Category Archives: five minute friday

Why We Must Offer Up Our Full Selves to One Another

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Luke 6:37-38.

We enter the season of giving. At least that’s what the ads and cultural nuances tell us. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate.

As God’s people, we show whose we are by the never ceasing laying down of our lives. Not just seasonally. Throughout scripture, God calls us back to trusting Him and recognizing our sacred commitments to one another.

Human nature longs to hoard and control. Kingdom nature longs to share and liberate.

God addresses measurement in scripture because intentional inaccuracies became a way of profiting off of others. ” You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:36. also see Leviticus 25). Accurate measurement was integral to the ancient trade economy. Measurements are made through pressing down, shaking, or running over. Regardless, measuring accurately is the focus; particularly when it affects one’s well being. A full trade was expected. not a few pinches off.

Women carried the measurement in a “pouch” around their mid waist made by wrapping a long piece of fabric around the body. The merchant poured the substance of dry goods into it. The exchange was very personal. From imago dei to imago dei.

Our transactions with others characterize whose we are: Loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. No matter what the season.

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Why We Can Embrace the Cost of Building God’s Kingdom

Building God’s Kingdom will cost you something.

Jesus didn’t spare words regarding the cost of following him. ” I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties…  John 16:33

Scriptural narratives bear witness to the struggles experienced when choosing to be part of God’s people. We are defined by the way we flip the earthly status quo on its head. Powers that profit from others feel threatened. Whenever Earthly systems of security are dismantled, resistance ensues.

In October, my church opened a homeless shelter in our building. After months of preparation and communicating with the village in hopes of gaining their support, our Tuesday night refuge began. And so did the resistance from the community.

The village government accused us of not following proper protocols (we did). Neighbors reacted with knee jerk reactions rooted in fear. Our pastor was depicted in a scandalous light. But we continued to fight for our brothers and sisters who can also be described as the “least of these.” Building Jesus’ Kingdom will cost you something.

As we continued, the anger rose. We were threatened with shutting down if we didn’t follow newly implemented codes for newly created zoning. We received slanderous and hurtful comments from others. But we continued to open our doors. Building Jesus’ Kingdom will cost you something.

Then something amazing happened. Evidence of God’s hand prevailed. High profile attorneys volunteered to represent the church. People sharing our vision spoke up; through emails and at the board meeting. Money was sent in. People came together to advocate for the restoration of others. Because following Jesus compells us to do it.

Here’s the paradox of Jesus’ kingdom: The “difficult” life is also the abundant life.

” The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “ John 10:10

As Ann Voskamp writes in her book The Broken Way, “The abundance is in the breaking.” When we experience difficulties for offering shalom to others, we are living abundantly. Because abundant living opens up a kingdom to others; not shuts them out. How we treat others has always been the defining characteristic of God’s people. Jesus modeled it and exhorted it.

He offers us this promise as we gain sore muscles, injured bodies, and discouraged spirits:

“But take courage; I have conquered the world!” John 16:33

*for more on our story, read this: https://patch.com/illinois/orlandpark/homeless-shelter-can-stay-open-after-smoke-alarms-are-installed?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_content=illinois&utm_campaign=blasts&fbclid=IwAR3K1IZFJ1Sta_O0o5zpo333Os-lUVI-2XkvhkKx1gGdUMPQcGQJZS-rQU8

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The Power Of Reminding Others They are Known

He remembered my name.

I first met Neil the previous week. As a shy sixteen year old, I ventured to the weekly high school gathering known as Young Life alone. I had heard enough chatter about it to pique my curiosity. In addition, I observed the engagement of the leaders with students on my campus at lunch time and extracurricular events. I wanted in.

It’s no coincidence that navigating my relationship with God around the same time. These leaders exuded something I had never seen: an unconditional love toward teens. Simply building relationships with them on their turf and in their terms.

I experienced a taste of it myself the first time I attended so I returned for the second week. I pushed through the intimidation of the 100 or so other students cramped into someone’s basement family room. As I walked in, his voice met me with a loud greeting, “Stephanie!”

He remembered my name. To remain unknown in a sea of teenagers can be a lonely experience. He remembered my name.

My life changed dramatically that day. I was reminded that I am known-to him and to God.

” Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands. “ Isaiah 49:16.

As a substitute teacher, I carry Neil’s words into the classroom. I try to remember the names of my students who I see repeatedly. Because we all need reminding, in a sea of social media images, that we are known.

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What a Road Trip With My Son Taught Me

We must keep watch for those sacred moments with our kids.

My youngest son and I took a quick road trip to Michigan. The destination was my hometown. Although we have navigated this course more times than I can count, this trip was different. My son drove the whole way.

