Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Remember the Sabbath

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. - Exodus 20:8-10(a)

We're pretty busy around here. With six different people, all with our own responsibilities, all with our own activities, it gets to be a lot to juggle at times. I think most families are like that anymore. Going from here to there, every day, nonstop. Because we have to... or, really, just because we choose to. We can quickly take the time to fill our calendars, often more quickly than we take the time to fill our hearts with the very One who created us with a need for rest.

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. - Mark 2:27

Busyness is like an epidemic. It's prevalent, wide spread.

Now, I'm not arguing the sabbath law here. We can have our doctrines and opinions on whether or not a sabbath is still "required" for the New Testament church, but that isn't what is on my heart. The truth of the matter is that we all NEED rest. We all NEED refreshing. We all NEED renewal. The sabbath fills those needs (and more) and so - law or not - the sabbath is good. Holy.

On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, - Genesis 2:2-3(a)

Like I said, we're pretty busy around here. For the last 11 months I've been running myself ragged. Working Monday-Sunday, 60-65 hours a week - and that doesn't even touch the regular "stuff" that I'm responsible for, the mommy stuff, the wifey stuff, or the ministry work. And I can't continue in this pattern any longer. I can't keep living without a sabbath day. At first I thought we would adjust. At first I thought this wasn't so bad. But I've hit a wall, and I can't do it anymore.

As I was praying one morning, through sleepy eyes and tired lips, it just kind of hit me. It woke me up, really.

You need to give up your job at the YMCA.

But wait... don't we need me to work there?

But... my coworkers, they depend on me.
So does your family. So does your church.

But I'm managing.

And then, recollection of moment after moment after moment that I have missed because I've been doing too much just hit me like a wave. Last summer with my kids - gone. Half of Elijah's last year in "pee-wee" football - gone. Most of this final year of school for Julie, though I'm physically here with her, I'm often too tired to even do much other than zone out - and it's nearly gone. Ellie wants me to play a game, but I'm heading out the door, and that time is just gone. Ruthie's first year of highschool, and the challenges and changes it brings, and I barely have the time to talk about those challenges and changes, the choices and all they mean - time gone. I've been so busy working through all of these moments, all of these chances. And then my marriage... my Bradley... we're just going through the motions here. Doing life side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Little time or energy left to give each other the face time we need, the face time we deserve. And rest? What rest? With just 1-2 days off a month, which is still full of activity because of the work of ministry, there has been very little time for me to find a sabbath rest. The time is slipping and, with each passing second, I am slipping too. 

Yep. Barely managing.

How did I miss this? How did I get so caught up in it all that I was blinded by the busyness, by the epidemic?

So I shared this revelation with my husband. Brad and I took some time to pray it over before making any decision (because I'm a girl, and my emotions often get the best of me.) Then we shared with family and with our friends. And wouldn't you know that our friends and family knew instantly what needed to be done?! There was no hesitancy in seeing the solution. They saw it instantly - which is always reassuring.

And then our weekend away happened (and I still plan to share more about that here in another post) and as Brad and I went through this time of retreat - a time not just about getting away together, but about addressing what we've neglected and working through the junk we have allowed to accumulate - it became so very clear, without a shadow of a doubt. I need to reclaim the sabbath. I need to let go of my job. 

So I did. 

Instant peace.
And I'm eagerly looking forward to that day of rest, remembering the sabbath. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wrapping up James Chapter 1...

I know, I know.
I didn't post a weekly wrap-up last week for James 1:25-27.

Reasons why?
*My dog ate it. (Not possible. I don't even have a dog.)
*I forgot. (Nope, I thought about it each day.)
*I was too busy. (Nah, I could have made the time if I really wanted to.)
*I knew the next week was a review week for the entire chapter and that I could just catch it up this week. (Now we're getting warmer.)
*I didn't have it fully memorized. (True story.)

So, yeah. I didn't get the end of James fully memorized the week before, and being a review week I figured I'd just wrap it all up today. Or tomorrow. Or something like that.

