on the State of the Mission

Map

Mission statements are all the rage these days.  Every company, organization, community, church, school, and even moms’ group has one.  A few years ago, I was challenged to come up with a mission statement for my life.  Overwhelmed and indecisive, it took me a long time to finally get my mind and heart around a concise way to sum up all I was striving to do and become.

In college, I took a class on “Christology”.  It was the study of Jesus – as a person, as God, as an historical character, and the implications for society and the church based on His being and the theories surrounding Him.  It was, hands down, one of the most challenging classes I took at Covenant.  The work load wasn’t what kept me up at night, though.  It was the way we would discuss my Savior as if He was a paint option on a color wheel for our bathroom remodel; detached and argumentative, we would debate and dissect the person of Jesus.

This class really confronted my lack of reflection on His life.  He died, sacrificed Himself, rose from the dead, and ransomed me.  Wasn’t that the point of His life?  Wait – but all of that, even if you expand the scope and include His documented years of ministry, only spanned three years.  Three years of thirty-three.  What were the other thirty years for (Luke 3:23)?  I mean, we know His birth was monumental, and then the rest of the time was just Him incubating until the appropriate age of adulthood when He would pay the price for my sin?  Clearly not.  Though the spaces in-between aren’t fully spelled out for us in Scripture, we know from every glimpse we’re given that Jesus’ life and ministry had three major objectives.  And from these, I devised my personal mission statement:

I will glorify God.

I will serve others.

I will seek the lost.

As Christ did perfectly before me, I aim to glorify, serve, and seek.  Which means even on my most mundane days, when I feel that my bucket list has sprung a leak and I’ve been wholly awakened from my dreams, I can still live for the goals encompassed in my mission statement.  Glorify the Lord as I nurture my children, serve my family and community even as I’m not much more than a confidant and friend, and seek out ways to exemplify God’s grace to those who may never shadow the entrance of a church.  All while cleaning the house, attending playdates, and shopping the aisles of Wal-Mart.

And if I someday am honored enough to live in the clouds, I can refer back to these same goals at every turn and temptation: Am I glorifying God?  Am I serving others?  Am I seeking the lost?

Knowing I have a mission and defining it for the days, years, decades ahead, has helped me rest in the present more and yet plan for whatever the future holds.  Though I’ll always be only a fantasy away from fiction and constantly penning line upon line of irrational hopes, having a mission statement means that if I come crashing down to Earth, the landing will be a little softer and the climb back up partially etched.

Do you have a mission statement for life?  What are you striving to do?  Who do you hope you’ll become?

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on Fear

Willow Bud

There’s this fragment of my makeup imbedded in the molecular structure of my DNA, woven into the intricate parts of my being that generates a most profound and pernicious reflex: fear.  I feel it hemmed beneath my epidermis, conflagrating, ravenous for oxygen, fighting to erupt into a full-scale holocaust; searing every ambition, fancy, or splinter of confidence I may have gathered.

It holds me back from living fully.  It stifles the grace I’ve been given and mutes every hue of redemption.  By it, I survive.  Like the bud beneath the frozen ground, invisible & buried, but alive.  I want to live like the flowers of the Spring, grounded and nourished to be open and yielding.  Sprawled out in full sunlight, unafraid, and resilient.

I may have been born with the reflex of fear, but I wasn’t made to live in its pyre.  I was made to absorb and reflect: a beacon in the midnight, a coal in the embers, a star to the traveler.  He made me salt.  He made me light.  It’s time I emerge as He sees me – as He ordained me to be.

Which is why I can’t write for you.  I can’t write what you might want me to.  I can’t be all sunshine and daisies.  There are dark clouds overhead and mire beneath; I wrestle and writhe.  I am depicted by my sufferings.  I long to live fully, uninhibited by fear, but not free from the burdens of this world.  Salt only seasons when all around is bland.  Light shines brightest in the darkest depths.  And grace is only grace when it is quite unwarranted.

And so out of the fear I’ll slowly unfurl, but into the expanse I’ll sink myself lower.  Knowing I go not alone.

