Finding Faith in the Seasons of Mundanity

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I’m reading in Genesis right now, smack dab in the middle of the story of Joseph. What a crazy life. Born a favorite, naively arrogant to his brothers, betrayed and sold, escalated to the highest serving position in every single circumstance he found himself in, ran Egypt, and eventually forgave his brothers and reunited with his father.

Pretty exciting events in there. But what struck me was the amount of time Joseph spent in each season. It’s not absolutely clear in the Bible, but let’s assume Joseph was 17 when his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites. He was 30 years old when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream. 13 years in between. Think about 13 years ago for you. I was a freshman in college. 9/11 happened. Think of all that’s happened to you since then.

We know Joseph was in prison for 2 years, so we can assume he served Potiphar for 11 years. How in the world did Joseph get through those long stretches of time?

Everyone has a plan for their life. What was Joseph’s? Did he try to figure out a way to escape Potiphar and get back to Canaan in the early years and then finally succumb to his lot and accept being a servant? Did he try to find the positive aspects of the situation and serve joyfully? Did he ever get to the point of despair while in prison? How did he keep his faith in God through those times?

It’s easy to praise God in the really exciting happy moments – the birth of a child, the marriage of two people, the achievement of a degree or passing a test, reaching a long, sought after goal. And it’s easy to cling to God in the dark moments – the death of a loved one, loss of a relationship, job, or identity. But what about the other 99% of life? The day after day after day after day after day? Sometimes I feel like I’m trudging.

My answer is I don’t know. Or maybe it’s one of those things that is simple and hard at the same time. The truth is, it’s not glamorous. It’s getting up 15 minutes early to read a passage of scripture you don’t understand half the time. It’s trying to keep your thoughts from distraction during silent prayer. It’s saying, “Oh Lord” every morning when you get in your car to go to work. It’s extending grace and forgiveness time and time again to those around you – and yourself. It’s serving at your church every other week, making dessert for this or that event, tucking in your kids every night with “Jesus Loves Me.”

Strong faith comes from incremental decisions. Disciplined effort. Non Instagram-worthy moments. Obviously, there are amazing times of clarity or insight, and of course it’s all worth it. There is an end goal. Reading scripture in the morning will set your priorities for the day and detox your soul. Prayer will keep the world in perspective and God in control. You just may not see it everyday.

Whether you are exactly where you want to be in life, or feel like you’ll never get there, continue to seek God in the mundanity, wherever you are. After all, loving you is never mundane to God.

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The Stewardship of Simplicity

This is not a music therapy post! 🙂 So if you’re bored with my MT stuff, read on!!

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Matthew 6:25. We all know this verse. Actually, this verse always reminds me of Godspell and I immediately hear Chris Girardi exclaim slovenly, “Her body is more than clothes!” from when I did the show in DC six years ago. The interpretation of this passage that I’ve typically heard is from the perspective of those who do not have the means for basic needs – food, water, clothing, shelter. Don’t worry about getting food etc., God will provide. But I’ve had a thought revisiting me a lot lately that turns this interpretation upside down.

What does “worry” really translate to? King James says “take no thought” instead of “don’t worry” (as does Martin Luther’s German translation, thank you parallel Bible website and Google translate). Young’s Literal Translation says, “be not anxious.”

I feel like I’ve been nudged several times with the thought that “don’t worry” actually means “don’t fuss over” in this verse. Indeed, as I discovered 3 seconds ago after I looked up the interpretation in The Message…

If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion.

Some may dismiss this translation, that’s fine. But have you ever thought of it that way? But why would Jesus care about the people who have stuff? Wasn’t he an advocate for the poor? Isn’t it more important to assure them that God will provide their basic needs? Why would he waste his breath with telling them not to fuss over their clothes?

(To put it in context, this was part of the Sermon on the Mount, after the Beatitudes, before the “don’t judge others” and “seek first the kingdom of God.” It’s actually pretty fantastic, Matthew 5-7. I would recommend re-reading it if you haven’t lately.)