And I still don't have it memorized. If I've learned anything from the last 12 weeks it's that putting together a memorization plan is harder than it first seems. Some verses, they are just a mouthful. And there is SO much to be said in each and every word of the Word that it should be taken with prayer and time and care.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not throwing in the towel or anything. I just wish I had known to throw in a couple of extra weeks for James 1. Oh well, this coming week as we begin chapter 2 it will still be a review week of James 1, giving that extra time I need to get it down.

But the application... oh that application. That's where I'm hung up. It's not a challenge to desire to continue in the word, to do what it says and not want to forget it (hence the desire to not just memorize it BUT to apply it.) It's not about being blessed, not at all. I just want to glorify God, to honor Him with my life, to live out this Word and draw others nearer to the heart of who Jesus is and how He loves them so deeply. But then I get to this part about considering yourself religious... In my self-righteous, new age Christianity, the thought of being religious is a no-no. We don't want to cling tight to laws and ritual. We want a real, authentic faith. A personal relationship with Jesus. Not religion, but relationship. So to consider myself religious?
And here we go with application.
So to consider myself religious, this isn't a bad thing then. To align myself with God's Word and God's truth and to seek to love Him and serve Him. This is religion. I can define it how ever I want to - relationship, walking with Jesus, follower of Christ. It's religion though, no matter which way you serve it up. And that isn't a bad thing.

Mind blown.

Then we move on, to keep a tight rein on the tongue. You know, I feel like I do pretty good at that - I don't swear. I'm not a gossip. But is my tongue really reined in?
And here comes conviction.
When I speak sarcastically, and not in a joking way - but in a way that really just means "You're annoying me." Not reined in. When I raise my voice with my kids, or choose words that are less than kind. Still not reined in. When I let disrespect flow in tone and action and speech toward my husband. Not reined in at all.
Convicting? Oh yes, so very much.
So that {relationship/walk/following} RELIGION is worthless. Worthless. And that word, worthless, almost seems too harsh. But is it? That answer is a resounding NO. It's worthless because I choose for it to be worthless. I push it aside and let the flesh take over, in sarcasm, in tone, in action, in unkindness, in disrespect. My religion is worthless when I let its worth take second seat and let my tongue take rein. I let that religion become less worthy than my own ways. Conviction.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

And there it is.
I can ask myself "How can I care for orphans?" or  "Am I caring for widows?" I mean, those are legit questions in this reflection. But we do this. We almost do this automatically. It's compassion at its finest. You see a person hurting and you help. So we do what we can. We sponsor a child, we give food to the hungry, we hold the hands of the grieving. It's easy to be a good person. But to be a good person AND keep oneself from being polluted by the world (from making our religion worthless), that takes the Holy Spirit. It's when the power of Christ reins in our tongues and reigns in our hearts and our homes that we lean in and learn to let go of the junk. Just simple, sweet surrender. And He keeps us clean. Not polluted. We become Pure. Faultless. And that can be hard - to surrender, to let go and let the power of Christ reign in our lives. It leaves me thankful that He never gives up on me. 

Because I'm a hot mess down here.

Is it any wonder I'm hung up here? My heart won't let my mind absorb it all fully until my heart has reconciled it's truth, repented of selfish ways, and turned to the One who can make religion worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Sign of the Times

Over the weekend my Bradley and I had a chance to get away from the busyness, spend some time together and reconnect. We drove about an hour south and spent a few days in downtown Cincinnati, staying at the historical Netherland Plaza (now known as the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.)

I have always adored downtown Cincinnati. The lights, the sounds, the beautiful architecture resting right on the Ohio River. We lived in inner city Cincy for a few years while Brad was in Bible college, and that was quite an experience! We had our second child while living in Cincinnati. We grew up a bit, if you will, while living far enough away from family to have to sort things out on our own. I have fond memories of our time there. Later, when we lived in Tennessee, we would travel up I-75 to visit family in Ohio. Every single time we hit that bend in the highway coming right up to the river, and the Cincinnati skyline would just illuminate the drive, aahhhh... it was always a sight to behold! So, when the opportunity to take this weekend away presented itself, and Cincinnati was one of the locations for the conference we were attending (more on that and our time away in another post), there was little question in my mind about where we should go.

