions. Nor should my trust in God (reflected in word, thought and action) be subject to circumstances and conditions.

Trusting God means that I trust Him more than I trust my understanding of Him. I thought I knew what God was doing. I thought I knew what He had in store for me. But He is stopping me in my tracks and reminding me that knowing Him is far more important than knowing those things. Last night as I was having a quiet moment, drinking a Fat Tire and praying about this (yes, it is totally fine to pray and drink beer at the same time), I had a little conversation with God. It was very simple, but it helped a lot.

--------------------
Lord, do you know my heart?

I do, my love.

OK.

Then I will rest in you.

---------------------

Who knows what God is doing? I sure don't. But I know Him, and He knows me. That's all I've got, but thankfully it's also all I need.


My baby resting.


Monday, January 26, 2009

till death do us part


(just some cute little wedding day couple. nobody i know.)

I found out today that my aunt and uncle are getting divorced. I'm not all that close with them because they live in the Midwest and we only see each other every few years, but I'm pretty close with their daughter. It's a story I've heard too many times - we grew apart after the kids left, we don't have that much in common anymore, we want different things in life.

I am surprised, and yet I'm not. I never knew them to have any problems, they always seemed to get along well, complement each other's personalities, etc. Based on all my interactions with them, I wouldn't say there were any signs that they were headed for divorce, so in that sense I would say I am surprised by this.

But I am also not surprised. How can two people stay together for a lifetime without Christ? A friend recently reminded me that every relationship is a sinner meeting a sinner. It's by God's grace alone that we are able to enjoy any good and healthy relationship with one another. If a marriage is held together only by mutual attraction, affection, and shared interests, do we really expect it to last a lifetime? Some get lucky this way, but most don't.

Marriage is a calling. Loving your husband or wife is a daily choice to act in obedience to God. Doesn't sound romantic, I know. And yet knowing that my husband loves God and that he wants to be obedient to God by loving and serving his wife according to God's word... that may not be romantic necessarily, but it is certainly attractive and endearing to me! And it does not depend on us continuing to like the same stuff, or even see the world the same way (though I hope we do). It depends on God's grace to us, the grace we depend on daily to live in obedience to Him. I'm not worried that one day Jon will wake up and realize we have nothing in common and therefore our marriage is over. Because our most significant promises were not made to each other, but to God; our marriage does not depend on our own faithfulness but on God's.

For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD. Psalm 117:2

Sunday, January 25, 2009

alternative school


My most studious pose.

I am a school person. I love... well, I guess more accurately, loved school. Being a hyper-analytical person, I have of course analyzed exactly why I love(d) school so much.

1. I am a people-pleaser, so I liked having teachers and doing my best to please them.

2. I tend to judge myself based on whether I can perform up to a certain standard, so I loved tests because they gave an exact number value to my performance. (Incidentally, I think this is also why I loved swimming - at the end of the race you have a very precise number, down to the hundredth of a second, that tells you how you performed. Yes, I know I'm sick.)

3. I love to delve deep into subjects and soak up as much information as I can. I guess that's just a wordier way to say that I love learning.

I never thought I would be done with school after a bachelor's degree - I always expected to go to graduate school of some kind. Life hasn't played out that way so far, but God knows the desires of our hearts. Even beyond that, His word says that He himself gives us those desires, and that He satisfies them. I've prayed about going back to school (whether to go, when to go, what to study, for what purpose to do so), and presented this desire to Him, trusting Him to satisfy it in His time.

Then the other day, I noticed something. God is satisfying that desire, but not at all in the way I was expecting. To explain what I mean, let's look back at the three reasons I gave as to why I love school (1. people-pleaser, 2. performance evaluation, 3. learning). Over the years, God has been working on my people pleasing tendencies and my performance-based self-worth. He has been breaking down these two areas of weakness in my life, areas where I do not have the "mind of Christ." I am still a work-in-progress, to be sure, but I am starting to lose the taste for A+ grades and student-of-the-week status (see my post here for more about that).

As those things fade, I'm still left with a growing thirst to learn more, to engage my mind in new subjects and ideas. Going back to school would be a great way to satisfy that yearning, but it's not the only way. I am noticing all the teachers that God has put in my life -- pastors, artists, musicians, book-lovers, thinkers. Some of them are old friends, some new friends, some just acquaintances, and others are total strangers with great websites or free lecture downloads.

