If Peter Jackson can milk “The Hobbit” into three parts consider my pail almost full.
When I start writing I have a general idea of what I want to say, but until I actually get started and uncork my brain I don’t realize how much is bottled up inside me. Aren’t you thrilled for me to pop a cork on some more topics? I’m so very sure you are.
The message of God’s upside down kingdom is so life changing that I have a hard time not going on and on. It is the cornerstone of my theology and really the lens in which I see the meaning of this life and especially relationships. We have all been given charge of our own little kingdoms. My kingdom is called “Kelly” and in my kingdom things are extremely ordered, calm, quiet, everything has a place, everyone around me is like minded and witty, my world is esthetically pleasing, and I decide the order of my day.
I birthed three kingdom Kelly destructors. Their unbridled kingdoms continually bump into and threaten to destroy my kingdom almost on a minute to minute basis. I have to tell myself each day that they don’t wake up setting out to thwart my kingdom, even though it feels that way. Alas, they seem to be armed with tiny little needles that continually poke holes into my air tank and slowly deplete me of all defenses. I’m fairly convinced they actually put together a plan of attack every morning around 6:15am. Now if I were managing my kingdom as God would run my kingdom of “Kelly” then I would counter these attacks and assaults with a mature, gracious, calm, loving and positive response. That is the goal each day…respond as Jesus would. Sometimes I am in the spirit, but truth be told 9 out of 10 times I seem to respond like a numb nut. 100% reactive. So I fail and try and fail and try and slowly I gain ground. I am not without hope. I’ve seen progress in me, be it ever so slowly.
Every day we encounter countless other kingdoms. The person driving 10 below the speed limit, the coffee barista that gets our order wrong. Let’s be honest. NOBODY gets my coffee wrong in my kingdom. The slow check out clerk. In my kingdom I get the shortest line, the most cash register savvy associate and heck, I even get an unexpected discount on something. But as we all know the reality is you tend to get the person in front of you that needs a price check or the “trainee” cashier that is beyond flustered or my favorite, the super chatty cashier that’s in NO hurry and hell bent on being your new BFF. Our patience and grace begins to get tiny little air holes. Tssssssssssssssssss……..the air hisses forth. Sure, we put on a nice fake smile the first time the cashier nervously glances at us or we humor the chatty cashiers first couple of personal questions… I mean, we are a Christians, and isn’t that what we do? Bless us! No, bless you! (wink and a nod)
Eventually, we shuffle our weight back and forth, maybe add a subtle sigh or make a show of looking at our watch. Passive aggressive is a much more noble road to take. We subconsciously set a magical time limit on our outer patience. Our kingdom can only take so many assaults, only so much air can be lost before we retaliate. I mean didn’t you know I only planned seven minutes for this quick milk and bread run? Don’t you know that I don’t care that you bought these same razors with a coupon last week when they were on sale? Don’t you know that you are taking precious time from my kingdom agenda? Don’t you know??? How we grossly misread people. How little grace and time we are willing to invest in others when we’ve set a different agenda.
True confession. I try to get up five times a week at 6:00 am to have a quiet time. (blows hot puff of air on the back of finger nails and rubs on shirt) Now, don’t be too impressed, it only took me 35 years before I committed to a regular quiet time. Remember my three little kingdom wreckers? We will protect their identities and call them “Shmoe, Kennett, and Zhett” so nobody will know who I am referring to. Well ever since we moved “Zhett” into a big boy bed and out of the crib he has turned our mornings upside down. He’s popped my little morning bubble and gotten the other two in on his scheme. He looks so irresistibly sweet right? Don’t let those giant eyeballs fool you. He’s a professional kingdom wrecker.
Imagine me curled up in my favorite chair, white fuzzy blanket draped over my lap, sipping amazingly strong coffee in my favorite mug, the “Word” open. I’m in the zone. Above me I hear all the signs of “awakeness”. The noise machine goes off, little feet start milling around and sooner, rather than later, the first argument of the morning begins. God help us for the emotional, don’t back down boys we’ve been given. They love hard and fight hard and nary in the middle.
I calmly but firmly shout up the first warning from my chair. “Guys, find something to play with and don’t fight.” (we have a rule that no kids can come downstairs before 7:00am, we are tyrants, we know) Some mornings we might get another 10-15 mins before the next fight. Mostly, they seem to wake up with both fists in the air having their own kingdom clashes. In “Kennett’s” kingdom he should be able to wake up and play Legos in bed for awhile without a pesky little brother ruining EVERYTHING!!! Yeah Kennett, do me a solid and maybe your brother will do one for you!
Next thing I know I have read the same verse 10 times because Im getting drawn into their arguments. My blood pressure is pulsing through my temples at a rapid rate and now I am full fledged screaming from my “spiritual chair” all sorts of crazy threats and punishments while trying to separate fights from a floor away. The sleeves roll up, I slap the Bible down and stomp louder than I need to go upstairs and start regulating.
