Wednesday, January 23, 2013

breathe deeply

Until recently, I've appreciated far too little the connection and unity God created in us:  body, soul and spirit entwined.  This infant new year has presented me with several ideas that I hope to gather into a whole (which I'll try to do here) to help myself recognize the whole package for what it is:  an extraordinary gift.

I've thought before about our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit and, generally, how we want to be healthy to serve and honor the Lord.  But it is a new perspective for me to consider actually employing my body- movements and breathing (and senses, though I've pondered this before)- to deepen my attention to and awareness of the Lord's presence and promises to me.  

A simple pilates routine has become a great help to get me going in the mornings lately... so grateful for no impact, slow movements to stretch and strengthen me.  And since hearing from one fitnessy friend this weekend, I'm committed to paying more attention to breathing through my morning time.   Breathe deeply and control my body to move as slow as that internal pacekeeper.   Ann Voskamp's post came to mind too... (funny, I read this years ago and then she reposted it exactly today)  how the Hebrew name for God, YHWH, basically sounds like a breath.

(Side note:  I feel no loyalty or obligation to use the traditional names for the postrues and movements that are commonly used in yoga or pilates.  I'm renaming them:  'the down dog' becomes 'humble yourself', the 'sun salutation' could be 'lift up your eyes', etc.)

Soaking these early moments and exercises in Scripture highlights the sin I need to confess, the fears I need to release, the idolatry I need to turn from....  Exhale.  And Scripture guides me too to see the truth, the peace, the reality of His Presence that I want to receive as gift.... Inhale.    I'm not interested in a new-age spirituality of rootless "peace" and aimless "hope".  Every moment and movement is to be anchored in the Way, in the Word.  Every breath, every prayer is "from Him and through Him and to Him".

Haven't I wished a thousand times that I could lessen some physical effects (hormones, tiredness, the slugishness from grey pollution or a dull winter day) on my spiritual appetite?  Oh for fullness of the Spirit, the character of Christ in me, as I walk through my daily duties!  Oh how I need more fans to stoke the weary flickering flame of my heart!  Why not use my body in my pursuit of intimate abiding in the Vine?   Why not do all that I can to stimulate physical impulses to sharpen me towards my Chief End?

And too...  Breathing and praying as defense, a means to combat the attacks of panic and anxiety.  This dear friend of mine just shared her sweet story of this.

John Jefferson Davis has written an intriguing guidebook for Christians hungering for more than just an academic faith,  and he very much involves the body in his pursuit of communion with God through meditating on Scripture.  These selections below are from the first half of his book, which is more about "communion" than about employing the body towards that goal.... but this foundational stuff is just so good, I must share!

"In modern settings where church ministry is often conceived of in largely institutional and administrative terms (programs, committees and ministerial functions), theology ceases to be a "holy wisdom" and a disposition of the soul, and it becomes systematic theology, a set of courses in a seminary curriculum  specialized, technical knowledge for the minster that may or may not have deep connections with the minister's own spiritual formation.  For over seven hundred years it would seem, theology and "spirituality" have been going their separate ways, with academic theologians paying scant attention to the life of the soul, and those concerned with the life of the soul and personal devotion finding little sustenance from academic theology.  This present essay is a modest attempt to bring these two critical elements in the life of the church closer together, so that robust biblical theology nurtures spiritual practice, and spiritual practices are informed by a sound an robust theology." (p 29)

Davis points to the "remarkable fact in the New Testament, that because the Spirit has been poured out,  and because the age to come has dawned, believers no longer just go to a temple, but themselves have become a temple where God feels personally at home and lives in intimate contact with his people." (39)

And then he moves to the theme of adoption, for which he quotes J.I. Packer:  "Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption."  Davis continues,  "The forensic language of the courtroom, of being pardoned by the judge, is perfected and completed with the familial language of the home:  the forgiving judge in the courtroom adopts us as his own and welcomes us joyfully to a happy home (Luke 15:20-25, the Father's welcome to the prodigal son.)"

He continues:  "Both the images of temple and adoption, then, point to a new intimacy and closeness to God inaugurated by the advent of the Spirit.  We can approach God - and mediate on the Scriptures - not as those who are distant from God, but as those who are closer to God than Moses was in the tabernacle.  We are now not only servants of God, but as our dear Abba-Father's beloved sons and daughters we are really close to God, spiritually and emotionally, and can share the embrace of the Son in the very bosom of the Father."  (p 40-41)

These early chapters are arousing my appetite for this kind of intimate communion with God through meditating on his Word.  The juicy practicals are still ahead for me (the second half of the book) and I'm ready for these "cooking lessons";  I'm longingly anticipating the feast of His presence in His word.

In her poem "Breath," Luci Shaw writes:
When, in the cavern darkness, the child
first opened his mouth (even before
his eyes widdened to see the supple world
his lungs had breathed into being),
could he have known that breathing
trumps seeing?
(p 38, What the Light was Like) 
I don't know if breathing truly trumps seeing (though her poetry is mighty).  But I do know that a scripturally rooted prayer cycle of Release (confession, surrender) and Receive (His promises, His presence) must be purifying for the lungs and for the soul.

And I know this, and I want it:  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."




(I hope to share more soon as I finish this sweet book!)








Wednesday, January 16, 2013

family

We are LOVING being in town with the fantastic Browns for the beginning of this super cool new year.
Have I mentioned that there were 13 of us living in Dale and Mary's home (the amazing grandparents) for a little over 2 weeks for Christmas and that we were all sad to see the time end on New Years Day? If you read right, I hope you know it was a gift of grace from God that we weren't all as grumpy as can be by the end!  We could have far surpassed the limits of each others' nerves and pet peeves by that time, but really it was a fun-filled time together.    My SIL has several super picture posts about our fun theme days.... just for the record of k family craziness.  And here's a few more...