We are thick in the midst of driving hours for him to receive his license. He’s ready to invest in those hours of practice. Me? Not so much. Learning to drive indicates another mile marker of independence. For parents, those places mean an adjustment emotionally and logistically. Movement toward maturity involves change in relationships with others. That can be an uncomfortable place in which to sit when you are one of the “others.”

Originally I intended to sit in the driver’s seat. Because that’s what I have been conditioned to do. And as much as I don’t always relish my role as a chauffer, I have become a creature of habit. But my son asked if he could drive on this trip. Really? The whole way? Hesitantly, I took my place in the passenger seat. It’s where I belonged but it didn’t feel comfortable.

But yielding control has its benefits. God provides in unexpected ways.

The trip was not without some bumps in the road (literally and figuratively). He’s still learning. It would have been much more efficient (and I could have argued “safer”) if I drove. But that’s not how parenting works. If I had never allowed my son to walk, he would not have developed his muscles in his legs or made neural connections in his brain. Parents live the paradox of being protectors and liberators at the same time. And that can be an uncomfortable place in which to sit.

What I recognized was that this place, these moments were sacred opportunities. In the midst of the quandaries of figuring out how to navigate our relatinship,God had provided a sanctuary today. We talked about school,the afterlife, and mysteries listened to podcasts. We even ate inside (gasp!) at McDonalds because he didn’t want eating interfering with driving.

I recognize this is my last round of big “liberation” moments with my kids. He graduates next year. My last child will be on his own. These moments are precious. I’ve tried to take advantage of impromptu opportunities in the car before. You’d think I would learn. Today, I will savor the gift we were given and pray that I keep watch for the next one.

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What I Learn From Others’ Stories About Waiting

Lord, my longings are sitting in plain sight,
    my groans an old story to you. ..
(Psalm 38:9)

Waiting is not for the faint of heart. Human nature gravitates toward immediate gratification. The longing to see, touch, or feel that for which we desire permeates the heart and flows through our limbs.

At times, I find myself morphing into the character Veruca Salt from the book/movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” After realizing she didn’t get the golden goose, she melodically whines, “Don’t care how, I want it now!”

Craving idols of gold is nothing new. The Israelites knew a bit about that. My idols may not be made of gold but they originate from the same human problem: impatience.

I find myself in the company of others whose struggles are revealed in scripture:

The Israelites waited for a home

Abraham and Sarah waited for a child (and the promise of a multitude of progeny)

Joseph waited for liberation

Esther waited for the right time

Mary waited for the birth of her child and the manifestation of who she carried.

What I do, God, is wait for you,
    wait for my Lord, my God—you will answer!
(Psalm 38:15)

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How Our Ebenezers Share Our Story

Several years ago, my family instituted an ancient practice: creating Ebenezers. We needed physical reminders that God is with us. Always. Remembering our past gives us hope for the future.

It’s not exactly a well known practice although it should become one again. “Ebenezer’s” claim to fame is a word found in the hymn, “Come Though Fount of Every Blessing.” The reference comes from 1 Samuel 7:12 in which Israel defeated the Philistines. In gratitude for God’s intervention in the battle, Samuel held up a stone calling it “Ebenezer” (God helped us.)

Much of our life as a family involves seasons of pain and struggle followed by seasons of provision and restoration. Creating markers to remember the ways God’s hand moved in our lives points us to God’s character.

We find ourselves in good company.

“The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. 20 Those twelve stones, which they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal, 21 saying to the Israelites, “When your children ask their parents in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea,[b] which he dried up for us until we crossed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, and so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:19-24.

So we write the names and dates of specific events in which we experienced God’s goodness, glory, deliverance, or simply presence on the stones or create them into a sculpture representing them. . Because it goes without saying that at some point our voices will strain as we cry out for God’s help. And the testimony of the stones will speak words of hope to us. We will remember again that God sees us. Hears us. Shows up. Always.

Tell me about your ebenezers.

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Why I’m Thankful for a God of all Seasons

It caught my eye as I stepped off my porch. A small orange dried leaf laying alone on the ground.

It’s sight summoned up a whirlwind of emotions. While I embrace some parts of fall, I adore summer. Seeing that orange leaf signaled to me that fall is back. I scanned around quickly gauging the color scheme of the trees. Green seemed to appear as the majority of hues on my landscape palette. But tinges of orange edged the shapes of the trees.

Cozy, candle lit evenings, pumpkin flavor, and hot apple cider bring me delight. But the change to a cold, dark landscape does not. Truthfully, winters sting my body and soul. I relish sun and warm air kissing my skin. However, God has called me to this midwest climate for now and I can look for God’s glory in its midst.

