Awakenings

Glimpses of the Divine in the Mundane

“All of these events are signs of the times, and evidence that Jesus is coming soon…”  These are words and phrases that many of us have heard, especially recently with some of the latest news.  Although there is nothing inherently wrong with these phrases, they seem to carry a very real danger that is seen lived out in the lives of many who profess to be followers of Jesus.

But the 2nd Coming of Christ is such good news, right? So what is the danger of this statement? In short, the danger is that many use this as an unconscious excuse to not get involved, not get their hands dirty in helping those around them.  They keep the concept of Christ’s coming as theology and rhetoric, and do not have any practical ways of what Christ’s message of hope lived out in the real world looks like.  Following Christ and looking forward to His coming becomes mere platitudes with no real-life application.  It becomes a sort of feel-good pat-answer to any crisis at hand.

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Once again, there’s nothing wrong with the message of a soon-coming Savior, but isn’t the Gospel more than that? Isn’t the concept of the Kingdom of God a reality that begins right now, in the way we live our lives everyday?  It is according to Jesus, as He began each parable with the phrase “The Kingdom of God is like…” and then went into discussing what a culture of God’s love looks like right here and right now.  The concept of the 2nd Coming of Christ is so much more than a future event.  Yet so many people treat it as a separate occasion that is the end-all answer to any crisis.  In fact, when someone says, “don’t worry, these are signs of the end of the world!  We should rejoice that we are living in such exciting times…” This is almost a slap-in-the-face for those who are living in horrible situations, situations that maybe you and I were placed on this earth, by God, to help alleviate.

Let’s break this down into a few real scenarios where I have heard this phrase be used:

  • Environmental Issues
    • When those who have a passion about the environment speak out about the importance of recycling, going “green”, etc., sometimes they are met with this phrase “well, Jesus is coming soon, so of course the world is being destroyed…”.  It’s as if those who say this forget the part in Genesis where God commanded us to take care of the earth and the animals, etc. (Genesis 2:15).  In fact, this is perhaps our greatest form of stewardship.  So to use the phrase that Jesus is coming soon, (as if He’ll come quicker because we let the earth go to waste faster), is actually to squander the natural wealth that God has given to us to protect and enjoy.
  • Helping Refugees
    • If anyone has watched the news, you have seen the wave-upon-wave of refugee families fleeing their country, longing for a place of safety where they will not be killed.  You’ve seen the mothers carrying their babies for hundreds of miles, or worse, you’ve seen or heard the stories of hundreds of people drowned at sea in overcrowded boats that have capsized.  When supposed followers of Jesus see this and use the phrase, “see, Jesus is coming soon, and people are being persecuted…” but do nothing to actually help these desperate souls, they are aligning themselves with those from the parable of Jesus, where Jesus says “whatever you didn’t do for the least of these, you didn’t do for Me…” (Matthew 25:45)
    • Those who claim to follow Jesus and then say that we cannot help the refugees because they might be terrorists, forget that Jesus and His family were refugees.  They forget that if you live in the U.S., we all were once refugees.  So to use the phrase “this is a sign that Jesus is coming soon” and they keep going to church and worshiping a “Refugee”, is not this the greatest form of hypocrisy you could have?
  • Racial Violence & Injustice
    • Recently, there was a statement that went out by a church organization that encouraged its members to not get distracted by events happening in our country, but to keep persistent in preaching a soon-coming Jesus.  This statement primarily came out after some of the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement.  Really?  How can we, as followers of God, separate preaching about a God of Love, and not actually show what that Love looks like in public?  How can we proclaim that Jesus is coming soon, but not start to live that reality of His Kingdom now?  How can we claim to worship a man who stood up for the injustices of those who were not being treated as equal, and yet not stand up for our sisters and brothers who are not being treated as equal?  How can we claim “all lives matter” and turn a blind eye to the ways that certain people are not treated as if all lives matter?  And then, if some who do get involved in raising their voices for the inequality of others, they are encouraged by certain churches not to get involved!  How can one claim to follow a God who got His hands dirty with saving our world, but not get their hands dirty in helping to save the communities around us?  How can we claim to be a part of the Body of Christ, but then reject parts of the same body when they are being mistreated?

These have just been a few of the examples I have seen, where the 2nd Coming of Christ has been used as almost an excuse to not get involved, or worse, as a gleeful reminder that it’s just a sign that He’s coming back, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show of the world falling apart.

