Friday, August 23, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Last

So here I am on the last weekday of summer.  Hanging the last poster on the wall.  Putting the last chair in place.  Staring in wonder, imagining the children that will soon fill my classroom with song and laughter and games (and some hair pulling and tongue biting as well to be sure!).  I asked my roommate to meet me for lunch at my favorite little place downtown.  It's best on the weekdays and it will be a long time before we have the time to go again.  We will soon be busy again.  And this is our last chance.

But there's something else to the word "last."  I found out last night that my third grade teacher, my favorite teacher ever, passed away this week.  I'll be part of a choir singing in a different funeral tomorrow.  And I'm thinking about what I would do if I knew something really was my last chance.  Oh how I want to live a life that will last!

I want to be a part of something that will last.  I want to pour my life out for love and kingdom work.  I want to inspire children, go out of my way to make them feel valued and loved the way Elizabeth Jones did.  I want to love like crazy with the love of the Lord the way Ronnie Lorenz did.  This man who had an amazing wife and passed me the communion trays many a week.  Summer fades.  Winter fades too.  Desserts and valleys and mountaintops are all temporary. Love is the greatest of all things that last.

Five Minute Friday 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Waking up with your eyes closed - How to find enough when you only have a little.

Some days I just feel like I woke up with my eyes closed.  It's like I get so absorbed, preoccupied, anxious that I manage to walk through this life and not see a thing.  And there is almost this instant atrophy of the heart.  I "shuffle along, eyes to the ground" (Col. 3:1-2, MSG) and I don't see or feel a thing, and it starves my soul because, from the very depth of my being, I long to See.  There is something about living with eyes closed that goes against the very grain of who we were created to be.

So I'm walking into church one week, and it was one of those days.  I had woken up with my eyes closed.  I would have walked right by one of my favorite families if the friend with me hadn't called out to them.  And there's my precious girl with her standard cry of "Miss Stephanie!" as she scrambles to get around her father to me.  She hands me this as if she knew how much my heart needed a touch of Beauty and color that day:

An oil jar traced over and over and over because Elisha told the widow to gather every jar she could find and take her "Nothing... well a little bit of oil..." and pour it out and the oil just kept coming and coming! (2 Kings 4)  

And I am flashing back to the time I sat next to this little girl's mother (my professor at the time) during a chapel service.  Two sisters trying desperately to learn how to live like all we have really is enough, and suddenly we're listening to this story of a prophet, a widow, and a little bit of oil that just kept coming.  But this time it's Elijah and he's asking the woman for a piece of bread.  She replies that she has just enough flour and oil to make one last meal that she and her son "may eat it - and die."  (1 Kings 17:7-16)  We all know how the story ends.  She bakes some bread for Elijah first and then keeps baking day after day and finds that "the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry." It was enough!  

That was the first and only time a professor ever elbowed me in the ribs, and I'm glad she did because I've never forgotten that.  But here's where I bring all my musings full circle.  In between the widow declaring how little she has and the moment she realizes God can make it enough, Elijah says three words that once again elbow me in the ribs: Don't be afraid.  A prophet echoing the command God gives His people more than any other.  Don't be afraid.  And I can see these two widows who think they have nothing.  They think they have been utterly defeated.  Sure, the one calls out to Elisha, but her words are dripping with fear and defeat and hopelessness.  Both women are convinced that because they only have a little, they have nothing.  Been there?  Yeah, me too.  And in those times I walk the way I picture those women walking, "shuffling along, eyes to the ground" afraid and ashamed because I am convinced I have nothing.  No strength.  No hope.  No patience.  No energy.  I don't have enough, and I am afraid!  It is fear that makes us blind.  It is fear that causes us to live with eyes to the ground and fists clenched.  And that is why God is so serious about us not being afraid.  

So as I, along with so many others, dive headlong into a new school year this is what's spinning on the brain:  Don't be afraid.  Live with your eyes open.  A little bit is a far cry from nothing, and God is all about multiplication.  It really is enough.


