The Hope of Advent – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Advent Week Four and Christmas!

Good morning sweet friends.

We finally made it. We finished up a long list of projects, we took down the Christmas tree and packed away all the Christmas boxes – all while packing bags and clearing off desks in preparation for a trip north.

The hope and anticipation of being with family and friends was the quiet element that kept us going in recent weeks – working toward seeing our older boys, having the fam back together, enjoying the sights and sounds and smells and tastes and touches of this season.

Taking a physical journey always reminds me of the true journey. We are all headed home, we are on the trail of a world beyond this one. Advent sets the Christian year in motion with that hum and sweet aroma – it reminds us constantly of that which is deeper and higher and wider. It calls us to truly prepare – to set our homes in order and pour out our gifts for the common good. And what fuels the fire? Hope. Rugged hope. A long obedience in the same direction. Faith. Persistence. Grit.

Let’s be the ones who live in that Light.

I will be back mid January with a new series – keeping you all in my prayers and thoughts as we enjoy these weeks.

The Preparation of Advent – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Advent Week Three

Good morning.

As Advent is humming along and a sweet aroma is filling the air, don’t miss the urgency as well – don’t miss the riptide just below the surface – for there isn’t one Advent, there are two – and the second will be compelling – no one will miss it.

I had the rare privilege of entering a little classroom last week and spending time with seven young men who are in the midst of a “gap year” program. We spent three mornings together in the Scriptures and in the themes and big ideas of Casa Viva. I absolutely loved it – it stretched way back to classrooms of long ago and stirred something within me.

All that to say, we spent time in Matthew 25 – as you know, the Parable of the Talents is a text that has woven itself in and around my life and work for quite some time now. I was reminded again that we simply do not want to be found with nothing more than a hole in the ground and buried gifts. What you are holding in your hands is meant to be used, to be poured out, to be given away again and again and again – live the Kingdom, don’t hold back.

Through a different avenue came this text – Matthew 10 verse 34 – “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” This is urgency and clarity bundled together – this is the sweet babe in the manger dividing families and “cozy domestic arrangements” as Peterson says in the Message.

And then the story in Luke 12 – When the Master Shows Up – verses 15 to 48 – “Keep your shirts on; keep the lights on! Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back from his honeymoon, awake and ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks. Lucky the servants whom the master finds on watch! He’ll put on an apron, sit them at the table, and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with them. It doesn’t matter what time of the night he arrives; they are awake – and so blessed!”

And then finally from our Advent devotions in the evening – an essay by J.B. Phillips – “The Dangers of Advent”.

As a translator of the New Testament I find in it no support whatever for the belief that one day all evil will be eradicated from the earth, all problems solved, and health and wealth be every man’s portion! Even among some Christians such a belief is quite commonly held, so that the “second advent” of Christ is no more and no less than the infinite number of “comings” of Christ into men’s minds. Of course, no one would deny that there are millions of such “comings” every year – but that is not what the Christian Church believes by the second advent of Christ; and it is most emphatically not what any writer of the New Testament ever meant in foretelling his second coming.

The New Testament is indeed a book full of hope, but we may search it in vain for any vague humanist optimism. The second coming of Christ, the second irruption of eternity into time, will be immediate, violent and conclusive. The human experiment is to end, illusion will give way to reality, the temporary will disappear before the permanent, and the king will be seen for who he is. The thief in the night, the lightning flash, the sound of the last trumpet, the voice of God’s archangel – these may all be picture-language, but they are pictures of something sudden, catastrophic, and decisive. By no stretch of the imagination do they describe a gradual process.

Ahem.

Listen for the hum, pay attention to the aroma – and get your “house” in order – keep the lights on, be ready – no one will miss it the second time.

Praying for each of you in this Advent season – keep me posted on your plans and send me photos for my office bulletin board!

con amor…..

The Aroma of Advent – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Advent Week Two

Good morning friends! I’m up very early today enjoying my Christmas lights and the scents of our tree and the burning candle at my table. May this season be filled with all five senses – sight and sound and touch and taste and smell.

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation – an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.

