Jesus in a corner

Christianity, Christmas, Uncategorized

Sometimes we put Jesus in a corner. Or an attic.

I find myself doing that sometimes, literally and figuratively. I was ALL happy with myself three days after Christmas when I took all the decor down and put almost all of it in boxes.

Since I’ve de-glittered the house, and still had packed up boxes of Christmas decor out in view, I’ve thought about how we treat Jesus sometimes.

I packed up my nativity scene from the dining table and had Baby Jesus tucked safely in styrofoam. You could still see him because I didn’t put away the styrofoam completely in the box for a while.

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I’m missing a piece, but I don’t think anyone noticed this Christmas. The most important Person was in the scene….Jesus.

After I procrastinated a couple of weeks, I taped up the tired Christmas tree box and put it all the way in the back of the attic. We won’t need it for 11 months, and I wanted it out of the way.

I wonder how often we do this with Jesus in our lives. We have seasons and times that we give Him the spotlight. He’s the focus, the reason, our everything. We may give Him full and complete access to every part of our hearts and lives.

Little by little, though, sometimes we put him in a corner. Subtly.

It doesn’t happen on purpose. At first.

But when we begin to struggle with anger, or disappointment, or hurt, we may shun Jesus a little because we don’t want to forgive. Or we don’t want to face our part and change. Or we want justice, and that feels right.

Jesus may be put into a corner because we begin to get busy. It is, after all, a new year. New goals, health focus, workouts, check my social media feed, work, sports, kids activities, hobbies, gotta check my phone again.

Distractions. Not on purpose, but it happens sometimes.

Sometimes giving Jesus full access to our hearts feels scary. Paradoxically. Because there’s no one more trustworthy than the One who crafted and created us. He knows the deepest parts of us, every longing and worst thought, yet lavishly loves us.

Intentionality. If you and I want to keep Jesus front and center in our lives, it will take the choice to be intentional. Carving out time to be with Him. Choosing to focus my thoughts on Him during my everyday tasks.

Brother Lawrence in Practice of the Presence of God explains this much better that I can. It’s a short and sweet, very practical read.

Will you and I put Jesus in a corner, or way back in the recesses of our heart’s “attic”?

May we people who seek Him with our whole hearts, forsaking other stuff that doesn’t really matter. May we be people who REST and soak in His presence.

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I know I was thinking this the whole time. How about you?

Seven weeks of community

marriage, Uncategorized

Picture this: the seven loudest people that you know. Four adults, three kids, and a mild-mannered dog. For seven weeks, our good friends, a family of four, lived with us while they were in transition. Their current house sold, but the new house wasn’t available for seven weeks. I’m calling this time in our life: Seven weeks of community.

Besides the fact that all seven of us are extremely loud and talkative, you’ve got to know that we aren’t related to this family. We’ve only known each other for six years. They were some of the first people to be friendly with us when we first moved back to our hometown. We felt like fish out of water after we returned from a tough two years on the mission field in West Africa. We were blind-sighted by the fact that we had reverse culture shock. We joined a new church where we didn’t know tons of people, and felt as if we were starting over in a whole new chapter of life. I distinctly remember the first time I visited with this couple. I was at a roller skating church event for the kids, and I was alone while my 3rd grader went around in circles. I remember trying to strike up conversations with a couple of other moms: Failure! I’m sure I was socially awkward, but didn’t realize it. I just felt so lonely, then this couple struck up conversation with me. They looked so genuinely happy and friendly and I love that they threw me a life-preserver when I felt like I was drowning in social awkwardness.

Fast forward to present. Lots of sleepovers for our teenaged girls, dinners, karaoke, Superbowls, New Year’s Eves, and throw in a couple of crisis situations when they were there to help us with hard decisions. You get the idea.

This fall our son headed to a dorm apartment for college, and the next weekend our friends moved in. It just made sense. Otherwise we’d have two empty bedrooms upstairs, and that seems like such a waste when our friends are in home limbo for a while.

Think about the good, bad, and ugly in your home that occurs on a daily basis. Imagine that you had cameras posted, out of view, to observe your family’s activities for seven weeks. A little scary, huh? Although our friends got to witness a few of our less-than-stellar family moments, it was worth it! I learned so much by having them here.

First of all, I believe that we are made to live in close community with others. American culture does not value community, but fierce independence, even when it’s to our detriment. That’s why so many people asked them (privately, of course) and us: How’s it really going? Isn’t is stressful? Our answer was: It’s surprisingly wonderful! We knew it would work out okay, but it surpassed our expectations. We need to lean on other people, and to learn from them. Sometimes this can only happen in close community. That’s because otherwise, we can fake it. We can act as if we have it all together, then go home and fall apart. If you go home and you’ve got another family there, you have witnesses! It turns out that this was a beautiful thing.

The last couple months have been the worst for me health-wise. If I’m honest I also confess that emotionally it’s been pretty rough, too, because of my health problems. However, the past seven weeks have been some of the richest for me on many different levels: friendship-wise, spiritually I have been challenged and grown, and I’ve been forced to show my vulnerability and need for others. If they hadn’t been here to witness it, I would have put on my brave happy face to the world because I’d be too proud to tell anyone I have been suffering.

Another benefit was that we learned from them while seeing their family interact. It’s amazing what you can learn watching a married couple as they do life, and it helped me to see how they love on their kids and parent them. We certainly didn’t have a spiral notebook out and plan to be creepy watchers, but we gleaned so much during the ups and downs of daily life. It was good!

Maybe you won’t have another family live in close quarters with you for a month or two, but you can intentionally connect closely with a couple of families that you trust. Be real, and show where you are weak and struggling. Celebrate daily joys and victories together. You’ll all be better for it. Plus it’s REALLY fun!