Prayer: What I (Apparently) Knew But Didn’t Do, Part 4

Tell someone about your commitment, and ask them to hold you accountable. Make this a sacred time for just you and God. No phones, no distractions. It’s a holy time when you come to the secret place. Jealously guard it. Fight to defend that time. It is precious to you. You can (and should) of course pray at other times throughout the day, but it’s important to have a time that’s devoted solely to prayer. Continue reading

Prayer: What I (Apparently) Knew But Didn’t Do, Part 3

We read in John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” In the past (although I wouldn’t have described it this way), I’d see that verse as evidence that I couldn’t really pray until I felt that I was aligned with the will of God more completely. In other words, that I needed to pull myself up by the bootstraps to a place of holier will and desires before I could pray prayers that “got results.” But that’s really backwards and giving myself an illusion of control or power that no person has. Through prayer, God changes me. I don’t change myself so that I can pray. Continue reading

Prayer: What I (Apparently) Knew But Didn’t Do, Part 2

Here’s the thing: What we really believe about prayer is revealed in our prayer lives. [Ouch.] If we really believed that “Without God, [we] can’t, but without [us] He won’t,” how would the world – not just our lives – but the world be different? How would history be different? Or, to a more fruitful set of questions: how can and will the world be different? How can we surrender to and partner with God to change history?” Continue reading

To Become Who We Already Are

Here’s another article I wrote for our church newsletter. Deron will be back next week, but I’ve appreciated the chance to stretch my writing muscles while he’s been gone!

On Sunday, we sang The Bread Has Been Broken before we joined together in communion. There’s a section of that song that’s been replaying in my head since Sunday morning: “His death reconciled us;/ we live sanctified to become what we already are.”

To become what we already are. This line brings to mind for me something that a speaker at an Elmwood women’s retreat said a few years ago. She said that a guiding statement in her life was “Imago Dei: Who I am and who I am becoming.” (Imago Dei is Latin for “the Image of God.”)

The most exciting part of the creation account to me is that God decides to make Adam and Eve in His image. How awesome is that?! Just by being alive and being human you are already an image-bearer of God. You are Imago Dei. Everyone you meet is Imago Dei. Hold that in your heart for a moment and see if you don’t get excited. That’s some good news, people!

Imago Dei Print

On the flip side, however, I don’t think that any of us would say, “This livin’ like Jesus thing? I’ve got it down pat. I am holy as God is holy. Done and done.” We’re just not there. We all fall short. We’re image-bearers who also bear the dust, bruises, and scars from falling short of our holy callings on a daily basis. We must be about the work of becoming.

I think this is part of what makes the good news of Christ’s redemptive work in our lives so very good – I’m talking “good” in the creation-narrative-and-God-saw-that-it-was-good sense. Jesus, by His life and death, makes it possible for us to be restored to our original state of Imago Dei. Don’t miss that God twice makes us “what we already are”: first in lovingly creating us in His image and again in graciously sanctifying us and restoring us to that state of shalom goodness.

God patiently and faithfully stays with us as we live in a perpetual state of “becoming,” all the while knowing that “we already are.” It’s like the inaugurated eschatology (there’s your $2 theological term for the day) I mentioned last week regarding God’s kingdom – we are already what God created us to be but not yet fully.

We are still in the season of Epiphany – the season in which we recognize that Jesus is, in the fullest sense, Imago Dei and the Son of the Most High God, that He is fully God. In two weeks, however, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. For centuries, Christians around the world have observed the Lenten season as a time of repentance and reflection as they prepare to commemorate the death and burial of Christ and celebrate His resurrection. It seems so fitting to me that we move from a season of recognizing who Jesus truly is to a season of repenting and recognizing that we are not yet fully who we were created to be and who we “already are.” May every season of your life be a season of “becoming” and growing into whom God made you and then redeemed you to be. May we each be reminded this week of who Jesus is and what He’s done for us to enable us to keep becoming more like Him.
rachel's signature

‘Til Kingdom Come

This is a post I had started for this blog, but I had the opportunity to write our Campus Minister’s column for our church newsletter for this week and next while he’s away at his DMin residency at Lipscomb, so I published it in our newsletter.