This is my answer to the devil’s advocate questions above: When I spent the summer in Haiti with people who seriously had no food, water, clothing, shelter, do you know what they fussed over? Guess what: not on what they didn’t have. They focused on taking care of others. When my thin flip flops broke on the side of a muddy mountain due to the stickiness of the mud, a Haitian offered me his shoes. It’s not that they didn’t think about needing the basics of living, they just didn’t dwell, they didn’t fuss. Jesus knew it was those who had stuff, rather than those who didn’t, who really needed His guidance. The spiritual energy was so potent in Haiti because God truly was all they had. And they were joyful about it. It made me realize how much my concern for food, clothes, and shelter was a distraction from experiencing the joy of knowing God. It may seem trivial, but think about how much time we spend on something as ubiquitous as shopping…Amazon, iTunes, commercials, vacations, homes, Pinterest, movies, groceries, Christmas presents, birthday presents…

Warning: This is where my what if question appears.

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What if…we simplified our lives to the point where our pursuit of God was so strong that denying ourselves class and comfort wouldn’t be a sacrifice – it wouldn’t even be an issue? We simply wouldn’t care about those things.

Let me disclaim here that I am first and foremost writing this to myself. Although, with my current financial situation, I have not been able to indulge my materialistic inclinations lately. (And just to point out how hypocritical that statement is, my Haitian friends would be laughing at me over the fact I am alluding to not having any money.) Even so, I have a lot to learn, which is probably why God’s been placing this on my heart.

Clothes: Back to Haiti – when I was there 8 years ago, the daughter of the missionaries owned approximately 6 skirts and 10 shirts. I was impressed by the way she cleverly mixed and matched them to create different outfits for the 365 days in the year. Not as easy as the $5,000 wardrobe they give you on What Not to Wear.

Not too long ago, my sister-in-law was telling me about a book called “Seven,” in which the author chooses to simplify her life by limiting things to seven – seven meals in one month, seven outfits in one month, etc. I exclaimed to her how I had been thinking of doing a similar experiment – wearing the same outfit every Monday, same outfit every Tuesday, and so on, just to see what it would be like to wear 7 outfits and that’s it. Would it seem ridiculous to do that? Or refreshingly simple?

Shelter: I’ve been slightly obsessed over the past couple of years with the Tiny House Movement. The idea of living in less than 300 square feet is kind of appealing to me. Or at least a small apartment. I just need a kitchen, bathroom, and another room. But that’s just me. And also there would be less to clean. And heat/cool.

Food: And then there’s food. I’ll probably get a lot of eye rolls on this one. From the foodies. Sorry foodies. You can whole-heartedly disagree with me on this. After watching the documentary Forks Over Knives on Netflix last summer, I changed my diet. I had already given up beef and pork, now I don’t eat dairy either. I dare you to ask me how I get my calcium. I dare you. I eat some chicken and turkey, and I love fish. I’d rather not eat the poultry though; I try to be a pescatarian. I went about 48 hours this week with no meat, and I can’t put it any simpler: I just felt better. Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a healthy eating motivational speech. The gist is, my self-imposed restrictions have made my diet really boring. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and starches. I stopped drinking soda years ago and alcohol is too expensive, so I drink water, coffee, tea, and juice. I’ve left myself with very few choices at the store. And I couldn’t care less. But…I’ve never been a foodie, even back when I ate anything. I prefer simple home cooking to fancy restaurants. So, it’s not as big of a “sacrifice” for me. And, full disclosure, I still eat cheese. And creamer in my coffee.

This is the part where I’ll get in trouble because I’m going to ask you to consider scaling back on your limitless first-world choices and instead use your resources to help those who don’t have anything. Besides, you know you feel bad when you’re buying school supplies for the church program for needy kids at the Dollar Tree when you get your own at Target. It’s really an out-of-sight, out-of-mind scenario. Ever since I’ve drastically restricted myself on food and shopping (the shelter part is kind of a non-issue right now since I’m living with my parents during my internship), I honestly don’t even think about the stuff I’m missing. Because I’m not missing it.

What if Jesus wasn’t saying, “Don’t worry, God will provide”? What if Jesus was saying, “Don’t fuss, but live simply, so you can focus on more important things, like helping others”?

“This is all trivial,” you say. Is it? “These are just simple pleasures to make life more enriching.” Are they? Or are they truly satisfying a selfish desire for contentment? What if you look at this issue as a matter of stewardship? Our consumerism may seem to be at bay, but everything starts small. What if those of us who could stand to live more simply actually did? What kind of impact could our changes in lifestyle have on the world and how we take care of the least, last, and lost? Perhaps a much greater impact than any of us could imagine.