Because of these people and their influence on me, I find myself attending an 'alternative' school of sorts. There is recommended reading, the occasional field trip, and I even got to study abroad. There are no grades, which helps me avoid the temptation to judge my performance by some standard or work only to please others. The only papers I have to write are these blog posts - markers along the path to remind me what I've learned. Maybe someday I'll go back to school in the traditional sense. For the time being, I am totally satisfied by God's gracious provision.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

sharing a hymnal



I have been listening to some lectures online as part of a course on Christian Worship, made available for free online through Covenant Seminary. I'm not actually taking the course, mind you, just listening to it because... well, because it's cheaper and less time-consuming than actually going to seminary. I could probably write 10 posts about stuff I've been thinking about and learning as I've listened to the class but I don't have time, so here's one that stuck out in particular.

When we worship God, Jesus is worshiping with us.

In the words of Dr. Edmund Clowny, former president of Westminster Seminary, "When you are singing, you are sharing a hymnal with Jesus." I've often thought about Jesus as being present at church through those leading worship, whether in song, prayer, or preaching, directing them as they sing, pray, or preach. But to picture Jesus sitting next to me in the pew, not just receiving praise, but singing along in praise to God - this is new territory for me.

In Hebrews 2:12 the author quotes Psalm 22:22 and attributes these words to Jesus himself:

I will declare your name to my brothers,

In the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.


How would it change the way we worship God, particularly in a corporate setting (i.e. church service), if we had in our minds that Jesus was at that service with us? It's easy to say lightly, "Of course I realize that Jesus is there - it's church, after all!" But as we sit, stand, kneel, sing, recite, pray, listen, respond... do we act and think as though Jesus is doing those things alongside us? What is His posture as He prays and sings? What is His mindset as He listens to the Word preached?

The flip-side is to think about it from the point-of-view of those who are leading in worship: Are these songs and prayers to which Jesus Himself can join His voice? Is the Word being preached in such a way that it would get an "Amen" from the Word-Made-Flesh (in a Pentecostal church anyway... maybe a head nod for the Presbyterians)?

The person of Jesus Christ is present among His people as we gather to worship God together. He not only receives our praise as our Lord and Savior, He gives praise to God with us as our brother.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

being known


Light by Matthew Whitney

One of my deepest fears is that I will be misunderstood, whether by close friends or perfect strangers. I fear that as I seek to be known in some way by others, they will misinterpret my words, actions, or appearance and judge me to be something I am not. The primary way I deal with this fear is by over-communicating (see: my blog). I talk. A lot. Using a lot of different mediums. A good deal of this is probably motivated by a desire to be known, truly known for who I really am.

This morning God used a verse, a book, and a song to give me a much-needed reminder about this.

The verse: The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God. (1 Corinthians 8:2-3)

The book: In his book, In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen refers to God's love as the First Love and to all other human love as the Second Love. The difference between the two kinds of love is that one is eternal, unchanging, and unconditional, while the other is fleeting, variable, and with conditions. When our hope is firmly set on the First Love, we are free to give and receive the Second Love in healthy, fruitful ways. When we look to the Second Love for fulfillment, it fails to sustain us and becomes polluted and spoiled.

The song: "Taken" is a song from the album Hope For A Tree Cut Down, which was put together by Church of the Beloved in Edmonds, WA and is available for free here. Not coincidentally, this song is based on another book by Henri Nouwen called Life of the Beloved.

Long before anyone saw us, we were seen by you
Long before anyone heard us, we were listened to
Long before anyone spoke to us, we were spoken to
By the voice of eternal Love, an everlasting Love.

Maybe the connection between these things is not obvious to anyone else, but the Holy Spirit brought them all to mind this morning in order to say something powerful to me: I am known by God, fully and perfectly. I am seen, I am heard, and He is speaking to me. He is my First Love. No matter who misunderstands me or misinterprets my words and actions, the One who loves me knows me, and the One who knows me loves me. What have I to fear?

Monday, January 19, 2009

the story of mlk jr, as told by nate

We tried to go to the library today. Silly Mommy. When Nate wanted to know why the library was closed, I told him about Martin Luther King, Jr (trying to keep it on a three-year-old level, of course). Apparently it made an impact, as he re-told it to Jon as soon as he got home from work, and again to his grandma on the phone. Here's his version of why today is special.

video

After you watch the video, check out this post by Brad Abare, founder of Church Marketing Sucks, about MLK Day and the church.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

soli deo gloria


Nate (age 10 months) performing on mandolin, Soli Deo Gloria

Yesterday I wrote about watching art and the vulnerability of performance artists. As I was thinking over the experiences that led me to write that post, I started thinking about performance in the context of worship.

