Category Archives: five minute friday

Embracing the Opportunity the Church Has Right Now

Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:15

We, as the Church, have an opportunity. A glorious one.

As the world stumbles through its days, weariness sets in. Darkness looms. We live in unpredictable times. All that seemingly appeared to secure our feet in this earthly realm is falling away. Though everyone’s loss is different, we feel the weight of grief. We are in this together.

Recognizing our obligations to one another has been a characteristic of God’s people since the beginning. Sharing about my experience last year reading through the Old Testament, “… as I read the Old Testament again, so much stood out for me that didn’t in previous studies. The themes of welcoming the foreigner, and the counter-cultural ways in which we should treat each other, spoke to me in verses that I had previously glossed over. The more I come back to these passages, the more I see how much we, as the church, still have to learn about loving others. The question is: How will we respond?”(http://www.theartoftaleh.com/how-can-the-church-do-better-at-loving-others/)

In this crisis, we have an opportunity to not just wash our hands but other’s “feet.” To be the Church is to offer ourselves to serve others with the skin of Jesus. However that looks: sewing masks, working as medical personnel, calling on neighbors, acknowledging others’ fears and grief, advocating for the marginalized falling through systemic loops, and calming our children.

So as people prepare to celebrate Easter in a way that didn’t fit expectations, let us hold out the hope. Show others why we embrace a kingdom that seems upside down. As Ann Vos Kamp writes in The Broken Way, “A Christ-shaped life is not a comfortably shaped life, but a cross-shaped life.” May we all squint from the glory that radiates.

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How We Can Support Families Adjusting to Quarantine

We all belong to each other.

In these days of social distancing, my soul and my body miss the daily connections. Specifically, I am aware of the absence of those with whom I engage in my routines. As a substitute teacher, I float around to different schools but because of repeated contact, these students and staff impact me. Our familiarity with one another cultivates trust and intimacy. I am aware of the struggles they bring to the classroom.

We are all adjusting to this new normal. And we are all losing something something. For my friends who receive specialized instruction, school provides a network of professionals who strive to help students build their skill sets. These social workers, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech pathologists, paraprofessionals, peer buddies and teachers form a “village” to help families help their kids become confident and more independent.

For the families of these students, the quarantine brings about changes in routine which is difficult for many of them, E-learning is not something easily done independently. For the parents, helping their children process the adjustment is challenging.

Parents of these students: I see you. Not literally but in the faces of your children in my mind. I pray for you. Know that I miss them and am a better person for having the privilege of being in their presence.

For the rest of us, consider what you can do to make life a bit easier for families in this situation.

  • Ask about food preferences and order a delivered meal for them
  • Send them a gift card for pizza delivery
  • Send a card to the student
  • Offer to run errands for them. Getting away may be difficult for them
  • Pray for them

“Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Phillipians 2:3-4

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Why I’m Trying Not to Worry About Tomorrow

Last night, I panicked. For the first time since the news of the spreading Coronavirus began infiltrating every media venue in which I engaged, a shock of fear hit my chest. An image across the tv screen pierced my soul. The reality of the landfall hit of the storm became real. Each day, I felt the gut wrenching consequences inch closer.

People diagnosed in my community.

Graduation ceremonies cancelled

Communities quarantined

Jobs lost, businesses closing

And it all felt too much. It felt as if the world was spinning out of control and I wanted off.

But God speaks into my fear: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34

I remember that encountering unexpected circumstances is nothing new. Navigating life in this place naturally leads us to crossroads and detours. The temptation to depend on human driven logic to maintain control lures. We jump to grasp our hands on anything that may prevent the catastrophes playing out in the mind. Those items become our “golden calves.” As Michelle Reyes says ” There’s nothing saying that our stash of toilet paper, food, disinfectant, or hand sanitizer will save us. It’s one thing to be prepared; it’s another to ascribe to the objects we buy a magical aura of protection. ” http://www.theartoftaleh.com/crisis-mode-struggling-to-find-a-christian-response-to-covid-19/

So I am choosing to trust God. Even when I know the future is unknown. Even when hardship surrounds me and inches closer. Because God holds me through each day no matter what happens. And that promise is enough.

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Why We Don’t Always Eat Dinner at the Table…and it’s OK

I am passionate about families sharing meals together. Therefore, It should come as no surprise that my family practices it and I write about it https://www.crosswalk.com/family/parenting/5-reasons-why-eating-meals-together-is-so-great-for-your-family.html . Research shows multiple benefits of family feasting. Anne Fishel, Ph.D., a family therapist and co-founder of The Family Dinner Project, says “The benefits range from the cognitive ones (young kids having bigger vocabularies and older kids doing better in school) to the physical ones (better cardiovascular health, lower obesity rates and eating more vegetables and fruits) to psychological ones (lower rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and fewer behavioral problems in school).” 

What may surprise you is the fact that we don’t always eat at the table. This is the kind of revelation that is tempting to disclose in a hushed voice. It appears hypocritical at best and an indication of “culture caving” at worst. But sometimes, we have to acknowledge what is the best means to the end. Because sometimes something which appears to be the best practice for others may not be the best practice for you.

In my pre-child days, I balked at the idea of families not taking advantage of time together around the table. As an experienced youth and family pastor, I saw the effects of breakdown in communication and the temptation to find opportunities which led to further alienation. With the increase of food on the go and family activities fracturing time together, I longed for parents to keep meal time together as a priority. I viewed it as sacred. And still do.

But there can be more than one way to meet a goal. While my husband and I incorporated creative ideas for keeping the practice of eating together at the table fresh, dynamics in our family made it challenging at times. Mood disorders came to the table too. It’s our truth. And rather than forcing a venue that harmed, we created one that restored.

The point is about engaging and building relationships around the table. So sometimes, the “table” moves. And yes, a couch may be involved. But while we sit on the couch, we watch a video from Bible Project https://bibleproject.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw9ZzzBRCKARIsANwXaeJ-fsjj_r0Wk_9Z0kiUQadwxK9leqAghIw7fS-mIdpxMtmM0gkmEtkaAk8FEALw_wcB ) and discuss it. Or play a game. Or laugh through a shared favorite tv show. Every family comes to the table with different needs. The question is: How can we meet them?

We still gather around our table intentionally (and invite others to it!). But we know that the sacred act of gathering with others to nourish our bodies and souls can happen in more than one way. And we thank God for those opportunities.

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Navigating Life Involves a lot of Left Hand Turns

I prefer the unobstructed views.

As I sit in the passenger seat of my blue minivan, I can feel the tension as my son arrives at the intersection. He is navigating the path to get his driver’s license. When he comes to those crossroads. the opportunity to make a left hand turn unfolds. As well as an often obstructed view.

I remember the anxiety involved in making a split second decision that carries serious consequences in a heartbeat. Like my son, I prefer to have time to ponder. But time isn’t always in our favor.

As children, we cling to predictability. It brings comfort and security. Sure changes occur. However, the landscape is somewhat familiar and choices seem relatively simple. In addition, the pace of life relatively slow.

Then the horizon expands as does the number of choices. And the realization that life is made up of a lot of left hand turns begins to materialize. We recognize risky decisions occur everyday.

Sometimes, we are afforded a fuller view than others. Sometimes, we are afforded more time than others. And sometimes, we have to make life altering decisions in a matter of minutes.

But the alternative is to not move forward at all. To let fear overwhelm and keep us in place. Jesus liberates us from spiritual paralysis.

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7

Left hand turns should not be avoided. Making decisions without the full view are necessary in this life. But we can cling to the reminder that God is with us as we navigate through it.

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How Van Goh’s Talent Points Us to God

We can learn so much from him.

A few years ago, my daughter and I ventured down to the Art Institute of Chicago to view a special exhibit of Van Gogh’s paintings. He is one of our favorite artists because because of his colorful moving works of art as well as his “scandalous” eccentric personality.

It is widely believed that he struggled with mental illness. That reality, combined with (or perhaps because of) his ability to see the divine intersect into the landscape of our everyday lives, resulted in his unique portrayal of the world.

