Category: the root word of relevant

my (latest) ocean metaphor

It stretches out further than I can see, but assures that if I focus on it alone, all I can see is its awesome beauty.

It promises waves (adventure), salt (life), eternity (I can’t see the other end).

It allows me to believe there is a shore somewhere beyond my view, a promise that if I wade in, I will find a place to rest.Mornings such as this one, in what Carolinians call ‘winter’ and Chicagoans might call ‘spring,’ the beach is nearly deserted, the water is too cold to step in, the quiet is startling and comforting, and I stand, beholding God’s wonder, and wondering if the ocean isn’t, in fact, a mirror image of His bigness…and my journey.

I can’t be sure. All I know is that I needed to see Him today, so I went there and talked to Him.

~

It’s the first of December. For many of us, this is the beginning of a favorite month, one in which we celebrate Jesus’ birth and also children, family, generosity, and the idea of peace. For some, today is the day to commemorate World AIDS Day, to honor the countless who die and are still dying from this wretched disease, one that has left 16 million orphans in the world as of 2009. Can you even begin to fathom that? For others, December and Christmas is a time when their loneliness, their poverty, their sorrow, whatever they lack, seems to be the most prominent.

My own heart is heavy today for these situations, which seem so insurmountable. There is so much heartache in the world, how can we begin to help it? All I can say to that is Keep your eyes fixed on His awesome beauty and Help who you can. The only things that will matter when our time is done is not whether we said “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” but Who/who and how we loved.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;
he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. – Psalm 68:5-6

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. – John 13:34-35

The list

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…

and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17 NKJV)

I have some perfect gifts…my husband, our family, friends, church, home, health, and provision. All of these bring me joy, peace, comfort, as do so many little moments that make them up: Meals together. Great conversations. Tight hugs. Big laughs.

And I have some good gifts…the gifts that take awhile to make sense, the ones that teach us and grow us and have some higher meaning and delayed gratification.

They all come from God, not because we deserve them. Sometimes, we didn’t even ask for them. But they come because He loves us. And He stays the same, even when the waves get high and our circumstances overwhelm us.

no shadow of turning

To say I am grateful means so little. I say I’m grateful for nice weather, for calls with my three best friends in one day, for a good hair day or a random hug from my kids, for cheese and for great music.

What I feel toward God for what He has done of me, for us, has no words –

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV)

Today it comes from my heart, and I hope it comes out in all I do…boiling the cranberries, calling Illinois, dishing out the banana pudding, starting the new traditions. May the grace Jesus gave to me radiate from my being.

It is thanksgiving.

I give thanks.

Make me a blessing, Lord.

do what you do

There has been this really cool phenomenon going on in my life lately:

Every day, without fail, during this period of uncertainty we’ve been in, at least one, usually more than one, person reaches out to me with an encouraging word that is exact in content and timing to what I am feeling.

I’m not exagerrrating and I’m not talking about, “Wow! I was missing my dog and then I head “Feed Jake” on the radio at that exact moment!” I’m saying that something specific might have happened to disappoint or discourage me, and that same afternoon I get a text from someone I rarely hear from making sure I’m ok, and a Facebook post from someone with a verse or a word or yes, a song, that speaks to my situation.

I believe in divine appointments. And I believe in the voice of God. But I’ve never sat next to Him or heard His voice. It has only come to me through others in my times of need.

Just this week, I had an email from a friend in Illinois – one whom I adore – but because of time and circumstance, we never got to know each other very well. Yet somehow, in a moment that felt dire to me, her words arrived, reminding me of promises, bringing the light of love and hope into my day.

And just yesterday, I clicked on a weekly e-newsletter that I read sometimes. It’s even called The Encourager. Lo and behold, its words were so direct to what I was feeling, what Rod and I have been talking about and living through, that I had to read it out loud to him and could barely talk through it.

I can’t do justice to do it. You should go read this today.

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…and meanwhile, I admonish you, friends. When you feel like you have a gift, share it. It might be singing or it might be smiling. It might be baking or it might be Facebook posting. It might be sending cards in the mail or making calls. It might be taking great pictures of people (Emma captured the fun moment above) or making them laugh (which Liz was doing in that moment). I’m confident we all have something. And I believe that just as God sends others to be His voice in our lives and our dark moments, He will use us to be the same to others if we allow Him.

Thank you to everyone who has ‘been the voice’ for me during this year of big changes, but in particular during these last few months of big stress. Don’t forget to take a moment and tell me what you are thankful for and you can win a special $20 gift from DaySpring!

throw me the whole thing

So you obeyed. You went to the altar and lay all your burdens there. You cried, you praised, you told God everything, including the words, “I surrender all.” You gave it to Him and felt yourself let go.

