October 27th Devotional

“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

-1 Thessalonians 1:4-10

Pray and ask God to further your understanding of what He wants you to gain from this scripture.

What would it look like if all the believers in the area knew about your faith in God, and they considered you a model? Maybe you live your faith out in such a way that this is the case. Or maybe you wish you did. One of the important things to remark on with this scripture is that the Thessalonians had someone that they themselves were imitating. They had a person who they were working to be more like, someone they knew was striving to be like Christ. Paul, the author of this book, also wrote a book called 1 Corinthians where he writes to encourage the believers to “imitate me as I imitate Christ”. Finding a person to emulate can make a big difference in your relationship with Jesus, being a person to emulate is important as well! Go forward and work towards being a model!

Lord, You love us to stand in your sight upright and with such gentleness in us that some other will yearn to win its power.

-Hebridean Altars

October 26th devotional

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14
Pray, ask God to reveal himself today through this scripture.
How often am I the pharisee, full of a self-righteous hubris that causes me to be unable to see the richness of God in others? I would often fall into this trap when I used to do orphan care. Orphan care is so obviously a great and wonderful thing to do to help the world. I think most people can agree that orphan care is a good thing to do, so it was easy for me, when I was immersed in caring for orphans to look around at people who were not necessarily doing orphan care and think about how good I was. But the truth of the matter is that I am not good. Only God is good. I am like the tax collector and when I finally come around to seeing that, then I am able to live more acutely in the mercy of Christ.
Deliver me from self-truthfulness.
In the frequent days in which I must do battle with
Myself for foe
Arm me with a constant trust in Thee
-Hebridean Altars

Grace and peace to you from God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Sunday Confessional Oct. 25

I confess that I’m not slowing down.

I’m a stay at home parent. I’m also a full time student, and I work at a church where I am being mentored by the pastor (as part of the degree program). You know that scene in Star Wars, the one where the Millenium Falcon goes into warp speed? I often feel like that is what is happening to my life. Sometimes I get to the end of the day, and I feel like it’s been super long. I’m tired from having chased my three year old around or held my one year old all day. When I do get them down for nap/quiet time, I either work on a sermon or a paper for school, or if I am super good I get a craft ready to do with the boys when they get up. When I experience those days and bed time finally rolls around, I look back on the past 24 hours and I am speechless (and breathless). The days seem long when I’m living them, but the months are falling away like a tree shedding its leaves for winter. I want to slow down life. I want to, but I just need to figure out how. Recently I was reading a text for one of my classes and came across a really good concept that I want to share.

Author Tracy Balzer, writes about finding rest from all the noise in our lives;

“Perhaps we should consider when we last experienced true silence. It may be difficult for us to say with any accuracy, because we’ve gotten so used to the hum of electricity around us that we don’t even realize that we live with a constant level of noise…When did I last drive my car without the stereo playing? When was the last time my family and I sat around the dinner table with phones, dishwasher, and television turned off? None of these things are evil. But could it be that the many layers of noise we dwell in have numbed our sensitivity to the still small voice of God?”

As I write this I let myself listen for all the levels of noise that exist all around me. I can hear the hum of the refrigerator, the electricity of the lights, the WIFI modem, the computer fan, levels and levels of noise that I never really notice, all working in harmony to numb to the presence of God in my every day existence.

I think maybe I can slow down by being intentional with what I allow myself to take in. By taking a day of rest, where our family turns off our cell phones, and powers down the computers, and really listens for God. I think this could become a weekly event. Does it make you uncomfortable to think about turning off your cell phone for a full day? I know, I know, how would you be able to check facebook, your email, craigslist, gumtree, or the scores of that sporting event? Do you know that theres actually a word for what I am describing? It’s called a Sabbath. Not just a weekend day where we go to church, but a day completely plugged into God. Would you like to join me in carving out time to celebrate this day? To turn off and unplug electronics, to refresh our spirits, rekindle our passions, renew our minds and bodies, and reconnect with God and those we love.

Pilgrim or Tourist?

Recently I had the opportunity to engage in a pilgrimage of Celtic Irish history. It was an experience I will remember forever. You see, tourism and travel is an enormous industry today. I read so many blogs where the main goal is to see more of the world and to travel, to really get out of your comfort zone and experience something new. This idea of travel and tourism made me wonder if there was a fundamental difference in what I was doing as a pilgrim, and what thousands of others were doing as tourists.  Were tourism and pilgrimage all the same thing, simply rebranded and renamed? Something in my spirit told me that there was indeed a difference, and yet it took me some time to really put my finger on what that difference was.

During our pilgrimage we began on the slope of an absolutely beautiful mountain near an area called Glendalough. This place is made famous because of a pilgrim known as St. Kevin. We walked down a path that had been beaten by the footsteps of many who had come before us. The path followed a stream right into an ancient monastic village. We had scheduled to meet with a tour guide who would tell us the history of Glendalough and, while we waited, I looked around at the incredible beauty that shot out from every blade of grass and every leaf of the trees. The mountains rose and fell all around us, and a babbling brook coursed its way toward a pair of lakes that it helped to feed. I took a deep breath and could smell the freshness of nature. Simply standing and being was, in its own way, an experience that allowed me to worship Jesus. Directly above me grew several canes of blackberries, which tasted so sweet and refreshing. I lost track of time as I picked blackberries and prayed to God. Before I knew it, our Guide had arrived. His name is Father Michael and he is a retired priest of the Catholic church. He began by blessing our group with a blessing of solitude:

“May you recognise in your life the presence,

power and light of your soul.