He might look like a tame uncle here, but here's the fiercest, funniest story teller of our crowd.
a little loud, a lot of fun
Since then, we've been super enjoying this beautiful home we're in- just the six of us- especially sharing it with friends.  There has been way more fun than there has been picture taking.... or blog posting for that matter.  I'm totally out of the swing of things but I sure hope to post more soon!

my wonderful cousin Brenda flew up from Denver to be with us one weekend
love these silly sweets!
and the big boys...
our own little two... the princess and the goofball
fort fun

Epiphany

(that big shepherd boy was a bit too sick to smile)

John, next to his first crush

they did some super songs and poems

almost everyone
We were so grateful our three biggies got to be in a nativity play at church!  It was just perfect that Holy Cross has theirs at Epiphany (13 days after Christmas, the day we celebrate the 3 wise men coming to Christ) because they got to be at all the practices and, even though a bit down with a cold bug, they got to be there for this sweet performance.  We're so grateful for this time and this little church to worship with!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

quiet

It's stunningly quiet here now.   The clock is ticking and the water dripping on a pan I should wash out...

I'm sitting in a very beautiful home- a kitchen I couldn't dream up more beautiful or useful- and our family is calling this place "home" for the next month or so.  A lavish gift from a family that didn't even know us.... they are friends of our good friends and since they'll be in Texas for work til the end of Feb, we get to stay here until we head out of town.   And it's Beautiful.  There's a playroom and a girl's room and a boy's room straight out of a magazine.  And we've already delighted to get to fill these rooms with guests to serve and enjoy....

And our kids are sick and right now all sleeping.   I think we'll be all clear in another day or so... so right now I just want to revel in this moment of quiet.  All of this.... Such.... Gift.

Last year I set out to memorize James and the Sermon on the Mount.  Way over ambitious, I didn't finish my plate.  This morning I presented James to my family, much of it memorized and some of it read.  The Word, His Sword, given to us to wield in His name.  My defense.  Oh to hide myself within it- the life-giving truth of his word- more!  I wish it was ethced deeper, but it is time to move on.

This year I am aiming for The Sermon on the Mount, much like Ann Voskamp divided it out for last year.   I will try to nail down 2-3 verses per week.   I would love if any of you would like to join me for this journey?  Let's tuck it down deep into our hearts and souls... together?  Or if you will be joining Ann for the Romans Project (Romans 1, 8, 12) I'd love to hear from you about that too.... so sweet to enjoy this journey with good friends.   And so needful too!  It's not a path I can travel alone.... I do need encouragement and accountability along the way!

Love to you dear friends!  I'd love to hear from you!

May this new year be a year where we feast ourselves well, richly and full, strengthened for good fruitful service, with the truth of His Word!


PS-  Here's a neat link from Justin Taylor & the ESV Study Bible about the connections between James and the Sermon on the Mount.  All of this is so vital, crucial as I think of fortifying my heart to be ready to head back "home" to China next month.  I would never go without his Word or his promises.  Oh how I need it, how we need Him!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Merry Christmas.... (still)

Our family has attended the same church three Sunday's in a row in Dec, the first time that's happened since we left our home in China in August.  We're really grateful for this little body, Holy Cross Lutheran (Missouri Synod),  to fellowship and worship with during our time in Bismarck.  And I was glad to hear the pastor say last Sunday that from noew until Epiphany (Jan 6) is still called the season of Christmas.

Yea! I'm not too late to wish you all a Merry Christmas here at the blog!  I do hope you've enjoyed a sweet Christmas season this year!   And I hope that the eyes of your hearts are lifted high with trusting confidence and downright joy, that the Lord has good growth and fruitful service and peace unparalleled straight from His heart to fill you with in the new year.... 

Our family time together has been truly marked with joy.  And that is a grace. There have been 14 of us under one roof for 2+ weeks now!  We're so grateful for fun times together with family and we hope this season has been marked with joy for each of you too.

everyone loves this little man-  our nephew/cousin Eli.  (oh, and his super cool mama too!) 
a moment to remember family that we missed sharing this Christmas with...
(I miss you Mama.)
missing Maelee
can't believe my cool cousin Amy sent such sweet gifts for our kiddos.... so thoughtful!
THANK YOU!
my favorite moment of gift-giving Christmas 2012

Grandma asked me a week before Christmas if I had any suggestion for a gift for Vivi.  I couldn't think of anything... but we had lost two of her favorite blankets (she-will-not sleep-without-it blanket) so Grandma ordered two more as Vivi's gift.  I thought it was perfect- just what she needed- but I didn't think Vivi would delight to see something she already had.  I was fantastically wrong.  When Uncle Chris got the box open for Vivi to see inside, she screammmmed with joy "Blay Blaaaaaayyyyyyy!"  Then, once the blankets were out of their bag, she lost herself in something that must very closely resemble some sort of drug-induced high.  Usually, when she sees her blanket, she slips her finger in her mouth, and this time she smothered her face in it and twirled her toes too through the satiny softness of that favorite pink.   Ecstasy.

Grandma and Grandpa hosted Mexican Day and these three led teams in a dance-off.
way to go Auntie Amy...  team Lilli was swinging!
We've had lots of fun theme days...  this was from Matt and my "Western Day."  We found that classic western sound effect to crown our duels and the evening shoot out between the hats and the bandana teams. 

there have been stories and stories and stories.... 
This precious girl is talking so much now!   It's just crazy how much charm and delight she is!
and there has been sledding....
with cousin Lilliana
and lots of snow fun


Thank you for loving our family and sharing your joy with us too.  We love you friends!