So, what is up with the Monk thing?_{a post in which I write a lot about books}

doing our thing

The last several years have found me gulping down books that called for consciousness in The Church. Challenged me to find The Real in a church atmosphere that felt more and more non-genuine

Books like:

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FRESH WIND, FRESH FIRE BY JIM CYMBALA

Fresh Fire, Fresh Wind  that called the church to take intercessory prayer serious. His story,  or rather testimony of the transformation of a crack corner in the Bronx that two old ladies starting praying over, to the now world famous Brooklyn Tabernacle Church and worship group, is the backdrop to this book.

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Radical  by David Platt that asked the question why does the 21st Century Western Church look and act nothing like the first-century church? Do we not confess the same Lord, and have the same power of the Holy Spirit in us? Then why are our actions and values so different?

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Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker.  A part memoir, part call of consciousness for modern Evangelicals to start being serving disciples rather than preaching, unhappy, “blessing the already blessed” conservatives. Funny and beautiful. One of the few books I have read twice. Flipped through it just last night to re-read under-lined passages.

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Forgotten God by Francis Chan.  He asks the question where oh where is the Holy Spirit? Total up all our slick Christian merchandise, multimillion dollar church campuses, professional music bands, and over qualified pastors- when put together on the scales of walking in power in terms of personal transformation and conversion of the lost we are not moving the needle much over the zero mark. The Bible makes it plain that without the empowerment of The Holy Spirit we cannot carry out the will of The Father. Chan writes with clarity and clear perspective of why The Holy Spirit is not present in many churches and how to allow Him to draw close to us again.

I loved these books.

They served as a catapult that tentatively launched me into a more mature faith, as I found myself nearing and crossing over into my thirties.   A time where I no longer was on repeat and reload on the pregnancy machine.  {Four children, less than seven years…I would not change a thing about our decision with having our children , but I never want to go through another day of pregnancy again!}. When I turned thirty especially, with The Babe nearing wiping her own butt, high chairs and cribs tossed to the curb with a big ole FREE sign, I got lulled into the wavy tantalizing mirage of seeing “time for me” loom in the horizon of my future.  All these books mentioned above were, for me, a call to action:

“Hey things kinda suck if you haven’t noticed! Are you going to be part of the solution and do something, or NOT”

That is what it seemed to say to me anyway.

That is after all, the way I think; the way I do things.

The only problem:

I was still the same me; just with more head knowledge.

My four girls, even though they wiped their own butts, slept through the night and did not need their wet, sticky, warm body to be attached to my own every waking hour, still needed me. I did not feel like bothering with all that.  I wanted to do big things.

For God of course.

My reading of awesome books that spoke such inspiring truth, did nothing, in truth, to change my sin nature that still gnawed at me every single day.

Like I said:

I was the same me.

Maybe I had a clearer vision of what needed to change in the larger scope of The Church in America, but there were more glaring, more pressing needs that needed to change in my heart- in my home. What these books did do, that I did not realize at the time, is whet my appetite for a real connection with a real God. That is precisely what those books were talking about in the first place.

Which is why…

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Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts found its mark right where all good books are supposed to aim for and sink into:

my heart.

One Thousand Gifts got close and personal, down and dirty.

Which leads me to the Monk Thing.

If you were on my goodreads “friends” list you would note that currently I am reading

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The Jesuit Guide to {Almost} Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin.

and Tales of Saint Francis: Ancient Stories for Contemporary Living by Murray Bodo, O.F.M.

I am not converting to Catholicism.

I am being drawn, almost accidentally, which is another way to say not looking for it but led by The Spirit of God, to the life and practices and record of words of those called the Mystics of Christianity.

