Sunday, March 31, 2013

What If?

 It's Easter and the church triumphantly declares, "He is risen!"

But what about everyone else? What are you thinking about today?

Church holidays always give me pause to think about those I love who are still on the outside - either by choice or simply because they just haven't met Jesus yet. In light of this, today's post is actually a revival from July 2009, in which I consider the gravity of ignoring God.

I’m a remarkably decisive person.  No second guessing or turning back once my mind is made up.  I’ll make my bed and gladly lie in it. 

But during the process of decision making, I like to play the “what if?” game, also known as “what’s the worst that could happen?”  If any of my decisions yield poor results, I simply stop moving in that direction and try something else.  But the idea of the best possible outcome is so exhilarating that it far outweighs the risks of failure. 

The what if? game isn’t just a tangential method of decision making.  It’s not just about imagining the potential outcomes; it also requires me to take action based on those possibilities.  And those actions speak volumes to my character, to my values – to my life. 

Today, I considered the account of Noah and the ark.  You know it, right?  God tells Noah to build this massive boat because a flood is coming to destroy the earth.  It’s kind of a big deal.  It takes Noah quite a while to build this thing, and it’s not like he could hide it in his back yard.  I mean, everyone saw him build it.  I’m sure they asked questions.  He couldn’t have been quiet about the impending doom – he must have warned the people that they would need to enter the ark to be saved. 
Noah appeared to be an absolute fool.  But…what if he wasn’t?  What if just a few more people had asked themselves…what if Noah is right

If Noah is wrong, then he calls out, “hey, the flood is coming, get in the ark”, everyone boards, they wait, nothing happens, then they all get out.  He becomes the village joke for generations, the ark is declared an historic monument, and he is ridiculed endlessly.  I admit, that’s not exactly the memory you want to leave with your family forever. 

But consider the alternative – what if Noah is right?  He declares the flood is coming, everyone takes shelter in the ark, it actually rains, and no one dies.  The entire human race is no longer completely obliterated.

As I reflected on this today, it saddened me.  The people – the ones who were destroyed in the flood – had no excuse.  The ark was right in front of them, the warning clearly given.  But they ignored it.  Or, they were too afraid to believe it because the potential risk of Noah being wrong, of the shame that might become theirs, was too much.  No one wanted to risk that Noah might have been right, and it cost them their lives.   

Blaise Pascal, famous for his groundbreaking mathematical concepts, also made an important theological realization.  He reasoned that it was better to wager that God actually existed because so living has everything to gain and nothing to lose. In other words, what if Jesus really is the savior of the world?  

This is actually why I decided to follow Jesus.  I had run out of arguments against him, even though I didn’t want to believe he was true.  But I figured that seeking him couldn’t make me a worse person, so I’d try it and see what happened.  And the fact is, if I’m wrong, I spent my life for a lie.  Which would be sad.  But if I’m right, then the glorious payoff that’s coming is unimaginable.  And the terrible destruction…well, that’s what saddens me today. 

A skeptic might ask, how can a good God execute vengeance at all? 

Do we question the goodness of a parent who, in the face of a disobedient child, cautions that punishment is coming and then effects that punishment when the child ignores the warning?  Friends, the ark is still being built, the warning is still being issued…and the message is still being ignored.

I pray that today, you will notice the "ark" that God has put before you and that you would hear him calling you, 
"Come in!  
Is anyone thirsty?
    Come and drink - even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free!

Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.

Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
See how I used him to display my power among the peoples. I made him a leader among the nations. You also will command nations you do not know and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey, because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.
Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Resistance is Futile

Dear Toronto,

Next week, you will receive a very special gift. You didn't ask for it, so I suspect that you are wholly unprepared for what you're about to enjoy. I don't intend to ruin all the wonderful surprises in store for you, but I have a few important thoughts for your consideration.

First, a fair warning to all your babies: you will be held, snuggled, kissed, bounced, rocked, sung over, and abundantly loved. You're about to meet the All-Mama who adores every child like her own, scoops them into her arms and wraps them up with pure delight. Thankfully, she takes care of the mamas, too, with endless gifts of encouragement and perceptive insight (often paired with humor, humility, and food).

