Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"I Hate All Your Show"

21 “I hate, I reject your festivals,
Nor do I [o]delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
23 “Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
24 “But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 5:21-24

We make mistakes in our worship.  A few weeks ago our pianist started playing the hymn just after one of the leaders asked the congregation to stand for the call to worship.  He stopped her and we all laughed.  The band has lead everyone in the wrong words before.  Our  pastor will have to back track on a quote or analogy.  Sometimes I trip through the wrong chords.  The microphones will give awful feed back.  Sometimes the electricity goes out.  Sometimes the slides aren’t put up fast enough.  This often makes us uncomfortable, embarrassed, but most of the time it makes me smile. 

I see the heart of my small portion of the body of Christ.  I see how they reach out to the community, how they serve the poor, love on the special needs children in our congregation and at the camp we have during the summer, help a girl in the hospital move out of her apartment, lovingly call someone out about living in sin…I see them striving to be holy as God is holy, to preach and teach the Word to the best of their ability…I see them fail and own up to that failure…I see them love and have been loved by them.  

While we work to be the best we can at what we do when we worship together, the little mistakes, the feedback, the failings all remind us that ultimately this is not a show.  We are not gathered together for a concert, we are gathered together to worship the God of the Universe and He already knows we’re not perfect.  After all, that’s why He sent His Son. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Blini and Caviar: Cooking with the Family

One of our favorite things to do as a family, is cook, and consequently, to eat.  A few years back we started reading a series called Nero Wolf, a series based around an agoraphobic, rotund detective with a love for good food and a fetish for orchids.  Quite often, the author mentions the meals his personal chief makes for the "oversized" detective, and on occasion, the Lott family enjoys attempting said recipes.  Thus far, we've attempted eggs bolognese with croute twice (way too thick the first time), and Blini and Caviar tonight.  As this dish was an appetizer, we also made tilapia with corn salsa.
Mixing green onions with blini mixture - blinis are Russian pancakes

Fry in olive oil

Serve with sour cream and caviar

Salmon caviar


      Verdict?  Yom!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Love: Defining Terms

“I wanted to talk to you about your participation in bible study…”

I sit up a little straighter, being your typical church rat my participation in bible study was usually marked by deep insights, knowing just how to say difficult Old Testament names, and knowing some obscure verse to support my point, she was probably about to thank me for my contributions, maybe even ask me to help lead.

“You have a lot of good insights…”

Mentally brushes off shoulders…pride stroked…

“…but you need to give the other girls opportunity to answer too…”

Being your typical people pleaser, my stomach churned.  My efforts to be helpful (and let’s face it, to be seen as wise and smart and “Christian-cool”) backfired; I was the know-it-all the leader had to talk to about speaking up far too much.  For about a nanosecond I wilted, wishing I could hide but finding no where to go trapped in the tiny, gray car.  I glared at my feet, wondering what the odds of time travel would be in the near future; maybe I could go back…

“I have the same problem, sometimes it’s hard not to speak up when I have something to say…”

The wilting stops and time travel doesn’t seem like such an enticing invention.  I’m not alone in my struggle, in my failure, she’s not confronting me to humiliate or shame me, she’s doing so out of love, out of leadership, she’s struggled too…In fact, were she not to confront me this would be a failure to love, a failure in leadership.

“I can help you…maybe even throw a shoe across the circle if that would help…”

We laugh and head on towards the church, me aware of something I need to work on, my youth leader ready and willing to help me grow to maturity.  Though I don’t remember the words of this conversation exactly, I remember the important points, and the lesson has stuck with me to this day.  Sometimes speaking the truth can be difficult, frowned upon, but if we do not speak the truth to those around us, we are nothing more than flattering tongues. 

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.”  Ephesians4:15

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

You Have Called Me From My Youth...

“I remember when [insert husband’s name here] asked me to marry him.  First,…”

Cue eye-roll (well, you know, after the legitimate “awe”).