I don’t really know what a “mystic” is- so I looked it up:

mys·tic

a person who claims to attain, or believes in the possibility of attaining,
insight into mysteries transcending ordinary human knowledge,
as by direct communication with the divine
or immediate intuition in a state of spiritual ecstasy

Ignatius of Loyola.
Francis of  Assisi.
Christian men who lived during the Middle Ages.
What could that  possibly have to do with a thirty-four year old women living in America in the 21st-century?
Well, a lot.
After all the human heart is pretty much the same, regardless of time, sex, or culture.
God is unchanging.
Humankind’s search for Him because we were made to have a close, shameless, relationship with Him, remains a constant as well.
What these men wrote, their simply lives, revealed to me the same nail hit right on the head by Ann Voskamp:
the problem in society is not this group or that group, it is ME.
Letting go of ME, going lower and lower as my own selfishness, hard heart, prideful sin, began to loom larger than my own demands for fair. I repeatedly felt myself being put into that tedious. awkward position. So Christ Himself  could raise me up.
Remember what all those be the change! books inspired in me:
Do something already, right?
Well that doing something had nothing to do with outward achieving action, but inward receding humility.

GOING LOW IS THE NEW HIGH

Things got so messed up in my life, in my head, that I had to go to counseling last summer.
I found myself on the outs with my family.
No church.
No ministry.
The school system my children were enrolled in went to hell in one year.
We tried to move twice, found a dream house, to lose it because our finances were so terrible.
I felt let down by God big time.
After all, I read the books.
I understand the problem.
I had the solutions.
I was not like all those other lukewarm Christians.
And so He owed me right?
Turns out NO.
But God keeps showing up with open arms like the most patient and lovely mother on earth with each and everyone of my tantrums and incessant questions.
Seeking, continually, God’s presence, daily, minute by minute, is the path to upper mobility in the new Kingdom that Christ ushered in.
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GOING LOW IS THE NEW HIGH

I had to do it initially when everything seemed to go to crap.
It has been a cultivated practice in my life because without His presence I feel like crap.
It’s too hard without constant replenishing and refreshing.
Even on the days I don’t feel like it, or feel nothing particularly spiritual after I slow down and seek God in prayer, reading the Word, or worship.
What sounds like just more religiously motivated guilt turns out to be a God motivated way for you to receive grace by being like His Son.
It is what those Medieval saints learned with their bare feet and their Latin chants.
It is what Ann Voskamp learned with her written lists and her Eucharisteo lifestyle.
It was what I was forced to do when every single plan of action and change of lifestyle turned into a big fat NO!
We stayed in our house in the ‘burbs with neighbors much too close, that is not zoned for chickens or goats.
We had a painful leave in our little “Radical” church, after stepping out in faith to leave a church that we loved. But that year saw me grow more in dramatic and supernatural ways as a Christian, despite our leaving, than any book could.
God led me to another church in one day.  I didn’t recall the Pastor’s name and did not know the church’s name or denomination, but I knew it was where we had to be.
My relationship with my extended family improved slowly.
I started homeschooling my older two girls.  The emotions that followed being a homeschooling Mom were as followed:
terrified
panicked
regretful
discouraged
depressed
acceptance
joy
thankfulness.
Sometimes we have fun.
Sometimes I threaten to hit them with a ruler like the nuns used to do, cuz those sisters got results.
And then, only six months after being in our new, new church-
six months of enjoying just being with a group of believers, worshiping and rejoicing and praying and being taught, God dropped a burden in my heart.
A stone that sunk down deep, rippling waters into bigger and bigger circles till I had to act.
I could not believe I was doing this again.
I thought I was over proving myself.
I liked the new me of contentment and simplicity.
I wake up early and make my own bread, people!
Feeling stupid I went to my Pastor.
Feeling terrified I went to the elementary school that shares its parking lot with our church, and also happens to be the school my youngest girls attend.
Feeling completely out of my element, completely like I do not have the time, or even the desire, I am currently heading up a program called: Keep It Up! {facebook page coming soon!}
It is all about literacy for the at risk children in our church and school neighborhood.
It is about The Church being relevant in the community by providing a need and serving, not just inviting them to church stuff.
Jen Hatmaker of the books Interrupted and 7 calls this “Missional Church stuff”.
It is about serving the teachers at the public school to provide books, and story times, opening the door to the magic of books, the power of literacy during the summer months when the ten months they put into those children immediately start to erode away. It dwindles because more than likely no one else is reading Lady Bug Girl four times in a row, or helping them with the tedious process of sounding out words to form sentences, even when they start to cry fat tears and say “I am just too stupid!” No one is encouraging older elementary students to turn off the TV, youtube, x-box, and get into a chapter book with funny, or inspiring characters we can talk about later.
It is not really a typical church-y thing.
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But starting when I sounded out my first book {the Color Kittens, when I was five} books have been very important to me.
A source of escape when I was young.
A source of knowledge when I became an adult.
Ask any missionary working in impoverished countries right now and the best way to stop the cycle of poverty and powerlessness in a society is to give their children education.
We have education in America.
But unless an at-risk child really grasps and learns to love literacy the probability of them not staying in the same cycle of low expectations, taking the easy yet hopeless route everyone else around them does, is low.
Books just have always been my thing.
We are at our best serving, doing what is our thing.
doing our thing
Just ask my kids who wail every time I say its “quiet time” and they have read. {In the Summer there are book reports too!}
Just ask the local librarians {I think the total money I paid out in late fees last year paid for the new carpet installed in the story time corner!}
And yet.
Every step of planning and going out of my comfort zone has found me in tears, feeling like a fool, confounded at my own decision to start this thing I am not sure anybody else really gives a crap about.
“I can’t do this”
“I don’t want to do this”
“What does it matter really? Reading some books and sounding out Cat In The Hat to a handful of ratty kids whose parents just send them traipsing over to the church for the free babysitting and free food”?
Every panic attack.
Every seizure of self-doubt, self-hate.
The still small voice:
“This low position is best possible stance for you to take to let Me take over completely and raise you up with Me”.
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GOING LOW IS THE NEW HIGH

