Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chex Mix Christians

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. -2 Timothy 1:7

There's a lot going on in here this morning.

So the other day I am watching this Taco Bell commercial. Maybe you've seen it. These two guys are sitting on the couch and sharing some appetizers when another guy walks in with some burrito-type deal and he eats it. All by himself. The premise of the commercial being that if you were to buy this hand-held appetizer, you wouldn't be like those two suckers having to share...

Or maybe you have seen the Chex Mix commercial with the "BORING" potato chip bag decoy. A guy is enjoying his awesome Chex Mix when his friends subtly ambush him by hijacking all the snacks in the bag. The people freeze. The host tosses the Chex Mix bag inside a Boring potato chip bag, and when the scene resumes the guy's friends turn around, highly disappointed. The point of the decoy bag? Then no one will want to steal the deliciousness...

Selfishness sells. Looks pretty playful in these cases. After all, who hasn't insisted that the pan of brownies is simply awful and no one should try them, In fact, I'll just go ahead and eat them all to spare you the misery. It's funny, right?

Until we all turn into Chex Mix Christians.

This isn't a fluff piece. I thought maybe it was. Won't it be cute? We are Chex Mix Christians! Why cover yourself in a decoy bag instead of sharing the deliciousness of the Gospel?

Is that the point? Actually, yes. Yes it is. But then this morning the kids weren't listening or brushing their teeth. I spilled coffee on myself. Twice. I read this blog post on human trafficking. My husband walks into my office and reads the headline, "Chicago Public Schools May Start Sex Ed in Kindergarten".

And what was lighthearted is becoming heavyhearted.

So I open up my Bible search engine in hopes that I'll find that one verse about wanting to stay silent but the writer just can't contain the word of the Lord, when 2 Timothy 1:7 pops up as the Verse of the Day:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. -2 Timothy 1:7
Honestly, this has always been one of those fire-me-up verses. Kind of one-dimensional, actually. Never really got past the first part- For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power...
... of love and of self discipline.
Where did that come from? It's a Chex Mix kind of verse. Like faith, hope, and love, only it's power, love, and self discipline.
You want to know what really makes us different than the potato chips? Love. It's always in the mix.
In a world where being "exciting" means you essentially act like everyone else- desperate, unhappy, wild, reckless, evil, grudge-burdened, stumbling, aimless- we have bags full of mixed blessings from the Giver.
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by you name, O Lord, God of hosts. Jeremiah 15:16
We aren't the plain white snow of despair that blankets the world- we are the shoots of life that spring out of the ground, nutured and coaxed out into the open by the warmth of the Son.
And no one has to steal the deliciousness of it all, because it just can't be contained. Not in a bag, not in a heart, soul or life. It has to get out. It is blessed, and so blessed that it must bless.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. -Psalm 103:1-6

Monday, February 25, 2013

Messy Monday: The Bathroom Sink

The first time I noticed the bathroom sink draining slowly, I saw it as a minor inconvenience. Older home, older pipes, blah blah blah.

And then my two year old started playing in the small pond-like mass of water that remained in the basin long after the water shut off and it became more of an egregious attack against my motherly sensibilities. How unsanitary, really.

The sink became my enemy. Mocking me. Disgusting me.

We live in a parsonage and it was really just a matter of making a phone call. I talked to the dear property board member who is talented in all sorts of fixings of things. He took a look at it as soon as it was mentioned, God bless the man, and it seemed the problem went a little deeper than we realized.

He took care of the gunk, but there was more to do, and he did it. He had the tools. The sink was functional once more.

It didn't take too long before I realized that that sink drain just gets gunky with little provocation. It's not dysfunctional, just slow. And it's a couple months and once again I am pulling out the stopper, sticking in the drain snake, and pulling out chunks of black nasty that makes me wish I was cleaning on an empty stomach.

It's gross, right? Messy? Still, as I was cleaning it out this last time, making it functional once more, I sensed an uncomfortable familiarity with its condition.

See God had the tools. He went in and cleaned out this nasty old heart, met the problem in the deep darkness, and gave me back my purpose. The problem is, well, I get gunked up with little provocation.

