Showing posts with label The High Calling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The High Calling. Show all posts

Thursday

The No-Laundry-On-Sunday Sabbath...

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The Friday afternoon I wait for my mother’s arrival, I can only imagine how our lives are about to change.

Years-in-the-making rhythms of daily prayers, scripture reading, and study, as well as weekly Sabbath worship and rest, are like breathing, eating, and morning coffee. It wouldn’t be life without them, but their practice is as unique and changing as my circumstances. Soul anchors - with long ropes that stretch and adapt to fluctuations in my abilities and responsibilities – they are drastically altered the moment my mother is wheeled through our front door on a stretcher.

Mother grimaces as the men who drove the medical transport van slide her onto the hospital bed in the middle of what used to be our master bedroom. Disabled and with dementia, mother doesn’t say a word. She trembles, cold and afraid; and though I remind her, she’s confused about where she is and who I am. Her clothes are drenched with sweat and urine, and the drivers offer no explanation for what happened to the catheter she should have had when they picked her up at the rehab center hours earlier.

When the men leave, I fill the bathroom sink with warm water and remove her wet clothes. I give her a bath, dress her in clean clothes, and the reality that I’m on my own sinks in. Any confidence I had that I could care for my mother as well or better than those who had been caring for her for weeks slowly evaporates as I wonder what can be done - late on a Friday afternoon - about her need for a catheter and the blistering bedsores I discover on both her heels.

Two days later, my family leaves for church without me – the first of many Sundays, field trips, sports and social events I’m left behind. Mother’s complicated care is my responsibility alone. A Sabbath and any measure of leisure time I may have carved out of our family’s schedule, including homeschooling two teenage boys and their younger sister, disappear in the feeding, changing, bathing, dressing and meeting mother’s complex needs.

Beginning with feeding her breakfast, my routine with mother is the same every day. I give her a bath and dress her in clean clothes. Using a mechanical lift, I move her out of bed into a sheepskin-lined geriatric chair that I can move around the house and onto the porch. Before the morning is over, I make her bed with fresh linens. Every. Single. Day. With massages, diligent care, and good hydration and nutrition, her bedsores begin to heal. I’m not inclined to change a thing.

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Mother’s laundry alone is more than a washer load. When added to the rest of the family’s dirty sheets and clothes, keeping the laundry under control means washing at least two loads every day and more over the weekend is added to the routine.

One Sunday, I’m aware I’ve created no room for a Sabbath rest or the grace and manna that comes from trusting God for my needs. I consider what work I can cease for a day without compromising mother’s care, and though it’s a little thing, I give into the nudge to not do laundry on Sunday.

I release my grip on control and open my hands to receive this small measure of Sabbath rest, and I’m given God’s unique-to-me redemption of time and energy. Mondays – with twice the laundry workload added to caring for mother and homeschooling – are amazingly not more difficult.

Thirteen years ago this past Easter my no-laundry-on-Sundays end when Mother leaves our home on Pollywog Creek for Heaven. Whatever Sabbath God offers me today, I receive with gratitude and the confidence that, no matter the circumstances, it will miraculously be more than enough.

{This post is in response to THC invitation here.}

Wednesday

How great the Father's love for us...

Dad and Me
My Father and Me
Easter 1950
He's a mess. His six-foot frame stretches gaunt and frail under the hospital bed's starched white sheet, his bare feet sticking out the bottom uncovered. He's badly in need of a shave and long overdue for a hair cut. The tubing that delivers oxygen through prongs in his nostrils has rubbed the skin raw where it drapes over his ears too-large for his face, and the coke-bottle lens of his glasses magnifies the fear in his eyes.

And it breaks my heart.

I'm nearly fifty when Alzheimer's plays tricks with his mind and emphysema clogs his lungs and he tells me he's afraid of the nurses - afraid they'll take his oxygen away or be mean. I help him scoot up in bed, fluff the pillows, tuck in the top sheet to cover his feet and rearrange and loosen the oxygen tubing off the raw creases behind his earlobes, but I can't convince him there's nothing to fear. 

I reach for his hand, squeeze gently, and tell him I love him, and for the first time I can remember, he says he loves me, too.  I wonder if he knows who I am. 

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I loved my father, and I know he loved me, too - he just never knew how to show it. I was never a daddy's little princess. No bedtime stories, daddy-daughter dates, or the benefit of his counsel about boys or college. I never knew what it meant to be loved and cherished by my father - as a child or an adult.

It's no wonder the confusion of my young adult years as I bounced between the lure of feminism and the unhealthy need for a man's affection. It's only grace that drew me away and grace that protected my heart from sowing bitterness toward the father who'd neglected me when I needed him the most. But the reality is that my experience as an unloved daughter of an earthly father blocked my comprehension of what it means to be a daughter of God - the Most High King - who, as David Platt writes in Follow Me, saturates us as his children with his affection. 