Most of the time, you only hear those two words together in a critical way -- "I didn't like the music at that worship service because it was too much like a performance." I get that, and I've probably even said something like that before. But after thinking about it more, I'm not sure that performance needs to be divorced from worship, or even from a worship service.

It's really all semantics I guess, because it boils down to what you mean when you say performance. When people complain about a worship service having an air of performance, what they probably mean is that the focus is more on the people who are leading, and less on God. I think that's very legitimate criticism, and a difficult trap to avoid for any worship team.

But if we defined performance as I did in my last post, as "a pure representation of an artist's creative abilities at that precise moment," then it takes on a different light, at least to my mind. When I sing at church it is both performance and worship, and I find nothing to be ashamed of in that. I am offering my creative abilities (performance) but it is only by the grace of God and to the glory of God (worship).

There is danger here if we get off balance -- focusing on the art or the artist, rather than the Creator of both. In that case it becomes simply performance, without worship. But there is also danger on the other side -- repressing the God-given creativity of the artist, supposedly for the sake of focusing only on God. If He has given us gifts, let us use them -- perform even! But always and in all ways, only to the glory of God. As Johann Sebastian Bach is said to have written at the bottom of each piece of music he composed, Soli Deo Gloria.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

watching it happen



Last night was not your average Friday night for me and Jon, meaning it did not involve Netflix, beer, tortilla chips, or the couch. Here's the run-down (as if you care). Stick with me though, I do have something to say at the end.

After dropping the kids at Nana & Papa's, we stopped by a surprise 40th birthday party for a friend from church. Quiet everyone... Surprise! Grab a deviled egg, hug the birthday boy, peace out.

From there we hit up McCormick & Schmick's on Lake Union to celebrate Jon's 30th birthday. The menu had his name on it. Blue Marlin for him, cedar-planked salmon for me. Very nice.

It was 9:30 when we finished dinner: too early to go home when the babysitting is free. Through facebook, I had heard about a concert & live art event not far from the restaurant. Three wrong turns later (thanks Google Maps), we were settled into 2 stools at the back of a coffee shop listening to a one-chick band called "Husbands, Love Your Wives" and watching Scott Erickson paint. It was a cool experience, in a 'this-is-not-at-all-our-scene-but-we-can-still-sit-here-and-enjoy-it' kind of way.

Watching people make art totally captivates me. Whether it is music or painting or dance, I am entranced by the utter vulnerability of the artist. Other types of art allow for revisions, adjustments, fine-tuning, or even Auto-Tuning, but performance art is happening completely in the present. It is a pure representation of the artist's creative abilities at that precise moment. You can't dress yourself up to be something you're not; you must put your authentic self out there to be applauded or ridiculed. Talk about courage.

The music last night was not the best music I've ever heard. To be honest, I can't say I even really liked it. But it was authentic and unpolished and it was made fresh, right there in front of me. The painting was amazing, but the most valuable thing about it was the incredible privilege of being allowed to watch the process. For crying out loud, I don't even let Jon look over my shoulder while I'm blogging, and he is my husband. Scott invites complete strangers to watch him work. I admire that level of openness and vulnerability.

I have more to say about performance art as worship... but I am going to leave you hanging and save that for another post. Now go out there and watch some art, or better yet - make some, if you're braver than I.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

more stories from across the pond

Last week I managed a rambling post about what we did on our England trip, but it was completely devoid of the fun little stories that make a trip memorable. Here are a few of those that I don't want to forget.


Me in all my touristy glory on the Tube.

The Uber-Tourist. In the middle of the trip a few of us rode bikes to the street market in Cambridge to buy souvenirs and gifts. The first stand we came to had bins and bins of candy - and not just candy, but cool British candy that we don't have in the States. Glorious. I started plucking out pieces that looked interesting, toffee and mint fudge and some type of brightly colored chewy rope candy, such fun. I'm sure the stand owner knew I was a tourist anyway from my ski jacket, blue jeans, and running shoes, but then I opened my mouth and left no doubt: "Are all of these ones 3 for a dollar?" (Um, yes 3 for a pound, ma'am.) Rrrrright. Then I hand him my loot, he rings me up for a total of 3 pounds, and I proceed to give him a 50 pound note. For 3 pounds of candy. It was all I had. Could I be any more obnoxious?


The boys and their toys. Fifi is actually visible in this picture if you know what you're looking for.

