If you don't understand the title of this blog post let me quickly explain. BTK stands for Bow The Knee which is an annual musical my church (and a whole pile of partners) puts on which portrays the life of Jesus. I've lost count but I believe this is the 15th or 16th year we've participated. Bow The Knee is a gorgeous, exhausting, joyful and painful experience. If you've ever been in Bow The Knee you know what I mean.
So this post is a tool kit for those of you ready to launch into our annual marathon. I believe Bow The Knee is worth the effort. I believe we can do it in a way that shows the grace of Jesus behind the scenes and on the stage. So here are a few things I'm doing this year to get ready and I invite you to join in.
Charles Martin is my favorite fiction author. He writes emotion and relationships and grace better than anyone. He just put out a new book which is not fiction and which is preparing my heart for Bow The Knee by seeing the gospel stories in a fresh way. Its asking me to match what I believe about these stories with action in my life. Read it. What if it's true - A storyteller's Journey with Jesus by Charles Martin.
Sometimes the best way to get ready to do hard things well is to have a good deep laugh at yourself. My family watched The Resurrection of Gavin Stone this last week and we all grinned, smiled, laughed and snorted. This is a sweet and accurate portrayal of what a church production looks like in action. You'll see yourself in this movie and it will remind you that taking ourselves too seriously is the best way to wreck Bow The Knee. It'll also remind you that grace and forgiveness are what its all about. Seriously rent and watch this movie.
Last year I wrote a blog post about Bow The Knee and why I think it's worth the crazy commitment. I'm posting this again HERE in case you need the reminder. Why I Pour It All Out At Bow The Knee.
Bow The Knee tickets are available starting February 17th at www.bowtheknee.com. Start inviting now.
Most important tool of them all. Bow The Knee is only important because its not really ours. So here is a calendar with a list of things to pray through each as we all get ready for Bow The Knee. You can print this out and post it on your mirror as a daily reminder to pray. What an honor it is to work alongside all of you.
I did the the fall chore of cleaning out my garden. I'd ignored the plants for the last couple of weeks. My zucchini had sacrificed all its energy to this last monster. When I brought it into the house my eldest screamed. The youngest was less than thrilled.
The zucchini plant itself was difficult to get out of the garden bed. I had to glove up because I have an allergic reaction every time I touch the leaves. You can see the scratches in my arm. The leaves were massive. The plant has grown to the point it was blocking the sun from my tomato plants. The tomatoes did terrible this year. I also stepped on a rotting bit. Nasty gross. The filth stunk. It had to go.
Later my husband and I discussed a few local and national news stories. Scary. The local paper had some extended coverage of the rise and fall of a local pastor. Such a sad story. Heroin and pastor should not be in the same sentence.
Lots of people say the Bible is only about love and we should never judge others. If you've read the full story you'll know love and grace are certainly primary themes. But so it justice.
The third chapter of Karen Swallow Prior's book "On Reading Well" also focuses on justice. I so appreciated reading through this chapter. Prior walked through a loaded topic with grace and thoughtfulness. I'm quite simply not going to be able to do justice to the chapter here (see what I did there?) I do want to share a few of my favorite quotations which were mulling through my head as I processed the morning news.
"When the justice system becomes a form of entertainment, it is surely unjust."
"Excessive anger distorts justice, turning it into vengeance."
"Injustice, no matter who seemingly private, always has public consequences."
"Compassion is individual and voluntary. It also has no cost. Justice on the other hand, exacts a price. Because the world is broken, making what is wrong right is costly. In other words, justice requires sacrifice." - On Reading Well
Here is what I know for sure about justice. God is not concerned about maintaining institutions or protecting false reputations. He is concerned about people. He is willing to tear down walls, remove leaders, crash ministries and start all over if sin, violence, injustice or pride are present. Our sorrow shouldn't be people were caught. Our sorrow would be the sin and heartbreak happened at all. And our response shouldn't be to shake our heads and turn away. Our response should be to make things right, to grieve with victims, to preach truth to the fallen, to check our own lives for what is dead and rotting. Justice is hard work.