“MOMMY IS TRYING TO SPEND TIME WITH JESUS!!!!!!!”
I’m probably scarring them for life. They can tell their therapist some day how every time their mommy read her Bible she got angry. Oh man, sad but true. So, a little glance into our “perfect” family. A kingdom reaction fail on my part. I know this is a phase with the kids getting up so early and I’m sure in a blinks time we will be dragging them out of bed and yelling at them for sleeping too late but for now….we are struggling people and they have us bested most of the time. I will say, the other morning alternative is them all lined up on the staircase with their faces poking through the rungs staring at us all horror movie creepy like. It’s alarming to be silently stared at while you read the Bible.
Where am I going with this? Good question. This is the “wrap up” post, right? I am going to put this topic to rest today. I talked about Spiritual disciplines and how those brought me and continue to bring me into a much deeper and richer relationship with Jesus. They also laid the foundation for me to understand Christ’s greatest message of the kingdom and how it is here and NOW and we choose to live it out or not. We can stagnate each day depending on if we decide to hold the reigns of our life, or hand them to Jesus. Through His transforming power we are able to continue to move forward and mature in the kingdom, love others more than ourselves and take ordinary opportunities and turn them into extraordinary moments. Life in the kingdom is so good, but beware….it will change you. I talked about missions, and in particular Mexico and Cuirim House. It is such a perfect picture of how simple it is to live like Christ. To love the unlovely, the marginalized, the invisible of the world. At first all you’re thinking is “Look what I will do for you” but what you don’t see, because it’s so sneaky, is that YOU are the one that gets changed and blessed. You are the one transforming through this process of loving others more.
The men and the women I was blessed to rub shoulders with over my week in Mexico left me awestruck. I know people get all enamored with celebrities and athletes. They study them and look up to them and for the life of me I don’t know why. They aren’t “heroes” like I would define a hero worth emulating. Let me show you some giants of the faith.
They serve and serve and serve and serve some more, for the joy set before them. I was so blessed to spend a few days of my life ministering along side of them.
This is the kids cafe.
Finally this is Carlos. I want to write a whole post on him, his story. He deserves a book about his life. He has overcome alcoholism, their family was homeless, and about 18 months ago they buried their only son, David, who died of cancer at age seven. This family has known the bondage of addiction, the fear of homelessness and unemployment, the joy of coming to Christ and the devastating loss of a child. They so fiercely cling to Christ regardless of circumstances. They claim God’s goodness and are dedicated to serving the unlovely of the world. They do this with JOY in their hearts. Their three daughters are passionate followers of Jesus. Carlos is HILARIOUS!! Seriously, if you are funny, you have my heart. Cuirim wouldn’t be the same without Carlos and his family.
On our final night at Cuirim a “restaurant” was set up in the upper chapel to serve Brian and Kirsten, Oscar and Ana, and Celiaa and Carlos. A formal dinner. Afterwards our team prayed over them individually. Finally, Carlos brought the thunder with his prayer. It was powerful and extremely emotional. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but there is no mistaking passion, conviction and urgency. The wives of these men were weeping. This is one of those moments in my life I will never be able to recreate and I do not know why the Lord allowed me the privilege. It is a frozen moment of awe to be singing “Be Thou My vision” in a Celtic Monastic chapel in the center of a slum, while laying hands on the matriarchs and patriarchs of the gospel of Nogales. My hand is on the shoulder of a hero.
I just attended the “IF GATHERING“. It was so incredible and encouraging. There were approximately 12 speakers. One of my favorites was Jen Hatmaker. She spoke about the transforming power of “mercy” when you open your life up to extending mercy. She also ended with this simple but perfect illustration. We’ve all been given an instrument to play in this life. Mine is different from yours, yours from mine. It’s made up of our gifts, talents, passions, burdens, life story, spheres of influence, unique family compositions and calling God has put on us. You DO have a calling and a ministry whether you have a “title” attached to it or not. Nobody is exempt from service in God’s kingdom. She called these our “instruments”. If you play your note and I play mine, and she plays hers, and he plays his, and on and on we play our notes…we will make up the song of the kingdom. We will be the ones changing the world together in our Judea’s, Samaria’s and beyond…. BUT YOU HAVE TO PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT. Too many of us live in fear, bondage, uncertainty. We clutch our instruments with an iron clad grip, we don’t eve attempt to even puff a feeble breath of air into it. We live life seemingly “safe” and controlled, yet sadder in complete selfishness. I’m learning to blow harder into my instrument, to make my note storm the gates of heaven for the lives of those around me. Will you play with me? Will you play your note next to mine? Will you manage your kingdom like Jesus would and love others more? Are you willing to live differently?