Jeffrey and I recently watched the acclaimed Ken Burns’ documentary, The Civil War. This nine-part series takes a detailed, critical look at the death and destruction that consumed our country during the four-year war through the lens of personal memoirs of different people from all walks of life. It was fascinating. As interesting as the documentary was, however, it was even more devastating and disturbing. Many of you may know that I’m a pacifist. The violence of war and of slavery are viscerally and physically sickening to me.  The hatred and depth of racial discrimination is almost more than I can bear to consider.

Not long after we finished the documentary, we watched Lee Daniel’s The Butler, a fictional story (based loosely on a true story) that chronicles the life of a man who was born in Georgia in the 1920s into a sharecropping family (really something that was closer to slavery than any of the cooperation implied by “share”) and then saw his father casually murdered without provocation by the landowner. The protagonist eventually came to be a butler in the White House, from which vantage point he saw the turbulent civil rights movement span eight presidencies.

As I lay awake one night after having watched these two pieces, I was struck by the recentness of it all. We live in a world where we have video – video! – of Civil War veterans speaking and shaking hands over the memorialized battle line at Gettysburg. Men who fought in the Civil War lived in our modern age! We live in a world where a person born into what amounted to slavery – a world where black men could be killed by white men without consequence – could live through times of sit-ins, freedom rides, school integration, and countless acts (seen and unseen) of prejudice-motivated violence to see a black man become president!

It hurt me more, somehow, to realize how recent all of it is. I found myself longing to live in some distant land without a recent history of violence and racial discrimination and oppression. I didn’t want any of these bloody wars or any of the racial turmoil to be part of the past or, more precisely, the present, of the country in which I live. I thought of maybe Sweden or Norway, mostly because I don’t know much about either of those countries, and thought maybe that was because terrible things hadn’t happened there (history isn’t really my thing). Guess what: even the Swedes and Norwegians have had (and still have) their violence and racial rifts.

map print

What I’m really longing for is not an area of land bound by imaginary lines that only exist on a map. What I’m longing for is for God’s Kingdom to be here in its entirety. It’s already here, but not yet fully. I’m longing for it to be fully present and realized.

Deron’s been reminding us that, in this season of Epiphany, we are celebrating the manifesting of Jesus as the Son of God. One of the ways we’re called to celebrate is by showing the world that the Prince of Peace is here! The King – who forsook everything for all peoples, for all times – reigns! We are to be light in the darkness around us – the darkness of our country’s past and the darkness of our present realities of continuing hatred and violence. Let us strive to be lights of the peace and the love of Christ together, ‘til Kingdom come (fully).

Lovely November

I love November. I love November for so many reasons.

My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is in November. I love Thanksgiving more than any other holiday because in recent years Jeffrey and I decided that, since we travel north to Michigan and down to southern Indiana at Christmas, we’ll stay home at Thanksgiving. We treasure those quiet days at home together, snuggled up on the couch watching Christmas movies and eating Thanksgiving leftovers. Leftovers are one of the best parts. I love, love. love to cook, but after cooking and baking for days for one meal, by the time we sit down, I’m mostly ready to take my chef’s-privilege nap while everyone else does dishes. Leftovers take zero effort and taste even better than the food at the main dinner.

My favorite season, autumn, stretches into November. The leaves are still vibrant and holding on here. But every morning driveways are plastered with more and more leaves. Soon, the trees will be bare and delicate white frost will cover the roofs in the morning until the sun chases it away.

