Thursday

God is in the small things

Did you know that it is possible to find God's presence in the necessary tasks of life, like in doing laundry?

Household chores in general are not my favorite thing to do. I don't keep the house obsessively clean; I'm comfortable with a small amount of clutter and I don't mind if the laundry piles up during the week. I'd rather do it in one fell swoop on one day rather than devote bits of time to it during the week. I think this drives my husband nuts. He would devote bits of time to doing the laundry during the week if he could.  Sometimes, he will even put in a load when I'm not looking and then tell me about it as he leaves for work. Bless his heart. At least he's not above doing the laundry.

Dishes are especially not my favorite, but these are all things that need to be done so they get done. That's one of the reasons for letting the kids do it. They need to learn these things, right?

Anyway, back to laundry.

In our house, the kids do their own laundry and we all have days of the week especially set aside for this. For instance, Stephen does his on Wednesday, Jon on Saturday and Andrew on Sunday night. I do mine and Mike's on Friday (and whenever Mike sneaks in a load). I don't mind this schedule, in fact this summer I've rather enjoyed doing laundry. No. I'm not mentally ill, really.

Ever since energy rates have skyrocketed, we've made some changes at our house and the way we do laundry is one of them. The big change is we're not using our dryer. It's proved beneficial. In June we saved $60 from not using our dryer. Oh yeah, and the oven. With the heat we figured it would be more beneficial to run our air conditioner and use the grill. The dishwasher, on the other hand, was not even considered in this deal. We are still using it. I haven't gone completely mad. You're welcome, boys.

Using our clothesline for laundry has proved beneficial in more than just saving money. It has helped me slow down a bit. It takes time to hang clothes on the line and while doing this I enjoy some quiet time and the beauty of nature.

It hit me the first time I took a basket of clothes outside. On that day, the sky was a deep blue. There was a gentle breeze and since summer wasn't in full gear yet, the sun felt warm and inviting. I that moment, I thanked God for what he had created. And then I got a good chuckle from the birds. They were scolding me from  the treetops for interrupting their feast on the birdseed we put out everyday. They had flown away when I came outside.

"Just wait. I'll be gone soon," I told them.

A few days later I was out in the yard and two blue jays were eating at the bird seed trough. The other birds flew away, but those two stayed. I watched them from the clothesline for a while. They didn't even care that I was there and for some reason, I felt energized and a little closer to God because of this.

And when our wildflowers began blooming, I got to enjoy the blue sky, the gentle breeze, the squawking birds, the warm sun and colors of the wildflowers all at the same time. It's amazing how delicate and perfect the wildflowers are. Each one is unique in itself - just like us.

So why would a task like hanging laundry and enjoying nature have such an life-giving effect?

Author Michael Phillips put it this way in his book "Dawn of Liberty":

"The Fatherhood of God is one that must not merely create, it must continually imbue with life, it must generate his own life."

Perhaps that is why.

Phillips also wrote "Men and women are drawn to the earth; many do not even know why. They cultivate gardens and tenderly care for its trees and flowers and shrubs. The wise among them, however, acknowledge what gives the garden its glory. Kneeling down to plunge their fingers into the moist earth, they recognize that the miracle of God's very creation is before them. When they pluck a blossom from a cherished rose, to offer in affection to a loved one, they perceive their participation in the greatest truth in all the universe - that the goodness of the Creator has been lavished abroad upon the earth for his children to behold, discover truth from, and then enjoy ... if they will but look up, behold his face of love, and learn to call him Father."

Nature - the birds, the flowers, the leaves blowing in the wind, etc. - like humans, are a part of God's creation. When we quiet our hearts and enjoy the beauty around us, we experience a feeling of oneness and we open ourselves to the quiet lessons about God that nature has to teach us.

No wonder Paul said: "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

Nature is tangible evidence of God. Nature itself shows God's divine fingerprint on everything. No wonder we feel so close to God when we incline our inner ear to its teachings.

Who knew that hanging laundry on a clothesline could bring about such a positive experience?

