Category Archives: five minute friday

Why I’m Changing My Goal for the Summer

One thing can become both life giving and life draining depending on how we see it.

Summer is my favorite season. I long for the more relaxed schedule, the warmth of the air kissing my skin, and opportunities to engage with the beauty of vibrantly colored landscape dotting views. Living in the Great Lakes region, leaves one restless in those midwinter months. The long, cold, often icy days of hunkering down inside leave me holding on to a vision of sunny, carefree moments. The countdown to summer begins in March.

Yet, every May, I find myself tempted to cram as much into my summer months as possible. I justify it by recognizing that the busy schedules of the school year and the inclement weather make it hard to fit in excursions, connections with friends, and bucket list items.

But recently, I have learned to listen to God speak into the liturgy of my life. I haven’t felt renewed. In fact, I sometimes feel obligated to obey an agenda set by me that isn’t completely life giving. Why?

I have been convicted that many of the spaces that become filled in my days are a result of the little voice in my head that yearns for identity in my self induced “should” list rather than in my Creator. The items on my agenda are things that, in themselves, are life giving. But are they life giving to me right now?

Emily P. Freeman’s words in her book, “The Next Right Thing,” spoke into my struggle: “If you feel more like a robot with a to-do list in your hand than an artist with wonder in your eyes, stop. Close your eyes, open one hand in your lap, and put the other in your heart, and ask yourself, What am I longing for in this moment? What is life giving?”

So, this summer will look different for me. My goals have changed. As tempting as it is to fill my schedule with “shoulds,” I am leaving space. It’s a sign of surrender. It means things may get left “undone.” Connecting with some of my friends will have to wait. But I’m learning to be at peace with that and rest in God’s presence rather than my own.  The path to renewal means recognizing when I need to move out of my own way.

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

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The Sacred Process of Naming Land

We pass by a lot of Holy ground without knowing it.

One year ago, my family took a road trip. That trip involved celebrating my daughter’s graduation from a home school program and that  ceremony that took place was a sacred moment. Cedarcrest College in Pennsylvania will always be Holy ground to our family.

Later, we decided to travel to Washington D.C. There are plenty of places in that landscape that mark significant moments in history. As we ran toward our lunch destination in a cold rain, my eyes caught the sign protruding from a building a block away. “Ford Theater.” Literally, I stopped. President Lincoln and I share a birthday so I have always held an interest in him.  I recognized this spot. It’s where his life ended. The moment felt surreal as I realized that I stood on the same space as feet long ago when the announcement regarding his shooting took place.

A life transitioned in that space. Despite our gap in generations, I was connected to those who stood there in 1865 and everyone in between. It was hallowed ground known by it’s associated name.

Scripture attests to the ancient Jewish practice of naming land after the way God’s presence was experienced there.

She (Hagar)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!”

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

“Abraham named that place God-Yireh (God-Sees-to-It). That’s where we get the saying, “On the mountain of God, he sees to it.”  (Gen.22:14)

Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”  (Gen 32:30)

What if we started naming our places of transformation? How would that remind us of God’s character and the hope that is held despite what took place at various “land marks?”

As we make our way from one point to another, perhaps we can learn to see our view differently. May we remember that Heaven may have intersected the soil where we tread; either for us or someone else.  “Remove your sandals. You’re standing on Holy Ground.”

What are you naming your sacred places?

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Clinging to God’s Mercies in the Daily Practices of Parenting

There’s a good reason why we call the rhythms that form our days “practices.

Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities so that you’ll live a long time, and your children with you, on the soil that God promised to give your ancestors for as long as there is a sky over the Earth. Deut. 11:18-21

These words aren’t to be taken lightly. God was (and still is) in the business of making things new. For the Israelites, their approaching residence in a new place would bear witness to a God who is living, active, and Holy. The only way for future generations to connect to that truth is through parents inscribing God’s word not just on their doorposts but on their children’s hearts.

Pointing to God’s character comes through the daily practices of our lives. Everything we do, should be sharing how our stories fit into God’s story. But it’s not all about the intentional “feel good” moments of interaction. There’s a good reason why we call the rhythms that form our days “practices.”

Teaching still happens in our mess ups. Sometimes those are the most profound lessons we can share.

How do we respond when someone says something that hurts us?

Where do we turn when life encounters an unexpected turn?

Do they see us cry?

How do we show our need for help?

Do they see us acknowledge when we made sinful choices and seek forgiveness?

Your Mother’s Day gathering may or may not have met your expectations. Perhaps tempers flared, arguments erupted, and words of regret were uttered.

Take heed: God is still speaking through your life. All of it.  There is a reason we call our rhythms practices.

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The Paradox Found in Jesus’s Hands

Often, Jesus’s hands did the talking. They beckon us to pay attention.

Those hands. Vessels of creating, healing, comfort and validation

Those hands. Tools of force necessary to flip tables of sin and convict.

Those hands. Offered physical restoration to an enemy?
45-46 He got up from prayer, went back to the disciples and found them asleep, drugged by grief. He said, “What business do you have sleeping? Get up. Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.”
47-48 No sooner were the words out of his mouth than a crowd showed up, Judas, the one from the Twelve, in the lead. He came right up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said, “Judas, you would betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
49-50 When those with him saw what was happening, they said, “Master, shall we fight?” One of them took a swing at the Chief Priest’s servant and cut off his right ear.
51 Jesus said, “Let them be. Even in this.” Then, touching the servant’s ear, he healed him. (Luke 22)

Who does that?

His hands still spoke for the Kingdom of Heaven when he was being bound by powers of an earthly one.

But at that moment, he didn’t seek to restore himself. He sought to restore someone else.

Even his disciples were unprepared for what his hands said to the Chief Priest’s servant in this dark and vulnerable place.

While they were focused on death, He was focused on life. Jesus touched the ear of an enemy and had the last word.

The implications are not lost on me. How does the language of his hands speak to the ways I seek to interact with those in my path? Do my hands clench up quickly in a position ready to destroy or do I keep them open as a position of offering myself as a vessel of Jesus’s touch?

May Jesus mold my hands into the posture of his.

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

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

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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.

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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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