The Bible is full of stories where God let his people fail to clean up hypocrisy and restore a right heart. Don't believe me? Go read Joshua 7 or John 2 for two excellent examples. God's story will not be stopped and His glory is infinitely secure. The end of the story is a lot about setting what is wrong right, setting captives free, restoring what was lost. It's about justice.
Truth is we all deserve death. We're all offered grace. We all have the opportunity to wipe the eternal slate clean and start over. This being made right is what moved Jesus to take our place. Great sacrifice. Justice is a virtue and character of God. When we ignore the impacts of our sin or refuse to corporately make right a wrong we are cheapening the cross. Justice means God will remove whatever he has to so heaven's darling can be seen by everyone.
"But even forgiveness can not negate the ripple effects of the past. To pretend otherwise is itself a further injustice." -On Reading Well
You knew I'd loop back to that giant zucchini right? The analogy isn't perfect but it works. In order to get my garden ready to grow next year I had to haul out the dead and stinking plants. And next year I should plant my zucchini away from my tomato plants. I really want the tomatoes to see the sun. Let's make sure justice is a virtue we cultivate. We want the Son to be seen.
My eldest invited us to an impromptu piano concert last night. Half way through the little one wanted to play something. Then they decided I better play something as well. It's been awhile since I sat at the piano bench. But I hauled out my old books and complied. It made me happy. I'd forgotten.
When I played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring my heart ached. I wanted so to be able to play it correctly. The few phrases which were correct made me want to practice. It made me want to hear it played expertly. So this morning on the way to work I blasted Josh Groban's version of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.
On my desk at work is a jar full of roses. I bought them at the grocery store. Just because they were beautiful. And on sale. They make my heart ache in the same way playing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring does.
I think what's really happening is my soul is recognizing we were created for more than our consumer focused, politically divisive, sexually exploiting, death obsessed and frenzied distraction culture. I think we're created for more than what my phone thinks is important. I think we're created for more than what the very talented marketers at Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook think is important.
Chapter two in KS Prior's new book "On Reading Well" is about the virtue of temperance. Temperance is "the virtue that inclines us to desire and enjoy pleasures well. It helps us to desire pleasures in a reasonable manner, desiring them neither too much nor too little, the virtuous mean between the vices of self-indulgence and insensibility". The virtue is about balance.
When I signed up for SeptemberJanuary to focus on my blog my kids were sad. Because I don't do balance very well. So I signed up anyway but made tracking my own health, connecting with my family and Quirky Faith a three pronged goal. I'm practicing balance. It has been refreshing.
In October I'm going to be working my way through Catherine Price's book "How to Break Up With Your Phone". I read the first half this past weekend. She convinced me I need to address my phone usage. What I loved about this book is it does not think throwing out the phone is the solution. Nor does it think shutting down all your social media accounts is the solution. It teaches balance. Temperance. If you are interested in joining in send me an email.
Pleasures are not bad. We were created for beauty, for depth, and for joy. My phone isn't bad either. I love the ways I can connect with people. I love the camera and music and calendar and occasional game. What is bad is when this good thing takes over and I miss out on piano and flowers and my children's smile. I miss the things that make life good. And my heart aches when I notice.
Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. - Howard Thurman
I spent last Saturday with my girls. The resident chef was out of town for the day. My youngest called it a Mommy Daughter Daughter date. We got pedicures, went to the library, hid some painted rocks and played at the local park.
While the girls scampered about I watched a group of men setting up an impressive BBQ by the public covered area. The guys had hauled in four different grills, a mountain of meat and two full picnic tables of food. They were also sporting soccer balls, accents and their conversation frequently fell into several languages other than English. Ahhhh. Friends from Africa! And then the grill fired up and the park transformed.
A couple of women stopped to chat and asked the guys what was happening. I listened in. Apparently a competing soccer team was driving down for a game at six that evening and so the host team was getting dinner ready. They clearly expected a crew. The men offered the bystanders a sample of the BBQ. The ladies declined and walked on. My mouth watered.