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Bitter Betty.  You can typically find her wearing black at Valentines (decrying the day as sheer commercialism and threatening to throw the flowers of her co-worker into the street), either avoiding the rom-com section all together or weeping over a bowl of ice cream while Mr. Darcy tells Elizabeth that she has enchanted him body and soul (darn you Jane Austin), or proclaiming loudly that there are too many “nice Christian boys” out there but not enough Godly leaders (or that they are all taken).

I live in this state of being, kicking myself when the bitter single rears her ugly head, frustrated when a blind date is just sort of stale, wishing I could just keep my mouth shut while rejoicing with my married/engaged/spoken for friends, and praying constantly for a better attitude, peace, and Aaron Tveit’s doppelganger who loves Jesus and has a masters in Godly leadership right off the bat (What?  It could totally happen.)

When disappointments like these come, when I fail over and over again to simply be joyful and give thanks in all circumstances and genuinely smile when a good friend tells her story, I wonder if God has left me alone…if He was ever with me to begin with.  After all, if His Spirit was with me wouldn’t I be able to rejoice more easily than I do?  Wouldn’t I /feel/ more holy day by day rather than being shown more and more just how utterly disgusting and sinful I am?  I question, not because I doubt God’s faithfulness (though in my sinful mind there is likely a bit of that) but because I know my own fickle, ridiculous heart.  Sometimes it scares me.  Badly… 

But the other night I was taking a walk after working out.  A disappointment had come earlier in the day (I didn’t make the fitness competition I made last year) and I was trying so hard to just shut up and listen.  The same frustrations ran through my mind…(I’m a failure, there’s something wrong with me, why the hell is God putting up with my crap…?) when a thought came.      

I’ve never been one to believe that God speaks to people in the present day in an audible voice, after all, we have the Spirit in our hearts and His full word at our fingertips, but I do believe He directs our thoughts.  That night He directed mine to a phrase that literally stopped me in my tracks…You called to me in my youth…

Through all the disappointments, all the fears, the foolish belief that the absence of friends or a husband/fiancĂ©/boyfriend meant I was alone, He has walked with me for as long as I can remember.  As a child He called to me through my parents and Sunday school teachers and that red picture bible I wore out from reading at night (I’m telling you, I came out of the womb with insomnia), through the scripture tapes we listened to until the ribbon came loose and refused to function any more…He has held my hand so that I have never, ever in my entire life been alone.  It’s neither a feeling nor simple knowledge but something else entirely.  I know He is there, and that in spite of me, because I am His glorious ruin, He loves me.        

Could I really ask for a more beautiful love story?  For a more romantic “engagement”?  Scripture calls the Church the bride of Christ…the harlot made fit for a king…and I get to be part of that.  No, this doesn’t completely destroy the Bitter Single, she still comes around with her complaining and grumpiness, but it quiets her daily, soothing sinful insecurities, building up joy, and clothing her with a flawless part of the wedding dress.

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine…” Song of Solomon 6:3

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Office: What I Want to Say vs. What I Say

I'm often baffled by man kind.  While I don't consider myself to be the most intelligent human being, and have my fair share of "duh" moments, there are times when I wonder if God skimped on the brain cell section for a few of His creatures.  The following conversation is one I've had more times than I care to remember:                
 "Ma'am, I didn't get my paycheck this week."               

  "Well..did you move, maybe?"               

