Category Archives: five minute friday

Sometimes, God Speaks to Us at a Party Next to Apples

The beauty of community pops up in the most unexpected places. Sometimes it’s in the produce section of a grocery store.

Last week, a big party took place in my town. There were no formal invitations. Instead, signs posted in the ground along a busy road beckoned people to mark the date. It wasn’t held at a fancy venue in the evening. But rather at a family owned grocery store in the middle of town at 10:00am.

Truthfully, I almost forgot. I had woken up later than expected on Friday and I was preparing to go to the fitness center, I remembered. And, despite my commitment to remain consistent in my workout routine, I knew I had to go to the party. Danny has been a part of our family’s sphere for twenty years.

Truthfully, most of the town could say the same.

Danny is a familiar face in our community. He is often trekking down the main thoroughfare, hanging out in the grocery store, or prompting the train engineer to honk as the commuter train approaches the station.  Danny is known to all of us. But more significantly, we are all known to Danny. By name.

Our town, like many others, has experienced change. In the last twenty years, we have grown from a small sleepy, agricultural suburb to one with big box stores and increasing housing developments. Our schools added buildings and the students contribute to one of the now three high schools in our area. We have adjusted to growing pains that occur when communities change zones and character. We have argued sharply about referendums, and local politics.

But we are still neighbors. I believe we all honestly want the best for each other. Even when things get hard and messy. But we all need to be reminded of our identity as a group of people doing life together. One that shares backyard bonfires, block parties, snow hills, volunteers at schools, participates in church together, and sometimes fights.

Danny reminds us that we don’t need to be related to have each other’s backs. Having lost his mother to cancer and navigated through a life involving developmental disabilities, he knows the significance of depending on your “people.” And he has modeled that for us. So, on Good Friday ironically, one hundred people turned out to sing and to celebrate forty years of a life that transforms a neighborhood. One that challenges us to see the Imago Dei in those around us.

It’s through each other that God speaks into our lives in the most profound and unexpected ways. Sometimes, it happens in a crowded, impromptu party “room” that resembles a space next to apples.

For more info about the party, read here:https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/opinion/ct-sta-slowik-berkots-birthday-surprise-st-0421-story.html

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

 

 

 

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Longing To Have The Scandalous Eyes of Jesus

Several years ago, I was teaching jr. high Sunday School. I decided at Christmas time to engage them in understanding how God meets needs through our sharing with each other. Even if our brothers and sisters in Creation live across the globe. As we scanned through the World Vision catalog, I mentioned several possible gift ideas: a chicken, clothing, Bibles. As I tossed out the options, one of the boys who usually remained quiet spoke up, “We can give them Bibles but if they are starving, what good will that do?”

Like the boy who saw the Emperor with no clothes, he revealed the truth. No filter. No mind acrobatics to convince otherwise. He possessed Jesus’ scandalous eyes.

Jesus’ treatment of others brought rebuke. His interactions smacked of heresy and cultural taboos. Why would someone who claims to be born of Heaven interact with those viewed as tainted on earth?

Truthfully, he was modeling and reframing what God had already communicated numerous times.  God’s people are set apart from other nations by how they see and treat each other.  Period.

That’s scandalous. Thankfully the early church bears witness to the fact that others thought Jesus was on to something.

“For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?”  James 2:16-17

Jesus noticed what was lacking: physically, spiritually, emotionally. All of it. When He encountered others, everything was laid bare.  So he offered bread and fish, shared meals, put mud on eyes, touched those with skin diseases, and empowered those relegated to the lowest rung of the cultural ladder. And exhorted those who long to follow him to do likewise.

Jesus was scandalous. If we really want to be like Jesus, we should be too.

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

Learning to Lament When Our Offering to God Involves Pain

Liberation is found in naming.

While reading Aubrey Sampson’s book, “The Louder Song,” I recognized the phrases and rhythms pouring from my lips as lament. The last few years have brought lots of unexpected pain and confusion. At times, it felt as if God had simply forgotten me and my family. The season of  blessings packaged in tangible form seemed to come to an abrupt halt. And, like a child, who cannot read the mind of a parent who sees their condition but does not offer immediate satisfaction to small out stretched arms, I felt disappointed.

These cries from the depths of the heart are often named something else: complaining. However, complaining is often misunderstood. We utter words that communicate our displeasure in an outcome. From human reasoning, it makes no sense. Often, we look for someone or something to blame. Ultimately, we long for someone to understand our pain and acknowledge it.

Complaining becomes a form of lament when God’s character fails to be manifest as expected. We know that people will betray us but God? As Aubrey writes in her book, “To lament is to speak the reality of our formless, chaotic suffering and to ask God to fill it with his very good.” Unlike complaining, our words of anger, despair, and confusion are not thrown randomly into the air but are directed at the One with whom we are upset: our Creator and Lord.