Yup. I totally scammed a piece of the chicken on our way out of the park. The guys insisted we take three. And a bottle of water. My eldest was horrified I had weaseled my way into someone else’s BBQ. My youngest said it was the best chicken she’d ever had. It was tasty. The soccer team seemed happy to share.
On the way home though it seems like my eldest was right. I shouldn't just take and glory in what the newcomers to the local park were bringing. So we went home and baked an apple crisp and hauled it back to the park in time for the big soccer match. We didn't stay. But our new friends sure grinned. Its fun to make new friends.
My whole point in the story is that in order to love you neighbor you have to first notice you have a neighbor. You have to be willing to meet the neighbor. Talk to the newcomer. Smile. Eat chicken. Bake apple crisp.
After we got home I watched the new documentary about Mr. Rogers. I bawled my head off. You should watch it. Mr. Rogers knew how to love people better than anyone. I want to be like him when I grow up. Hope my kids do too.
My engine light turned on a few days ago. The yellow haunting you may have a problem light. Not the red doom stop now light. I once ignored a red doom stop now light. I was five miles away from my house which was in the middle of nowhere. It was dark. My baby was in the baskseat. No cell phone coverage. I ignored the red light and the warning blaring sound. Then I ignored the massive amount of smoke billowing from my car. I made it up the hill to my house and the car stopped. It never drove again. A friend bought it for $500 and towed it away.
So this time when the yellow light came on I eyed it suspiciously. I hate car repairs. But I'm a loyal Dave Ramsey girl so we drive our cars forever to avoid having a car payment. We just spent a small fortune last week on my husband's car so the yellow light on my car was not welcome.
The yellow light didn't go away on its own. I was really hoping it would. So I gave in today and dropped the car off at the mechanic and hitched a ride with my dad back to work. All afternoon I was waiting for a phone call to find out what the damage to my checkbook would be to make the yellow light go away.
The mechanic called. He said there was good news. My yellow light was a standard PO562 code. That's great. So happy.
Turns out it means I had too much oxygen in my engine because I had not tightened down the gas cap when I got gas last time. The mechanic closed the gas cap and the yellow engine light turned off. Ah. I see. Further proof I'm a goof.
But here's what happened next.
The mechanic said he was very happy I'd brought my car in today. Turns out the shocks on my car were almost entirely shot. This had caused uneven wear on my tires and two of my tires had worn down to zero with cables showing and were primed for a blowout. A vision of a blowout with my babies in the back seat made my stomach hurt and my heart so very grateful.
See this is what happens to my all the time. God uses my dumb moves for my good. It's why I try to pay attention to Him. He is the light of the world. A light worth not ignoring.
My husband sent me a gift this morning. I love surprise gifts. This one came in the form of a blog domain and blog email renewal. My Quirky Faith domain was set to expire and without asking this sweet spouse of mine signed me up for two more years. I haven't written much in the last few weeks. I've neglected the written word. I appreciated his vote of confidence.
Fact is lately I've been called to smaller things. My sister had a baby - two months early - and in aunty fashion I've been making quilts and embroidering Christmas stockings. My mom and a good friend of our threw a fairly fantastic baby shower.
The last couple of weeks I've also been called to focus in at home. My kids have had some obstacles in health and homework which required attention - time cuddling and reading and being present. So I've been quiet online.
This morning as I dropped my daughter off at preschool she asked me a question which made me pause.
Mom - Do I look like Miss Clavel?
I looked her up and down before I responded.
Ummmmm. Miss Clavel? Like in Madeline? The nun?
Yea! Do I look like Miss Clavel?
I truly tell you I had no words. Miss Clavel is not what comes to mind when I think about my feisty five year old. But her question made me ponder.