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on Motherhood

Coffee in Bed

Motherhood is not a season of life.  It’s a war.  A full-on assault against everything you used to be, want to be, and thought you might someday turn out to be.  It’s an on-the-job-training combat situation for which no amount of advice or warning could possibly prepare you.  Most days, it feels like all these tiny wee people are trying to kill you.  You can see it in their clear eyes – they want you dead-tired, lying on the floor, defenses down, waving their diaper as a white flag.  And though you will crawl yourself beneath the sheets each night begging for a few hours of respite, they will wake you before dawn, hitting the battlefield afresh with nothing but your total and complete annihilation on their minds.

Day after never-ending day, hour upon soul-sucking hour, year over year, they will wear you down.  And trust me, in the end they will win.  One day, you will indeed die.  Sure, old and wrinkly probably, but you’ll be dead nonetheless.  And your now-grown babies will be like: #Winning!  But, as they say, you won’t care.  You’ll finally be able to “sleep when you’re dead”.  Or so I’m desperately clinging to.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love these crazy barnacles, but they are E-X-H-A-U-S-T-I-N-G.  And that’s on our best days. It’s perhaps why I find the passage in Ezekiel about the dry bones so exhilarating:

The hand of the Lord was on me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then He said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’

Ezekiel 37: 1-14 (NIV)

Sweet Mamas, take refuge in these words with me.  The Lord will restore your weary bones, He will hold you together, He will arm you anew for the next arduous day, He will breathe life into your soul and sustain you!  Yes, by only God’s grace will you survive!  And when your wee ones are grown, they will number a vast army unto the Lord and you will inherit the promises.

Oh, that we might take delight in the Lord, for He takes great delight in us.  And so do those ankle-biting monsters wiping snot on our 3-days worn t-shirt.  One day, we’ll be able to shower whenever we want, and pee all alone, and wear heels again.  Until then, revel your dry bones in the words of the Sovereign Lord bringing you back to life!

 

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on Goals

Rustic Bread

To my knowledge, I’ve kept one New Year’s Resolution in my life.  It was to make a loaf of bread a week until I had sufficiently mastered the skill.  It was about mid-April when I felt I had achieved my goal.

The accolades for goal setting are everywhere, though you won’t hear them stem from my mouth.  Every year, I set goals.  General ones like “spend more time with the kids” in addition to specific ones like “publish one blog post per week”.  Of the hundreds of goals I’ve set, kneading the dough week after week is the only one I can remember completing.

And hopefully this one: to write daily.  Except for Sundays.  Sunday is, truly, my day to sabbath, to rest.  And if I write it will be restful, soul-rejuvenating, selfish writing.  Not goal-satisfying writing.  Now that I’ve decided I’m a writer, just because I said so, it seems only proper that I should probably take up writing.  Often.  And maybe change my Facebook profession to “Writer”.  Hang on, I’m going to do that now.  Done.  That felt surprisingly good.  And a little bit silly.  But mostly good.

And though my track record doesn’t boast much success, I’m also striving to finish 15 books that I’ve previously started, which according to my calculations is less than half on my currently-reading list.  I’ve already finished 2:

Permanent Midnight by Jerry Stahl which I started in high school and loved so much that I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it.  Even after I did a few days ago, I felt deeply sad and a bit regretful.  I told myself I could start it over, but it’s just not the same.  It’s good – graphic and raw and insane – but good.

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp which I started a year or two ago and have struggled to get through.  My mom wasn’t one to tout “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything all”.  Her chant was more along the lines of “You can say anything so long as you do it with a smile on your face”.  So picture me smiling as I say this to you: While I thoroughly enjoyed & agreed with her theological challenge & the implications of a renewed lifestyle based on thanksgiving, I found her writing style to be a distraction. It seemed to muddle her meanings rather than clarify or embody them. She breaks almost every grammar rule, stretches vocabulary, & paints a world thick with useless imagery. I would have much preferred that she used a more standard style to portray her message, instead of wrapping a profound Biblical truth in gaudy verbosity.  I still gave it 4 stars, if that makes you hate me less.  It might make you hate me more, though.  Either way, it’s my opinion and I’ve already told you, I’m a tough critic.

I’m also aiming to finally finish my chronological Bible reading plan of the ESV.  It’s only taken me 2+ years so far to get through most of the 1-year plan, but I wasn’t really trying to finish it in a year anyway.  No, really.  That one isn’t a failed resolution – it’s just slow and sad progression.  I highly recommend reading the scripture through chronologically, though.  It’s been so fascinating for me and helped pull lots of things together that I didn’t previously see connected.  Like most great books, I’ll actually be quite sad to finish this one.

