A Blog by Jennifer Aulthouse


A heart for those who want more of God. A desperate plea for those who don't.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Discerning Wastefulness

Well, I’ve arrived at the oasis spoken of in my last posting. And so now here I am, sitting in solitude in my home in the afternoon on a Wednesday, enjoying the sound of nothing but fingers hitting the keyboard, watching my cat sleep in an incredibly awkward-looking position. What a haven this is for me, an introvert who – though she adores being with her friends and can speak in front of most anyone - is by far most comfortable tucked away amidst her books and furniture.

I’ve been waiting for this day to come.....now what will I do?

I feel a great desire to live only among possessions that have an intentional, fruitful purpose to their being here, and therefore to simplify by removing all the excess. But not only do I need to do that with our stuff, but also with the choices made in how I/we spend our time. I’ve been so convicted of my wastefulness – wastefulness in so many areas of life – and I’m tired of being entangled by things that have little to no purpose. So I’m determined that with these few hours of free time afforded to me, it is going to be spent on things that will produce an abundant harvest......exercise and quality rest some days, reading and writing some days, serving in worthwhile, spiritually-invested manners some days, and genuine relationship-building on others. At the end of each day, I need to be able to evaluate what I’ve done and see that there is only waste where there is a call for waste. After all, Jesus honored the woman who anointed Him with her expensive perfume that could’ve been used in so many practical, need-meeting ways......the point is, she was so intentional and pure in motive with her waste, it wasn’t considered waste at all in Jesus’ eyes. This isn’t about being stingy and rigid. It’s about being intentional and thoughtful, which may mean letting go of something valuable to me - or something I feel I bring great value to - and instead pouring it over Him in worship and watching the drops spill all over the place with no possible plan in place to retrieve them. Here, we're shown that waste isn't waste at all.

I think I would define to waste as not using something to its fullest known potential, and that gives me a framework in which to measure my stuff, my time, and my inclinations. It isn’t meant to bring any sense of perfectionistic pressure, but merely it serves as a call to realize that each moment was intentionally created to bear fruit for the gospel, and so then I can check my motives in any moment and ask myself if whatever I’m about to pursue will aid in producing the harvest the Lord is due......and is expecting.

I haven’t taken this seriously enough. I’ve let so many moments go by – so overwhelmingly too many to grasp – that I cringe in distress over how self-absorbed and/or oblivious I’ve been in my walk over the years, as one who should and does know better. But as quickly as I typically fall into self-defeating melancholy and then dogged in shame, I hear a gentle reminding that “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”, and that my calling is not to appoint myself as a junior-grade Holy Spirit and get to work on myself and all the ways I come up short, but simply to be with Jesus. He does the changing work.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Conflict

My feet broil as they struggle to press and form against the fiery inferno of sand. I clamor for each breath, though the dry air does not satisfy my exhausted frame as I desperately hope. The sun, eternally present and stubbornly consistent, bakes me until the point of near collapse. But then I see it! Off in the distance.......I see the sparkling reflection of sunlight, teasing that there is relief, sustenance, life-altering change ahead......I’m almost there! I can make it!

It’s school! Yay, oh yay, oh a thousand yays!!!!!

But seriously.....it isn’t that I want to be away from my kids. It isn’t that at all (okay, well, a little alone time each day is a very sacred thing to me, so it wouldn’t matter who you are or how wonderfully pleasant you’d behave, I’d still value that solitude). It’s just that they decided weeks ago they were sick of the sight of each other and they were not going to honor my request that we live in peace and treat each other as gifts to be enjoyed. Instead, most days they have chosen to create an atmosphere of turmoil and chaos, treating each other as human piƱatas. I’ve been running around like an under-caffeinated bouncer, trying to grab the sticks before someone is pounded. And that’s my job. We’ve had some very special moments this summer that are already banked in the treasured memory department of my heart, and I continually renew my daily commitment to do my part in creating environments where more of these special moments can thrive.

But only so much of it is up to me.

It’s sad to me to see how terribly my children really can treat each other, though I know it’s nothing to be surprised about. Just serves as a reminder in a greater sense of what we miss out on by insisting on focusing on (what we see as) the worst parts of each other and letting that ruin the atmosphere for ourselves and everyone else around us, instead of accepting that they’re part of the package. I’m glaringly guilty of this, and I’m troubled to think of God arranging so many environments in which we could be sharing in something truly edifying together but instead we can’t get past our gripes, petty or completely legitimate. Some personality types just don’t match up, I guess. Even Paul and Barnabas had a sharp dispute and needed time away from each other. I shouldn’t expect otherwise with my kids, as they are radically different people.

I hope my kids can be great friends and support systems for each other one day. However, there’s no way for me to force this to happen, and there’s no way for me to force it within my own relationships with people that I want something deeper and stronger with......or at least something different. So the answer, then, is to submit whatever bond is there to the glory of God’s plan and let Him use it and change it as He so chooses. I’m in the midst of that now with a few relationships – one in particular; while I’m sad that it doesn’t seem like it will ever be all that I envision it could be, I trust that whatever God wants of it will be better than anything I can conjure. Even if that means I don’t necessarily feel any personal enjoyment.

