Flood

Last night, I was lounging on my bed, reading. The kids were asleep, Ben was in our bathroom brushing his teeth, and the gentle whir of the dryer was humming next door.

All of a sudden Ben bolted out of the bathroom, like a cat with it’s tail on fire. He ran to the laundry room beside our bedroom and flung open the door.

This erratic movement totally alarmed me (still lying in bed). Ben, after all, is a very measured and mellow guy and rarely moves with such panicked agitation.

“OH NO!!” He gasped.

I got up to go see the problem; the laundry room floor was an inch under water.

The dryer continued to hum happily.

The scene wasn’t lining up.

Turns out, he had left the tap to the laundry sink running, in order to fill the sink. Then, he had walked away for a moment to check on something… but got distracted and started brushing his teeth.

This is totally uncharacteristic of Ben; he does not make those kinds of mistakes (unlike me). He was baffled that he forgot about it. Well, welcome to my world.

After we mopped up the floor and mopped up the living room floor below, where the water had waterfalled through the drywall ceiling, we wondered what that was all about.

My mind went digging… seems like there’s a metaphor to uncover in this, but what? I let it go, but shortly it came to me, like wave, straight from the Father.

“Ben! I know what this is showing us!” I gasped enthusiastically.

“Water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. That sink represents us.  And even in spite our dumb behaviour (like leaving the tap running and walking away) God’s Spirit desires to overflow abundantly in our lives, even to the point of wrecking old structures (like our house!) to bring us to new places of trust and reliance on Him.”

Oh, how God loves to speak to His children! He loves to share His heart with us.

The impact of the experience only made the revelation of God’s goodness that much more concrete in our hearts, as we pondered the message.

In spite of what we do or don’t do, or don’t do well, none of it is a threat to God. His all-surpassing love is greater than any of our mistakes. In fact, He desires to overflow in us and through us despite appearances or our ‘worthiness’, in order to wreck the old structures we have built in our minds to ‘keep us safe’ and to keep life tidy and ‘manageable’.

God is not interested in our neatly ordered boxes of comfortable two-dimensional reality. He is allowing His Spirit to pour over the dying structures of this world, and the dying fortresses in our minds in order to establish new grids for exploring and understanding Him. The old patterns in our minds need to be transformed if we are to step into deeper experience of Him.

So, when you look around, and stuff looks wrecked, be of good cheer; this is a stepping stone to greater glory!

Power

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”. (Proverbs 18:21)

She ran up to me, out of breath, “Mommy, mommy, a bird just crashed into the window! It’s lying still on the ground and I think it might die. It looks like a female cardinal.”

Her 7-year-old face was flushed as she spilled out the news, her little heart pulsing with the grief of a life possibly over too soon.

I paused, where I lay on the couch with my book, and considered just letting it be, but then I remembered: His eye is on the sparrow. A cardinal is even bigger than a sparrow, so He can obviously see that too.

“Snowy, do you remember the stories about Jesus? About the power that he had inside of him that came from God’s love? You have power like that inside of you, too, because Jesus said his children would do even greater things than he did! Why don’t you go back to the bird -without touching it – and speak to it with God’s power that is inside of you. Tell it that it is time to get better and start to fly.”

Her eyes sparked and she ran back to the bird that was still laying placidly on the ground. She spoke to it and told it to “Get up and fly.”

She waited.

I waited in the other room on the couch, wondering what I had just done.

We both waited some more.

She came back and reported: “Mom, the bird is hopping a little now, what should I do?”

“Just remind it that God sees it and has given it the power to fly again.”

And she did.

Not two minutes later she came bolting back to me, “Mommy, it flew!”

Legends and Labels

It can be simple to weave a legend of ourselves in our own mind; our flesh has this knack for propping up the pieces of ourselves that we think matter and making an epic identity out of it. Sadly, propping up our personal legends means we can end up acting in self-protective and manipulative ways to keep the facade (or our favourite identity) intact.

One of the ways that we prop up our personal legends is by assuming labels connected with the groups that we feel we most identify with. This secures us with a feeling of belonging and authority that helps us to feel safe in our experience of ourselves.

We live in a climate that endorses labels and descriptors of every kind: Left, Right, Anti-this, Pro-that, Fruitarian, Home-birther, Vegetarian, Baptist, Attachment Parent, Messianic, Political, Workaholic, Rich, Simple Living, Successful, Teacher, Debt-Free, Organic, Charismatic, Spirit-Filled, Doctor, Adventurer, Hippie, Eco-Friendly, Party Animal, Vegan, Frugal, Homeschooler, Public Schooler, Business Person, Farmer, Visionary, etc.

What happens when we do this is subtly fracture our truer, God-designed connection with our fellow man, by choosing certain banners and not others; living under labels separates us from the greater banner that flies over us: Love.

What is core – what is essential – is that we are more similar than we are different in the eyes of God. Our hearts all pulse with the same life blood because God created us, our lungs breath because the Holy Spirit is infused between our atoms, keeping our bodies alive – the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

What matters is that each and every one of us gets our mark of approval, our ultimate and perfectly beautiful identity from God.

When we live from this place of secure connection and awareness we begin to see differences less and less between ourselves and others, which allows our love for them to expand.

Jesus did this: he loved Prostitutes and Tax Collectors and ‘dirty’ people, because he didn’t subscribe to labels.

He always looked at the heart.

We do not need to create and sustain legends of ourselves, we do not need labels and fleshly identities. Labels limit, cause division and rarely build bridges of consequence as they are more ‘religious’ in nature than truly helpful.

True freedom comes when we shed the need to ‘advertise’ who we are and simply live moment to moment from the divine life flow that exists inside of us because of Jesus! This may be confounding to the people around us, but it is a powerful step on the way to uncovering who we really are: a people who exists outside of all descriptors and ultimately are an expression of God in the earth.

Can God be confined, contained by our space/time labels and categories? Of course not! And, we are smaller by many degrees than God, of course, but we are no less remarkable as we were designed from the very genius of His mind!

When we leave room for the inevitable shifts that come from growth, discovery and exposure to the hearts of others, and live from the gentle place that Jesus did, and we taste a radical, new kind of life.

Jesus did not defend himself, or describe himself, or align himself with certain groups, he totally frustrated the people that tried to pigeon-hole him! Jesus walked in the Light, in a constant awareness of God’s presence in the world around Him, and loved all people.

I believe the future belongs to those who will step out beyond labels and live in the remarkable (and often confounding!) spaces of awareness that Love is the great bridge that will reveal God’s power in our midst.

As we live loved – our ultimate and perfect identity – we will change the world.

All Glory

It is difficult to be at peace when the tide of family chaos reaches it’s frequent mighty crescendoes: little ones melting down, big kids blasting music in the same room, middle kids talking your ear off, while someone washes pots loudly in the sink, and another wants to play a card game with you right. now.  The kitchen is a bomb, and someone put a library book on the counter (that is covered in maple syrup), and another needs a diaper change, and someone else just fell off their chair.

You don’t need me to paint the painful scene in much more detail for you, you know that of which I speak: the messy overflow, the sensory overload of a life lived together in all of it’s bristly, agitating, magnificent wonder.

The secret to thriving in these moments is to practice presence with your full heart and mind; to be aware of the gift of this space of time.

It’s like gratitude, but it’s also about noticing, being aware of what is going on, being the “experiencer” and the “observer” but not the victim.  

It is about dropping all analysis and simply being; being with those you love, right now.

This is not some rainbow-fairy-unicorn-fancy-pants-wishful-thinking-hippie-idea, this is a practical life skill that is built over time for the parent who knows there is treasure in the midst of the chaos.

This awareness is about meditating on what is true right now: that we live, completely and utterly victorious under the gaze of our loving Father, no matter how many Cheerios are crunching under our feet.

Mysteriously, it is in this being present that we find a peace that actually enables us to ride the wave of chaos in an almost miraculous way.

When we drop our unproductive mulling over what is past, refrain from critiquing every moment, and stop fretting over and obsessing about the future we find ourself in a most curious space…  the raw and complex beauty of this moment.

Now.

And when you awaken like this you notice how the baby on your hip is squeezing your arm with such pudgy fervour, and how your little girl’s lashes frame her eyes so gloriously, and you get lost in the rugged vigour of your big kids’ minds that just need to talk everything out and explore ideas ad nauseam.

And you find that it’s all glory, even the spilled milk.

A parent who is present is a gift to the world.  A gentle and patient observer changes reality; the chaos has miraculously morphed into heaven on earth.