 "Yes ma'am."                
 "Did you let us know?"                
 "Well...no ma'am..."                
At this juncture, I am faced with a few options.  The right words must be carefully chosen accompanied by the right tone so that the individual is neither shamed nor left without the appropriate information.  What I want to say, what wriggles at the back of my mind held at bay only by sealed lips and a desire to remain professional is as follows:                
 "Oh I'm so sorry sir, my telepathy is on back order...I've complained I can't tell you how many times but still it hasn't come in."                
"I apologize, sir, but God passed me up when He was handing out telepathy, didn't think I could handle it."                
However, being of sound mind and wanting to look good in everyone's eyes, my normal response is much kinder and more professional:                
"Well, sir, you can send your updated address to..."                
What's sad about my desired response is that, like I said before, I have my own "duh" moments, I say stupid things, the geek comes out of her closet and shames me...and I would never want someone to respond in sarcasm, to assume I'm stupid, to make fun of me.  It's a painfully humbling experience when we realize we've hurt someone in the same way we've been hurt before, when we realize that we're not the pure hero of a fairytale and everybody else the villain and his cronies, our humble worshiping peasants, or our knight in shining armor.  As funny as I think my responses are at the heart of them is cruelty, sin.  It doesn't even really matter that I only thought it, the sin is still there...                  
The older I get the more I am confronted with my own sin.  The more I realize it's depth.  When I was young I knew I had a need for a Savior, but in my eyes at the time He was small, His work an addition to my already good life, but as time rolls by I begin to see the enormity of the work on the Cross, the sacrifice of Christ.                   
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.                        

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Adding to the Noise

My car has been talking to me.                                               
No, no, please don't call the nice men in white suits, I haven't lost it quite yet, what I mean of course is that it's been giving me signals, letting me know it is in desperate need of help.  The windshield needs replacing (going on three years after an unfortunate cell phone incident...I don't want to talk about it), my tires need to be replaced (yes, I've been driving on a spare for over a year now) and the last time my brother was in my car and we hit 60 it was shaking so bad that he declared he felt as if he was being shot out of a gun (he has a knack for words...).  The thing is, I sort of tend to ignore these things: the ever extending cracks in my windshield frame my actual line of vision, my body has grown used to the rattle, my spare is technically a wheel rather than a donut, and the sound of my music drowns out the rest of the noise.                                               
I don't listen to my car; I ignore it.                                               
You'd think I'd learn.  A few years ago the poor thing arrived at the last straw.  The maintenance had been so thoroughly ignored that, eventually, it gave up the goat on the feeder road from I-10 to Kirkwood.  Diagnosis?  The whole engine had to be replaced.  Maybe if I'd kept up with the oil changing and the like it wouldn't have crapped out, I wouldn't have been stuck in the right turn lane with people honking at me as if I found it terribly enjoyable to block traffic in the middle of the day, I wouldn't have had to spend hours arguing with Alstate about my policy, my parents wouldn't have had to come and rescue me...                                                    
 “Be still, and know that I am God"  Psalm 46:10 (NIV)                                      
Life's a little bit like taking care of a car (flash back to Forest Gump)...I spend a lot of my time filling the silence with noise.  To drive it away I get caught up with TV shows, browse Pintrest, have movie marathons, listen to music, read books...I flee from the silence as if it were some sort of enemy to be avoided, quieted, subdued...even in my prayer and devotional time I ramble, I talk, I've absolutely no clue how to be silence.  I fill my life with noise so I don't hear the rattle, can ignore the cracks, numb the natural warnings that this autopilot is doing me no good.                                               
I don't know how to be still.                                               
Ready for the answer?  Sorry, don't have one.  Even now as I recognize my error I haven't the faintest how to truly be still before the Lord, to be quiet, to shut the heck up and listen...I sit in silence and try but inevitably my mind picks up on some train of thought, winding its way through the labyrinth as thoughts have tendency to do.  But instead of berating myself about not knowing how to be silent and still, my solution is prayer.  What else can I do?  Though a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) the old man hands on, dragging me backwards like an addict longing for one last hit...My only hope is intervention, the kindness of a Savior.                                                  
It helps to view Psalm 46:10 from the NASB translation..."Cease striving and know that I am God."  Cease striving, be still, listen...I don't know how to do it, but I am thankful for a Savior Who promises not to leave me to my foolish self, a shepherd Whose voice I know, the gate through Whom I know to walk.