Monday, August 12, 2013

When I Choose to Lean - Questions Sustain

It's July and the golden hues outside my window beckon.  "Come," they say, "It's beautiful out here!"  I love the feeling of bare feet on concrete.  It's cool for July and the sticky sweet of the afternoon rain still lingers on the breeze. (I should have my car washed more often.  It always rains right after I have my car washed!)  I stare straight into that golden orb, and I watch it sink - slowly, surely.  I lean against the balcony railing, secure.  Another day draws to a close.  God ties His flaming bow on it, and that midnight blue curtain falls velveteen across the sky - star strewn.

I wonder what tomorrow's light will bring?

Because these long summer days pass too quickly, and there are unknowns - so many unknowns on the horizon.  And the questions rise with my heart rate.

What will this new year be like?  Will I prove good enough?  Will I fit?  Will I be able to give these kids all they deserve?  Will I have enough to pour out?  Will there be enough time?  What do these new horizons hold?  Will I be ready?

I look at the loaves and fishes in my hands and I wonder: Can you - will you - do it again, Jesus?  Will you multiply my loaves and fishes life?  How many times does He have to prove faithful for me to stop asking?  I don't know.

So many questions.  Some I can't even put words to.  So few answers.  And as the last flecks of gold disappear, I lean - beloved disciple against my Savior.  And here is the Bread of Heaven, Manna to my lips.  I embrace the questions, eat the "What is it?" and find myself nourished.  And as I lean here, all the questions lead to one:  How will He not also, along with Jesus, graciously give us all things?  It is its own answer.

And I find that, when I choose to lean, the questions sustain.  

Friday, August 9, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Lonely

Setting the timer again this week.  This is a tough one... Lonely.


I wouldn't have noticed it if my fingers hadn't slipped on the keyboard.  There is one letter difference between "lonely" and "lovely."  Which one is more natural for me to type?  Because what it all comes down to really is what I believe in this life.  Am I lonely?  Or am I lovely?

I know what I want to be... but feelings... they are deceptive.  I stand out on the stairwell every night and lean against the railing and I think about my life.  The stars.  I love the stars.  The storms rolling in.  The lightening on the horizon.  The breeze in my hair.  Alone.  Alone with God.

Can I see it for what it is?  Can I reach past the fear and find the truth?  Because I am afraid of spending my life lonely.  I'm not afraid of being alone, I don't think.  I'm just afraid of being lonely.  Of finding that I am not enough, that I am not worthy of love.  I'm afraid of not being lovely.  And I breathe it deep.  There is peace here.  Leaning secure on that railing.  Beauty making me and my worries shrink.  He calls me lovely.  He does!  And feelings.... Well, I know they can't be trusted.  But I trust Him.  I trust Him.  I trust Him.  I want to trust Him, really I do.  And so I breathe the prayer out in a whisper... Lord, I do believe.  Help my unbelief.  I believe you make me lovely.  Help me to believe.


Five Minute Friday

Monday, August 5, 2013

Nothing Wasted - Give Bad Days to the Redeemer

Every so often, you enter a place you've been before and nothing has changed.  The sights, the smells, most of the people, no change.  And every memory is triggered.  ACU Leadership Camps this summer was that place for me.  And so I find myself reflecting.

I remember last summer and how hard it was.  I was so much like an Israelite... refusing to listen because of the broken spirit, because of the bondage.  Oh, and how I wish I could do it over!  Because I have this cry in my heart to spend my one life well.  But some days, I don't. Things aren't clicking and I'm a tired, broken mess.  And on days like that, I tend to cry, "Wasted!"  I made a mistake (or a dozen); I wasted the day (or the whole season!).  

But to spend a life well, does not mean to live a life perfectly, and while that may be painfully obvious to many, I need that reminder to keep me sane.