In chapter 5, Platt focuses on what it means for followers of Christ to be the beloved, adopted children of God, and it is balm for the soul of this woman-child of sixty-two who still needs this assurance.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! I John 3.1
Without question, our status before God was settled at the moment we turned from our sin and ourselves and trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord. But our lives are based on the love relationship we enjoy and experience every moment of every day as God our Father saturates us as his children with his affection. p.99
I think of my cravings for affection as a young adult when Platt says that the trigger of sin {in Genesis 3} involved the man and and woman looking to the things of this world to satisfy them apart from their Creator, and when Jesus said, I am the bread of life, he was telling the crowds who had gathered to hear him, If you want to be fulfilled, put your faith in me.

I was raised in the church. I knew the Lord's prayer by heart, but the gap I experienced between a distant, unloving earthly father and "Our Father, which art in Heaven" created a craving for affection that I foolishly turned to the world to fulfill and a disconnect to God as father that left me vulnerable to the influence of feminism.

I understand why some women in the church, whose earthly fathers were unable to be the loving fathers God created them to be, struggle to see themselves as beloved daughters, resisting to call God Father and submit to his loving authority and pefect design, but the answer isn't to create a gender-neutral god, but to follow the Jesus of Scripture, to hide under the Father's protective wings, and to allow Him to lavish them with abundant love and heal their wounded hearts.
...amid all these pleasures we are wired to pursue, we must always remember that our deepest craving is not for something but for Someone. p.109
Unfortunately, as Platt states, the pleasures, pursuits, plaudits, and possessions of this world seem far more enticing...and the lives of professing Christians are oftentimes virtually indistinguishable from the lives of non-Christians.

As we begin to comprehend the love of God for His children, we discover that Jesus is the supreme source of satisfaction, and we want nothing apart from him, and as Platt reminds us, we begin to trust Christ to change our affections from the things of this world to Christ alone. It's this change in affections that increases our joy in Him from the inside out and is manifested in our increasing desire for God's Word, communion with Him in prayer, worship, and every other discipline of the faith.
This is the heart of following Jesus: enjoying God as Father through Christ the Son. And when this is a reality in life, then your reason for living is utterly revolutionized. p. 121

Previous Follow Me Discussion Posts on Pollywog Creek

Monday

We Believe Him...

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Follow Me
A Call to Die, A Call to Live
by David Platt
Chapters 4-5

He is Lord
He is Lord
He is risen from the dead
And He is Lord

Every knee shall bow
Every tongue confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord

Platt gets in your face and ruffles your feathers, like his concluding statement in chapter 3 - that being born again "does not mean that you are making Jesus your personal Lord and Savior". I can almost hear the collective What?!?! It's a compelling lead into chapter 4, where this week's discussion begins. 

Platt explains that to say that Jesus is your personal Lord and Savior is a true expression from those who have an "intimately personal relationship with Jesus," but to say that you are making Him Lord and Savior is an idea that he believes is a reflection of "dangerous trends in contemporary Christianity." We don't make Jesus Lord. He IS Lord, and those who follow Him submit to His Lordship - on His terms, not ours. To say that we make Him Lord promotes the idea that we can make "a personal Christ we create for ourselves."

Lest we think Platt is straining gnats, I think he has point.
Slowly, subtly, we take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into someone with whom we are a little more comfortable. We dilute what he says about the cost of following him, we disregard what he says about those who choose not to follow him, we practically ignore what he says about materialism, and we functionally miss what he says about mission. We pick and choose what we like and don't like from Jesus' teachings. In the end, we create a nice, non-offensive, politically correct, middle-class, American Jesus who looks just like us and thinks just like us.  p. 76
We've all done it, in one way or another, and I believe this trend is related to the authority {or lack of authority} God's Word holds in our lives. In chapter 3, Platt states that part of the fruit of being born again is a new creation with a new heart and a new mind. If the Bible is the final authority in our lives, it should be the source of our mind's renewal, but if we don't read and meditate on God's Word or we don't believe it is the final authority, our minds are more likely renewed by the entertainment industry, secular thought, advertisements, friends, internet content {including blogs}, twitter, facebook, and our experiences and emotions. We say we are followers of Jesus, but in reality, we are only following the Jesus who agrees with us, not the Jesus who said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." {Matthew 16.24}
So we go as disciples of Jesus who love his Word and trust his truth. We go not simply as men and women who at some point decided to make Jesus our personal Lord and Savior, but ultimately as men and women who at every point are devoted to proclaiming Jesus as the universal Lord and Savior. We believe him as his disciples; therefore, we obey him and make disciples. p. 94
{To be continued with Chapter 5 Wednesday.} 


Previous Follow Me Discussion Posts on Pollywog Creek

{Photo - Wall hangings, created by Sue Reed, in the lobby of Riverside Church in Ft. Myers, Florida}

Wednesday

"Captivated by His Greatness - Changed by His Grace"

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Follow Me by David Platt
Introduction - Chapter 3

I'd ordered it a week before and it was already in my hands when I discovered that The High Calling would be discussing Follow Me - A Call to Die, A Call to Live, by David Platt, on Monday morning through March. 