My way.
My timing.
My methods.
My power.
It’s the same lessons the saints experienced.
I recently read a quote by some French guy named Leon Bloy:
“There is only one tragedy- not to be a saint”
Echoed were the words of the author Murray Bodo.
“Lord let me be small, but let me be Holy”
We just get bogged down in the semantics:
“saint” “mystic” “spirituality” “radical” “evangelical”.
A Saint acts like Jesus, because they got over themselves long enough to admit they need Jesus.
Period
The opening preface to Sarah Young’s devotional:
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Jesus Calling, that my friend just happen to drop off saying that she felt I needed to read it, was a near verbatim confession of what The Spirit spoke to me in my panic and fear these last two months.
And so I am continuing with this Read-To-Kids-Thing.
I even mentioned it to a few people!
I feel good. I feel I am right where I am supposed to be.
Empty and tired and having no clue what is next, but with joy and peace because it is not about me.
Being a book obsessed introvert, into monks, having all your plans thrown out the window, and feeling stupid apparently is not as lame and horrible as it sounds.
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If you made it to the end, congratulations! This post ended up being over 2,300 words long and most people don’t stay on one web page for over 25 seconds.
Now we can both feel good about ourselves!
Leaving for our annual “marriage time out” to Cape May, NJ tomorrow.
Four days, three nights.  Longest ever.
Then it is tying up the last of the homeschool year, and starting up this ministry: Keep It Up!
I always go “screen free” in July and usually just post photos with a line a two in August as part of The August Break flickr group.
So the Summer posts may be few and far between.
I may not visit that many other bloggers, though I shall try, they are always so good.
Those of you kindred-spirit bloggers who have read and “walked” along me these past years or months keep me in your prayers this summer and I will keep you in mine.
Cheers.
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One thought on “So, what is up with the Monk thing?_{a post in which I write a lot about books}

  1. I’m super excited to hear about this awesome ministry the Lord is giving you! You go girl! What a blessing to little kids. To know the love of Jesus in a tangible way. You rock my sister!

    Like

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