Kingdom Come

If you were to all of a sudden discover that you were actually royalty, daughter of a King (you had unknowingly been duped into believing that you were the daughter of a pauper), how would you feel to discover that the King had been waiting to invite you into the Kingdom life the whole time?

How would you feel to find out that all the resources of the Kingdom were yours? The lands, the territories, the opportunities, the blessings you’d longed for your entire life were actually yours now?

Would you feel guilty and condemned that you had never experienced these fine gifts and good things because you mis-understood your identity, or would you be exited to begin exploring your territory, tasting the goodness of the King in the land of the living?

Significant

My sense of significance was most strongly challenged when I became a mother. Signing up for years of diapers, and nonsense-conversations, and food prep, and laundry, and sleepless nights, and dirty walls, and jogging-pant days tied raggedly with a messy bun on top, was enough to send even my relatively secure heart into a tailspin.

While my husband attended medical school with a number of bright, high-achieving, stylish women, I was home in my baggy clothes (laced with spit-up and peanut butter finger prints) just praying that the library would be open so that I would have somewhere to go outside of the walls of my little house. While he learned big words, and ate lunch with peers, and had adult conversations, I was home trying to figure out how to nurse a newborn while fully blistered, and chasing a toddler whose diaper was dragging on the floor, while simultaneously trying to think of something to make for supper that wasn’t crackers and cheese (though, I don’t think anyone would have minded).

Juxtapose my own chaotic unravelling with the emerging virtual world that seem to broadcast a seemingly never-ending litany of stories about “successful” stay-at-home-moms who were (on the side) starting Fortune 500 companies, writing books that were changing lives, and launching missions to save the world.

And there was I, buried under a pile of unrealized dreams that could rival the growing pile of laundry on the couch any day. There I was, walking babies around a neighbourhood that emptied out every morning at 7:30 a.m. as everyone sped away to their important work.

The feeling of missing out was strongest then, though it often revisited me, ebbing and flowing to various degrees even as the pace of life sped up and the messy work of motherhood proved more meaningful that I ever imagined.

Many nights, as the last one to fall asleep in the house, my mind has turned to wondering if I’d missed out on something more significant or meaningful had I only been a little more disciplined and worked on some kind of meaningful project ‘on the side’. Daily, I had more ideas than I could count that longed for expression that just wasn’t going to be possible in these seasons where my heart had committed first to the cultivating of our family.

Over time, however, it began to dawn on me that God wasn’t holding a high jump bar up for me to jump over; He wasn’t waiting for me to show up and “do” something. He didn’t need me to deliver a result, or get a gold star, or win something out there in the “real world”.

Schoolish and religious-thinking have cultivated a need to achieve within our culture that feeds us a cheap sense of meaning, grooming us to feel out of sorts whenever we aren’t getting noticed, getting an A+, pulling off some radical achievement, or just generally being awesome.

But… God!

He delights in our being, in our very existence! And should we live “small” or “large” it is our heart that delights Him.

One of our primary “works” in this life is to explore the fullest expression of ourself that is possible.  God delights in who He made us to be, our quirks, our questions, our delights, our dreams…. All of it is woven together to compose a completely unique work of art that reflects His glory. If we are modelling any part of our life off of someone else, it may be that we are not comfortable with ourselves in that area yet, that we don’t know who we are, or that we believe that God couldn’t possibly love someone as weird as us (if we did express ourselves). Now is time to reign in the doubt, toss the judgement, and explore the freedom of who we were made to be.

More important that shoring up any tangible monuments of meaning, we first must come to explore the wide open spaces inside of us, where God’s Spirit softly broods, calling us deeper. As we learn to rest from expectations, striving, work, and busyness, we disengage the “chatty brain” that never stops playing tapes in our mind (i.e. thinking), and we step beyond that into places of silence, meditation and rest… and finding Jesus there, we begin to see that this is the where we enter His rest.

These have been uncharted waters for me, for most of my life!

When we enter His rest, we begin to swim in a new kind of trust that is just settled, that is ready to move or wait, or try or not according to the peace in our hearts, but where nothing is any longer measured “in the natural”. When comparison dies, when feelings of guilt and inadequacy are laid down, when desire and pride take a seat, when we no longer have to do anything to experience significance, it is right then, that we do…

Right there in the heart of God.