I'm not new to the teachings of David Platt or Francis Chan, whose introduction to Platt's chapters in Follow Me is deep and rich and not to be overlooked. While some may bristle at Platt's teachings, they fan a flame for me, and I'm thrilled to be wrestling through these chapters with my friends at The High Calling.

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I'm also grateful to attend a church that has embraced the mission "to make disciples who love and live like Jesus" and with core values that support that mission. These core values are re-enforced by the pastors in gospel-saturated messages and fleshed out within the church in small lifegroups where we discuss the application of those scriptures that call us to die to ourselves and to live in Christ - to be a disciple and make disciples where ever God has placed us.

From what I have read in the introduction through chapter 3, Follow Me would likely receive a hearty amen from the leaders of our church.

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As Chan states in the introduction:
The life God has for us is one of abundance. It is meant to be full, not repetitive. He wants us doing things that have eternal impact. He wants us busy expanding his Kingdom in one way or another, today and every day. This doesn't mean that every Christian should quit his or her job and move to a foreign country. But it does mean that we need to figure out how to make each day count for his purposes. p. xiii
In the first few chapters, Platt reminds us of the first disciples, as well as Christians through the ages, who eagerly, willingly, and gladly lost their lives to know, follow, and proclaim Christ, and he points us to the scriptures that call each of us to die, as well - that following Jesus involves losing your life - and finding a new life in him

Platt wants us to consider that if our lives do not reflect the fruit of following Jesus, then we are foolish to think that we are actually followers of Jesus in the first place - and more importantly, that we are likely deceived if we point to praying a prayer or inviting Jesus into our heart as proof of our salvation.  

Platt's explanation on what it means to be adopted and to be called a child of God - to be loved by God, pursued by God, and found by God - is one of the best I've read for it's completeness, clarity and simplicity.

Chapter 3 concludes with a question that we might be tempted to think is obvious, but should be considered more deeply in the light of what he has written. Have you been born again? he asks, while reminding us that the fruit of this new birth is a new heart with a new mind, new desires, a new will, a new way of relating to people around you, and a new purpose to follow Jesus. And he warns us to not be mistaken...
 This does not mean that you are making Jesus your personal Lord and Savior. p.73
And that's where Chapter 4 begins. 

Tuesday

From Pew-Warmer to Poverty-Fighter...{a book review}



"I saw a group of people who had the same dreams that I did."
Dan King, The Unlikely Missionary 

When Dan King, a self-described "guy with a regular job and a regular family who sits in the regular church pews", began blogging, he could not have envisioned where God was going to take him or how God would use him to inspire others to fulfill God's purposes for their lives.

In his recently released e-book, The Unlikely Missionary: From Pew-Warmer to Poverty-Fighter*, Dan describes his transformation from "an ordinary Christian trying not to be lukewarm" to a man of great compassion for the least of these and desire to help them succeed in overcoming poverty. He tells that story through his journey to Africa with Five Talents International, an organization that fights poverty by providing business training and spiritual development to the poor in developing third world countries.

Dan humbly states that he's not a "powerhouse writer", but his authentic and conversational style makes The Unlikely Missionary a delightful, inspiring and easy read.  Each of the nine short chapters includes interesting stories with samples from his trip journal, and concludes with questions for reflection, further study and writing prompts, making it a valuable resource for bloggers and small group or individual study.

As I read, I underlined and annotated nearly every page. His concluding paragraph in chapter six is one that spoke directly to me as I work to write and edit my photography...
"...we should never think too much of our own creative efforts. Our part is to simply highlight the creativity of the Master Creator."
Dan's book is not a "how to be a missionary" manual. It's the story of a "normal dude" who wants to be used however God chooses, and in the telling of his story, his readers are encouraged to be open to God, as well. 
"You may not end up in Africa like I did. You may end up finding more purpose right at home in your own backyard or your office or your neighborhood or your school district. The location isn't as important as doing the things that will allow God to use you to the fullest." 

About Dan King: Christ-follower. Husband. Father. Corporate training development guru. School of ministry and missions instructor. Social media editor for thehighcalling.org. Blogger at bibledude.net. Co-founder and media director for the activistfaith.org movement. Social media director for help end local poverty.





{*Dan King graciously provided a free copy for my review, but the opinions expressed here are my own. All quotes above are attributed to Dan King from The Unlikely Missionary: From Pew-Warmer to Poverty-Fighter}

{Photo} sunlight warming pews in the Belmont University bell tower chapel, 2009, and a small country church in rural south Florida, 2011