Peter Packs a Punch

Whenever I feel lost, I find myself going back to 1 Peter, chapter 1. I went there today and realized how jam-packed this ONE SENTENCE is. Peter writes with the best of them here. Let’s unpack it. I may get into no-brainer territory here, but I think it’s worth looking at.

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)

According to his great mercy,

According to = per

His = God’s. The sentence before this one is Peter blessing God, blessing him for the role of being the Father of Jesus Christ.

Mercy = withholding judgment. Here, Peter refers to it as “great.” The KJV translation uses the word “abundant.” I like to think Peter meant for the readers to interpret “great” as potent, strong – as well as quantitatively encompassing. Like a force that cannot be overcome.

So, according to, or in business terms, per God’s withholding judgment (that is, the punishment we deserve for sinning),

He has caused us to be born again to a living hope

He has caused us = we had nothing to do with it. It was not of our design or implementation.

To be born again = new start, clean slate, rebirth, do over, refresh – spiritually. What would it feel like to restart your spirit?

To a living hope = “to a” it sounds to me that the living hope is already present once the rebirth has taken place. “Living” means active, alive, and the textbook definition of hope is “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”

So, by God’s own design, our spirits have a chance to start over, and once they have, there is already a permeating, active presence of anticipation for something better.

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

Through = by means of, because of

The resurrection = coming back to life, conquering of death

Of Jesus Christ = of the Son of God, the Messiah, who was also a man.

From the dead = He actually died.

So, Jesus, the Son of God, actually died, and then He came back to life 100%. And because of this fact, God is able to rock our world.

Let’s recap so far…

Per God withholding judgment for our sins, he made a way for us to start over spiritually, because Jesus died and somehow, supernaturally conquered death and came back to life. Let’s mix that up a bit: Because God loves us and didn’t want us to die justly for breaking the rules all the time, he gave Jesus the task, which he accepted, of dying for us, knowing that being the Son-of-God-and-somehow-also-God gave him the power to break the hold that death had over us humans. Because of all this, if we choose, we can start over – not physically of course – but spiritually, which, really, is kind of more important if you believe that your spirit goes somewhere after you die. And, along with the opportunity to start over spiritually, the new spiritual realm we will find ourselves in already has a new quality about it, a sense of anticipation, a dizzying yet subtle feeling that there’s something better to come.

***We’re just getting started! Hang on for the ride if you want more!***

To an inheritance that is imperishable

To an = this is another benefit of the being born again thing. First we were born to a living hope, and to continue, we are also born to an

Inheritance = something that is given from one person to another because of the nature of their relationship. What is given has either been worked for and earned by, or was also given to, the giver. I’m pretty sure an inheritance from God has a few perks.

That is imperishable = cannot spoil, be destroyed – untouchable.

So, along with a living hope, we also are given God’s legacy, which, by the way, cannot be destroyed and won’t ever go bad. And God is giving us this because of the relationship He has with us, one that could not exist without Jesus.

Undefiled, unfading, kept in heaven for you

Still talking about the inheritance here.

Undefiled = has not been tampered with or tainted.

Unfading = it’s value will never diminish. It will never erode.

Kept in heaven for you = you don’t have to worry about its upkeep or protection. Also, you do not have permission to add or take away from it.

So, the amazing legacy God is leaving you, thanks to Jesus restoring the opportunity to have a relationship with God, not only is incapable of being destroyed, but is equally as incapable of being compromised in any way, AND its value will never diminish. Bonus? You don’t even have to worry about taking care of this vast treasure of amazing goodness, it’s just chilling in heaven.

So, before we move on to my favorite part let’s cover the whole inheritance thing one more time. First, we get new spirits because God loves us and Jesus saved us from certain death. Then, we also get this crazy good inheritance that we didn’t even earn, AND it’s got this spiritual force field around it – in heaven by the way – that is keeping it all pristine and perfect, until we get up there.

Moving on.

Who by God’s power are being guarded through faith

Who = you

by God’s power = I can’t even to begin to wrap my mind around what God’s power can do

are being guarded = This is the part where it really hits me. I think part of it is a woman thing – we like to be protected, secured, guarded. The fact that I am being guarded by God’s power…makes me fall in love with Him and smirk at the enemy at the same time.

through faith = by means of, because of, the fact that I believe in God and his power without seeing Him or it.