The Netherland Plaza is a national historical landmark/historical hotel. It's like walking through history as you journey through the hotel and the adjoining Carew Tower (which is the second tallest building in Cincinnati and the very building the Empire State Building was modeled after.) The detail of the french art deco throughout is gorgeous - detailed wood and metal carving, the murals, the rare Brazilian rosewood walls, the use of marble and mirrors, even the nostalgia of the US Mail drop box that accompanies the elevator shafts - every inch was marvelous. It was hard not to imagine what this place was like when first built in 1930.

When we checked in, we were asked if we had a preference on the floor we stayed on. Thinking how cool it would be to overlook downtown or the river, I said the higher up the better! We ended up in a room on the top floor of the hotel - the 29th floor. SO AMAZING. The view was spectacular.

As much as I love the view driving up to and through downtown Cincinnati, viewing the city from so high in our room was just too awesome! Better yet though was the view that we had from the observation deck located on the 49th floor of the adjoining Carew Tower - you know, that second tallest building in Cincinnati. Truly just amazing.

While on a break from the conference events on our second day, I was sitting in our window just staring out at the city. I had my Bible in hand and opened up to where I've been "leisurely" reading through scripture, The Gospel of Mark. Having finished chapter 12 the day before, I opened up to the beginning of chapter 13 and read these words... As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.” Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” 

My heart broke. And I reread it again. And then my own thoughts and words caught up to me. Look at these magnificent buildings, at the impressive stones!

But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another.

We live on mission. Or, at least we attempt to live on mission anyway. Asking God to give us His eyes that we would see the lost and the hurting and the ones in need - the ones in need of Him. And I had thought of those when we first arrived. I had seen the people in all of their busyness and I had wondered about their hearts. But then, overcome by the splendor of the architecture of men, I let those very same people slip my mind. And then in this quiet time, a moment I had approached so casually, conviction struck my heart. Look at these magnificent buildings, at the impressive stones! 

But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another.

Now, this chapter in Mark is a warning from Jesus, a sign of the times to come. It's where many doctrinal beliefs on the events of end times come from. It's a chapter that we as Christ followers must take seriously.

Back to where I sat, looking down on the hustle of the city, eyes welled up with tears. God, don't let me forget, not for one second, where you brought me from. God, don't let me forget, not for one second, those who are still choosing to live outside of Your grace. God, don't let me forget, not for one second, those who are seeking you while shackled in the chains in this life. God, don't let me forget, not for one second, to live on mission.

It's hard sometimes to live on mission. When ministry is vocation and when life is overwhelming by the demands of church and home and work and school, sometimes we have to take a break. Brad and I, we needed this break. We needed the chance to get away, just the two of us, and take the time for the three of us (myself, my husband, and our God.) But taking a break from mission? No. For the Good News must first be preached to all nations. 

God, don't let me forget, not for one second...

And so, while the weekend away was still largely focused on reconnecting with this precious gift of a husband that I have in my Bradley, I was convicted and reconnected with the maker of this marriage, the maker of this city, the maker of the very air we breathe. Mission minded, refocused. Ready to encounter Jesus in the faces of the strangers on the street. Looking for opportunities to serve them, to serve Him.

God, don't let me forget, not for one second... 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wrapping up James 1:22-24

Wow! This week kind of flew by for me...

Maybe it flew by because I've had a lot weighing on my heart lately. Choices that need to be made. Options to explore. Life in general. And trying to walk in application of these words that have sunken into my heart and taken root, letting that which is rooted be watered, giving room for it to grow... that all weighs into these choices and options.

And I'm at peace with one choice that needs to be finalized.
And we're waiting for direction with another, but that also brings a certain peace just knowing that in the stillness of waiting there is a mighty hand at work, piecing together every detail. I pray that as we wait that we will have open ears and walk in obedience. May the will that we walk in not be permissive, may it be perfect.

Verse 22, you may notice, was part of last week as well. It just seemed right to me to carry it into this week - you know, context and what not.

This week we'll wrap up James 1 - Yay!

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wrapping up James 1:21-22

After sorting through my lack of memorization over these last few weeks (and overcoming!) I wrapped up James 1:21-22 yesterday. As happy as I am to feel "caught up" on the memorization side of things, I kind of want to hang back on these two verses and just let them marinate a bit, study over them, so that I can do what they say. Thankfully, verse 22 actually carries into the context of the verses over the next two weeks.

