Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Life is Ordinary

A college sophomore who is struggling with a decision about a major and what to do with her life has been told for years life that "God has something special planned for your life." She has been encouraged by well-meaning parents who love the gospel and love God with all their hearts. So, what is this student supposed to do when she realizes that growing up is not what she dreamed it would be? Where is she supposed to find that "God sized plan" for her life?

This is a dilemma that a generation of people are facing (and I believe will continue to face) as we continue to live in a world that is increasingly on the lookout for the next big thing /moment/experience/idea.

The reality is that life is pretty ordinary. Life is made up of more ordinary moments than extraordinary moments. Life is made up of moments that include taking out the trash, wiping bottoms, paying bills, washing dishes, writing the letter, making the visit, mowing the lawn, and buying a loaf of bread.

These things don't receive recognition from others. They stay far away from the spotlight. They don't contribute any help with closing the sale. They require no special training. And they don't necessarily create a tingle of your spine.

But what if these ordinary, everyday things are some of the most important things that any person will ever do? As we experience them stacked on top of one another, what if we can see the joy found in the ordinary?

Ecclesiastes 9:5-9 says,
"For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate, and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy your life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun - all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all of your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom."

The joy of the journey is not found in the extraordinary. It never has been and never will be. The reason for this is because once you experience an extraordinary moment you'll always be on the lookout for the next one and it is a cycle that will never end. Those special moments are not the place where we live. We live with dishes and laundry, homework and bills to pay. And it is those moments, if we can find the joy of the Lord, that we will never be left having to search for something to fulfill us. Instead we can just do whatever it is that our hands find to do and be on the lookout for the smallest of things that provide a joy that can sustain us for a lifetime. That sounds more like the "something special" that God has planned for our lives.

What ordinary thing is it that brings you joy?
Have you seen God in the ordinary?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

God's Story

I have had several Bibles in my lifetime.
One of these Bibles I got when I was in late elementary school. It has a turquoise leather cover and the binding is falling apart. I took it on a mission trip one summer and a girl's shampoo spilled all over it in the bus. It still has a blueish tint on the outside edge of the pages and you can smell a hint of head and shoulders if you sniff it. On one of the first pages, in a girl's handwriting (maybe the one who spilled her shampoo) someone wrote, "Hi Dougie!" Classic high school youth group flirt move: write IN someone's Bible.
This Bible means a lot to me and learned a lot as I read from it's pages.

When I turned 18 I got another Bible for graduation. This Bible was the one I use until last year. I grieved having to transition to a new Bible but it was just not in working condition anymore. Matthew 6,7, and 8 are completely missing from it, the front cover has fallen off, and multiple pages had been taped together because they were torn.
It had already been rebound once and I didn't think it could handle it again. This is easily THE book that has changed my life more than any other book I've ever owned.
Last night I had both of these Bibles with me to share their stories with our church.

Last night we began a 31 week journey through scripture that the kind folks at Zondervan, with the help of Randy Frazee have put together call The Story. Maybe you've heard about it. I'm particularly excited about it because it is going to lead our church through a reading of the Bible together in 2012.

So, as I grab the second Bible I described above last night, I was OVERCOME with emotion. Unexpected tears coming down my face, shortness of breath, kind of emotion.
It was one of the oddest things that has ever happened to me.

As I think about it now I am not as surprised by the emotion. Maybe it is a Bible for you but we all have things that connect us to larger experiences. This Bible serves that role in my life. When I picked it up and began to tell it's story I was overwhelmed by the ways that Scripture contained in those pages have changed my life. Forever.

I'm wondering:
What is the earliest memory you have of your own personal Bible? What do you remember about the pages you read in that Bible?

What are other "things" that connect you to the larger experiences of your life?

Or - How has seeing the Bible as a seamless story helped you understand it more fully?