You may think you know how to have fun, Toronto. But you're about to be proven wrong. You're about to acquire a family that challenges the very limits of defining "a good time" in every way and at every opportunity. You're going to meet three ridiculously silly and creative kids who will effortlessly make you laugh until you pee your pants.

You will be welcomed into a new home, a house you thought you knew but, with these new inhabitants, you are going to discover with fresh appreciation. In fact, you're about to find your second family, your new BFF, and a couch (or entire room) permanently available for you to crash on.

You are gaining a Servant-Leader who will install your washer and dryer, rewire your house, shovel your sidewalk, and give you the shirt off his back - and that's just the first week you meet him. Then he'll take you to a totally inappropriate movie and let you bring it up for the next 3 years in attempts to embarrass him (which it won't).

All-Mama and Servant-Leader, dressed to impress
Toronto, you're about to meet Jesus in an unforgettably beautiful family who will force themselves into your heart and show you all their ugly warts and still make you fall in love with them. You'll be wholeheartedly invited into their mess of chaotic kids, half-eaten food on the counter, and spontaneous joy. You won't really know what hit you or how much you'll change until they're bidding you farewell (possibly with song and dance) -- and then you'll finally take a breath, and say a prayer of thanks, and wonder if your family will ever be as generous or as hospitable or as unaffectedly awesome as this one.

So take lots of pictures, ok? Make loads of memories that involve booty-shaking and inappropriate remarks, honest tears and hard work. Try, if you can, to outdo them in showing honor to one another in genuine love.  Learn from their solid hope and persevering spirit. Then wrap them up in the finest trimmings you have to offer and send them back safely.

Toronto, I'm sending you the best.

Since I didn't ask for permission to post these mug shots, I'm protecting the names of the (mostly) innocent

Sunday, March 24, 2013

This Lent: I Threw It Away

The day before Lent started, I skimmed my Facebook news feed and saw a link that piqued my interest. Later, I Googled “40 Bags in 40 Days”, clicked on one result (which I confess I did not read all the way through), and then spontaneously made my own plan of action, which started a day “late.”

I’m not particularly good at planning ahead for holidays (see also: digging out my homemade Advent calendar a week late, then completely foregoing it a week later). But I appreciate the rhythms that certain spiritual seasons can bring, and I always spend some time reflecting throughout those days.

Last year, I meditated on my selfishness. That’s an ongoing process. In light of our upcoming move, it seemed fitting that this year’s focus would be on clearing out my house, not just my heart. I challenged myself to remove 40 bags worth of stuff from our 1400 square foot space during the 40 days of Lent.

I was excited to scour, room by room, space by space, hidden cupboards by forgotten drawers. I thought I’d finally feel motivated to tackle this - 

the Room Which Shall Not Be Named. Or Room of Avoidance. Also used as Room to Hide Gifts for Kids. I looked forward, at the end of the 40 days, to a less cluttered, more appealing home.

I started in the kitchen, which is my go-to location for clearing and cleaning. I had organized a garage sale last spring and the kitchen was the first place I had emptied, but I decided, for this project, I would literally remove every item from every cupboard in order to keep only what was necessary. It took me 2 days and I filled 4 bags of stuff that made its way to the trash/recycling. Our counter space is severely limited, but reducing the clutter in our cabinets allowed me to hide items we don’t use on a daily basis and to find new homes for random objects we keep on-hand. Success! [almost immediately, though, I realized I had forgotten to take before and after pictures! where would my evidence be???]

I kept up a good pace for the first 20 days, as I identified specific areas of the house - not just a room, but a corner of a room! - to clean out. I rejoiced as the bags filled up. I even inspired my husband in his own project, as he suddenly went on an ebay selling spree and made us over $4,000 in these 40 days.

I could tell you how many days passed at a time without my hands busy at the plow (of bag-filling). And despite entering the Room of Avoidance - and clearing out 2 bags of stuff - it remains essentially unchanged.

But something else happened to me while I emptied my hutch and organized my sock drawer. I examined this mass of items that had accumulated and quickly, almost without thinking, tossed most of them aside. Why had I kept so many unused, broken, dirty, unnecessary things? Had I just been lazy or was it simple carelessness? Isn’t it disgusting how easy it is to find 40 BAGS worth of possessions that I just didn’t need?