November 1 – today! – marks the beginning of what I call “It’s-Finally-Socially-Acceptable-to-Listen-to-Christmas-Music-So-That-Other-People-Can-Hear-It Season.” Some people just call this “Christmas Music Season” (and some people of the Scrooge variety aren’t even ready to call it that). I happen to be of the opinion that Christmas music deserves a year-round spot on my iPod, but I respect that not everyone can be as jolly as me all the time. However, I am also of the opinion that from November 1 – January 31, I can listen to Christmas music all the time without regard for who gets/has to hear.

I just think November is lovely. And today has been a lovely start to a lovely month.

Christmas music. People’s posts on Facebook of the not-so-little things for which they’re thankful. A big cold glass of well-brewed unsweet tea. (I do love sweet tea, but, you know, calories…)

Another thing that made today great is that it was the first time since cooler weather hit that the Ravellettes have had Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes for supper. You read right. Kielbasa. Smashed Potatoes. Butter. Red Wine Vinegar. Onions. Spinach. All mixed up together in a bowl of comfort, hugs, and cuddly food-love.

kielbasa mashed potatoes

Does it look sloppy? All the better. Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes is a comfort food. It doesn’t stand on ceremony. It doesn’t mind if you eat it in your pajamas on the couch in front of Netflix. It just wants you to be cozy.

danae is the genius behind this dish that has become a staple in many households among our friends. Check out her recipe on her cooking blog here. (Really. Check it out. You’ll add it to your cool-weather meal rotation tout de suite.)

Since I’m counting calories, I plugged the recipe in to myfitnesspal.com. I followed danae’s recipe for the most part, except I only used half a stick of butter and instead of the milk or cream, I used a half cup of plain soy milk. Be sure to keep extra red wine vinegar on hand – Jeffrey loves to add a lot of extra vinegar to his. In case you’re counting calories or carbs or are just somewhat interested in the nutritional information of this dish, I’ve included what I came up with through myfitnesspal at the end of this post.

This was not just our first Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes of the season, it was also Paige’s first experience with the dish. She gobbled it right up, but she was quick to pull out the spinach. I guess I can’t blame her. I accidentally picked up the regular spinach instead of baby spinach, so it was pretty long and slimy when isolated from the rest of the delicious mixture.

So I’m definitely thankful for Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes. I’m thankful for November. I’m thankful for a lot of things. So this lovely November, I’m going to try to take part in thankful November on Facebook by posting something for which I’m thankful each day. I won’t post them all here because, you know, redundancy, but here’s today’s:

thankful

I’m also going to be participating in No Make-Up November. At first when I read about it here, I was like, “That’s a sweet idea, but I don’t just participate in things just to participate in them. It’s not for me.” Then, I read this

Even after I agreed to participate, it wasn’t easy at first for me to jump wholeheartedly into this challenge. After all, I wasn’t a teenage girl with fresh skin. I’m a woman in my 30s. What will my friends think, I wondered? What will other women think of me, especially at church on Sunday? It was then that a revelation struck me: Aren’t we into beauty sometimes more to please other women in our lives, especially church women?

Ouch. That one hit a little too close to home. I decided, like the author of the article, that if it was really this hard for me to give up the idea of wearing make-up for 30 days, then I probably need to give up wearing make-up for 30 days. I’m a little freaked out about this one. I’ve been wearing make-up every day that I’ve left the house since college. I don’t know why I started wearing it all the time, but I did. I don’t think I wear way too much make-up. (If I do, please message me in private. I promise I’ll forgive you for not saying anything until now, although your mistake would be akin to letting me speak to a room full of strangers with basil in my teeth x 1,000,000.) The way I think about make-up is just wearing enough to make myself look fresh and not dead tired each morning. However, the point of No Make-Up November is to focus on allowing God to fill me with the confidence that comes with knowing – really knowing – that my beauty rests in Him.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.
– Psalm 139:13-16

So the make-up’s been moved to the closet. I’m going to try to keep it there all from now through December 1 (since I didn’t find out about No Make-Up November until after I had already put on make-up today).