So, God’s power (crazypants) is guarding me through my own force field of faith. So, protection is granted not only to my inheritance in heaven, but also to me on earth.

For a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

For a salvation = this is what we are being guarded for. My faith is a shield, its purpose to guard me for salvation – all by GOD’S POWER. Salvation = God saving us from sin, once and for all.

Ready to be revealed = it’s ready, just needs the green light from God

In the last time = This can have 20948 different meanings. None of us will know when the “last time” is, but God needs to leave this mystery, so that there’s a point to having faith at all.

So, the reason God is protecting us through our faith with his power, is so that we will be ready for that final time God is going to save us. The amazing thing about God’s mercy and Jesus’ sacrifice is that it’s constantly renewable. It’s not a one time use thing. But, there will be a final time it’s offered, and then it’s time to jump around in our inheritance in heaven.

Let’s re-recap. 

  1. God loves us
  2. But he’s just, so he has to punish us for messing up
  3. But he loves us
  4. So he gives his son, Jesus, the task of dying for us as a human
  5. Which Jesus does, amazingly
  6. And like a badass, he conquers death and comes back to life, because he’s God
  7. Which, remember, has all been done so that we can talk to God and get to know him and follow him and love him and stuff.
  8. The way we do this is to start over spiritually – to say, for real, that Jesus did all this, actually believe it, realize God is in control, and give up our own control.
  9. Once this happens, we get four things:
  10. First, we are constantly aware of this electric positive energy called hope, which kind of alters the way we think about things.
  11. Second, we get this better-than-you-can-ever-imagine inheritance, completely undeserved – just because God loves us!
  12. Third, we are outfitted with this force field of God’s own power, something we call faith, that guards us from things that are pretty evil
  13. And fourth, this faith is going to get us to that day where 1) we roll into heaven and 2) tap into that ridiculous inheritance.
  14. AND THE ONLY THING WE HAD TO DO TO RECEIVE ALL THIS WAS BE CREATED BY GOD.
  15. Because he created you so he could love you.
  16. Full stop.

 

I Have Seen the Lord!

John 20

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

GALILEE

 

John 21

When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[c] 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.

Good Friday

On Good Friday, it is tradition in Jerusalem for Christians to walk the “Via Dolorosa,” the path that Jesus walked with his cross.

Streets of Jerusalem, the Old City. Due to Jerusalem's history, constant rebuilding, the streets today are about 6 feet higher than the original.

The third station of the cross: Jesus falls

The fourth station of the cross: Jesus and Mary

Fifth station of the cross: Simon the Cyrene takes Jesus' cross

Traditional site of crucifixion inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Stone of Anointing, traditionally where Joseph of Arimathea prepared Jesus' body for burial.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is not the only traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.

This is the second traditional site of the crucifixion. It’s hard to see, but supposedly an image of a skull can be seen in these rocks, hence “Golgotha.”

Some may be indignant to this idea, but our guide told us that there is no mention of a hill when describing the crucifixion site. It is more likely that the cross was on the ground next to the road, for all to see. Therefore, we were told the cross would not have been on top of the hill, but down near the fence.

Most of the group felt more of a spiritual presence at this site.

Other traditional site of crucifixion. Outside the walls of the Old City.

Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

Luke 22: 39-53

39 And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40 When He arrived at the place, He said to them,“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” 43[a]Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. 45 When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46 and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

47 While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. 48But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered and said, “[b]Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him,“Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber? 53While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but [c]this hour and the power of darkness are yours.”

John 17

 1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to [a]all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I glorified You on the earth, [b]having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.7 Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received themand truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whomYou have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your namewhich You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished butthe [c]son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; andthe world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them[d]from [e]the evil one16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world,I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may [f]believe that You sent Me.

22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected[g]in unity, so that the world may [h]know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

25 “O righteous Father, [i]although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Palm Sunday in Pictures

 

Luke 19:28-44

Mount of Olives looking over Jerusalem

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[a]

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Dominus Flevit Church, traditional sight of where Jesus wept over Jerusalem

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Golden Gate - where Jesus entered Jerusalem

It's the only gate that is completely filled in.