It's FiFi's World. Jon's sister Kelly was kind enough to buy a bunch of toys for our kids to play with while we were there so that we didn't have to bring toys with us. She bought most of them used from GumTree, which is the British equivalent of Craig's List, and most of them were really great. However, if you have kids you know the Great Law of Toys: Whatever toy is the most obnoxious to adults, this is the toy that the kids will love the most. There was this toy, I don't even know how to describe it - it was the size of an etch-a-sketch but had a screen with pictures of a mythological flower creature named Fifi and her petal-headed Flower Tots. When you pushed a button the pictures moved across the screen and it played a song. And oh, that song. We all sang it for 10 days straight and I'd venture to guess that most of us are still singing it, while simultaneously banging our heads against a wall. If you want to make yourself crazy, but thoroughly entertain a 1-3 year old, click here.


Silly Dexter at his animated best.

OxiClean. Dexter took a few days to warm up to all his extended family, but once he got comfortable he was a complete hoot. He would walk around the apartment making silly faces at everyone and then screeching at the top of his lungs for no other reason than to hear his own voice. I love that kids his age have absolutely no inhibitions. Meanwhile, we are watching the Rosebowl game on ESPN.com, which has inexplicably chosen Billy Mays as their spokesperson. I'm sure you can see where this is going. No? Well, naturally my father-in-law decides that with Dexter's vocal strength he is destined for a career in informercials, so he teaches him to say "OxiClean!" For the rest of the trip, our 15 month old is tottering around yelling "OxiClean! OxiClean!" At least he's cuter than Billy Mays.


The grounds of Ely Cathedral

Future Plans. We took a day trip from Cambridge to the town of Ely, which is famous for its huge Norman cathedral. Since Mom, Dad, Kelly & Ryan had already been inside the cathedral on a previous trip they stayed outside and entertained the kids while Jon, Keri, CJ and I went in for a self-guided tour. Nate was full of questions as he walked around the grounds with his grandma. What kind of building is this? Why did they make it? Who lives here? Who built it? Mimi (that's what Nate calls her) did her best to answer all his questions and told him as much as she could about the church. When he ran out of questions, he was quiet for a minute and then looked up at her and said, "I wish I could build a church someday." Atta kid.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

reason #9384756

i know He loves me.

looking out my kitchen window this morning

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

a long, long time



Two minutes ago I was in the kitchen, making Nate's lunch for "Lunch Bunch" at preschool today. He was sitting at the table, eating Cheerios and bananas.

Nate: Mommy? When will I get to be a daddy?

Me (coming over and crouching next to him): That is a great question Nate! Someday you will meet a lovely lady and you will get married, just like Mommy and Daddy are married. Then you guys will have babies and you'll get to be their daddy.

Nate: Oh.

Me: But not for a long, long time.

Nate (thinks about it for a second, then): Like after I finish my breakfast?

Ahh to be three.

In other news, happy 30th birthday to my sweet husband! I love you Jon, and I'm so glad you are the kind of daddy that makes our son want to be a daddy too.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

a great man



Today our church will say good-bye to a great man, our pastor for the last 11 years, the Rev. Dr. Bryan Burton. Since Jon and I moved here a year and a half ago we have had the privilege of worshiping with Pastor Bryan and hearing him preach nearly every week. This period of our lives has a time of significant spiritual growth for us, both personally and together as a family, and we can trace much of that growth to Pastor Bryan's consistent and faithful preaching of God's Word. As he now follows God's call to 'leave and go into the land I will show you', we pray for God's continued blessing and anointing on him. As he leaves our church family, we pray for God's provision for both him and us.

Thank you Pastor Bryan, and praise God for your faithful work in our lives and in this community. I want to end this post by listing just a few things that I have learned from you.

The Old Testament is not boring.

The Old Testament is relevant to my life today.

God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

God has always been a God of grace.

Church matters.

Loving God fully involves using my mind, as well as my heart, soul, and strength.

It's OK to sing U2 songs in church.

It's possible for a church staff to have unity and actually like each other.

Speaking the truth in love is more important than popularity.

Earrings can be distracting at first, but then you get over it. (No wait! My husband taught me that one.)

Jesus is the Word made flesh, and that has radical significance for how we read the Bible.

Prayer is the most important thing we can do as a community.

Jesus loves me.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

the easy yoke



Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

I am learning to love the paradoxes of relationship with Jesus. The above verse has been weaving its way through my thoughts and prayers this week and it is full of beautiful paradox. What could be heavier than a yoke, and yet Jesus says his yoke is easy. A burden is heavy and cumbersome by definition, and somehow the 'burden' of life with Jesus is light.

I love that Jesus doesn't shy away from words like 'yoke' and 'burden.' His way is like a yoke, but it is an easy yoke. There is a burden that comes with following Him, but it is a light burden. Hard, but easy. Heavy, but light. How does this work? Hmmm.