Of course I immediately began to picture the impoverished children of the world who don’t even receive one solid meal a day. I remembered the tiny house with no roof where a Costa Rican family hosted me for a week. But more than that, I saw the state of my heart in all the junk of my house. I recognized how quickly the cares of the world enter into my life and choke the word of truth. I admitted that I had grown lazy in tending the soil of my heart, which was meant to receive the Word, grow up into it, and bear fruit. I realized that those 40 bags represented an entire mess of distraction from the beauty of Jesus.

As C.S. Lewis said, I am a half-hearted creature, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to me, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because she cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the sea. I am far too easily pleased with STUFF and far too careless about cleaning it up in order to remain focused on CHRIST.

It’s been three years since I was first inspired to begin managing my home with a more godly mindset. Filling those bags this Lent - making my home a more welcoming and hospitable place - challenged me to wonder what needed to be changed so that my heart would also have more room for others. In the end, it wasn’t about the 40 bags at all, though I’m thankful for the (minor) headway I made in the house. Instead, the Holy Spirit showed me how much more work needs to be done in the really hidden places!

What about you? How did you spend your Lent? Maybe you can inspire me for next year!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

In My Dreams

In the fall of 2010, I had this sudden, irresistible urge to downsize from our house to an apartment. All I could think about was having less space, less stuff to put in that space, living on less...less, less, and more less! I am now convinced that this was the prompting of the Holy Spirit, preparing me for our call to move from Minneapolis to New York City, and I have been itching ever since then to rid myself of this burden called home ownership.

Anyway, part of my obsession with downsizing has involved watching incredible videos about small spaces being transformed into multiple rooms. And the coveting has begun!

For example, this Hong Kong architect has 344 square feet of space that morphs into 24 different rooms!

This teacher has a 450 square foot apartment in Manhattan that is beautiful and works as 4 different spaces.

And this 420 square foot apartment in SoHo should be credited for awakening all my deepest design and space-saving dreams, as well as introducing me to my fantasy store, Resource Furniture.

I visit the Resource Furniture site about once a week and lust after all the innovative pieces. It is now my goal in life to figure out how I can possibly purchase The Goliath.

I am also in love with their sofas that conceal a queen-size bed (don't you plan to come visit me? wouldn't you love to sleep on this thing?).

And seriously, what kid wouldn't want to show off their Lollipop bunk bed?!?

If any of my readers are independently wealthy or exceedingly generous or have some connections at Resource Furniture, I am shamelessly asking you to make my dreams come true.

Or you can add to my unrealistic hopes by posting some more video links to awesome small space-saving designs that I will never afford.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Meet My Monster!

The longer I live, the more I conclude that I must be the most selfish person alive. To be safe, I’ll say that at least one other person on the planet is more selfish than I am, but that’s just to avoid a sweeping generalization. You can go ahead and assume that I’m the most selfish person you know.

My Selfish Monster has done a great job of disguising herself for most of my life, though. You see, I’m not selfish with my stuff. If I’ve loaned you something, I don’t mind if you forgot to bring it back. If you want something I have, I’ll gladly give it to you.

And I’m not selfish with my money. I once gave $100 to a guy I knew was swindling me. I’m a sucker for sob stories and good causes.

I’m certainly not selfish with my words (he he). What I mean to say, is that I’m generally not selfish with my talents. I know what I’m good at and I love finding opportunities to share my gifts with others.

You can see how easily I have convinced myself that I don’t have a Selfish Monster?

The problem is, you can’t be tempted to be selfish about things that don’t matter to you. Just like you can’t call yourself brave to fight a battle that you know you’ll win. If there’s no sacrifice in your giving, then there’s no selflessness in it, either.
I’ve come to recognize my selfishness in the areas that I look out for myself instead of someone else, when I seek my own good above the need of another. And that trait is evident in just about everything I do.

I plan my day according to what I want to get done.
I cook meals according to what I want to eat.
I drive to stores that I want to visit.
I spend time with people that I prefer to be with.
I pursue activities that I enjoy doing.
I fill my calendar with people, events, to-do’s, and pursuits that suit my interests and serve my needs. I avoid interruptions, projects, and people that conflict with my goals for me.