This year I’m going for realistic.  Maybe this will be the year that I add one more #NailedIt goal to my list of one.

What are you hoping to achieve in 2016?

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on Waiting

Foggy Mountains

To be a disciple of Christ is to live a life of ceaseless waiting.  Waiting for the Spirit to quicken, for the Lord to call, for your sins to absolve, for your heart to soften, for your seed to bud, for your flower to fruit, for your prayers to be answered, for your body to surrender, for your soul to rapture, for your Savior to return, for your God to vanquish.  Being a Christian is a long-game endeavor.  It is not for the hurried and not to be pressed.

“The giver is more than the gift, God is more than the blessing; and our being kept waiting on Him is the only way for our learning to find our life and joy in Him.  Oh, if God’s children only knew what a glorious God they have, and what a privilege it is to be linked in fellowship with Him, then they would rejoice in Him! Even when He keeps them in waiting, they would learn to understand better than ever: ‘Therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you.’ His waiting will be the highest proof of His graciousness.” – Waiting on God by Andrew Murray

I’m no stranger to waiting.  To the longing that is often accompanied.  And to the fear that tightens with each passing prayer.  From the mountain-top vantage point, it is easier to see the shrouded goodness ahead, but when you’re faulting along the base, with darkness closing in, bruised and exhausted, goodness echoes as a myth.

We serve a good God.  Just as they say: God is good.  All the time.  But even Lucy knew that good does not always equal safe (The Lion, The Witch, & the Wardrobe) and sometimes safe can sound better than good.

As I find myself in yet another opportunity to whisper pleas for goodness, I discover I’m clenching my fists around safety and desperate for the promise of goodness I know, not just the goodness He gives.

When joy runs far, rejoicing in glory and fellowship abate with it.  And the heart grows weary of knowing He is gracious in His waiting.

Though this heart is hard, these teeth clenched, and this breath bated, I will stifle the twilight one wrestled “Your will be done” after the other.  And I will read again and again of His gift, His blessing, His glory, His goodness, His waiting, and His graciousness.  And I will wait.  As we all do.  For morning to break and goodness to reign on earth as it is in Heaven.

 

2 comments

on Being a Writer

Typewriter Desk

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

As I type, I am, quite literally, trembling.  Writing, for the sake of writing, out in the open, for everyone to see, terrifies me.  I’m a harsh critic of literature, and blogs, and Facebook posts.  I’ve got a good literary eye … but that far from means that I’m good at the thing I most ruthlessly judge.  It might actually mean the opposite!  I may castigate as a means of telling myself, falsely, that I know what I’m talking about, and I must know what I’m talking about not because I have a B.A. in English or because I’m actually a quite skilled editor, but simply because

I am a writer.            

Note the haughty inflection, feel my superiority, and cower to my self-reliant confidence that this statement is true.  Because to tell you honestly, it’s all you’ll have to go on.  Just my essence and my word for it.  Go ahead – Google it.  Google me.  Oh, you’ll find lots of me splashed all over the wide web of this world, but none of it for my sheer writing capabilities.  I have clung so desperately to this internal gospel and masked my feeble attempts at keeping it alive for so long that I’m physically ill at the thought of discovering, after all these years – child years, teen years, college years, married years, motherhood years, adult years – that  it   might    not     be      true.

And down I go.  Crumpled with the brisk wind of plausibility and truth and the harsh reality of being a grown person past the promise of Spring, south of the warm hopes of Summer, and fallen by the fear of impending Winter.

I’m not good at this.  Being vulnerable.  Being seen.  It’s not a situation I often place myself into willingly.  But if I’m going to speak truth into being a writer one day, it is a place I must find myself sooner or later.  And let’s be honest, the later is only getting later and we all know that “later” is where dreams die and what-ifs haunt the living.  If I’m haunted, I’m determined for it to be by words like “failure” rather than words like “scared”.  And hopefully, by then, I’ll have pages and pages and notebooks and blog posts and computer files full of my own compositions to keep me company – even if they aren’t any good.  I’ll be a writer.  Just maybe not a good one.  But at least I’ll be a real writer.

And with that caveat, I invite you to place both hands over your eyes, fingers parted carefully, and gently, trepidatiously, holding no breath, read on, knowing that I have promised you nothing other than writings – devoid of any descriptive adjectives before them.

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