Miss Clavel is a wonder. She sacrificed her rights to marriage and her own family in order to take a vow of fidelity to Jesus. Then she spent her life chasing after 12 little girls and one especially spunky little one. Miss Clavel took in puppies and kittens, toured world cities, woke up in the night and rushed to the side of people in pain. Madeline is the hero of the story but truth is I love Miss Clavel. So I hope my kiddo turns out the same.
Mother Theresa once said "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
I'm grateful for Quirky Faith - and for the platforms on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. I love to write and shout out to the masses what is true and holy and right and fun. I so appreciate the opportunity and the privilege. But I'm convicted when any attempt to strive for something "great" makes me too busy to look at my children and understand what they are asking. My daughter wanted to know if she looked like Miss Clavel. I want to be about the same question.
My husband and I celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary today. And by celebrate I mean we sent our children to their grandparents and spent a couple of days eating our way around Portland. The dinners involved steak and lasagna. Fantastic lemon custard one night and a bananas foster cheese cake the second. Breakfast was spiced Huevos Rancheros and cheese grits with charred tomatoes. Yummmm. One of the ways we've managed to reach 19 and still like each other is a dogged commitment to celebrating everything with fantastic food.
I'm the lucky girl who knows how this handsome bearded man thinks. I know because I've spent that last 19 years eating across the booth from him. We met when I was 18 so I've been married to him longer than I didn't know him. I know the best ways to annoy him (don't give him space, talk bad about him before other people, interrupt him or others). I know the best ways to make him happy (catch his daughters doing something kind and tell him about it, appreciate something he's made, write something that changes the way one of us sees a hard situation). He's got me figured out too. If I'm cranky, feed me or put me in the bath with a book. Not complicated.
I asked him last night what advice he'd give to people on how to stay married 19 years. Here's his list:
Don't be crazy. (and by this I believe he means, calm down, fight fair, avoid the deal breakers, think).
Don’t be ridiculously self centered.
Give the other person space when they want it.
Don’t say one thing but mean something else and expect the other person to know what you are talking about.
Don’t berate your spouse in front of other people.
Work towards being a better person.
Invest your time in people that tend toward the positive.
Try and evaluate people in your life that are exceptional and watch what they do.
Figure out your stuff.
It's a good list. I think it works for parenting and friendships and any manner of relationship where longevity and care and quality are goals.
I enjoy the celebrate everything bit. I think people forget the joyful part of marriage and get stuck in the daily grind. If I have marriage advice its to try and figure out what makes your spouse smile and do more of that. Try to know your kids well enough to not push their buttons and to cheer on their joy. Try to honor your parents by avoiding what will break their hearts and invest in what brings honor. It works with friendships too.
Yesterday, my spouse took me to my happy place. Powell's books. We spent time in the children's books looking at the newest picture books, wandered through cookbooks and fiction and business. Picked out some books for family and friends. I have a new nephew to celebrate and a friend who I found out has never read Mere Christianity or The Hiding Place. This will be remedied soon.
This morning before heading home we spent the morning at The Portland Art Museum. My husband noticed the paint in this piece was incredibly thick. Parts looked almost as if the large globs had been glued in place. As we leaned in it became apparent the largest chunks were actually separating from the main painting due to time. There were cracks and crinkles.
Want to know something? The time gave it character. Depth. You could see the water ripple better because the painting had aged. The value increased with time.
The figure out your stuff thing is tough. It's what you do when it would be easier to leave. Or to shut down. We spent several years fighting about money and so we hauled our issues through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace class. It helped. We've attended marriage retreats and parenting classes. Read books, took small group classes and one painful season headed off to a counselor. We used to fight when we put together Ikea furniture. Lots of practice and now we can assemble anything. We've got a plan. The figure out your stuff thing means identifying where the tension is coming from and figuring out a new normal.
Figure out your stuff means you don't get to quit. Trust me, I've let my husband down - and he can drive me crazy. But figuring out your stuff also means you get the privilege of loving someone after you know all their junk and after they know yours. It means hanging on to friendships when people make choices you don't like. It means investing in people with whom you disagree. It might be easier to love new people - flawless and fresh people. Of course, that's fake and if you hang out long enough the bugs show themselves. Real people take grace. But the years after forgiveness and growth and grace are the ones with treasures.