I don’t care about holding on to material possessions or money and I believe that talents are meant for the good of others. So it doesn’t really cost me anything to give those things away. The real challenge is believing that I’m not here to please myself.

Put another way, do I believe that my life is not about me?

I claim to follow a God named Jesus. A God who willingly put aside all the power of his omnipresent being in order to walk in human flesh, with human limitations (like hunger, sleep, and even the temptation to be selfish). Instead of showing off his greatness and expecting people to worship him, Jesus humbly, quietly, sometimes even secretly, served people. He served them to death.

Jesus had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Instead, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—a criminal’s death —a crucifixion.

If this Christ now truly lives in me, then I can only regard myself in the same way that Jesus thought of himself. Rather than run my life in selfishness and conceit, I must take on the humility of Christ and consider others as more important than myself. I am compelled to care about others as much as I care about myself.

And I care about myself A LOT. But Jesus cares about me - Jesus cares for me - a whole lot more than that. Which is why I am able to not focus on serving myself - because Jesus has got that part covered (and WAY better than I could do!). Instead, I am FREE to live my life in service to others.

The apostle Paul put it this way: Now I have been set free from sin (selfishness!) and I have become a slave to God. This will make me holy and lead me to eternal life. Sin pays off with death. But the FREE gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus my Lord.

Take that, Selfish Monster!  

What about you? What kind of monsters do you keep hidden? How do you fight them?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What's In My...?

I need a fun theme song for this completely random and soon-to-be ongoing series called What's In My....?

in which I choose some sort of contained space in my house and tell you what's in it.

Today's inaugural post is What's In My Freezer?

are you waiting with baited breath to know?

First, a word on this series. I was inspired to do this after hearing a pastor challenge his congregation to write down literally everything they own. Down to the number of forks, the number of pairs of socks, etc.

That's a little scary, isn't it? I imagine I will be completely grossed out by knowing the exact number of items I actually possess. So I decided to catalog my life on a smaller scale, and, in the process, hopefully clean some of it out! And probably be a little surprised along the way.

Also, you should know that we have a standard size freezer above our refrigerator - nothing fancy or unusual. I mention this because the list below seems awfully long to me; yet, I wouldn't consider our freezer "full". I'm already feeling completely humbled by how much I have in such a "small" space!

Are you ready to be awed?

What's In My Freezer? as of 03/13/2013

3 unlabeled large yogurt containers - I'm guessing various soups from at least a year ago
1 box of Stonyfield YoKids strawberry squeezers
A 16oz beef ring bologna {definitely not going to eat this - any takers?}
3 ice packs
Tuscan Valley Veggie Medley - no idea where this came from
1 loaf of homemade banana bread
1 loaf of store-bought whole wheat bread
1 bag of green beans from last year's garden
1 bag of all-purpose flour
1 bag of rye flour
1 bag of soy flour
Applegate uncured chicken hot dogs
2 lb pork steak from a friend's family farm
2 lb ground beef from the same friend's family farm
20 oz ground turkey
4 chicken breasts
A family-sized serving of homemade creamy chicken wild rice soup
A family-sized serving of homemade barley cabbage soup
A family-sized serving of homemade taco soup
A bag of tilapia filets
homemade cranberry-pistachio oatmeal-quinoa cookies
Our favorite homemade chicken enchiladas (12)
1 bag of tortilla strips
1 angel food cake
a half-used bag of Dunkin' Donuts original blend coffee grounds
a bag of homemade baby food (apple-apricot-pear blend)
Smek meat and sauce lasagna - I believe this was given to us when Esme was born 7 months ago? 
9 oz breast milk
Maren's placenta
Esme's placenta

I bet you were bored and completely uninterested in my freezer until you read those last 2 items.

So what about you? What's the most interesting item in your freezer?

Oh, and I will accept theme song submissions through the end of the month!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Who Does That?!?

A friend of mine once had a job naming new clothing lines. Bonus: she named a turtleneck sweater The Devereaux and mailed one to me! 