Glimpsing at that lone leaf reminded me that there is comfort in the order of seasons. They point to a God who has created a stunningly beautiful, mysterious and orderly universe that synchronizes to breathe life into all creation. This season of in-between serves to remind me that I need seasons. All of them.

An orange leaf on a balmy August morning tells me that fall is around the corner-but not yet. I can prepare for what’s coming because I’ve been there before and I know that, despite my disliking for cooler weather, God’s provision is taking place-for the earth and for me. It’s not always an easy lesson. Recognizing that the universe does not revolve around me needs to be spoken into my life in various ways-including a lone orange leaf.

But, I am grateful that God’s holiness intersects my our world. And in the midst, speaks to me through a leaf.

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Why I Decided to Change the Pace of My Life

Recently, I dropped out of a race.

Truthfully, I didn’t even realize I was running. My daily liturgy moments became focused on competing with others. I lost track of who God made me. Why was I racing in the first place?

My days became frantic. Constantly checking social media, creating content for posts, and learning how to do better. Yet, while I was focused on “more,” I was feeling “less.” Less peaceful. Less confident. Less productive in other ways.

As someone who wants to embrace new opportunities that present themselves, saying no is challenging. I don’t want to miss anything. Yet I recognize that sometimes God calls us back to rest.

When I step back, I am letting God’s character show through me as I enter into the places where I am led right now. That includes exploring other creative outlets that give me pleasure. It means also humbly acknowledging that God can use others to move in the places in which I have stepped aside. Perhaps, my own blessed experiences have occurred because someone else left a place for me

So I hit the pause button. I slowed down my pace and reflected on my identity and who I was trying to please. Emily P Freeman’s words in her book, The Next Right Thing, speak to me. In writing about filtering choices, she says, “Choose your absence so that your presence will have more impact. ..As him (Jesus), then listen well. Your work is your work. Your pace is your pace. Your life is your life. What a gift.”.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Proverbs 3:5-6

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Why Practicing Hospitality Has Sacred Implications

In the last few years, I learned how much language and behaviors are intertwined.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her book “Braiding Sweetgrass,” describes her surprise at learning there is no word in the Potowatami language for “please.” Kimmerer writes of her findings, “Food was meant to be shared, no added politeness needed; it was simply a cultural given that one was asking respectfully.”

The native people realized what is already woven throughout scripture. Connections are sacred. Our Creator God provides for us and sustains us-sometimes through each other. Here’s the rub: our ancestors’ narratives speak of offering up our resources to both the “neighbor” and the stranger.

Practicing hospitality in our American “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps” culture, appears challenging. It implies that “ours” is not really our own. However, growing acknowledgement of the isolation in our communities creates ideas for bringing back the desire to share time and self with others. Transformation takes place in the midst.

Lauren Winner, in her book Mudhouse Sabbath says, “God’s creation gives us a model for making and sharing homes with people, but the reality of God’s Trinitarian life suggests that Christian hospitality goes further than that. We are not meant simply to invite people into our homes, but also to invite them into our lives.”

Sometimes, it means simply looking to your street. How many neighbors do you actually know? What about the ones you do know but seem like polar opposites politically, in worldview, or theologically. Can you ask God to open your hearts and invite them in?

Looking for ideas how to implement hospitality into your rhythms?

Host an outdoor movie at your church or back yard. My family showed movies on Friday Nights on the garage door. Popcorn included!

Gather around the campfire and make smores.

Host an appetizer/dessert time as a casual “get to know you” gathering

Combine resources with other neighbors and rotate hosting a weekly soup supper. For another fun idea, check this out: http://www.fridaynightmeatballs.com/

Implement and support a neighborhood little pantry http://www.littlefreepantry.org/

Bake cookies for neighbors for no specific reason

A friend of mine opens up her house on Friday mornings for anyone to drop in

” Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes! “ (1 Peter 4:8-11)

How do you practice hospitality?

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As the School Year Begins Again: My Prayer as a Substitute Teacher

Lord of my life,

May I develop a posture that reflects your welcoming presence, offering a place of refuge

May I see you in their faces, a reminder of the breadth of your character and creativity

May I offer mercy when it seems least deserved because that’s what you offer me

May I exhude patience knowing that we are all people on the way

May I sense your wisdom when the complexities of humanity bear their wounds

May I breathe out your name when I say theirs so that they realize they are known

May I be a vessel of help to the one who is usually sailing the ship

When the days become long and heavy, remind me that you help carry the load in this place you have called me

Amen

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