Here’s to a lovely, comfort-food-filled month filled with the sounds of Bing, Frank, Dean, Sammy, and Karen crooning Christmas music while we rest in gratitude and in the deep-soul knowledge that we were made beautifully by a Loving God who loves us still. Dayenu. It is more than sufficient.

Grace and peace,

Rachel

Here are the nutrition facts for danae’s Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes per serving based on her recipe making 8 servings (which is realistic for a my-size portion, but completely ridiculous to someone like Jeffrey who could eat the entire bowlful, if he really wanted to): 332 calories, 27g carbs, 20 g fat, 12 g protein, 550 (gulp) mg sodium, 1 g sugar.

2012 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas!

We’re so thankful for everything that has happened in our family in the last year! First and foremost, of course, we’re thankful for our sweet, sweet Paige Esther! Little Bug brings so much joy into our lives each day, sometimes it’s all hard for us to believe.

Paige is four months old now and is learning more and more each day. Her latest trick is picking up her paci and putting it in her mouth by herself. She’s a pro at rolling over and is getting really good at scooting. It’s not crawling yet because her little body hasn’t quite caught up with her mind. She’s got the motions of crawling down, but she’s not strong enough to hold herself all the way up, so she mostly just scoots around on her belly with her head up. She’s dying to be able to crawl by herself and tends to get a bit frustrated when she can’t go where she wants, when she wants. We’re pretty sure that as soon as she starts crawling, she’s not going to stop! Time to baby-proof La Maison!

Paige is still a great sleeper. We’re in a great routine of reading a story, “topping off the tank,” and putting Paige to bed around 8 p.m. each night. She’s a champion sleeper. We put her down in her crib while she’s still awake with her paci and she’s usually completely zonked within about 10 minutes. She sleeps just like her mommy – flat on her back with her arms above her head. She usually is up once (sometimes twice) a night, but she goes back down right away with no trouble. And, about once or twice a week, she sleeps through the night. We couldn’t ask for a better sleeper!

Paige is growing taller each day. She’s still a skinny little Bug; she weighed in at 13 lbs, 1 oz. at her four-month well-baby check-up on Monday. That beautiful hair that so many of you have asked about is growing longer and darker and red-er each day, it seems. Mommy’s having a lot of fun coordinating “hair prettys” with her outfits each day.

Bug’s personality is blossoming, too. She is the happiest baby in the world. No, seriously. The happiest baby in the world! Several people – at church, at the doctor’s office, at the grocery store, at the mall – have commented that they’ve never seen a baby as happy as Paige. It’s not that she’s never fussy. When she’s hungry or she needs a diaper change or she’s fighting sleep (a new trick – she’s so afraid of missing out on something!), Paige fusses. Most of the time, though, she’s not just not fussy, she’s smiling. She’s very interactive and alert and her face lights up anytime that anyone pays attention to her. She hasn’t met a stranger yet! She is also so talkative, that she’ll strike up a conversation with anyone whose willing to listen and talk back. She’s an absolute joy!

As for the rest of our family, Jeffrey and I are just soaking up being Paige’s parents. We’re having so much fun! Paige is a true gift from God and we feel so blessed that God chose us to be her parents and to be part of teaching her about His love for her and helping her to discover His plans for her life.

Jeffrey’s work at Purdue is still going well and he still enjoys and looks forward to going to work each day. In January, I started working at our church, Elmwood Church of Christ, as an office manager. I never thought I’d want a job like this, but I love it. I love working for and with our church family and I get to use my creativity, too.

We hope and pray that your family has experienced the fullness of the love and grace of Christ this year and that, as you prepare to celebrate Christmas together, you are reminded of His great love and use opportunities to share that love with others.

Grace and peace,

Jeffrey, Rachel, and Paige

P.S. – – We’re super stoked about The Bug’s first Christmas. Here’s a couple of fun videos of Paige and tissue paper to show you what we’re looking forward to on Christmas morning.