 And as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.- John 3:14-15
Ok, so the plumbing version of a snake is a little different than what Moses crafted, but stick with the metaphor, if you will.
I can be reading the most brilliant theologians and psychologists, but when I am out of the Word- and I mean just the Word- something is missing. I can talk to the most wonderful, godly friends, but when I substitute their prayers on my behalf for my own prayers, something is missing. All these people gifts are amazing reflections of the Creator to me, but it turns out I need a daily date with The Original.
Otherwise, I get worn out. Those minor annoyances that I usually just let float on by begin to cling to me. Enough days and the aggravation gets to me and I don't want to serve my purpose. I stop functioning.
Have you ever wondered why you just can't function?
Things spew out of my mouth from I don't know where. My patience is nonexistent. Everything is an inconvenience. People make comments that get to me and I get angry. I make excuses, stop caring.
Then it hits me like a serpent between the eyeballs. Look and live. The Spirit moves in me and I finally stop resisting and I look in the Word. I am face to face with my Savior, my Sacrifice. And Life Himself gets to work, scraping out the gunk, the junk, the sin that hinders. He makes me new, again, and again, and again. He restores my purpose and I get to live again, really live.
Abundantly and thankfully live.
And maybe this sink and I aren't quite so much at odds as I thought.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Five Minute Friday: What Mama Did

For the past week, Lisa- Jo Baker and friends have chronicled the things that "mama did" in the hopes that all their readers would feel the love they felt, and reflect on how their own children will see them someday. What will they remember?

Thanks to her Five Minute Friday, I now have the same opportunity. Bear with me. I'm still learning how to just write, without overthinking it all. But that's why they call these things "exercises".

 "What Mama Did: Her Courage" in five minutes flat.


By the time my mama became my mama, she had endured hardships far beyond anything I have encountered. And she was the better for it. It was as if each trial was another stone added to the altar of faith the Lord was building in her- to give Him glory.
She was a Navy wife. My father was an amazing officer in the United States Navy, and spent months upon months at sea when correspondance was limited. In those months, she was a single mom, but that was ok.
I know she had moments of insanity- that's just motherhood in a fallen, exhausting world.
But she had an adventurous spirit. Moving again? Another three years? Trips to the E.R. Another baby. No Dad for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.
I never knew it bothered her.
She was and is an adventurer.
I assume it made it easier that she was the friendliest person I've met. I'm sure every bagger in Alabama knows the ins and outs of her children's lives. She always had friends.
When we moved every few years we had tears, for a while. But we were going on an adventure. Always an adventure. New schools, new friends, how could we not be excited?
She is an exciting woman, my mother. Friendly, Adventurous, Sacrificing. A glimpse of the Savior in a child's crazy life.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Way You Hold Me

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
Psalm 139: 7-10
He chuckled. The stranger.
"Oh she's gonna hold you, huh?"
The question was directed at me. I laughed meekly and remembered that kid language is its own language, and that which is so familiar in my children's speech might sound ridiculous to outsiders.

"You can hold me in a minute", I told my two-year-old as I finished rummaging through our bag. I zipped the bag and gathered her into my arms. We waited in line behind the chuckling man.
I chuckle too. Especially at children. It isn't always intentional, but part of me laughs relief when I witness other families enduring the same rascally antics from their own children as I do mine.

And in the throes of childish woes my soul cries out, "I want to hold you, Lord."

My grasp on the Father resembles a toddler's. I cling franticly to His neck and say, "I will go where you want, just don't leave me." He holds me, His child.

But the truth is, my strength cannot hold me to Him any longer than my daughter's grasp could cleave her to me without my arms around her. It's simple physics. It's law. Gravity.

And we all would fall.

Other times my holding is nothing more than manipulation and perhaps even flailing. I butter my Father up. "Oh how I love You, Lord of my life... Now if You could just put me down. Just one second. I'll be right back." His refusal is my undoing and I flail and kick and scream. And here lies a curious tension. Even when I get my way, and go my own way, I am never without His presence. I am broken by bad choices and blame all others but myself. I throw my fit until my strength is gone, and He carries a sleeping, weeping child.

Most recently I've been reminded of another time. A darker prayer:
Lord, just don't let me go, because I can't hold on to You any more.

The Lord was carrying His spiritually comatose daughter... so near death.

Death is never an isolated incident. It ripples into lives, no matter how briefly it existed.

Death is never satisfied until it has swallowed us whole.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?

Did he ask the question because he had tried it?

8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
Had he ascended the mountaintop? Sung with the heavenly host?
Walked through the valley?
Stumbled in the darkness?

9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Did he search high and low, deep and wide, for another answer? Any answer?

10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
Did the Lord ever fail him?


His mercy exceeds the demands of law.

His love envelopes us in His salvation.

The nails that fastened His Son to the cross were protocol. We all know what really held Christ there.