May you realise that you are never alone

that your soul in its brightness and belonging

connects you intimately with the rhythm of the

universe.

May you realise that the shape of your soul is

unique,

that you have a special destiny here,

that behind the facade of your life there is

something beautiful, good and eternal

happening.

May you learn to see your self with the same

delight, pride and expectation with which God

sees you in every moment.”

-John O’Donohue

Then we began our journey into the heart of Glendalough. Father Michael encouraged us as we walked to go forward in silence. It was in this silence that I was able to really reflect on the constant presence of God in my life. He led us to the first lake which holds some personal significance to me. My wife and I took our first picture together at this lake nearly ten years ago. Then our guide led us up into the mountains where we got to see where St. Kevin may have lived. Our guide told us the tale of St. Kevin and the blackbird:

“And then there was St. Kevin and the blackbird.

The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside

His cell, but his cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff

As as cross beam, when a blackbird lands

And lays in it and settles down to rest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked

Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked

Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: Now he must hold his hand

Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks

Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown

And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow

Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?

Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on down through his hurting forearms?

Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?

Or has the shut-eye blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?

Alone and mirrored clear in loves deep river,

‘To labour and not seek reward’, he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely

For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird

And on the river bank forgotten the river’s name”

-Seamus Heaney

Hearing of the discipline that St. Kevin had was a powerful lesson to begin our pilgrimage. Each of us was paired with another group member and made to be prayer partners. After hearing the tale of St. Kevin we split off to pray. We were pilgrims together, and we were learning that the Celtic Christians of old had a deep revere for nature. They also had a respect for the darkness in each one of us. They would have operated with the knowledge that O’Donahue wrote about,

“We are always on a journey from darkness into light. At first, we are children of the darkness. Your body and your face were formed first in the kind darkness of your mother’s womb…Your birth was a first journey from darkness into light. All your life, your mind lives within the darkness of your body. Every thought that you have is a flint moment, a spark of light from your inner darkness. The miracle of thought is its presence in the night side of your soul; the brilliance of thought is born in darkness. Every day is a journey. All creativity awakens at this primal threshold where light and darkness test and bless each other. You only discover balance in your life when you learn to trust the flow of this ancient rhythm. Ultimately, light is the mother of life. Where there is no light, there can be no life…Life is the secret presence of the divine. It keeps life awake. The soul awakens and lives in light. It helps us glimpse the sacred depths within us.”

Our pilgrimage began as something more. Something different. The Latin name for pilgrimage is peregrinatio, which when translated can mean either “pilgrimage”, or “voluntary abandonment of home and kin for ascetic purposes”. As Balzer puts it, we were seeking to identify with Christ in his death. Just as Christ let go of his divinity to fully embrace humanity, so the pilgrim would let go of his beloved land to follow Christ. It is this relinquishing of all that one holds dear in order to follow Christ that separates a pilgrim from a tourist. Abigail and I are pilgrims, following after Christ everyday.

“Pilgrim, how you journey

one the road you chose

to find our where the winds die

and where the stories go.

All days come from one day

that much you must know,

you cannot change what’s over

but only where you go.

One way leads to diamonds,

one way leads to gold,

another leads you only

to everything you’re told.

in your heart you wonder

which of these is true;

the road that leads to nowhere,

the road that leads to you.

Will you find the answer

in all you say and do?

Will you find the answer

in you?

Each heart is a pilgrim,

each one wants to know

the reason why the winds die

and where the stories go.

Pilgrim, in your journey

you may travel far,

for pilgrim it’s a longway

to find out who you are….

Pilgrim it’s a long way

to find out who you are…

Pilgrim it’s a long way

to find out who you are…”

-Enya: A day without rain

Sunday Confessional- 18 Oct 2015

I confess that I have an imperfect marriage.

A few months ago our mentor spoke with us about facilitating a marriage course at our church. The course would run for 6 weeks, there would be dinner available, and creche for the kids. Couples would be able to sit and chat with each other while doing exercises alongside the course manual and DVD. Of course, John and I were more than willing, because our marriage is PERFECT and we have LOADS to teach these other couples! Oh wait, just kidding, nothing in our lives is perfect, especially our marriage (except for maybe our kids, but even they get snotty sometimes….)!

But truthfully, we were excited to start this course because we are passionate about marriage and the covenant shared between two people.

We chose a Sunday evening to run the course which makes our Sundays extra long, especially if I’m singing in the Praise Band or John is preaching (both of which we did today, by the way). We do our church thang, and then we come home to cook for 20 people (eating lunch somewhere in there) and doing a bunch of dishes, then we go back to church and set up. After everyone eats and I hear encouraging comments like, “That food was gorgeous/lovely/to die for/amazing!” (<<This is so fun for me, I really enjoy cooking for people!), I do a bunch more dishes. Thankfully, our boys both go to creche so that I can do all this!