Another friend used to get paid to sit at intersections and count cars (I think this had something to do with the effectiveness of traffic lights). 

Did you know there is actually an industry for retrieving golf balls from the pools of water on courses? Yes, you, too, could be a golf ball diver. Start a career as a chicken sexer. If you’d like to get paid to play on your ipad all day, consider being a furniture tester. 

Or, you could join forces with my husband and me and start a church.

What?!? Who does that?!? And - why?

The 21st century has clearly demonstrated that we are now living in a post-Christian culture, where the church in general, and the Christian faith in particular, no longer influence the culture at large. Four years ago, Newsweek declared “The End of Christian America” and chronicled the decline of the importance of Christianity in modern society. More recently, the Huffington Post describes the death of traditional Christianity while a generic spirituality is on the rise. 

So why, in these conditions, would anyone want to start a church? Isn’t God dead and the church irrelevant? Aren’t we doomed to offend people, or, worse, to fail?

Quite possibly. But our job on this earth is not to try and impress people or even to win them over to our way of thinking. Instead, we follow the call of Jesus to abide in him and bear the fruit of his Spirit. Starting a church is about making and maturing disciples of Jesus - proclaiming the good news in word and deed, drawing people to this life-with-Christ, and instructing people in his ways. It’s actually not at all, in any way, about us. 

We start churches because we love God and we take his command to love people seriously. 
We start churches because we are ruled by Christ’s love for us.
We are certain that if one person died for everyone else, then all of us have died. 
And Christ did die for all of us. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves, but for the one who died and was raised to life for us.
We are careful not to judge people by what they seem to be, though we once judged Christ in that way.
Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten and everything is new.
God has done it all! 
He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace between himself and others.
What we mean is that God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world.
And he has given us the work of sharing his message of peace. We have been sent to speak for Christ, and God is begging the world to listen to our message. We speak for Christ and sincerely, passionately, ask everyone to make peace with God. [paraphrase of Paul’s words to the Corinthian church]

I really don’t know what will happen on this church-planting adventure. I only know that I carry about a message of hope that people so desperately need. I know that my life doesn’t belong to me and that giving it away is the best chance I have at demonstrating the generosity of God. I know what it was to live without Jesus and I can testify to the unbelievable journey of what life with him is like. My job is to represent and re-present Jesus to everyone I meet; it’s his job to prove himself to them.

So what do you think? 
Are we crazy to start a church? Tell me why we shouldn't do it!
Want to know more? Contact me - we love sharing this HUGE vision!
Want to help us? Make a tax-deductible donation to the Devereaux-NYC Fund here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Smile For No Good Reason

In honor of bringing my blog back to life, and in an attempt to be a little more light-hearted, today's post  is a collection of my go-to video clips that make me smile. When I know I have 5 random minutes in a day and I want to feel happy about the world, these are the videos I'll return to. You'll need about 30 minutes if you want to enjoy all of them in one sitting, so depending on how bored you are at work (and if you get sound), you may need to save these for later.

Smile today!

1. Even though this video is 7 years old, you are surely one of the 210 million viewers who started dancing in your living room to comedian Judson Laippley's Evolution of Dance routine. As a dancer, I have to admit that I am personally impressed by his physical stamina.   (6 minutes)

2.  Flash mobs are all the rage now, but weren't you amazed 4 years ago when over 200 dancers surprised patrons in Belgium's Central Station with Do Re Mi? Everyone just looks so happy in this video! (4 minutes)

3. Remember Susan Boyle? (still brings tears to my eyes, but that's not the video I'm sharing today) I LOVE surprise moments, especially when they make Simon Cowell change his snooty face into a somewhat cheery chap. I've never actually seen any of these shows - I just catch the clips online - but when this little girl opened her mouth, I swear I heard the angels in heaven. Also, I love her dad. (7.5 minutes)

4. And, my all-time favorite opening monologue at the Oscars. Not only do I think this is brilliant, but I love how he laughs at himself so much throughout the act. Some day, I will perform this in a talent show. I will not be as good. (7.5 minutes)

Runner-up: Beyonce's Single Ladies. Because it's Beyonce.

What happiness videos am I missing that you must introduce me to?