His life story is fascinating and once you become aware of it, his pictures emerge as sacred messages of the way heaven intersects earth. We can hold onto the hope he held because in Van Gogh’s terms, we are “companions in sorrow.” He often pictured people in their wearied states in order to get the viewer to resonate with them.

But he always infused the image with hope.

Yellows, scenes (the “Sower”, orbital shapes (“the galaxy”), vibrant colors and strokes, and hints of light became venues of depicting that we are part of a bigger narrative. One that points to a Creator and Sustainer who interacts and watches over what is created.

Carol Berry, in her book Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent Van Gogh, writes, “Vincent, as a true contemplative, could see beyond the surface of things and reveal the metaphorical implications of the material world. He could sense the eternal message in the temporal. This is what he hoped to be able to convey through his art.”

Van Gogh’s talent incorporated all aspects of who God made him. He inspires us to not only see the landscape of our lives through the lens of our Creator but to come baring our souls to however we are called to God’s purposes.

How do you see the Divine in your view right now?

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Why I Am Learning to Consecrate my Life in all Seasons

Winter’s seeming stillness presses upon my body and soul. The gray days’ hues blend together with the exception of a tint of yellow occasionally swirled in.

The absence of colorful vibrant life touches my senses. Blooms do not greet me as I make my way outside into the crisp air. The silence of chirps, crickets, and lawn mowers is deafening. Stillness appears on the landcape.

Including my spirit.

I long for movement. It’s so easy for it to define who I am. The familiar rhythms of motion appear to inform my identity. But when they change or pause, restlessness emerges. Who am I?

The view outside my frosted window reminds me that nature has not lost It’s identity in the pause. Life is still at work even if I can’t see it. The giver of life is cultivating something new in the rest. Nothing has really ceased its purpose. God is still at work.

So I am reminded that my God defines me and calls me into different seasons. In all things, God is still at work.

Take my life and let it be

Consecrated Lord to Thee

Take my moments and my days

Let them flow in ceaseless praise

Let them flow in ceaseless praise

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Learning to Trust God When the Direction Makes No Sense

God’s answers may involve movement to unexpected places. And sometimes we find ourselves scratching our heads as we head in the direction.

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!”  2 Kings 5:9

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.” Jeremiah 18:1-4

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” Matt 21:2

God meets us in places that seem mundane: villages, potters houses, a river, waiting rooms, grocery lines, neighborhoods, and work environments. But they become “burning bushes” when his voice speaks to us through them.

How many times have I fretted as I waited for God to move only to realize he’s been moving all along? But I had to move too. Into the Holy places.

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.

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Jesus Birth was Not Reason for All to Rejoice

Not everyone was happy.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah[c] was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd[d] my people Israel.’”

Jesus posed a threat. His birth was not cause for all to celebrate. For those who enjoyed power at the expense of profiting off others, the Messiah was no welcome citizen. For Herod, this child did not symbolize life because it meant death to his kingdom. What were the chances that the Messiah would actually arise out of this little town as foretold? Certainly he didn’t really expect him to come as a baby. But the Magi’s inquiry about him confirmed his fears. And he was willing to keep his power no matter the cost.

Naomi Hanvey writes, “It’s kind of obvious why we don’t usually see Herod in the Christmas story. We don’t want to complicate the pure, sacred narrative with this subplot of murder and intrigue, right? The image of the nativity creche isn’t quite as picturesque when you add a paranoid king slaughtering children in the periphery.”(http://www.thechristianleftblog.org/blog-home/lets-put-herod-back-in-christmas?fbclid=IwAR0yvpscB4oPj76D-lYhm4cOKG1tkock0oyobBl_Wrh8O3XPxrZxgezoTKE)

But it matters. God’s hand can be threatening to those who find comfort in what the earthly kingdom values. Understanding the whole narrative helps us hear all that God says to us as his hand weaves through the plot. If a baby caused such fear in a ruler, we have to wonder why. When Mary and Joseph are exhorted to flee to a foreign country, we have to wonder why. Jesus’ life was speaking volumes before he could talk.

God speaks to the world through the whole narrative. When we leave out the uncomfortable parts, we miss seeing parts of God’s character and how the story speaks to us today.

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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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