This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No – but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say from God and say it as honestly as we can. 2 Corinthians 2, The Message

As I’ve been reflecting through the Advent season this year, I’ve been reminded again and again how “off the grid” it truly was. God among us – slipping into a stable – arriving as a newborn. Everything about it was filled with surprise and intrigue, the majority of the population missed it completely. No fanfare. More questions than answers. Yet an aroma was released and we carry it with us still – it wafts and lingers in the air – it is elusive and powerful.

Mary watched and pondered as shepherds came telling her stories, and then on the 8th day, she brought him to the temple – the aroma filled the air and Simeon stepped forth. Long were the years that Simeon waited to smell this child, and when he did, he knew. The Holy Spirit nudged his spirit and he knew deep down that he was holding the Christ Child.

If you do nothing else this week, stop and ponder the years that Simeon waited – the moment when he held this babe in his arms and lifted him to the heavens – blessing God and this family.

Listen for the hum of Advent, pay attention to the aroma of Advent – for that is what Paul challenges us to be in his letters to the Corinthians. Recognize that regardless of what you do or say, when you enter a room, you bring the aroma of Christ – people smell God on you and for the lost it brings such comfort. Yes, it is true, for lovers of the darkness, you are the stench of death – but for so so many lost and wandering people, you are life – you bring the fragrance of what their hearts are aching to know and believe.

Bless people this season – stop and listen – give gentle words to the aroma – ask generous questions – be patient and kind.

Be the Kingdom.

The Hum of Advent – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Advent Week One

My hope and prayer for you is that you will seek the quiet of this season, that you will find a place or practice or both, and that you will attend to “what is being born in you” during this incredibly significant time in the life of the Church.

As I’ve been thinking upon Advent and the start of the Christian year, as our “big year” rounds the corner into the last weeks, and as I anticipate the time when our family of five is gathered together again for a season of days…..all of this has created a quiet hum in my heart.

It’s the same hum I felt when we entered the ancient grove of redwoods during our anniversary trip. We were so small and those spires were so tall and majestic, there was a sacred hush as we walked along the forest floor – everywhere ancient life, such deep knowing, so many years – the hum of Advent.

It’s that moment when you enter the butterfly garden and work your way to the cocoons – completely still, yet not – nothing happening and everything happening at exactly the same time. Life quivering, waiting to burst forth – this is the hum of Advent.

It’s why I love greenhouses and what they represent – little seeds in rich humus, buried deep in the darkness, waiting to be born.

It’s why I love the smell of yeast, why I enjoy pounding and kneading away at the dough. I set it to rise in a warm place, and trust the leaven will do its work. When I return, the flour will have found new life, bursting the bowl and ready for the oven and those that love warm bread.

The world was going about its business, travelers were partaking in a census, families were gathering in villages…..but someone was about to be born….God was about to come on the scene as one of us…..nothing would ever be the same. This is the hum of Advent – that quiet darkness, the slow journey on a donkey, the moments when the world hovers in darkness – the seed, the yeast, the cocoon.

Advent is small and quiet, it is intimate and personal. It is the coming of the Christ Child – remembering the first time and hoping for the second and last.

My prayer is that you settle into the season, look and listen for the hum. Create a little space with a candle or two, add some greenery – a jar of seeds or yeast and commit to quiet for some part of each day. Or adopt a new practice for these weeks – take a walk each day and pray for your neighbors, set to work baking and cooking and then give it all away and let no one know it was you, find one person that you see almost every day, and commit to calling forth their story – blessing them in this season.

So grateful for you all.

Be the Kingdom this week.

con amor…..

Time to Grow Up – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Autumn 2015

Good morning!

I just pulled the curtains back on this Monday morning because despite being awake and working for a few hours, the sun is just now rising to greet me. I love Mondays and I love mornings.

I’ve pulled a book off my shelf in recent weeks – in part because I live with an adolescent, and in part because I’m going to oversee a homeschooling semester for a different adolescent in the new year, but also because it’s a great book about growing up – and even at fifty, I’m faced with the constant challenge of growing up and into established adulthood – what it means, why it’s important, etcetera.