There's just so much said here, so much to let sink in and take root. It's all too easy to merely listen to the Word - in a message, in a song, in a devotion, in prayer, in study. It's more than hearing it, more than letting it lift you up for a moment, tickle your ear. It's more than just that instance of conviction or challenge that the Word presents. That instance can fan to flame or be snuffed to a small puff of smoke - that rests in how we respond.

Do what it says...  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Something Simplified

I'm taking a lighter note today and sharing one of those "That would make a good blog post" ideas that I've had. It's nothing too original... not at all original, really. But it's simplified and, you know, since this blog is about simplified stuff in life, this is kind of an obligatory post.

Homemade laundry soap.

See. Simplified. Obligatory. And I just made some last week, so this is pretty timely.

I've been making homemade laundry soap for a few years now. Before making my own soap, I was on the fence on doing it because I figured coupons could help me save nearly just as much money as making it homemade would (and really, they can.) But then I watched this documentary on the chemicals in our soaps and cleaners. Understand, I was already in the process of transitioning away from cleaners full of chemicals, which is why I watched the documentary in the first place, but that documentary gave this hypochondriac the motivation needed to make the switch. So I started off with a liquid laundry soap recipe - one that had to be measured and grated. Then melted and cooked up on the stove. And then mixed with a lot more water in a HUGE bucket. It would solidify into this laundry soap goop and would last about 3-4 months. And it was like pennies a load. The clothes were just as clean as they were with the store-bought stuff. It really didn't take too much time or effort to make the soap, and since our laundry room was literally just feet from our stove, I was good with it.

But then we moved into this house where the laundry is done in the basement. There was something about toting that 3 gallon bucket of laundry soap goop down scary basement steps that made me reconsider my soap making. I didn't want to go back to the store-bought stuff. I knew I could put the liquid in smaller containers and tote them down the stairs, but how many containers would I need? How would I accumulate them all without spending money and thereby eliminating the frugal side of making your own soap? Then it dawned on me: Powder. I just knew that some genius had to have pinned a good powder laundry soap recipe. And I was right.

This made me entirely too happy.

And I am completely sold on powder homemade laundry soap. There is no cooking involved in my laundry soap making now. It's still fairly 'natural' so I know what chemicals we have going into our soap (another plus) and it's still pennies a load. And it is SO pretty!


The ingredients in this lovely tub of sweet smelling laundry soap goodness include: one bar of Zote soap (shredded), one 76 oz. box of borax, one 55 oz. box of washing soda, and one 28 oz. bottle of Lavender scented Purex Crystals.

I shred the Zote soap and set it aside, and then I combine a third of everything - the shredded Zote, the borax, the washing soda, and the crystals - and mix completely. Add another third of everything, mix completely. Add the rest of everything, mix completely. And that's it. I store it in a medium (?) sized sterilite showoff's box (the lid secures on with side snap closures and it has a handle on top.) I keep a 1/4 measuring cup with it that also precisely measures 1/8 cup. You can certainly use just 1/8 of a cup per load - even a large load - but we do xl loads around here, nearly every load of laundry, so we use 1/4 cup. And it lasts 3+ months. And it smells AMAZING. I tried to do powder without the Purex crystals, because even though they're "natural" I know they still contain some other questionable ingredients. But then, one day, I had a coupon and I gave them a try and OH.MY.GOODNESS. Never again will I make laundry soap without them. NE-VER. Not ever. Even though they are only 92% natural, I take the risk because these crystals smell like heaven.

oh, and a tip - Zote soap in homemade powder laundry soap is definitely the way to go. I used Fels-Naptha in my liquid soap, and it was perfect. I tried Fels-Naptha in powder, and it was just ok. I tried a non-laundry natural bar soap (Yardley) and it was also just ok. But Zote... oh Zote soap. How have I gone this long without you? It shreds really easy (and I shred by hand...)

...and it dissolves in the water perfectly. AND it is GORGEOUS! Look how pink it is! I don't even like pink, but this soap is just pretty. Between it and those lavender Purex crystals, my homemade laundry soap is delightful to not just smell, but also to look at.

It's the little things, people. The simple, little things.

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