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What if certain people throughout history had taken this stance?  What if Esther, who had the courage to go before the King and request safety for her people, had used the phrase, “well, this is a sign that the Messiah is coming soon, so…”?  Would she have still gone before the King?  The whole phrase that comes from that story, “you have been created for such a time as this…” (Esther 4:14) screams the fact that we are meant to be people of action, not people of rhetoric.

What if Martin Luther, who nailed the 95 thesis, would have believed this idea that since “Jesus is coming soon, I don’t have to get involved” – would we even have churches today?  Would there have been a Reformation?  Would we understand what Grace is?

What if Martin Luther King Jr. had believed this misconception, and had thought that the injustices of the 60’s were just a sign that Jesus was coming back, so preach that message even more…would there have been the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the marches?  Would there have been the strides towards equality that he helped start?  As he mentioned in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”,  “…I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid…”  Martin Luther King realized that when we are a follower of God, it means that we live His Kingdom NOW,  and not just merely refer to it as a future event. (To read the entire Letter From a Birmingham Jail, click here).

What if Jesus Himself used this – “well, I’m coming again soon – I don’t need to preach the gospel to the world.  I don’t need to heal this blind man.  I don’t need to train these disciples.”  Obviously that’s ludicrous!  Then why is it so acceptable for us as followers of God to not get our hands dirty?  Why is it so strange to get involved and actually love people in action and deed?  Why is it crazy to step out and actually be the church to our communities?

What if we started living like the Kingdom of God was real?

What if, instead of saying we are living in the end times, we actually lived like today was our end time – our last day, and got involved in changing the lives of others?

What if we actually believed what Jesus said, what we would DO greater things than He did?  (John 14:12)

What if we began to believe that perhaps Jesus created us for such a time as this?

What if we began to realize that maybe Jesus doesn’t want us to talk so much about His 2nd Coming – but maybe He wants us to live it out?

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Sometimes putting my baby to sleep can be the greatest test in patience.  Last night was one of those nights.

She had barely slept all day, so I knew that bedtime would be early, and maybe have some tears.  But, to my delight, she went to sleep quite quickly, and I was able to continue unpacking boxes, or just sit for a minute to myself.

30 minutes later, however, the baby monitor began to scream, alarming us of Aevri’s awakening.  Sighing, I got up from my activity that I’d been waiting all day to accomplish, to go and soothe my baby who needed to just sleep already.  Ear-piercing shrieks jolted me back to mommie-hood as I picked her up, but she was inconsolable.  Tears streamed down both sides of her face, as she literally screamed for the next 5 minutes.   She began working herself into such a frenzy, that it began to sound rhythmic and I was pretty sure she was hypnotizing herself.

After changing her diaper, the screaming continued for a time, and then subsided as I took her outside for a moment.  The cool air cascaded around us both, reminding us that there were other realities in the world.  But I really needed to get back to what I was doing before, so I returned to her crib.

My second attempt to put her down lasted quite awhile, with me swaying, bouncing, singing.  After sometime, it looked like it was working, and so I went to lay her down, being careful of every movement.  As I lay her in her crib, my knee cracked.  You know when your bones crack, and it’s not a big deal – well, when you’re trying to put a baby down, it’s equivalent to shattering glass.  Her eyes flew open, and the whimpering began to build..  Here we go again…

So by the third attempt, I’m exasperated – which isn’t very relaxing energy to be trying to put a baby to sleep.  I return to the medicine ball (which is a great tool to help put a baby to sleep as you gently bounce on it).  At first I begin thinking about all the things I could be doing and that need to get done.  But then something changed.

I began to sing the song “Be Still and Know that I am God…”.  As I sang it over and over, I began to realize I was singing this to my soul, and my baby just happened to be the witness.  As the lyrics descended around me, I began to ask myself, “why am I in such a hurry?  And for what?  These will be the moments I long to relive one day.  So be still. Be present. Open your eyes.  Open your heart. Savor this moment.  Life is more than doing.  Sometimes life is about Being.”

As I watched my daughters eyes begin to become heavy and lull into dreamland, and the lyrics continued to cascade around my impatient soul, I realized something else:  As I was holding my daughter in her restlessness, I needed God to hold me in my restlessness.  That in this moment, as I let go of my agendas, as I became aware that the highest purpose of this moment was to stop, be still, and be present – and that this was the most sacred thing I could be doing.  To know that something bigger was holding me, and I could rest in that.  And in that knowledge, peace began to seep into my being

She finally eased into a deep, peaceful, sleep.  And I realized once again, that parenting is sometimes more for us than it is for our kids.  That moments like this in parenting are the moments that we are brought back to our true selves, our true purpose in life, and the fact that peace is more about a personal choice than we realize.  I also was reminded that sacred moments surround us every day, and we usually miss them due to our supposed need to accomplish some task, or check something off our to-do list.  Maybe the most sacred thing we can do is to be still and know – and hold those closest to us as they cry or laugh or live or die.  And when we get to that place, peace is there waiting for us.