The same thing that holds us to Him today for eternity.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. -John 10:10

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. -1 Peter 1:3-5

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Passion Fashion

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10
Frankly, I have seen too much talk in the Bible about clothing and adorning and garments to believe that the clothier of the lilies has no interest in fashion.
I am not a fashionista. I don't have an eye for it, nor the income for it; and to look at the wardrobe choices made by the three children I am no longer "allowed" to dress, I fear that perhaps my lack of fashion sense is a trait they have inherited. I will choose to find it comical because quite often we look like a troupe of clowns minus the rosy bulbous noses.
To be honest, I've never given it a whole lot of thought. Then Sunday's sermon included Galatians 3:27:
"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. "
I looked at my two year old- ridiculous in her dress and pants, mismatched like a room whose decorator could not decide just which wallpaper to put up so they put up both. Her bright pink cat socks glared from under silver shoes on the wrong feet. I guess it's technically wrong shoes on the right feet. Her outfit had forced me to breathe deep, smile politely, patiently plead for a costume change, and then relent knowing everyone at church would surely know she dressed herself.
But was the important thing what she was dressed in, or whom she was dressed in?
What if every morning I consciously put on Christ first, before my slippers and contacts? I would never consciously take Him off, but what if each day I raised my arms into the air and let Christ slip onto my body before I headed in to make breakfast?
I grew up hearing it this way: Remember your baptism. Martin Luther urged Christians to wake up every day making the sign of the cross and saying "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit", the very words recited in baptism. It's not just a practice for the pious and devout.
It is a reminder:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4
I have died to this world. I walk in newness of life. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Gal. 2:20)
I don't want to be one of those Christians who misses it. I don't want to believe that being clothed with Christ will  simply "one day" make a difference as we enter the eternal wedding banquet. I want to walk in newness of life today. Every single day. His cross is of daily relevance and His life of daily renewal. What greater gift is ours?
"The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says, 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You... Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked- the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own shall become yours.'" -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; Book IV, Chapter 8

Monday, February 18, 2013

Messy Monday- Sometimes You're the Rolling Pin...

... Sometimes you're the dough.

It's Messy Monday here! Because being a mom is so so soooo much less glamorous than they tell you in the books, and apparently kids don't just leave the room whenever we want them to like in the sitcoms.

He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him... All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned- every one- to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.- Isaiah 53:2 & 6

What exactly about my Savior made me think that a life of sacrifice would be anything remotely close to glamorous or convenient?

So here in the Jensen house we celebrate in the midst of the filth that is our life, not as a means of denial or "coping", but as a reminder of the God who did not turn away from our ugliness in sin, but confronted it and donned it in our stead. He meets us in the dust and even here we see His face.

But what to call it?

Tribute to Puke?
Eh. Sounds like one of those TMI Facebook posts.

Glamorous Mondays?
Nice sarcasm, but it doesn't have that catchy alliteration that keeps people reading.

Messy Mondays it is- God in the grossness.

You know, in about 20-25 years my daughters are going to think I'm a genius, instead of just a cheap mom that postpones Valentine's Day festivities a few days to get the supplies on sale at Walmart and then dresses it up as just playing "restaurant".

Every decent restaurant has dessert. Ours is of the boxed variety. Still, we have the perfect opportunity to use those valentines-y cookie cutters laying forlorn in the plastic shopping bag. So my sous pastry chef and I get to mixing, stirring, rolling and cutting...

She enjoys herself. I enjoy her ambition, excitement. Her little fingers.
After a while, frustrations begin to take shape about as frequently as cookies as her little fingers push down those cookie cutters willy-nilly, not even making the best use of space! Then she has the nerve to scrunch up the dough and start all over, rolling when there was plenty of room left for several more hearts.
And everyone knows that when you work too much flour into cookie dough by unnecessary scrunching and rolling it just makes everything tougher.
I saw my life in that dough. I use my clumsy little hands, wasting time, space, words, and I do things willy-nilly. Instead of looking to the Master, I am tempted to scrap God's work in my life before it's done.
I make things tough.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.-Philippians 1:6
It takes a rolling pin to knock me flat and roll my rebellious soul into repentance.
I'm not going to lie- it hurts.
In the hands of the ultimate Creator, I am molded and cut and shaped into delicious beauty.
Beauty worth savoring. Worth celebrating.
And whether or not the pain comes at the hand of myself or another, I always find that the pain is temporally and eternally worth it.
It is worth it.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 
-2 Corinthians 1:3-5

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. -1 Peter 1:6-7

Thursday, February 14, 2013

First Five Minute Friday

So, it's Friday. Day 3. Ok, technically it's still Thursday Day 2, but it's 11:31p.m. CST and that's close enough to do this post. It's a short exercise to warm up the muscles that don't feel like sleeping, like my brain for instance. You check out a fun blog to find the prompt and write for 5 minutes flat about whatever she puts up there (no tweaking, no editing, just write for heaven's sake)- a nice way to end the week and get the brain working for when I come back to this on Monday.

It's Five Minute Friday and Lisa-Jo's prompt: Beloved.

Did she read my mind?

I'm the one You love.
I'm the one You love.
That will be enough.
I'm the one You love.