Paige vs. Tissue Paper, Round 1

Paige vs. Tissue Paper, Round 2

And, for good measure, if you’ve missed our recent “Jabber Bug” posts on Facebook, here’s a couple of videos of Paige having some serious conversations with Mommy and Daddy… and a video of her holding her bottle all by herself.

Jabber Bug, Pt. 1

Jabber Bug, Pt. 2

The Bug and the Bottle

Just keep breathing. Just keep loving.

Sometimes I just need to write my thoughts and prayers out to be able to function. Today is one of those days.

Today, a man walked in to an elementary school (they say it may even have been a kindergarten classroom) – a safe place full of precious, innocent babies. Today, that man fired guns in that school, at those babies. He killed them and the adults who have devoted their professional lives – and probably their personal lives, too – to teaching and caring for those babies.

It’s just too much. It’s just too broken.

It’s all too much for me to know, here in Lafayette, Indiana – more than 800 miles away from those hurting and devastated parents, children, and teachers. It’s too much for me to know here at my desk at work. It’s too much for me to think about when my own baby is 15 minutes away – too far away for me to hold her tightly right now. It’s too much to know. Too much to think about anything else.

If it’s too much here in Indiana, how are people breathing in Newtown? God, give them strength. God, give them air. God, give them numbness, if that’s how they need to get through today and the next day and the next. God, give them comfort – Your comfort and Your Comforter. The comfort from the Spirit. The only comfort that can heal.

I can’t breathe when I think about the parents – all of them. The ones who are holding their babies and thanking God that they were spared. The ones who are in the same firehouse watching those relieved parents, waiting to hear about their kids who are “currently unaccounted for.” Oh, God. The parents who see those relieved parents as they’re told that their babies were remorselessly cut down in their innocence, in their classroom, in their tiny shoes, in their pig-tails. The ones whose babies saw horrors this morning that even they –the adults! – can’t imagine. The wives and husbands of the school employees who won’t come home. The law enforcement officers who had to lead kids to safety and see the terror in their eyes while they wanted to be able to say, “It’s OK,” but they couldn’t. Because it’s nothing close to OK.

I. Can’t. Breathe.

God, I don’t want to understand this. I don’t want anyone to understand this, because it’s so far from what You wanted for us. It’s so broken. So fallen. So backwards. So painful. So. So. So.

God, You showed us how to love. You are love. You share that with us every day. How do we mess it up so much? What on earth (this broken, broken earth) has happened in the life of that man that made him go into those children’s school today intending to murder? Wait. Don’t answer. I don’t want to know.

I can’t breathe, God, when I think of all those people. But, God, I can’t even think about You right now.

It’s not that I can’t think about You because I blame You. You share no part in the blame. You. Are. Good. All the time. You are good.

You made us for more. You made us to be more. You want to help us be more.  You long to guide us to be more.

You hate hate. You hate pain. You hate murder.

I don’t blame You. In fact, before I can think about blame, I think about my own sinfulness and it not only makes me sad and sorry and sorrowful, it makes me sick.

I don’t blame You, but I can’t think about You.

I can’t think about You because anytime I get close to thinking about Your pain in all of this, I not only can’t breathe, I just can’t be.

Father, Your pain in this is unimaginable. I praise You that, in Your mercy, You made this kind of pain – Your pain – unimaginable for me, because it would cripple my heart.

Oh, God! Your pain over seeing a man You love – a man You’ve loved from before the creation of the earth, a man You sent precious Jesus to die for, a man whose heart You’ve been desperately calling and calling and calling – Your pain at seeing him fall so far from Love and hurt so many other of your dear loves is too much.

Oh, God! Your pain at seeing – and not just seeing, but absorbing and feeling – the pain of your children! The pain of parents who lost their babies. (Oh, You know that pain all too well!) The pain of children – innocent babies – whose lives will be forever altered by this blood-soaked day. The pain of the family of that man who fired guns at Your people – his family who loves him, but feels like they can’t love him – can’t know him – now.