Today I offer you a few paragraphs from the chapter “You Aren’t Going to Tell Me What to Do!” – which is a great chapter title no matter how you look at it.

“No” is the essential word in dealing with all matters of pseudo-spirituality. We need to acquire facility in saying no. We need to become connoisseurs of the negative.

But this is a particular kind of no, which is somewhat new to the adolescent. Previous to adolescence, the no consisted primarily of prohibitions. Prohibitions forbid certain behaviors because they are dangerous either to self or to society. They are the rules of the game of living. They make it possible to stay alive in relative harmony with things and animals and people. They range all the way from small courtesies at meals (“Don’t talk with your mouth full”) to large matters of survival (“Thou shalt not kill”). Because children have little or no experience in the world, most of the negatives are prohibitions imposed in others. They don’t need to understand the reason for a prohibition, they just need to obey it. Asking “why” is dangerous for it dilutes and delays obedience – if children insist on understanding before obeying (“Don’t stand so close to that cliff!” “Don’t eat those berries!” “Don’t run in the street!”) they’re as good as dead. For the first years of a child’s life he or she is trained in blind obedience, unthinking obedience, unquestioning obedience.

But there comes a time when prohibitions need to develop into renunciations, when the no imposed from the outside needs to become the no embraced from the inside. Adolescence is the optimum time for this development.

This is the place, and time, to make a basic distinction between morality and spirituality in relation to the negative. In matters of morality, we are dealing mostly with prohibitions – the no comes from without; in matters of spirituality, we are dealing mostly with renunciations – the no comes from within.

Morality that does not become spirituality is mostly exterior, like cumbersome armor on the medieval knight. Morality that becomes spirituality is mostly interior, like lissome coordination and supple reflexes in an Olympic athlete. Moral prohibitions repeated and reinforced in adolescence and carried over into adulthood are heavy and restrictive and joyless; spiritual renunciations acquired in adolescence enable us to “lay aside every weight…and run with perseverance the race that is set before us” ( Hebrews 12 ). Prohibitions that ossify become a life sentence in a death cell. Prohibitions that develop into renunciations set us free for sacrificial love climaxed by resurrection.

This all comes to sharp focus in Jesus’ words, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” ( Mark 8 )

I sometimes think of this as the key text for adolescence. This is a transitional text in the Gospel story even as adolescence is a transitional time in our stories. The first half of St. Mark’s Gospel can be seen as analogous to childhood. Jesus is primarily presented as doing things for us, telling us the way things are. He helps and heals, he directs and teaches. He is in the process of revealing God to us by restoring all things, making all things new. The consequences of his ministry are healthy bodies, sane minds, full stomachs, safe passage. Eventually, as the evidence accumulates all around, Peter realizes what has been going on and says, “You are the Christ!” He recognizes God revealed in Jesus. “This is God among us! The salvation of the world!”

It is at this point, but not a moment before, that Jesus introduces his great no, his call for renunciation: deny yourself; take up your cross daily. Note well: this is not a prohibition to be obeyed; it is a renunciation to be embraced. He does not chain the disciples up and march them to Jerusalem and the cross; he invites them to follow him in the renunciation that he embraces on the road to resurrection.

We are only capable of renouncing a false life when are familiar with a real life…..Renunciation clears out the clutter of self, of false spiritualities, of pseudo-life so that there is room in us for God and true spirituality and eternal life.

“No,” in this context, is a freedom word. It frees us from false promises, wrong roads, spurious attractions so that we are free for grace and mercy and love and God – a saved life, a whole life, an exuberant life.

From Eugene Peterson’s Like Dew Your Youth – Growing Up with Your Teenager

So much to think about here.

As I think about you all and your different stories, I often see your faith growing up and into something new in much the same way that a child becomes an adolescent and then an adult. Sometime we cling to the “prohibition” side of things, just trying to keep ourselves out of trouble, stay within the lines, away from the edge of the cliff, etcetera. But Eugene Peterson’s thoughts here are compelling. The call to grow up and learn the difference between prohibition and renunciation is a direct challenge to us – chewing the solid food of the faith, weaning off the dribbling milk.