Turns out, amidst all this work, I LOVE Sundays.

As I have said before, Sundays are my jam! After a long day, I still treasure these evenings to allow couples the time to invest in their marriages. My favorite part is watching people interact with each other, taking turns talking and listening, and hearing laughter. From the kitchen in the back, I can’t tell what exactly each couple is talking about but it’s nice to see them enjoying each other’s company. What an important relationship. It’s so easy to get caught up in, well, LIFE, and forget about truly investing in the one we’ve chosen to “do” this life with.

No one’s marriage is perfect, especially mine. John and I weren’t “chosen” to facilitate this marriage course because we have the best marriage ever. We were just willing. We hope to encourage the couples we interact with every day and remind them (and ourselves) that God is the author of our stories! He created us, brought us together, and delights in seeing us live in harmony with one another.

Peace.

And, Happy Sunday!

Our October Baby (Thoughts From a Year Later)

I slept terribly the other night. Maybe it was too many thoughts racing through my head, or maybe it was the coffee I didn’t finish until 4pm. Either way, I had a difficult time falling asleep and slept a grand total of about 3 hours. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how to transition “home”, and asking where exactly is “home” now? I can’t help but think about how different our life was just a year ago. We were in this sweet joyful season of expectation. Expectantly waiting an international move, and expectantly waiting on our second child to be born. We had a happy and calm two year old who never gave us any trouble, and my belly was swollen with a 39-week-old mysterious life inside. I loved everything about being pregnant and was SO EXCITED to welcome this new baby, but not entirely ready to give up the amazing feeling of fullness that comes with carrying a child inside you.

After all, there are only a few times in our lives when we get to hold our babies so close to our hearts.

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10659405_3133219208076_7199090142194771931_nMoses came to us after only 5 hours of labor, 4 of those spent at home. It all started in the middle of the night; It was like I went to sleep with one son, and woke up in the morning with two! The first few months were rewarding, and difficult. The things I’d learned with Hosea weren’t applicable with Moses. I quickly learned that he was completely different from his brother in every way! After dealing with a tongue tie and breastfeeding struggles, a dairy sensitivity, packing up our important things and moving to Northern Ireland, and after settling into a new rhythym of life on the other side of the world, I learned to take a breath. 

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After all, we only get to experience our babies’

first year once.

11412265_3509443213441_5349062205543739562_n If I could choose one word to describe Moses, it would be ‘passionate’. Boy oh boy, is he a passionate fellow! He loves to imitate his brother, joyously screeching as loud as he can. He hears music everywhere, real music on the radio but also imaginative music in the banging of a highchair tray or the slamming of a cupboard door. He dances wildly and can do a million squats in a row with those chunky legs. He’s got the biggest 6-toothed grin and lights up when he sees Dada, Mama, or Bubba <<3 of his words. He also signs more, milk, food, and I’m pretty sure he said ball yesterday. When it’s warm (not too often in this climate), the sides of his white-blond hair curl up and I call him “Mozo the Clown”. Other nicknames include “Mosey Bear”, “Mo Bear”, “Little Mo Mack”, and simply, “Mo”. When we lie on the floor, he sees that as an invitation to jump and wrestle, pretend-biting any patch of skin where clothing has fallen loose. One of his favorite toys is a toothbrush. Our exercise ball is our lifeline; I used it during labor, but we also bounce him to sleep on it every night. He walks by cruising along the edge of the sofa and the coffee table and will walk all over the house if we hold his hands. As they say in Northern Ireland, he is “all go”! He loves all food, especially berries, and still nurses quite a bit too. He’s just transitioned to one nap during the day, a sure sign that he is indeed growing up. 

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After all, this first year can’t last forever and God’s presence is so evident in his growing up. Sometimes I wish he’d stay little, but then we wouldn’t get to witness his growth, inside and out.

11221295_3566285114453_7600441103134910882_nHappy 1st Birthday, Moses! You are a true joy, your passion is inspiring, and we praise God for bringing you into our family and allowing us to be your parents. 11393085_3520222162908_6188649816407841100_n  11402959_3512188762078_5919977489000002218_n

Sunday Confessional

4 Oct 2015

I confess that I’m really struggling to find a light hearted confessional this week. I’ve been searching my soul and I find it difficult.

I keep thinking about all the injustices in the world that I should write about. I think about the 153 million children that are currently labeled as orphans. I keep thinking about the immigration detention centers in Dilley, Texas that seem to operate more like a concentration camp that anything else. I keep thinking about the mass shootings that are plaguing the United States. Or I think about the mass flood of refugees. I keep thinking about all this and I find myself struggling. I find myself looking to the only true source of comfort that I know. I find myself looking to God. I find myself saying to God “Why don’t you do something Oh LORD?” and then I take a minute and I listen to God say “I did, I made you.”

And do you know what? God made you too. He made all of us so that we could work together to serve Him.