Oh, my God! Your pain is too much to think on. I can’t. I just can’t.

And to add to Your pain, there is the bitterness of Your loved ones blaming You! You! They cry out, “Why would God let this happen, if He is a loving God and all-powerful?!” Some people will use today as their own kind of “proof” that You aren’t who You say You are. In their hurt, they’ll blame You, the one who is hurt most of all by this! It’s too much. This is all too much. How do You bear it? Why would you bear it? You knew we’d hurt you like this. You knew it and You made us and love us anyway. Such hurt! Such pain! Such love!

God of we who are broken, make us whole.

God of we who are broken-hearted, give us healing.

God of we who are destructive, give us hearts to build up Your Kingdom.

God of we who are wayward, continue to call us back. Continue to be patient. Continue to teach us to Love. Continue to give us the strength to love even those who are unloving and unlovable.

God of we who are petty, give us perspective.

God of we who are sinful, forgive us again.

God of the universe, grant us peace.

Father of all, draw more hearts to You each day, but especially this day.

In their grief, grant them peace.

In their pain, grant them relief.

In their brokenness, grant them healing.

Father, I can’t think on Your pain. But I can praise You for Your amazing love. I praise You for Your promises. I praise You for keeping them. I praise You from the hope that I have and the anticipation of the fulfillment of Your ultimate promise of redemption.

Redemption of my heart.

Redemption of this broken world.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!

Redemption. Making new and beautiful the old, ugly, and broken. Making right the wrong. Making glorious the commonplace. Raising up that which has fallen. Turning back that which had turned away from You.

Redemption. Breathe again.

Behold, You are making all things new. Glory to You, O Lord!

Behold, Your mercies will be new tomorrow morning – the day after this terrible day will be a new day. Praise to You!

Thank You for being You, even when the world is rocked by people who act in ways that are more contrary to Your heart than I could imagine. I praise You for Your constancy. I praise You for the abiding hope of Your unshakeable promises.

Glory be to the Father! – Look! Behold! See? He is making all things (even this unthinkable day, even this hurt, even this brokenness, even this pain), all things new:

Pay close attention now:
 I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.
All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain
are things of the past, to be forgotten.
Look ahead with joy.
Anticipate what I’m creating:
I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy,
create my people as pure delight.
I’ll take joy in Jerusalem,
take delight in my people:
No more sounds of weeping in the city,
no cries of anguish;
No more babies dying in the cradle,
or old people who don’t enjoy a full lifetime;
One-hundredth birthdays will be considered normal—
anything less will seem like a cheat.
They’ll build houses
and move in.
They’ll plant fields
and eat what they grow.
No more building a house
that some outsider takes over,
No more planting fields
that some enemy confiscates,
For my people will be as long-lived as trees,
my chosen ones will have satisfaction in their work.
They won’t work and have nothing come of it,
they won’t have children snatched out from under them.
For they themselves are plantings blessed by God,
with their children and grandchildren likewise God-blessed.

Before they call out, I’ll answer.
Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard.
Wolf and lamb will graze the same meadow,
lion and ox eat straw from the same trough,
but snakes—they’ll get a diet of dirt!
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
anywhere on my Holy Mountain,”
says God.

                                    – Isaiah 65:17-25

So today –this day – God, help us all – help them all – to just keep breathing. Just keep loving. Just keep giving glory to You – the one who is making everything new.

Amen.

P.S. – To those of you who have been asking for a new blog post, I know this isn’t what you wanted. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a Paige update and I’m sorry. But, to own the truth, when I have time to blog, I spend it playing on the floor with my baby – and I’m not sorry for that. I do promise that we’ve been taking lots of videos and pictures, and I hope to share them with you soon. Paige is healthy and glowing and beautiful and fun and learning and we love being her parents more each day. My heart is full, which is, I think, why it hurts so much today for the parents who must feel like their hearts died today. Pray. Pray for peace. Pray for redemption. Pray for love. Pray for all things to be new.