What have we been doing the last 19 years? Figuring out how to keep some promises. To honor and cherish. For better or worse.
That's the Book: Philippians
hI woke up yesterday with a full schedule and a headache. It was dull and so I added two cups of coffee and ignored said headache. This worked okay through a finance committee meeting at church, held through making Valentines with the preschoolers and I was distracted by the fantastic sermon at church enough to enjoy an after service lunch with friends. Then the headache amped up the volume.
I feel a little lame comparing the depths of persecution the apostle Paul faced with my Sunday headache, but hang in here with me. I have a point near the end. Here at the start though let me tell you Philippians is my father's favorite book of the Bible. I grew up on these words. The consistency of the message, the good cheer in the book even in the midst of suffering and the centrality of Jesus make Paul's letter to the church of Philippi a must read, must study, must learn for any earnest believer. Even on the days you have a headache.
Philippians begins with a declaration about what sort of long view the Christian faith is all about. Keep your eye on the prize. Today's struggles are difficult -but Christ Jesus has already won the war.
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6
Yesterday after lunch, I had to take home a couple of visitors. One was my daughter's friend from school. The second was my good friend from Rwanda. She's in the states for a couple of months taking English classes. Her host family lives across town. What a joy it was to have her at church with me yesterday. Her faith and her courageous testimony remind me to strive to spread the gospel without fear. I want my daughters to hear her stories of forgiveness. The family of faith can challenge our assumptions, push us to see the purpose in our pain and stretch us to learn to trust Jesus fully. Friends who have walked ahead of us can shine the light. This is the call of Paul to the Philippians.
"Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves, do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus Every Knee Will Bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2: 1-11
By the time I was driving home yesterday my headache had taken over I limped into the house and headed straight for the bath. My husband told me my face looked droopy. He brought me ice. Two hours later I was still a mess. I was laying on the couch when my daughters came and started trying to talk me into going for a walk to the park.
The Park?? You want me to get off this couch and go to the park?
My eldest was explaining that sometimes fresh air and a walk help. The youngest looked gleeful at the idea of a first playdate outside this year. My husband had already been overseeing outside rollerskating and was now engaged in dinner prep in the kitchen. I never call him away from dinner prep. Gotta have priorities.
At any rate this verse popped in my throbbing head.
"Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast he word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain." Philippians 2: 14- 15
All things? Do all things without grumbling? Here is the conversation which happened next.
Me: I'm having an inner battle.
My eldest: Huh?
My spouse: She means she's trying to decide if a walk will help the headache or make it worse.
Me: Nope. I'm battling between MY self and what Jesus wants. It's the same battle every day.
"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus may Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish so that I may grain Christ". Philippians 3: 7-8
Here's the deal. My headache was not a big deal really. Annoying. But Jesus still wanted me to slay my selfishness and look to the needs of others in all things. I lay there feeling sorry for myself a little longer. And then I hauled myself up and put on my shoes and my girls and I went for a walk. I'm not saying this in the least to say I'm doing the right thing. I'm sharing this story to show you how daily little things we can do through His strength. And the daily little things add up to big glorious wins in the battle for our soul, for the souls of our children and to advance the gospel. How you treat your spouse when he's impatient matters. How you respond to that annoying person at work matters eternally. How I act when I have a headache reflects the condition of my heart.
"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3: 12-14
You want to know something amazing? When I got back from the walk - my headache was significantly improved. I'll head to the chiropractor probably later today to address the underlying issue but I'm grateful for the win with my kids yesterday. The book of Philippians calls me to turn to Jesus in everything - in my worries, in my stress, in my priorities, in my little and big issues. It;s a gorgeous calling. If you struggle with the battle between what your self wants and what Jesus wants, Philippians is a great battle plan.
"Be anxious for northing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever if of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Philippians 4: 6-8
Here you are - my favorite tool to learn about the Bible. Outside the actual Bible.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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