God feels big and expansive here – calling us to independence and to our particular giftings, giving us room to sketch and dream and explore, allowing us to bring questions and concerns and doubts in the same way that my sons challenge my authority as they grow older. My mothering ceases to be a litany of prohibitions, and starts to be common explorations – I intercede on their behalf, lift their struggles to the heavens, come alongside them as they learn their true names. I want them to own their faith, be comfortable in their skin. I want God to invite them to mature and grow, so I must move to the background and let God step into the forefront.

This is God Almighty calling on us all to enlarge our lives on His behalf, this is not for the faint of heart. He’s asking us to set aside our petty notions and follow Him, and in order to do that, we’re going to need to grow up. All of us. It will never end, there is always something bright and new around the corner, even in old age.

This coming Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, the start of the Christian year. I’m going to post through December, then might take a pause until I return home in mid January.

I’m collecting photos for my office in the new year – please send me one!

Con amor.

Only You – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Autumn 2015

Good morning!

I’ve been scribbling little notes throughout the week, working my way around a thought that I don’t want to diminish because it is our ballast – it is this deep understanding of who you are – your unique gifts – your “you” that the world has been gifted with only once – right here, right now, in your terrain, in this moment of history.

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits…..

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when. I Corinthians 12 – The Message

And in a different translation…

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

So let me share a few thoughts this morning – these musings are not fully developed – but I’m sensing some urgency to send them out and let them land where they need to be.

1. To be sure, this is both amazing gift and deep responsibility – I am the Kingdom, you are the Kingdom, the Kingdom is in us. We are the scattered seed, the leaven, the light shining on a hill.

2. We each are walking around with a specific outpouring, a “mezcla” that the world has never seen before and will never see again.

3. While our families and friends and past experiences and temperaments and personalities all cast light on who we are, the deep who we are is settled with our Creator.

4. George MacDonald spoke to this in one of his sermons this week – this sense that there is no competition in the Kingdom, only holy ambition to live fully into the gifts we have been given.

5. Most of this is private, hidden work with God. He is the shaper of our souls, the artisan who is calling forth what He created – everything else is periphery – this is why it is critically important that we have time in His studio, listening as He encourages and chides us.

6. I often tell young parents that children learn to read BY READING – there is no substitute – if you want to develop as a reader, you have to READ. I think that truth applies here as well. We learn our gifts by using our gifts. If you want to shape your life, you invest it – you pour it out, you use it. Remember all our work with the Parable of the Talents? Burying gifts in the dirt for safekeeping is NOT an option.

7. Be careful of spiritual leaders that somehow leave you feeling that in order to succeed, you need to be like them. No. “Success” is being you – it is God’s mighty hand stretched over you, saying, “You are my beloved, on you my favor rests.” You need nothing more.

And so we go out into the world this week – a world aching in the midst of such pain and evil, a broken world. Fear is a dark shroud, we need not live in fear. Light always clears the darkness. We respond by loving our neighbor, by pouring out our gifts, by being present to the amazing life we have been given on this particular day.

Onward my friends.

Con amor.

Two Questions – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Autumn 2015

Greetings!

I’m currently rereading a number of my books. As many of you know, my books are one of my treasures, and it occurred to me recently that it might be beneficial to pass through some of them again. It is quite rare for me to read a book more than once, but I must admit, it has been a fascinating process. It’s interesting to see how much I’ve grown through the accumulation of all these words – and as I pass through many of them again, I’m learning from them in new and different ways because I have changed and grown and matured. And that’s the goal, is it not?

So in rereading Margaret Guenther’s classic work – Holy Listening, The Art of Spiritual Direction – I have been challenged again to see the vital role of spiritual friendship, and the importance of these two questions.

What do you want?

Where do you hurt?

One of the gifts of solitude and silence is allowing God to ask you these questions, and then knowing that He listens as you respond. I have found such healing in entering this tender territory with Him. He knows all things. He holds all things.

When we pay attention to our longing and allow questions about our longing to strip away the outer layers of self-definition, we are tapping in the deepest dynamic of the spiritual life. The stirring of spiritual desire indicates that God’s Spirit is already at work within us, drawing us to himself. We love God because he first loved us. We long for God because he first longed for us. We reach for God because he first reached for us. Nothing in the spiritual life originates with us. It all originates with God.

So it is that the spiritual life begins in the most likely place. It begins with the longing that stirs way down deep, underneath the noise, the activity, the drivenness of our life. But it is not always comfortable to acknowledge such longing, and the direction that such an admission takes us is different for all of us. Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

Climb the mountain friends – go up where the air is thin and you can see for miles.

Ask.

Seek.

Find.

Ah-men.

Time in the Motherhouse – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Autumn 2015

Greetings.

I want to write again about building your trellis and crafting an integrated life – a life where your spiritual journey and “everything else” become more fluid and spacious.  Once again we come up against time, and then not only our daily and weekly rhythms, but the monthly and yearly ones as well.

I came across this while reading Soul Custody by Stephen Smith – this idea of “time in the motherhouse” which was an essential rhythm in the life of Mother Teresa and her order which worked with dying, socially rejected, and marginalized people.

The Sisters shall spend one day in every week, one week in every month, one month in every year; one year in every six years in the motherhouse, wherein contemplation, and penance together with solitude she can gather in the spiritual strength, which she might have used up in the service of the poor. When these Sisters are at home, the others will take their place in the Mission field. Mother Teresa writing in Come Be My Light

To be honest, I found this compelling – I’ve found myself musing on it ever since I read it, and am actually actively working to see how to weave such rhythms into our work with children and families. At first glance it seems daunting, and of course most of us will never take a full year in six, but I am wondering what would happen if we were more intentional about this…..

Then, in a different book, a new edition of The Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, I came across this list written by Robert Banks in a different book entitled Redeeming the Routines.

He’s writing about the enormous gap between belief and everyday life and points out that this gap shows up in ten worrying ways.

1. Few of us apply or know how to apply our belief to our work, or lack of work.

2. We only make minimal connections between our faith and our spare time activities.

3. We have little sense of a Christian approach to regular activities like domestic chores.

4. Our everyday attitudes are partly shaped by the dominant values of our society.

5. Many of our spiritual difficulties stem from the daily pressure we experience ( lack of time, exhaustion, family pressures, etcetera ).

6. Our everyday concerns receive little attention in the church.

7. Only occasionally do professional theologians address routine activities.

8. When addressed, everyday issues tend to be approached too theoretically.

9. Only a minority of Christians read religious books or attend theological courses.

10. Most churchgoers reject the idea of a gap between their beliefs and their ways of life.

Hmmmmm.

This is what I’m thinking about this week. Crafting a life – and within that life, a robust soul that sees everything connected. A life that is spacious and free.

Companions, as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us…..Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! 2 Corinthians 6, The Message

So a new week and a new month call to us! Vamos.

Stay in touch, send updates when you can.

Con amor.

Building Your Trellis – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Autumn 2015

Hello!

After all these years, I still miss autumn days. I have found the rhythm of the rainy and dry seasons here, but there’s something about all those apples and pumpkins and falling leaves that resonates deep in  my soul.

I want to continue on with the thoughts I shared last week – time and fruit bearing and crafting a life. Last week I wrote this…..

We are fruit bearers, that is our job – so deepening and ripening needs to be at the forefront of our minds – we need to care about it and attend to the maturing process.

It’s quite interesting when the Bible offers this image of Vine and vineyard, of fruit and wine. The simple fact is that grapes do not grow along the ground, they are trellis plants – they need some type of structure to hold them, a frame that gives them room to stretch and expand.

Spiritual writers often speak of shaping a “rule of life”. When I hear that phrase, I think “trellis”. Margaret Guenther wrote an amazing book called Holy Listening, The Art of Spiritual Direction. It is a rich and full manual on growing up spiritually, but I thought her comments on working with people to craft a “trellis” or “rule of life” were worthy to share here this week.

Most people who come to us for direction value their time, protest vigorously that they do not have enough of it, and would probably deny they waste it. Yet the commandment to observe the Sabbath is routinely – even proudly – violated by many of us who are meticulous in our observance of the other nine. “Not wasting time” becomes an excuse for neglecting time for true rest and reflection, what the poet Lessing called “the creative pause”. Most important, we can use busyness and crowded schedules to hide from God. Even as we delude ourselves that we are being good stewards, we fill our days so tightly that we close him out. Our excessive busyness masks the sin of sloth…..People need a workable rule of life to bring proportion to their stewardship of time and energy.

I sometimes ask people to keep a careful record of their activities, hour by hour, for a day – and better still, for a week. This is analogous to the helpful practice of dieting for weight loss in which the dieter records each morsel of food taken in. In both cases there are surprises. The person who “eats nothing” discovers she has been eating all day, taking in a highly calorific mouthful here, a highly calorific mouthful there. The person who would like to pray but “has no time” may find that he is able to watch reruns of The Odd Couple and never misses Twin Peaks – or whatever the current media fad may be. But it is not fair of me to single out television, although its influence is insidious; late-twentieth-century citizens have almost unlimited opportunities for consumption, stimulation and empty activity.

At any rate, when the log of activity is examined, it will reveal soft places, waste and evasions. The directee is able to see time as a precious gift, to be used and structured. Then it is time to create a rule which takes into account the relationship to God, others and one’s deepest self. Areas of disproportion and hence potential sinfulness become apparent, so that the rule can serve as a reminder where caution is needed. Self-care is a holy obligation; yet a surprising number of people formulate a rule which stipulates how many minutes a day will be spent in prayer or how many times a week they will be present at the Eucharist, but ignore their dangerous addictions to food, alcohol, or nicotine. Finally there needs to be provision for sheer fun. It was a joyous insight when I realized that in Middle English “silly” meant “blessed”, cognate with the Modern German selig. So I find myself asking directees, “What have you put in this rule for fun? Where’s the blessed silliness in it?” The outward form of the rule is not important; it can be a terse outline of a few words, or it can run to several pages to be included in a journal. It is, after all, a quite disposable document, subject always to review and revision.

Okay, so let’s unpack this a little and let me offer up a few suggestions for building a trellis.

1. Luscious fruit and wooden sticks are not the same thing – the trellis serves the process of bearing fruit. I know way too many people who have rigid structure without life.

2. Yet grapevines need structure, something to wrap our little tendrils around and a frame that will stand firm in the rain and wind.

3. It’s always a worthwhile exercise to examine your frame – first to find the “soft places, waste and evasions”, and second to truly investigate what holds you and what does not. I know far too many people who have a frame, but it is does not give life. I think this is what Margaret means when she says – Then it is time to create a rule which takes into account the relationship to God, others and one’s deepest self.

4. Sometimes a renovation is in order. I’m currently working on my trellis – I found some dry rot, places where termites have hollowed out the wood – I realized I was in sore need of some fresh practices that would sustain new areas of growth.

5. And then of course, leaving time and space for joy. I’ve been working very hard in these days, and could use some “blessed silliness”.

And you?

Get out the hammer and nails and set to work dear friends. Craft a structure that will support a beautiful, fruit-bearing life.

Con amor – praying for you all this week.

All the time we need…..- Find Me Here Tuesdays – Autumn 2015

Time. If we’re going to talk about growing up in our faith, we’re going to have to address the issue of time. We’re going to have to sort and sift through our life and make room because the number of hours in the day is not going to change, we are going to have to change. In order to grow up and mature, we must attend to the critical needs of our heart and soul and soil. This is the private and hidden life of the saint – this is finding a quiet spot and shutting the door. It’s not at all glamorous, and in this era where everything shines and blasts from the public stage – this is turning and heading the other way – into the quiet, into solitude.

So let me share a few thoughts that I have come across in recent days.