So today, regardless of what is happening in your world, make a choice to stop for a moment.  Be still.  Let the One that is greater than you and the circumstances you face, hold you, cradle you, sing over you, and whisper peace and grace into your life.  And join me in this mantra “Be Still and Know…”

One of the biggest changes of having a baby, other than different sleep patterns, is the renewed realization of how precious and miraculous life is.  All life. I’ve always believed this and held true to this, but having a child has solidified this truth to a whole new level.

And in that deepened understanding, I’ve also come to feel the heart-wrenching sadness when life is abused and mistreated in others.  I’ve sensed it at a new molecular level when watching the news or hearing of a story of abuse or loss.  It’s as if I’m the mother of those refugee children.  Or I’m the little 6 month old abandoned by her parents.  What’s crazy to me in a whole new way is how most of these atrocities are done by fellow human beings who contain life and the ability to love within themselves, but they end up choosing a different path of death and hate.

One day, while trying to get my baby girl to sleep, I was in her room, holding her and playing a lullaby CD.  One of the song’s lyrics struck me deeply.  Here are the lyrics of this well-known lullaby:

“Baby mine, don’t you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part, baby of mine.

Little one, when you play,
Pay no heed what they say.
Let your eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear, baby of mine.

If they knew all about you,
They’d end up loving you too.
All those same people who scold you,
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes,
You’re not much, goodness knows.
But, you’re so precious to me,
Sweet as can be, baby of mine.”

The part that really grabbed my attention as I was snuggling with my little one was “little one, when you play, pay no heed what they say…”  If only this were so easy, right?  As I looked down at my daughter’s peaceful face awaiting slumber, I felt sadness at the fact that there will be people who will say hurtful things to her.  I thought of all the hurtful things that have been said to me, whether as a child from other children, or as an adult from well-meaning broken people – mostly church-goers, who have placed their demented pictures of self and God on me.

And then I wondered, do I pay no heed what they say?  Do I let my eyes sparkle and shine, regardless?  Do I find my identity in something greater than mere human opinion? Because if I don’t, I will only teach my daughter to let others define her worth, and then she will do the same to others in defense of herself.  And thus the cycle will continue – the cycle that is at the bottom of all wars.  The cycle of hurt. The cycle of love lost.  The cycle of death of human spirit.

Then this next part struck a new chord within me:
“If they knew all about you,
They’d end up loving you too.
All those same people who scold you,
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.”

Wow.  Let those words sink in…

If we knew all about the other, would we end up loving them?  Instead of scolding, judging, and killing (be it words, thoughts or in literal terms), once we heard each other’s story, would we long for the right to hold each other, to love each other, to protect each other?

Think about what would happen in our world if we viewed each person, or group of people, or country, this way!  Whether it was a differing political view, religion, ethnic group, sexual orientation, or belief system. If we really knew all about each other, perhaps love would reign supreme.  What if we slowed down enough to really hear another human soul?  What if we opened our eyes to see, really see, the beauty in the other person, apart from our biased views (which, ironically, come from our own brokenness)? If we knew the story of each other’s brokenness, I believe healing would begin to happen.  If we pictured our enemies as helpless babes, needing to be held, needing to be protected, needing someone to dry their tears.  If we saw each person on this earth longing for a home, a hug, a smile, imagine what would happen to this world…

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As we left the hospital over 3 weeks ago, we felt so unprepared, yet so ready.  We hobbled out onto the hospital curb, blinking back the sunlight, so ready to rid ourselves of nurses disrupting our sleep every 2 hours.  We crammed the new little bundle of our DNA into her car seat, and drove the familiar road home, feeling like we had just got back from traveling to outer space and had returned to an alternate universe.

As we walked into the front door of our house, our dog met us, excited at first and then confused as we introduced him to the new family member.  We took her into her room that we’d prepared while she was in gestation.  It was a surreal moment, as the tiny body lay in her gigantic crib, and stared at the decor we had chosen.  She was here.  We could see her features, feel her tiny grip on our finger, hear her cry, see her breathe.  Wow.