My anthem sung by Jason Gray.

Four kids, a trail mix of duties and diagnoses, and sometimes I need Him to tell me once again who I am... to Him.

I stared, gazed even, lovingly at my son tonight. Doing what preschoolers do. Taking me to stations in his classroom where he linked plastic links and used cookie cutters on playdough and matched numbers with dots and just did all those things preschoolers do and he was so proud.

And I was so proud.

And I turned into one of those parents I never could understand, who gushes over their child being able to do the simplest and most mundane of tasks, and I saw Him in him.

I could hear it. That's how I feel about you.

God places a joy and pride and welling-up in us at the accomplishments of those we hold most dear because that is an extension of Him.

That pride and love that can't be restrained. So much so that it spills forth into every moment of our day- His love.

Not because I am so great at my tasks. Not because I do something spectacular that simply no one else can do. Simply because I am His.

And He shows me this and I am to convey in 5 minutes what will take an eternity to grasp and soak in.

Today's Jesus

It's so beautiful. He's there. Jesus. Standing peacefully 15 paces down the beach by the water's edge. And as the waves lap at his feet and the sun reflects off his auburn hair, he beckons me. Follow me. I love it here. I come here whenever I can, because it's so... different.

That's the nice Jesus people paint. I would paint Him like that too. That's the Jesus people want to see.

On the other hand, that's not the Jesus I have met lately.

Oceanside Jesus says, "It's all good. It'll be ok," and wow. A lot of people need that Jesus.

Let me describe the Jesus I've been meeting lately.

The bell clangs and I run to the corner of the ring. I crash into the chair, legs wobbly and heart weary. "I can't do it, Coach. I can't do it." Clothes torn and wet with blood and sweat, I look through eyes swollen shut. My husband rubs my shoulders, pours water down my throat. "I can't do it. I'm done. I'm done." And then Jesus gets in my face. In my face. He puts His hands around the back of my neck and pulls my forehead to His and His face is just as mangled as mine. More so. But His eyes stare straight through mine and He says, "You're not done yet, Champ". (He calls me "Champ".) "You're doing great. You had a few setbacks, but now you know his angle. You've got this. You've got this."

"I can't do it. No. I'm done, I'm done".

"You're not done. You. are. not. done. I'm with you all the way, okay? You're not doing it alone. You trust me, right? What are you afraid of? You trust me?"

"Yes. Yes, I trust you. Ok. Ok."

"You ready?"

"I don't kn..." CLANG!! He pulls me close, breathes peace into me, hope, love, and even joy. It is a crazy concoction of courage. I get back into the ring.

Today, that's my Jesus.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

40 Days

"Your thoughts....."

It was the subject of her email, and apparently the answer to my own question about endeavoring to start a new blog.

My mom wanted to "tap" my brain about the issue of giving up something for Lent. It is a tradition in many church bodies, ours included, and yet each year Ash Wednesday creeps up on us, plummeting us into an abyss of questions regarding our choices of whether or not to "give something up," and what and why and how.

I recently read a most eloquent post on the topic by Ann Voskamp, but my mom wants my thoughts, my words. It's perhaps a bit heavy for a first post, but why not go a little crazy. Here we go:

Lent is turbulence. Lest we think that all the smooth sailing in the world can make this planet our home, we find that Lent knocks us around spiritually just a bit. Just 40 days. Just long enough to remind us that we aren't home yet. We are wandering through an intimidating wilderness, and Lent takes up the task of pointing our nose to the manna, the physical reality that we can't survive this wandering alone, and each day brings us closer to Him, not by our power but by His alone.

Lent isn't what you find in other religions- achieving enlightenment by deprivation. Rather, the deprivation we experience in Lent is meant to open our eyes to a deeper and more profound realization of our need for Christ. It forms us into those who celebrate even the smallest of joys because we are acutely aware that their presence in our lives are straight-up gifts. Undeserved, yet lavished upon us. Those who boast and moan about their Lenten sacrifices, just as I have done, may be trading in the depth of growth for the "oohs" and "ahhs" of the less holy rest-of-us. I am still waiting for the brave soul who approaches me with the desire to give up sinning for Lent.

There is no point in even comparing our sacrifices with that of Christ, the disparity being unfathomable. And still, those microscopic give-em-ups are magnified in our minds so much that we can't even follow through with them. Yet it is in the face of our failure that we hear our Savior's words, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

So will I give something up? Well, it's noon on Ash Wednesday and I still haven't decided. Will I decide to "take" something up? Ta-da! Blog! Looks like I may be taking up courage this Lent. And then perhaps this 40 days will give way to a more incredible resurrection joy that my writing can only hope to convey.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:9b-10