Exercising regularly, eating well, and getting enough sleep is hard. Being healthy makes life easier.

Disciplining kids is hard. Having well-behaved kids makes life easier.

Doing the work to plant a garden is hard. Having all the ingredients for a great salad in the backyard makes life easier.

And so it goes in our spiritual lives. There are times when we feel the burden of living God's way, when it would be easier and more comfortable to do as we please. But this burden comes with a promise, or rather several promises. Peace. Blessing. Provision. Rest. Walking daily under the yoke of God's way of life is made easy in light of these promises. I can make the small yet difficult decisions of everyday life with Christ, knowing that in reality He has done the hard work for me on the cross. In the power of Christ crucified and resurrected the promises are made good, the victory is won, and the burden is lifted. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift (2 Cor 9:15)!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

the ballasts go to england

(Disclaimer: This post is long, boring, and poorly put-together. I want to remember everything we did and I'm too tired right now to make it prettier and easier to read.)



I am still jet-lagged, so bear with me here. As you probably figured out from my last post, we just spent 10 days in England with Jon's family, mostly in Cambridge, where Jon's sister Kelly and her husband Ryan are living while she does a post-doc there. I wish I could have posted every day of the trip, but I was probably on the computer too much as it was, so I'll have to settle for a post-trip wrap-up.

Cambridge:


The whole gang on the Cam Bridge

*Cambridge Street Market
*"Kelly & Ryan's" Pub on the Cam River
*The Eagle - famous pub where RAF pilots wrote on the ceilings while they waited to be called up to a mission

The ceiling of The Eagle pub

*Kelly's parasitology lab - cool beakers of different colored liquids, just like in the movies.
*The White Horse Inn (just drove by, didn't go in) - said to be the site where the Reformation came to England, over pints of ale of course.
*Walking tour of Cambridge given by Kelly & Ryan (though I was so jet-lagged I barely made it), including King's College and Nate's favorite, the Stephen Hawking cricket clock.

King's College, Cambridge

Day Trips from Cambridge:

*Ely Cathedral - started as a monastery by a queen-turned-nun in 673 AD, later built into a huge Norman/Romanesque cathedral in the 11th century, still an active Anglican church.

Ely Cathedral

*Duxford Imperial War Museum - an aviation museum with many hangars full of war planes and other aviation and war-related artifacts.

Me & Dexter under and airplane at the Duxford Museum

London:

*Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament (just oohed and ahhed, didn't go inside)

*Trafalgar Square - sat on the huge lion statues, stared up at Lord Nelson's column, and delighted in the mermaids and dolphins in the fountain (at least Nate did)

Nelson's Column

*St. Martin-in-the-fields - I have no words. Except all the ones I already wrote here.
*The Crypt Cafe - a cafe in what used to be the crypt of St. Martin's, a bit creepy but good hot chocolate.
*The British Museum - a shamefully short visit, but we still saw the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon exhibit
*Westminster Abbey - being Christians ended up saving us some cash on the trip, as we attended worship services at churches and therefore did not have to pay the entrance fee for visitors. We went to an Evensong service at Westminster and it was incredible (though it put Nate promptly to sleep).
*Ye Olde Dutch Pancake House - the pub we tried to go to didn't allow kids (I know, shocking) so we settled for the Dutch pancake shop next door, which ended up being de-lish.

*Buckingham Palace - we braved the crowds at the Changing of the Guard, definitely the biggest crowd we saw on our trip. Furry hats, pomp & circumstance, Christmas carols (??), and a really pissed off British policeman.

Getting a better view of the Changing of the Guard



The pissed off policeman

*Portabello Street Market (for the ladies) and the Imperial War Museum (for the manfolk) - how stereotypical are we? The boys made out better than the girls in this case.
*St. Paul's Cathedral - again, no fee as we went to a Eucharist service. A stark contrast to Ely since it was built in 1673, the frescoes on the dome were my favorite.
*The Tower of London - torture chambers, castle fortresses, King Edward I's bedroom, and the Crown Jewels were the highlights here.

At the Tower of London, with the Tower Bridge in the background

*The National Gallery - could have stayed for hours longer, but still managed to take in some incredible Renaissance art (da Vinci, Botticelli, Titian, Caravaggio to name a few).

The National Gallery - impressive outside but even better inside.

But the real highlight was just being with family. Thanks for hosting us Kelly & Ryan, thanks for being with us Mom, Dad, Keri & CJ. Thanks for being flexible and fun, Nate & Dexter. Love you all.