Seeing her room for the first time

Seeing her room for the first time

What followed that first week was an exhausted, blissful seven days, the three of us living mostly in our living room, where our existence consisted of feedings, sleeping, rocking, cuddling, changing diapers, and staring at wonder at this new tiny human who didn’t exist prior to our exchange of love.  Time didn’t exist, just light and dark and sleep and eat.  Our sanctuary was each other – the 3 of us – figuring out our new schedule of living as a family, our new routine, our new rhythm of life and love.  The week after, neighbors and friends brought over meals and oogled over our new little earthling.  Parents came to stay for a few days getting to know the newest grand-baby.

And so we’ve oozed into our new reality for the rest of our lives:  parenthood.  It’s weird.  One day you’re a singular human being, the next day you are a mother, or a father and your life is suddenly not your own.  You are suddenly thrust into a culture shock of living for another human being and the used-to-be small details of everyday life suddenly are very huge hurdles to detour through.

What I am learning is the gift and reality of being present.  And this new creature is my mentor on this epic new journey.  I thought I knew what it was to be present.  Parenthood has definitely upped the ante.  Sure I knew bits and pieces of the power of presence, but not to the extent to which parenthood brings you. For example, any time we’re going to leave the house, it takes a whole lot of planning, as if we were leaving for the weekend on a camping trip.  We have to make sure we pack the car with everything we may possibly need, and then I have to feed our little one, sometimes multiple times.  And then the changing of the diaper, and as you’re changing the diaper, another mess occurs, and so you can go thru up to 5 diapers in one changing, not to mention all the cleaning that now has to take place of the changing table and anything else that got splattered on.  Time really kind of disappears as the new challenge becomes just to get out of the house to go to Safeway – an hour trip that used to only be a quick run down the hill for 20 minutes or so.

Let me give you another example that just happened today.  I was determined to get out of the house for a walk – something of a luxury as of late.  And at this point I knew it would take some planning.  So the planning started with the feeding – which took about 40 minutes.  Meanwhile, our dog has gotten wind that there is a walk coming soon, so he’s now whining and ready to go NOW.  So the next thing on the agenda is to figure out how the front carrier works.  After figuring out that cool contraption, now to change the diaper.  Which triggers another feeding.  After some time of eating, she looks like she’s done and about to nap, so I lay her down while I get changed.  I get my pants on, and she is still hungry.  So pause for a feeding.  She’s done – so I lay her down and get my shoes on.  She’s now hungry again.  So pause again for a feeding, upon which she looks drowsy again and I think “this is it!”  So I run to pee, come back and she still needs a bit more of a top-off before she’s finally satisfied.  At this point, my dog is laying exasperated on the floor, with the most hopeless look on his face.  So I put on the front carrier, get her situated inside, and we finally are able to leave on our adventure!  Which made the walk that much better!  This just isn’t a walk – it’s a freakin expedition!  4 weeks ago, in the time it took us to get ready, we would have gone on the walk and been back for a while.  But that was then.  This is our new reality.  And it’s all about being present.

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Before we embarked on our adventure

Time kind of disappears as reality is all about being present to the situation at hand.  Feeding.  Changing.  Cleaning.  Playing. Feeding.  Cuddling.  Sleeping.  Hopefully showering.  Feeding.  Sleeping.  Feeding.  Changing.  Did I mention feeding?! Whew – Being present.  I’ve noticed that stress enters the equation when I have an expectation of what should happen when and how much time something should take.  If you take time out of the equation, and let go of your expectations, the whole experience is actually quite enjoyable.  Because all you are is present.  And isn’t that the real challenge for us?  We’ve learned to not be present, and in the moments we could be present, we’ve learned to think of mental to-do lists, or to check our social media, or run errands.  Faster cars, quicker meals, more tv channels, longer hours at the office, smarter phones, drive-thru windows, and many other “conveniences” that have stolen our ability and desire to be present.  Parenthood, in these past 3 1/2 weeks, has taught me the power of being present.  And, to be honest, I am not as good at it as I’d like to think.  But my new teacher, this tiny human, is persistent and I’m learning more and more everyday to let go and just be … present.  As i finished typing that last word, she has just awakened and sounds hungry. And so my new teacher returns with the invitation to keep practicing presence and to embrace the power that is found in NOW…

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I was sitting there today, in Whole Foods, eating my sandwich and watching the crowds.  I felt you move against my abdomen wall as my sandwich became food for you and me.  I’ve been sensing your wild nature from the beginning, even before I could feel you move.  I am aware of your warrior-ness, your tenacity, your fight for survival and to become life in this world we inhabit and call home.

