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“We are not the center of the universe.” — Galileo’s Daughter, by Dava Sobel.

The Roman Catholic power structure fought him on this, just like they had fought Copernicus on it, saying it dishonored God by contradicting revealed truth up to that point. I say thinking everything revolves around us is what dishonors God.

What Galileo was proposing, based on what he viewed through his telescopes, was counter-cultural then. We now accept without question that he was correct about the movement of planets and stars. But amazingly, the notion that the universe does not revolve around you or me, or even our nation, is still counter-cultural. How much less pain there would be in the world if we could somehow live more generously and humbly.

 

 

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Food Progress Report

Almost 3 weeks into my month without wheat or sugar. Have I had slip-ups? Sure.

First there was Easter. What are you going to do when there is strawberry mango pie? I figured it was a feast day and enjoyed it thoroughly. Then some little things like the tapioca pudding in the box lunch at a workshop I went to, and the breading on the chicken in my salad Saturday. On purpose I put wheat bran in the granola I made Sunday.

The chocolate covered dried cherries did me in, although I stretched them out just a few a day. Two Saturdays ago a couple of us were working on a very stressful project at work, and when someone offered to get a pizza, I was in. There were also fun-sized dark-chocolate Mounds bars. On the plus side, I’m allowing maple syrup to replace sugar, in the granola and in my homemade plain yogurt.

Fresh fruit dipped in yogurt is just as good and better for me than that caramel apple dip. I could eat sweet potato wedges coated in olive oil, mustard, and spices, and roasted, every day, but I won’t. The chicken soup thick with veggies I made tonight is pretty darn good and will carry me through several days. A breakfast of an egg, leftover brown rice, and an orange is pretty good. I don’t have to have toast.

Am I feeling better? I think so. I am noticing that when I indulge in candy or pie, I feel sluggish. Can’t afford that. Also my gut is happier without the wheat.

On the spiritual side, I had envisioned myself deep in study of scriptures about bread and the sweetness of God’s love. Must say that has not been the case as much as I thought. And yet it does feel like God is moving in me and for me. I’m just too tired tonight to tie it to my food fast in some deep and meaningful way. So I’ll take it by faith and go to bed.

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I’m trying an experiment. It’s inspired by Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, in which she chronicles her journey of a different kind of fast for each of seven months. Why would she do such a thing? Isn’t that kinda crazy and extreme? She writes that her decision came out of the question, ” Where have I substituted The American Dream for God’s kingdom?” Her plan for 7 was to be “an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.”

Now, in many respects I’m already Ms. Simple. Some of Jen’s fasts wouldn’t make sense for me. Clothes, for instance. She writes about how appalled she was when she actually inventoried her wardrobe and was faced with how obscenely abundant her clothing options and therefore her clothing spending were. I, on the other hand, for example own three pair of jeans: one paint-spattered and holey, one blue denim, and one black denim. I’m still wearing my husband’s black socks to work, and he died six years ago. Hey, they’re warm, have worn like iron, and mostly don’t show under my slacks. No, they don’t work with dress shoes, but I barely ever wear dress shoes. Bunions and hammer toes are not welcome in my life. Just sayin’.

But going on this kind of a journey, opening up space for growth and movement with God, really appeals to me. Maybe my frugal nature will mean that my discipline somewhere along the way will be to add something instead of taking it away. I don’t have it all figured out yet. But I’m starting with food.

Jen carefully chose seven whole foods to limit herself to for a month. I already eat very little processed food and meat, enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables, and major on whole grains instead of highly refined. My goal will be to go without wheat or sugar this month. April 1 was the first day, and my first challenge came within hours, when my colleague Sean delivered to my desk the bag of dark-chocolate covered dried cherries I’d ordered maybe a month ago from his daughter’s high school band fundraiser and then forgotten about. “After this,” I told myself, and opened the bag. So good. I’ve had some each day. Until today. Because I felt so sluggish yesterday after I indulged in some. So they’re going away. Then my dear friend/cousin/soul-sister Becky and I decided to share Easter dinner, and the first thing out of my mouth was “Let’s just order pizza.” As good as that sounds, we’ve made a different plan. My part is to bring broccoli salad from the deli. It probably has sugar in the dressing. I’m at peace with that. it’s Easter after all.

Along with the dietary change, I want to see what exploring the concepts of bread, wheat, and sweetness, metaphorically speaking, reveals to me.

Today I read Psalm 81 because my concordance told me it has a reference to wheat in it. Just starting simple, you see. And by golly, it speaks to sweetness too. Sweet music, specifically, expressing joy and praise. So hmm, what if when I get the urge for chocolate or pie, I at least turn on music or better yet make some? Take a joy break? Consider the sweetness of God’s love for me?

Further in the psalm God says he desires to feed his people with the finest of wheat. That set me to wondering what the finest of wheat was in Biblical times. Thank you, Google, for filling me in. Given how different modern wheat is from ancient grains and how it’s prepared now, it makes sense that the vast majority of the types of carbs we eat have such an adverse affect on our health. We are settling for dust — too often contaminated dust at that.

I’m also on a quest to find raw, unfiltered, local honey.

I hope you’ll read Jen’s book, but be warned, it could shake you up. And that’s a good thing.

I’ll let you know how this goes.

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I’m thankful today for:

Spring air and birdsong and the sight of grass again.

Music and space at my house to move around to it. Raises my spirits every time. Why don’t I remember to do this every day?