Bad days happen.  Whether it is our own ineptitude or a series of unfortunate circumstances, we have bad days.  And sometimes it's deeper than that.  We live in a broken world.  We are broken people.  We walk wounded and weary.  We are impaired by the chains that bind us.  And it is bad.    

But then there is this: Jesus redeems.  And to redeem is to do more than make it okay or to forgive.  To redeem is to take something that seems wasted and broken and worthless and make it beautiful.

He makes something not just out of nothing, but out of that which I could call waste!  My mistakes, my bad days.  He declares nothing wasted!  

So I'm learning to stop striving and start trusting.  To show myself a little grace because God shows me grace and who am I to deny what He freely gives?  I choose to trust in His goodness and infinite power and I give bad days to the Redeemer.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Something to It - A Prayer and a Poem for the Weary Beloved

I am weary today.  A chronic fixer who is finding all the things she cannot fix.  A control freak who is facing all the things outside of her control.  And I am committing these words to pixels because it is the only way I can find to embrace you, beloved.  You who, surely, are more weary than I.  And I whisper thanks for you, on your behalf, because thanksgiving precedes the miracle. And, oh, how we need miracles!

Thank you, Father, for sufficient grace, a suffering Savior, an abiding Spirit, and for your words spoken, "So also you will have sorrow, but you will see Me again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you!" (John 16:22)  Thank you for being Comforter, and Healer, and Warrior, and all that we need.  Thank you for the cross and for victory.  Thank you that you are faithful, that you, Jesus, taught me in the Eucharist, and in Eucharisteo, to give thanks for brokenness and pain, and for conquering both.  Thank you, Creator, for the stars that teach me to trust you for all I have yet to see.  For making beautiful things out of the dust of broken hearts... THANK YOU.

Something to It
There is something to it
The way the stars shine
And my life shrinks
I would reach
To touch the beauty
To be all eye
And with Isaiah's angels cry,
"Holy, holy, holy are you Lord God Almighty!"
And the darkness cannot overwhelm me
Like Your glory
The way Holy would reach
To touch a sinner like me
And call me Beloved

I would not run away
If you were to take
One of those stars ablaze
Like hot coals
And cleanse these lips
That I might praise
Your goodness
Even in the darkness

If I white-knuckle grip to your grace,
Will you break the grip of fear on my life?
I break the bread.
You broke Your Body.
The cross could not hold you
Any more than the darkness
Can hold back the stars
You conquer death
You conquer fear
And I can breathe
Because Your power and glory
Take my breath away
Breaking every chain
And all things shrink
In Your Beauty

There's something to it
The way the stars shine
That helps me believe.

Stephanie M. Frakes
(August 4, 2013)  

Friday, August 2, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Story

It's another Five Minute Friday.  This week's word is "Story."


I love telling stories.  Like the time I ran into Beth Moore the day before I flew out on a mission trip to China.  Or the time my roommate and I drove six hours round trip in one evening to meet Ann Voskamp.  Or the way I was in a pit of anxiety and depression because I had graduated from college and had no idea what I was doing with my life and one morning woke up to an e-mail inviting me to apply for what would end up being the best job I could have asked for.

We sat for three hours yesterday and shared stories.  And grace was so evident.  And there are things in my life I've always thought I'd like to be different.  Ways that the world may not view me as successful.  Mistakes that I've made. But hindsight 20/20, I realize how I have seen the face of God in those times and I wouldn't change a thing.

So my goal these days is to practice seeing my story as it unfolds NOW.  Practicing Eucharisteo, this discipline of thanksgiving that ties itself so intimately to joy and grace, is teaching me to see what God is doing right this instant.  I pray that it will take me less and less time to see how all of these detail are valuable in a story that brings glory to God.  It's not always a fairy tale.  Sometimes it's not a book I would think to pick up myself, but it is good because God is good and I will white-knuckle grip to that.  God is good.  My story is now.


Five Minute Friday