One of the good things about hanging laundry, too, is that the smell of the outdoors lingers on your clothing. This was especially noticeable to me when I opened my backpack on vacation. The clothes, which had been enclosed inside for several hours, immediately gave off the scent of outdoors. When the aroma reached my nose I was reminded of my time outdoors and I thanked God again.

Hanging laundry. Who knew??

Wednesday

Be the change

Here's a pretty cool prayer that a pastor prayed at a NASCAR event:



Under the video there was a comment made by Water4Jeremiah that two people liked on Facebook. It said:

"If all Christian pastors loved and appreciated life this much I'd still be a Christian."

I've heard this type of comment a lot and I can see why people say it. Many times we Christians take ourselves too seriously and burden people with a brand of Christianity that is not biblical. However, this person's comment also causes me to ask whether or not he or she is letting other people dictate his or her relationship with God and the church.

I speak from experience on this matter because I've been in the church since early childhood. I've heard and believed the Word, been loved by wonderful people, been active in almost every position imaginable except church treasurer and repair person. I've also been a pastor's wife. That position brought me within close proximity of some pretty awful stuff wrought by so-called saints of the church. These were the people that others seemed to look up to. The popular people. The movers and shakers.

On the surface these people appeared wonderful. However, underneath they were full of hatred, anger, malice and they spread gossip more smoothly than margarine spreads on bread. These were the saints that also hurt my family.

After my husband died and I was out of the ministry - thanking God everyday that I was out of the ministry, not that my husband had died - I realized that I had a lot of pent up anger inside. I'm going to be very honest here and admit that if it wasn't for my children I would have drifted away from the church. I had a good relationship with God and reasoned that I did not need a bunch of hypocrites in my life.

This was because I was hurt and as a pastor's wife, I had no way to express my feelings. Remember that I had a good experience in the church as a child and teenager. As an adult leader though I was blind-sided by people who claimed to be saved and sanctified; people who didn't understand that living a holy life meant that you still confessed sin and asked the Holy Spirit to renew you on a daily basis. These people did not understand that a life of love is intentional, not something that was magically brought about just because he or she had made two trips to the altar.

It has taken several years to come to terms with this reality, but I believe that I have done so, though it is still a work in progress to varying degrees. Through this experience I think I have learned to be more forgiving, compassionate, quietly prayerful and outspoken at the same time. I have learned that living at peace with people doesn't necessarily mean that I have to put myself in a vulnerable position with them. Sometimes this means that I don't talk to them beyond "Hi. How are you?" unless necessary.

I have also learned that I must work to be the change that I want to see happen in the church. Discovering the faults of others has caused me to look in the mirror and ask "Do I do that?" then ask for forgiveness and seek to change if the answer is "yes".

This blog is another way I become the change I want to see happen because it allows me to speak out against the hypocrisy I see on a wider scale. This hypocrisy is happening all over the place. If anything, the little comment I read this morning proves it. We used to say in the newspaper business that if one person was saying something, ten more people felt the same way and we were usually right about this. In this situation, however, I don't have to guess. There are blogs all over the place like mine and there are books regarding these matters.

If you are in a church that doesn't have these problems, wonderful. Thank God for that. But also, pray for those who are in churches where the hypocrites seem to run the show. Pray for the strength of the pastors and for those who are trying to live the Christian life for real. It is through the prayers of others that those who are suffering at the hands of other "Christians" will be able to rise up and lovingly say, "This isn't right," and then hang in there for the fight. As a result, the hypocrites will either repent, leave or be effectively neutralized.

If you are suffering in the church, hang in there. Pray and ask what God would have you do. Sometimes it means that you need to go somewhere else, but oftentimes it means that God may call you to be the change that you want to see happen. Seek out other Christians who feel the same way you do and pray together. Start keeping a journal about the subject and write about your angst either through art, the written word, or maybe a recording (that you should keep well hidden). In this way you can pour your feelings out to the Lord rather than dumping them all over people who may not be able to handle them.

The main thing is to follow the advice given in Hebrews 10:25: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching."