I was listening to a movie director on NPR the other day talk about the lost art of silent films. He had recently directed some animated films that had scenes where he had to portray characters thoughts and feelings through music and movement. He mentioned that he spent time studying silent films to accomplish this feat. “In silent films the actors practically become one with the music and the environment around them.” Then he stated that actors today don’t really understand how to do that. I started thinking about what he said as I was talking with a friend. The friend started telling me about an idea to meld two types of art together to become one. Truthfully I was not fully grasping the concept but I know whatever this artist comes up with will be cool. It made me wonder if we have lost the art of two or more becoming one? We live in such an individualized culture that promotes self. It is no surprise that divorce rates are high and many are questioning God. In many ways we have become a Nation of many instead of a Nation of one. We are a many that care about our own needs and our own benefits. Once I had a pastor ask me, “When you vote, do you vote based on what is best for you or what you think is best for our nation or community as a whole?” I know the answer at that time in my life was more about me than the rest of our country. It was an interesting idea that led to some serious thinking. More recently I have been noticing the nature of the Holy Trinity. When each member of the Trinity talks they usually refer to another part within the Trinity. The Father says, “This is my Son,” Jesus says, “I will send you a helper,” and the Holy Spirit always points us back to Jesus and the Father. They are three parts yet one God. In the most beautiful and mysterious way they represent perfect community. In John 17:11 Jesus prays that we will be one with Him as He is one with the Father. Becoming one starts with our relationship with Jesus. By learning from Him we will likely have more success becoming one with our spouses, our individual churches, and the community of believers around us. Let us be a people that revive the lost art of becoming one!
Does anyone else out there attract sticky? Seriously, sticky goo everywhere! Today I made a PB&J and J is officially all over my arm. As I investigated further I noticed that J migrated his way into my hair. Give me chocolate please but make sure I don’t mindlessly put it in my pants pocket for later. Hours later I may discover it when I am at a dinner party when I briefly put my hand in my pocket only to withdraw it with melted brown goop all over my hand. The dinner party was not amused.
While that was one of the more embarrassing moments syrup is my biggest nemesis. That golden brown sticky stuff has it out for me! There is no way to avoid getting that stuff in my hair, on my arms, my clothes, and the most unlikely of places my eyebrows (true story)! Sticky stuff is just attracted to me. So if you are sticky come on over we will be the best of friends!
Life is sticky. Sometimes it is a little stickier for some than others. I have to tell y’all in life and in food I am a sticky mess. No matter what is happening in life good, bad, or in between I manage to get life all over me. I suppose by that I mean a couple of things. The first is that life is generally not clear and orderly. The second thing I mean is life is about rolling up our sleeves and getting a little dirty.
Let’s start with the first one. Life does not usually run how we plan for it. For instance when was the last time you looked at God and said, “See I told you what would happen,” as He sheepishly agrees that you truly are all knowing. Yeah that probably never happens and if you think it happens all the time you might have a small case of Narcissism to deal with. Surely there are other people with syrup in their hair! (Yes I will join a support group laterJ) Truthfully our road map in the stickiness of life is in trusting that God will have a Wet One to clean us off when things get a little crazy (Grandma always had Wet Ones for the stickiness.) Let’s just hope God doesn’t pull the classic mom thing and wipe us off with His Spit (at least it would be Holy Spit!) I digress so let me move on to the second point.
Life is about getting dirty. The best part of a one year olds birthday party is the smoosh cake. Welcome to life kid here’s a whole cake, go to town and get as messy as you want! What if we want to go to town on our lives? What if we were all in; living our life for God? He designed each of us with different purposes and He gave us desire to pursue that calling. Some of us slow down in our pursuit, some screech to a jarring halt, and others are driving 100 mph in a 55 mph zone. Yes, yes, there are limits to how sticky God wants us to get. He is not trying to tar and feather us to death! Regardless He created us to move and flow. We are more akin to a river than a stagnant pond. We all have our reservations but I am certain we would all benefit from attracting some sticky stuff into our lives.
In Luke 5:4, 5 Jesus tells Simon to go deeper and let down his nets to fish. I really related to Simon’s response to Jesus in this moment. I am sure in his head he is thinking what’s up with this guy? Doesn’t he know I’m a professional fisherman and I’ve been at it all night? Simon’s response to Jesus is, “We worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” Jesus was saying so!
Many times in life we work really hard to do something well, whether it’s related to school, work, or a relationship. We put all our effort in and I am sure most of us have had those experiences where no matter how hard we tried at something we did not get our desired result. Recently I have been trying to start a private practice business. Now I am aware this is not an easy venture, but I have to admit there was a small part of me that believed if I casted out my nets they would be full of fish. I believed if I did everything I was supposed to do the business would take off. It still might, this is a new venture but at the moment things are slow.
God has been using Luke 5 to remind me that what we have and what we receive is not about our efforts. He ultimately is the one in control of all things. I don’t think this means we are to sit idly and wait for Jesus to pour out blessings on us, but there is a humbling reminder of our dependence on Him. In fact Jesus told Simon to “cast his nets in deeper water.” In other words He was saying dig a little deeper, try again, and let Me show you what I can do. Did He ever!
“And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! 7 A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.” Jesus didn’t just show up with some fish He really showed up. So much that Simon had to ask for help. Does anyone else out there suck at asking for help? I know when I have too much I stretch myself thin and don’t lean into my partners for help. When this happens I start to sink and fall apart.
In just two verses Jesus teaches us about our dependence on Him, the value of obedience, and our need for community to help us. He shows us that even when it seems like there is no hope, He will be holding onto hope for us. In an amazing twist He shows us that when we are blessed with an abundance that is when we need to call on our friends for help and I am guessing to also share in what we have been given. Casting our nets deeper may not always make sense to us but I believe wherever He is calling us we have an amazing opportunity to follow. In following Him Jesus reveals more of Himself to us, which allows us to share more of Him with others. Perhaps this is how we can be “fishers of men.”
I must confess to you that I do not frequent the Christian radio stations. In general I either listen to songs on my iPod or NPR (I’m not a fan of commercials). Alas my iPod was dead and NPR was talking about finance so I decided to venture over to the local Christian station. As I drove through the city unfamiliar music blared out of my speakers. I wasn’t really expecting a song to wow me or take my breath away but I was struck by something I heard.
Now as a disclaimer I do not know who wrote the song I am about to describe or their intent behind the words. The basic sentiment of the song repeatedly stated, “I am not where I belong.” In the verses the singer seems to be giving us the message that we were created for Heaven so therefore we do not belong here. In John 17 Jesus prays for believers and basically says we are not of this world but He also prays in verse 15, “I am not asking You to take them out of the world but to protect them from the evil one.” It can be tempting to take parts of the Bible and to not look at the whole context. I believe that we were created in God’s image and I believe that we do belong to God and His world. The question this song aroused in me was, “In this very moment am I not where I belong?” I am not so sure.
Have you ever heard the saying, “That person is so heavenly bound they are no earthly good?” In other words some people get so focused on God they do not contribute to the world around them. What if we started to believe that God placed us right here, right now for a very good reason? What if His purpose for our lives is to discover our belonging no matter where we are? By belonging I mean that every day we are given the opportunity to live fully. Living fully is a byproduct of the freedom and redemption Christ came to give us. When we live as free and redeemed people we can show the world that we belong wherever we are.
To take this point a step further, if we believe that the Kingdom of God lives in us as a result of the Holy Spirit, than in some ways we already have a taste of home. There is nothing wrong with longing for Heaven but my hope is that we use that longing to seek ways to live in His Kingdom today. My prayer is that by allowing ourselves to enter fully into each day we will draw others to His presence. Instead of hating our lives and wishing to be somewhere else perhaps we can model a way of living that is full of grace and joy. Even in times of hardship we have an opportunity to see God’s greater plan at work. I am not saying that we should not have human emotion through life’s ups and downs. It would not be natural to pretend to be happy about where we are all the time but regardless of how we feel when we ask ourselves, “Where do we belong?” How do we answer?
As a little girl I loved to read and watch Alice in Wonderland. I imagined myself chasing a white rabbit down a hole that led to my world turned upside down. While on the hunt for the rabbit many things would capture my attention: Cheshire Cats, Mad hatters, and tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum. It’s not hard to distract me from my set task but add some spades painting the rose’s red, with an angry Queen playing crochet with birds and I’m a goner.
The other day I was hiking at my usual spot, but something was different. The creek was flooded and looked more like roaring rapids than a peaceful creek. I hiked along the blue trail to get me connected to the white trail. As I journeyed down a hundred steps to the start of my favorite trail marked by white paint on trees, I encountered waves where my path should have been. I looked ahead to see just twenty yards ahead the trail was clear. I decided to go trailblazing. I few scratches and mysterious creatures later I made it to the other side.
Just as I thought I was in the clear, I turned a bend to find the trail flooded again. This time I found myself hiking up a steep embankment through thorny bush, dead leaves, and scurrying animals. At this point a sane person may have stopped but just ahead was another white marker telling me I had bypassed the flood again! This started a pattern that repeated itself about four times and two snakes later (I hate snakes!).
Then to my dismay I found myself standing on a cliff looking at a sea of brown water separating me from the rest of the white trail. The chase was over there was no way across without the risk of getting caught up in the current or being eaten by the giant mythological serpent that surely inhabits those waters. With a sigh I turned back realizing I had to retrace my steps and earn a few more scratches on my arms.
I am not the kind of person that gives up easily. When I do have to give up I feel like I am going against my whole nature. Yet when we get ourselves fixated on a path or a lifestyle that can hurt us maybe failure is the best option?
When we choose our own way to live, we risk following a path that will lead us to dangerous waters. This can be literal, but it can also be symbolic for various addictions, relationships, and behaviors that essentially do us more harm than good. Those “white rabbits” lead us further from truth and closer to destruction. They distract us from what is most important.
We all have a life to live and a path to walk. We can walk aimlessly hoping to bump into our fate or we can choose a more intentional course. This will take practice, discipline, and help from others. The things that ensnare our hearts can be powerful but they are not more powerful than the love of God. He can break any addiction or bondage but often times we must be willing to turn around and retrace our steps. Many times we will need help from trusted friends or trained professionals.
In humility we must admit that we are powerless to go on without God’s help. We must realize it is time to abandon the white trail and seek higher ground. God will provide all we need as we turn toward Him and His path. He will be our guide, our comforter, our healer, and our friend. He is the one I want to be chasing.
So I was talking to a couple ladies today about how I like to write and speak. I began to tell them that when I speak I’m a lot like Jesus… Immediately some alarms went off in my head to alert me to error of my ways. As I fumbled around trying to not sound completely grandiose one of the ladies said, “So when you speak are you speaking in red letters?” I laughed at her reference to Bibles that highlight Jesus’ words in red. I quickly tried to explain that I liked to use parables/stories to teach about various truths. But what a novel idea she had! I mean seriously what if we could all speak in red?
As our conversation wore on we started talking about who Jesus would be hanging out with in modern America. In my humble opinion I don’t think He would be spending most of His time with the church. As we all agreed on who Jesus might be spending His time with, the more important question came. What would Jesus say to them? That was one of those moments I really wish that I spoke in red!
Because of culture shifts, reading Jesus’ words at face value is not always quite as powerful. When we add context to those letters we start to learn about a man/God that was a bold lover of people. He was not worried about societal norms or acceptance. He was about radically loving people that others refused to show grace to let alone love. If speaking in red means that we love people in innovative ways then sign me up. If red letter Tracy means people will have an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus then I am in. If communication in red leads to a lifetime in the Kingdom for more people than what is stopping us? I can’t say I am there yet but I am all about becoming a person that speaks in red.
Being newly self-employed I have not quite gotten the hang of things. I woke up this morning with great intentions to conquer the world but my body had other plans. About midway through collecting tax documents I crashed. There was no energy to give. I decided to take a shower to “wake me up” (about 1pm); I was hoping that would take care of things. Not so much. I laid in bed writing lists of all the people I needed to contact and all the self-starter things I needed to do. I decided I would go work at a local coffee shop to inspire some productivity. As I walked down the stairs to my car my legs began to quiver and protested the direction they were walking. In frustration I went back in the house sat in a huff, and wondered what was wrong with me.
As I thought about my dilemma light dawned. I realized I had been working off on for eight days straight. My body was crying out for rest all day long and it took until 4pm to get the message. In my defeat I decided to rest with a nice glass of wine and a movie. For the first time today my body responded with a resounding, “Yes!”
I think many of us devalue the importance of rest. We have our to-do list along with other daily demands. Like any other superhuman being we nonchalantly say, “I’ve got this.” Little do we realize in the midst of our busyness we have forgotten to live.
Ironically stillness is the very thing that will give us life. I remember one time while I was meditating by a creek I marveled at the way it reflected the trees and the sky. In this moment I heard the Lord’s Spirit whisper, “In stillness you reflect my beauty.” When we are consumed with busyness we are more like a rushing river but as we slow down we can reflect His Glory that resides in us.
Rest is not easy. Slowing down is not easy. Even when my body is not moving, my mind is moving a mile a minute. Yet when I slow down and rest my whole being, I am more available to God and whatever He has for me that day. I think of the friends that called me before my wine and movie rest and then the ones I talked to after. You can guess which friends got the better part of me.
Now I am not telling you to drink wine every time you need rest. What I am saying is it’s important to find ways to be still and to know God is present. In stillness we become more available to the indwelling presence of His Spirit. These are the moments we can find true rest. These are the moments that will be reflected in our relationships with others. In these moments we can lift our glasses and say, “Cheers!”