When we read the lives of the saints, we are struck by a certain large leisure which went hand in hand with remarkable effectiveness. They were never hurried; they did comparatively few things, and these not necessarily striking or important; and they troubled very little about their influence. Yet they always seemed to hit the mark; their simplest actions had a distinction, an exquisiteness that suggest the artist. The reason is not so far to seek. Their sainthood lay in their habit of referring the smallest actions to God. They lived in God; they acted from a pure motive of love towards God. They were free from self-regard as from slavery to the good opinion of others. God saw and God rewarded; what else they did they need? They possessed God and possessed themselves in God. Hence the inalienable dignity of the meek, quiet figures that seem to produce such marvelous effect with such humble materials. Creative Prayer as quoted in Divine Hours

And a series of thoughts from our dear Oswald Chambers.

Prayer does not fit us for greater works; prayer is the greater work.

The great enemy to the Lord Jesus Christ in the present day is the conception of practical work that has not come from the New Testament, but from the systems of the world in which endless energy and activities are insisted upon, but no private life with God…..It is the innermost of the innermost that reveals the power of life…..The central thing about the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship to Himself, not public usefulness to men…..You have no idea of where God is going to engineer your circumstances, no knowledge of what strain is going to be put on you either at home or abroad, and if you waste your time in over-active energies instead of getting into soak on the great fundamental truths of God’s Redemption, you will snap when the strain comes; but if this time of soaking before God is spent in getting rooted and grounded in God on the unpractical line; you will remain true to Him whatever happens.

One can reach heaven from any place on earth. Jan Richardson, In the Sanctuary of Women

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Reading recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity. God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12, The Message

Okay, let’s jump in here and think about this a bit. Time. We need to think about it as adults, we didn’t think about it as children – babies and toddlers aren’t aware of the passing of time, they live and move and breathe in a sensory world – from hunger and eating to watching and playing and then drifting to sleep. We don’t see babies with a watch on their arm or an alarm set on their phone. Children and adolescents start to feel the pull of time – they count birthdays and important milestones – graduations and applications and licenses and such. By the time we’re functioning adults, time has us – we feel it’s pull, so much to do, so little time to do it, so many people depending on us for something or expecting us to be someplace.

Midlife has been such an interesting passage for me – I definitively felt the “crest of the hill” and the “descent”. At first it scared me, now it’s shaping my days and forcing me to address this life I am living. Time in midlife has different dimensions – I see babies being born and it feels like SO LONG AGO. I watch my parents aging, and it feels a bit too close for comfort. Ah yes, time.

I think the only way we can address maturity and growth is through Scripture – John 15 is very clear about this. This is how my Father shows who he is – when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples…..You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil.

We are fruit bearers, that is our job – so deepening and ripening needs to be at the forefront of our minds – we need to care about it and attend to the maturing process.

Much to think about here, but so let me leave you this week with a few thoughts and challenges.

1. Ripe fruit depends quite a bit on the dirt, the quality of the soil. Only you can know your terrain – so finding time to be with Him gives you access to that knowing. God already knows you completely, when you come to Him, you come to your dirt and He teaches you who you are.

2. It’s not easy to daily find time with God, especially if it is not part of your daily routine. Create a place and time and then commit to going there at least 5 of 7 days a week from now until the start of Advent which is November 29 – six weeks is plenty of time to develop a rhythm. A bit of ritual and routine will help – a candle to light, a hot cup of joe, a spicy tea. Most people will tell you that mornings are best – I think that’s because once a day starts, it’s hard to pull back. It doesn’t matter – find a time and stick to it.

3. There is only spaciousness here. This is invitation and blessing and gift. This is not rules and regulations, this is relationship. Choose some metaphors and live within them. I remember when the boys and I were studying the Middle Ages one year, at some point during that time, I saw a castle in the countryside. It was raining and cold and most of the people were miserable. I climbed a winding stairwell and entered a room with a roaring fire and two chairs close to the warmth. I was immediately ushered into the presence of the King because I WAS HIS DAUGHTER. I found such comfort there – it is an image that I always return to when I’m cold and wet and miserable.

Time is rather elusive, but we have all the time we need, we have all the time there is. Our goal is to bear fruit ripened on the Vine, and that process takes time – so for what it is worth, let’s find the time this autumn.