And yet I worry.  As I touch my belly and feel your beautiful life form growing, I know the world that you as a female will enter into.  I am well-acquainted with the fingers that will try to choke out your individuality.  I cringe at the misogynistic world that awaits to devour your humanity and unique feminine war-like strength.  I shutter as I think of how religion will try to put its foot on your neck and gently scream of who you are as a woman and what you can and cannot be.  I abhor the thought of anyone who would turn you into a mere object to lust over, and what if you feel you must succumb to their eyes and wants, and you trade in your wildness to become the object rather than the creation.  I want to strip all magazine isles of the images that will shout out to you of what beauty is – so that you may find and discover the beauty that is already within you, and wear it fearlessly to the world.  I know the well-meaning voices that will advise you and scold you and insult you for simply being you.  I fear for the self-hatred that may try to creep into your soul, where you will try to bury your gifts and your beauty – that you would compare yourself with others and try to trade your uniqueness for theirs.  I already feel angry at the bully who may attempt to squelch your fight, your joy, your you-ness.

I haven’t met you, but I already know you are so much more than the shell of the body you will be born into.  Your body, which I know will be beautiful, is not what defines you.  As you are being knit inside me, your personality and character is there within you.  You are wild.  You are beautiful.  You are undefinable.  You are woman.  You are warrior.  You are more than fashion statements and mascara.  You are more than the boys who will chase you, or reject you.  You are beyond the opinions of mere people who will try to control you and morph you into their insecure status.  You are here for such a time as this.  Never let yourself be whittled down to a grade, or how many likes you get on Facebook. Never let yourself become consumed with your waist-size or if you’re wearing the right clothing brand. Instead, find your strength in the old oak trees.  Find your passion in the moving waters of river and sea.  Find your joy in soaking in the sun, playing with caterpillars, or laying in the grass barefoot, staring at the never-ending sky.  For you were created from beyond this substance we call our world.  You came from the unknown mystery of Love – a place that cannot be defined, or boxed, or placed in a cage.

So when others try to handcuff your soul, remember that it is impossible, unless you give them the keys to do it.  And why would you?  You are a warrior woman from beyond the farthest star in the universe!  You cannot be chained!  Yes, this world will test you to your very core.  Yes, magazine isles will scream lies of what beauty is.  Yes, misogyny will continue to exist, and there will be those who will try to objectify you.  Yes, religion will attempt to crush your talents and skills, especially if they see your wild-woman nature.  Yes, you will be tempted to contain your beauty only in hair, clothes and makeup.  Yes, you will feel your heart being ripped out of your chest as it is broken for the first time when you lose your first love.  But – you are still wild warrior woman!  You were wild warrior woman before these things existed, therefore these things cannot change what you already are!  You are undefinable.

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So as I finished my sandwich, and stood to leave, I felt the eyes of those around me glance at my belly – at you.  Already you are doing it!  Your presence is already causing others to pause in the madness of their day.  Already you are reminding others of their true beauty and the miracle of being alive.

As I walk out of Whole Foods and carry you these next 7 weeks, and as your body completes the finishing touches of the rise and fall of legs, arms, toes, fingers, nose and ears.  As you finish becoming before you enter our world, I realize that every person I come in contact with is exactly what I have described you to be.  We are all undefinable.  We are all already beautiful.  We are in the presence of sacredness all the time when we are surrounded with other human beings.  Yeah, we all have the same sorts of body parts – arms, legs, heads, eyes, ears, mouths, etc.  But we are all completely undefinable in that there has and never will be anyone like you, like me.  Ever.  Ever!  So why do we hurt each other?  Why are there things like misogyny?  Why is there pornagraphy?  Why do we slaughter each other as if we’re replaceable?  Why do we use religion to cage the sacred, beautiful, warrior-like beings we are? Why do we let hate morph us into non-human creatures who will kill with our words, if not with our hands. When will it stop?  Perhaps when we believe that we are as sacred as we see our children to be.  Perhaps then we will realize that we are all, individually, sacred miraculous creations, sent from beyond the farthest star.  Perhaps when we see Love encapsulated within the flesh and blood walls of the population, a population that we are a part of.  Perhaps when we realize that we all hold the keys to stopping the misogynistic, lust-ridden, wounded, hate-absorbed, blood-drenched society we call our normal world.

So little one, thank you.  Thank you for reminding me of my wildness, of my nature that cannot be caged.  Thank you for opening my eyes to remember that all humanity is a beautiful, unique creation that should be cradled with utmost care.  Thank you for your jabs and kicks – a preview of the way you’re going to rock this world!  And may you know, that through all the highs and lows of what growing up will mean, with all the stereotypes screaming at you, that you are beautiful, mighty, strong and undefinable.  Because you are the only human being EVER to be you!  You are my warrior woman!

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