Ingredients for granola, an oven to make it in, and the snacking all weekend on it. It’s not just for breakfast, you know.

Paint left over from an earlier project in a color that worked for the wall in the guest bedroom that had to be patched. Looks pretty good if I do say so.

God communicating to me through a constellation of scripture and current authors, stirring my heart about justice and mercy, hope in the face of despair. Love and grace win, and I’m entrusted to live that out. Excited to see what all that means in the future.

Rebirth. Refreshing. Awakening. ‘Tis the season. Bring it on.

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Where I work we have a women’s empowerment training program called Soup of Success. Part of the funding comes from grants, and the other day one granting organization sent a team of interviewers to gather stories of success from graduates of the program. I was privileged to sit in on two of those interviews. They were powerful and uplifting and spiritual. I handle a lot of the communications for our agency, so I was hoping for some good quotes we could use. I heard that and then some.

One woman whom I’ll call Angelica now leads a class for women in prison called Beauty for Ashes. One of the things she tells them is that “It’s only midnight for one hour.” Persevere, and on the other side of the darkest hour we start moving toward the next day and sunrise. I can only imagine what it means to be in prison and have a gritty woman come alongside you with that reminder.

That night turned sad for me. Sad and tired. My life looked impossible, against me, overwhelming. I finally just went to bed, hoping to see daylight in the morning. And you know what? It came. In fact, it’s now two days later and thanks well up in me for the sunlight coming in my window, for a friend to call and compare our weeks, and for God who cares deeply enough about me to remind me that he loves me through the midnights and will bring back the light.

Oh, and for the resale shop where I found a bigger crossbody bag today. Leather even, and with today’s sale of 30% off, only $16. black leather crossbody bag

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Names matter

I meet once a week with two friends, Jo and Becky. We share our lives, encourage each other, and pray with each other. Over the past year we worked through a book together called The Intentional Woman: A Guide to Experiencing the Power of Your Story, by Carol Travilla and Joan C. Webb. Toward the end of it one of the questions was this: “What would it look like if you trusted God with all that you’ve learned about yourself — past, present, and future — during this study?” I wrote this answer: “Would I stop being timid? Would I finally be a grown-up?” As I shared that with Jo and Becky, Jo gently stopped me. “You’ve talked before about how you’re timid. I don’t see you as timid. I never have. Could it be that someone a long time ago called you timid and you keep living in that identity? What if that’s no longer your name? What if God has a new name for you?”

And right away, I knew it was true. I was a shy kid. I have always blushed easily. My father, a quiet man himself, and many other people close to me seemed to believe that teasing me about being shy and turning red would somehow move me past it, make me bolder. All it did was make me more self-conscious, less sure of myself, and ashamed of who I am. In effect, they named me Timid. And yes, I believed it and have struggled with it ever since. (Parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and teachers and friends, take note.)

So I’ve shed the name Timid. Habitual ways of responding to the world don’t fall away overnight, so sometimes I slip back, but less and less. I’ll always be an introvert, and that’s just fine.

By the way, I love and recommend Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She makes the valid point that introversion does not equal shyness, but that often others label it as such. The research she writes about is extremely validating to me, that being an introvert is not a problem to be fixed, but carries with it strengths to be embraced and used for good.

The next question: Does God have a new name for me? Yes, but when will I know it? Well, I think I’m learning it. Some evidence:

My heart responds to old spaces redone in ways that make them vibrant now.. To upcycling. To relationships being restored, made new. To awakening people to their potential, perhaps buried in personal ruins, and empowering them to live who they are meant to be. To restoring neighborhoods to health. To being part of making things work the way they ought to work.

For over three decades I have loved the story of Nehemiah, who lead the massive project of rebuilding Jerusalem including its walls that war and years of neglect had made rubble. I love how just about every person in that city joined in that restoration effort. When we were getting ready to move here over seven years ago and I was heartbroken to be moving so far away from our children, grandchildren, and friends, God spoke to me through the story of Nehemiah that the purpose of our move was restoration. I didn’t know what that would look like as we moved back to the place I knew well growing up. When it became clear that my husband was a secret alcoholic and it was killing him, I prayed for his restoration. Eventually I came to understand that in taking his life, or rather not overriding the natural consequences of the addiction,  God did restore him to perfect health and freedom from addiction. God also restored me to live free of the addictive dynamic of our marriage, and I continue to experience restoration of my own life, my own self, and my relationship with my children.

For just as long, Isaiah 58 has moved me. Isaiah writes there about God’s plans for God’s people. He promised, among other things, “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations. You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

Notice how those words are all capitalized. The translators believe he’s talking proper names here. I have not physically rebuilt ruins, streets, or dwellings, but my gut tells me what matters most to me is restoration. I want to be part of restoring justice and mercy and beauty and truth and love to our broken world, in whatever little ways I can.

I am Restored to be a Restorer.

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Good news or a threat?

A week ago I found audio of a talk by Tim Keller online. I’ve read a couple of his books — you can pop on over to my 2010 Books page to read about them if you want — and I really liked what he had to say. The talk didn’t disappoint me, either. The thing that struck me most, though, was nothing new. It was how he defined the word gospel as good news. I know this. But. On that day my mind and heart went immediate to this: Far too often in the church we’ve taken the good news and turned it into a threat.

What a perversion. Shame on us.

As a result, what do people think about who God is? This makes me very sad.

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