And that’s the rub. At once, feelings of betrayal and hope connect. There would be no reason to direct our words at God if we don’t think he is listening.

The psalms become templates for my laments. The schism between human understanding and holiness is laid bare. I cling to the hope, as the writers did before me, that God is still good; even if I am still learning what goodness means. The lyrics of Tree63’s song “Blessed be Your Name” reiterate what I long to be my practice:

“Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering 
Though there’s pain in the offering 
Blessed be Your name”

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How We Are Rewarded When We Wait for God’s Answer

 

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” (Luke 11:10-13)

But sometimes we think the snakes are the gifts. They appear in the most deceptive,appealing masquerades. Relationships. Clothes. Status. Jobs. Houses. Desires.  We don’t feel complete peace about receiving the gifts but the human reasoning of the mind shouts loudly over the still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to the heart.

“I don’t have time to wait.”

“What if nothing else comes through?”

“I’ve always wanted ….”

“I don’t want to be alone.”

“That’s not what I hoped for”

“All my friends are getting….”

“I can’t take it anymore.”

When we resist waiting for God’s best for us, the result is a conflict which slithers itself through the biggest decisions as well as the routine moments of life.

It’s a human problem attested by the narratives found in scripture. The golden calf wasn’t created as a decoration.

Waiting isn’t for the faint of heart. Sometimes, it stinks. But God wants to offer us not just the gift but Himself.  It’s more than we asked for. It’s a reward that can’t be measured by human value; even if we get what we wanted. Because God knows we deserve better than a snake in disguise.

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community! Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

 

Remembering that God Sees Us in All Places

My legs feel the restlessness in theirs. For we are all in places of transition; trying to find paths of purpose. Currently, we each find ourselves in different unchartered territories.

I watch as these children of mine, now young adults, discern the terrain of a new place. And I remember…

Wondering what the future held

Wishing I had immediate answers

Wrestling with the unknown

“New” does not always feel welcoming. Especially, when you find yourself in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people and an unfamiliar self.

I see them and I know God does too. I hold hope for them because I remember:

God saw me too. 

And because of that I know I am never out of sight. Neither are they. Like Hagar, we can find comfort in the God who sees.

 She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me!

“Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!”

 That’s how that desert spring got named “God-Alive-Sees-Me Spring.” That spring is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.” Genesis 16:13-14.

May we be able to name our places of restlessness in the same way.

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

 

Giving Others a Glimpse of More Than They Expected

Jesus wasn’t playing around.

And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[o] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matt. 5:47)

Woah.

Certainly much of what Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated was counter cultural. It’s not an understatement to say that his commands and observations stretched muscles of the heart and mind.

However, these words right here? They directly target our “buts.”

But….you don’t know what she called me

But…he tried to get me fired

But….those people don’t worship my God

But… their child bullied mine

But…I don’t agree with their political views

But…they are living a sinful lifestyle

Woah.

Jesus doesn’t offer conditions on who to greet. In fact, he qualifies his statement with the rest of the context:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? “ (Matt 5:44-46)

Jesus was creating the picture of image bearers.  Many other people groups created their own Gods to worship. Even Israel tried it once. When you do that, the ability to bear its likeness is manageable.

But it’s not Holy.

“Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:47-48)

Our God originates from Heaven and pursues us at all costs in order to infuse us with that which is out of this world. It’s uncomfortable for sure and leaves us with muscle aches. It’s downright counter-human.

But, in the midst of the process, we radiate Holiness.

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

 

Hiding in Plain Sight In Order to Be Available

Jesus was not good at “Hide and Seek.”

“While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.”  Mark 1:35-37

He just wanted space. solitude. time to hear God’s voice pierce the silence.  So he sought it.

But, soon enough, he was found. And his “alone” time ceased. Why didn’t he make sure he wouldn’t be found? Certainly, there had to be a cave or some other perfectly located piece of landscape that could have provided hidden refuge.

If you want to hide, you can’t make yourself available to be sought. But, therein lies the rub. We are called to do both.

Messy is hard. I for one prefer clearly marked appointed times to mark the rhythms of my days. Like bars on a score. But following Jesus doesn’t work like that because he didn’t work like that. Even Jesus made himself available to move at the discretion of his father.

As a parent, those two realities are constantly blurring. When do I seek out time alone? When do I sacrifice my agenda for the sake of being a Jesus incarnated presence?

Now that my children are older, the line is still blurry. But I have come to realize that sometimes I can hide in plain sight. I can find solitude in the midst of the chaos. I can also teach others that maybe I’m not the one for whom they seek. God can use others to meet their needs.

Jesus constantly traveled between these two places. In the midst, he pointed others to God when they were searching for Him. If he could find peace in this messy reality, so can I.

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us!https://fiveminutefriday.com/