In the meantime, I will enjoy the few hours of solitude coming each day, and make the most of this time to grow closer to God in heart, mind, spirit, soul, and in deed, and in doing my part to create and sustain environments where the best of each person in my orbit is invited to come forth. And I guess that means I’ll also keep grabbing the sticks out my children’s hands.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Invading the Bubble

Here in my insulated world, I am generally in charge of planning my day and who I come in contact with and when, and so I can determine how I spend my time as I so choose. But it’s an element of control that I realize has become an idol, and therefore, it must be laid down.

Confessing the desire to lay such things down and requesting the help to do so are requests that God will always, always grant, because they are based on wanting obedience to His will more than wanting anything else. Releasing our imagined authority over dictating how God will provide the help and bring about the change we are desiring to see in ourselves – and in turn, conforming to His chosen way of doing so by being obedient – is probably the hardest part of crossing into the deeper, more challenging, yet abundantly richer Life that has been promised to us when we actually work to make Jesus our Lord. As opposed to just singing these words aloud in church on Sundays and then go about tending to the security of our bubbles in whatever manner we want to.

I can’t begin to tell you how much more I want of the tastes of spiritual abundance I’ve had when I’ve dared to wildly abandon my own plans in favor for those that I would never, ever of my own choosing dream up, let alone giddily participate in. But I’ll tell you, those tastes have been worth a gazillion times over the fear and discomfort I had to endure and continue to endure because of my obedience. In fact, compared to the absolutely horrifying circumstances people in basically every other place in the world have to exist in, what I’ve endured can barely even register a blip on the radar screen of difficult situations. Yet for me, in the infancy of my journey, they were very real and very hard, which speaks more of my spiritual immaturity than of whatever integrity-driven brazenness it may appear that I’m trying to convince you I had. Anyway, regardless of where we are physically located in this world or spiritually located on our walks, I can’t ever stop reminding myself that the abundant life is worth it when the temptation to back down, insulate, isolate, and remain bubbled screams at me.

So my bubble, now, is being invaded, and it’s being invaded in a way that is brimming with opportunities to be part of sharing the love and mercy of Christ.....but in a manner which is uncomfortable and unsettling to me. Nonetheless, I am asked to do so. Because I asked Him to help me do so. And I asked Him to put me in a position where I am stretched towards doing so, because I don’t want to be the one who doesn’t live what she speaks. I would bet that for many American Christians, our bubbles likely have transformed into idols, and sometimes that sharp, pointy, nuisance of a thing that is interfering with our desire to live out our plans in the ways we want to just might be God’s loving way of not letting us worship at that idol’s altar any longer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Being Filled

My tank is near empty, and as it continues to approach the Big E, suddenly an abundance of unforeseen things have appeared that ask for something more. Things I used to count on to act as a cushion I see now being shifted out of place so that I can’t look around and find them in their usual position, ready for me to fall on them, desperate for the rest I turn to them to provide. If I could have any superpower, right now I would wish for the ability to suspend time. I could sleep and sleep and sleep and recharge, without feeling like I’m letting anyone down by not coming through. Even the cat serves as a reminder that I’m not fulfilling my privileged duty as his grateful concierge when he doesn’t receive his daily massage! He’s laying on the floor in front of me, giving me a dirty look right now.

But the point of this is not to complain about feeling like a human colander, where all the energy and vivaciousness that is within me feels like it’s draining out and all I get to keep are the calories. Just that I need to keep my eyes open for the ravens and all the other myriad ways God is trying to get my attention with each day to let me see that there is rest in some form provided wherever I need it. Read 1 Kings 17-19 with your heart tuned in to how gentle and attentive God really is to Elijah. I’m not going to pretend my load is as his was, but it’s a load nonetheless. However, determining how heavy it feels to me is largely, if not wholly, my responsibility in the way I choose to distribute the weight. If I’m paying attention to scripture and choosing to live the way I declare to others that I already do, I would see that I’m invited to dump the heaviness of what I’m responsible for onto the outstretched arms of the Lord, taking the rest He invited me to, and start attending to the idea of being a raven for someone else, purely out of joy, because I am then rested in spirit, mind, and body. My ravens and the other agents of grace that He has so abundantly planted in my world come bearing nutrition and rest because they are His, they’ve been with Him, and they’ve taken what was offered to them and brought it where they’ve been told to go with it. I can’t be too proud or too busy or too distracted or too unaware to not notice this and take it for myself.

So this morning I was awakened a little before 4:00 - two hours before I wanted to get up - and I’ve got a full day ahead of me, with a lot of people who are going to want and need me for something that doesn’t feel like it’s of any importance unless I don’t do it, some who will want or need something that I know is important but the fatigue I’m dealing with will attempt to strip away my enjoyment in fulfilling this need, and a few people who will want nothing more than to share in something Awesome with me, because we’ve recognized what Awesomeness there is to share. They all are and must be valued because they are all valued by the Author of my story, who has left enough empty space between the words and in the margins for the story to come together.

Guard it, take it, and give it.