And then you turned around and went back to your seat, claiming victory.

And when you left church,

you still had to take insulin injections
your bank account was still nearing empty
your job inquiries were still unanswered
your womb was still barren
your husband still ignored you
your Mr. Right did not show up at the gym
your scale did not move downward
your prodigal did not come home
your loved one’s cancer kept growing
your dreams never felt further from coming true
you still felt weary, purposeless, and depressed
you were hit by a car
you were left
you lost control
you lost hope

Maybe things got worse. Or maybe, even worse than that sometimes, they stayed the same.

What good is it to feel victorious, or to believe in victory, if you still have not won anything?

Truth: as far as this world is concerned, as far as these life circumstances go, there isn’t any good to it.

I left it at the altar yesterday. And today, nothing has changed. Not even my outlook. In fact, I woke up, again, feeling like I didn’t even sleep, feeling discouraged and beaten down and unsure.

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My stressful or upsetting circumstances did not change overnight. They didn’t change while we were away last week, even though I had high hopes that ‘everything’ would be supernaturally solved while we were offline in the middle of the ocean (watching this beautiful sunset one week ago tonight). And they didn’t change any of the times during the last 2 months when I thought they would.

At least, not that I can see.

I know a lot of people who think faith is pointless and fruitless, and a lot of those people are Christians who, like me, get so dang discouraged sometimes that they truly cannot see the forest for the trees.

But my forest, I must remind myself, includes a wonderful marriage to my best friend, four healthy, happy kids – including two that ‘shouldn’t love me’ and two that ‘shouldn’t exist,’ a multitude of friends, an amazing church, a supportive family, a beautiful place to live (sunny and 75 on November 14!) enough to get by on for now, and – wait for it – SO much potential…

I think part of faith is counting the blessings…not focusing on the voids, or the loss of past blessings. I think part of faith is counting potential as a blessing. And I definitely know that part of faith is knowing that even though I can’t see anything changing, it IS changing, behind the scenes, in the heavenly realm, sight unseen…all things working together for my good.

So today, in spite of feeling like the gum on the bottom of a shoe, I chose to run (my version of it) more than 3 miles. I chose to praise. And rather than asking God in kind of a whiny, spoiled, overtired-preschooler voice to THROW ME A BONE, PLEASE, WOULDJA, GOD?,

I choose to ask Him for the whole thing.

Don’t just throw me a bone. Send me a filet mignon! Bless me BIG, God…because I want to show You off. Because I need a victory here. Because I need to be reminded that faith matters in a real way, in my life and my family. And because You love me, and that’s just what You do for Your kids. Please let me see the way Your hand is changing my circumstances, and please give me the grace to accept whatever they are.

Amen.

the root word of relevant

Relevant is a trendy word in Christiandom.

We use relevant to stress how we must take our faith and, without watering it down, make it something attractive to the rest of the world, the part that does not believe as we do.

Sometimes the results of this are absolutely watered-down. Sometimes the results are eye roll-inducing. And sometimes, they are right on. The quest to be relevant, thought, is a good one. Because while the Bible calls us to be weird:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
– 1 Peter 2:9

…it also calls us to be something the world can see, mix with, be flavored and preserved by:

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? … You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
– Matthew 5:13-16

When I set out to make Thursdays a day for devotions on this blog, I was kind of in a hurry to get one posted. It was written and ready, and I had the decision in the back of my head already. I needed a snazzy title. I thought of the word relevant immediately. I have a variety of friends who read this blog, and more than a few of them do not share my faith. Yet, we do discuss matters of faith, mine and theirs, and I always want them to feel like we can have honest discussions, even if we continue to disagree.

So like any writer, even though we know it’s such a cliche thing to do, I looked up the dictionary(.com) definition of relevant. And then, I looked up the etymology.

Turns out, relevant does not come from the same word as ‘real’ like I predicted it did. It comes from the Latin word relevare, meaning, “to lessen, lighten.”

Can you see it? Why I giggled when I read that? Why it fits so well? My task as a Christian is to have the heart of Christ. His role included being a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) The Word commands His followers to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) Furthermore, Jesus promises that we can cast our burdens on Him, as He will give us a load that is light (Matthew 11:30). My task as a Christian rolls right into my role as a friends and my desire as a writer: be a light…make the burden lighter for others.

be relevant.

For the first time in my life, I am finding fascination – not rote determination, not religious obligation, but true zest – for what the Bible has to teach me about God, creation, history, false religions, symbols, examples, admonitions, instructions, and truth. This simple but meaningful circle of words and discovery excites me.

So…the root word of relevant. Here I will seek to lessen confusion, lessen worry, lessen strife. Make stuff lighter. Be a light.