Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: May 2013 (page 1 of 5)

The work of Growing

One day, early in the first pregnancy of my cousin Rebecca, her husband came home to find her relaxing on the couch; based on context and her ability to tell a good story, I infer that several household chores went undone and her appearance at the workplace was minimal. Adam questioned her productivity level in some sense and Rebecca responded with, “I grew a lung today. What did YOU do?”

Let’s be honest. There’s no good response to that one.  
We’re on the cusp of meeting 9 months worth of tiresome endeavor. Sleepless nights, sore backs, cranky hip joints, careening emotions… this baby hasn’t drawn its first breath, yet the work of formation extends beyond anything it will experience the rest of its life. I’m simply in awe of the growth process. 
The Beginning has its challenges. First comes the decision that change is worth it. You disrupt the normal. You want something, but must come to the conclusion that you will do the things that will bring about the Change. For some, deciding to grow is the biggest hurdle. And the Beginning carries mere pipe dreams about the Change. Babies, like other changes, are idyllic. Not that people forget to be realistic about the crying and the feeding and the lack of sleep; but the reality of a new little person can hardly be imagined with one’s own mind – no matter how many times you’ve added one to the family. You know life will change but remain clueless, exactly, on how. 
For most, the Beginning brings sickness and misery. The dying-off process can’t be understated: you’re giving yourself to something new, something invading your normal. And to top it off, you do it in secret. We’re not quite ready for others to know how we want life to Change. Even though we’re heading in the right direction in our own minds, it can be hard to vocalize to others. We fear it won’t be validated, that people might question our motives or our decisions. Or worse – tell us how to do it better, stealing the joy of meeting even the small milestones. 
Then comes the Middle. Both Lauren Winner and Donald Miller have spoken into my life recently about the Middle. In some ways, the eternal Middle looms as the most defeating part of the process. The excitement of the new and the anticipation of the coming wears off. You might take off like a bat out of hell but the Middle greets you with reality: it’s a day in, day out process. Arrival not only lacks imminence but seems so far in the future that you begin to wonder if it’s worth it. You feel like you’ve been at it forever but still have an eternity to go. There’s no turning back but yet you can’t hurry the process along. 
Suddenly, you’re at the Homestretch. Each day you wonder if “this could be it.” You survive some days and celebrate others. You catch glimpses into what lies on the other side. The midwife presses your fingers into the crown and you see exactly how far it needs to progress. You feel the movement, the pressure as Change hangs in the balance. Most days you waiver between yearning for the pangs to initiate this finale of a process and fearing the pain and work involved. Day by day, for so long, you’ve put one foot in front of another to see progress but before it’s said and done comes an event that solidifies the Change. 
We mark a day when the unseen is revealed. First breath, first sight, a new reality. This is what has been jumping on my spleen. Those elbows made sleep impossible. Of course, this creature is exactly the same on the inside as it is out in the exposed world, but somehow the Event changes it from theory to reality.  We finally see a face to remind us how it’s worth it. 
In many ways, birth takes 9 months of efforts dealing with the unseen and brings about Change that we live with for the rest of our life. Infancy, childhood, adolescence and even adulthood will bring its own set of challenges and hurdles. Our Change continues to evolve. The work is never finished; we’ll always have new developments, areas where we continue to explore and develop and blossom. 
But the growing that happens in the visible world is unmatched to what takes place beneath the belly. 
Life is full of decisions for Change. The people we love, live with, work for and walk beside likely are pregnant with something: growing character, yearning for a Change in their life that will bring greater love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness or self-control. They look ahead to a day, an Event that will usher in the presence of this longed-after Change. Though their belly doesn’t expand, they feel the inner pains and challenges of growing something in their inner being. 
Perhaps they’re in that private first trimester. They’ve made a decision but live in quiet misery as it takes root. Or that never-ending second trimester when days seem like eons and the grandest gestures seem to barely make a dent in our progress. Maybe they’re lucky enough to be toward the end, when people begin to have more patience, carrying your bags and opening doors because the delicate stage has become so visible it can’t be ignored. (It’s during this time when they’ll hear the most insensitive comments from the most well-meaning people.)
Whatever the case, remember that most people are growing something. Most of us are moving toward Change. Give them the right to a bit of morning sickness. Remember that rolling over in bed might over-exert them, so they’re tired. Anticipate with them the big Event in which they’ll finally see Change face-to-face. And celebrate it. 
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A question of minor detail and eternal significance

Our small group recently started a new book which walks through the Bible to re-examine the Story, looking at the parts and stories we’ve heard many times over and linking them together to help us see the bigger Story. So far I’ve enjoyed it, but probably not for its intended reasons. 

Within the writing I hear echos of theology I’ve heard and spoken over and over; now, those statements cause me to pause for question rather than nodding my head in agreement. It’s not that I believe them less, but rather I wonder how we could see them differently. We only know what we know through the lens of our personal experiences, the way its been explained to us, what is common to us. I’m doing a lot of wondering through peeling back those layers of “what we know.” 
For example, the throne. 
Key to the story of Esther, which I breathed for nearly 2 months, was her moment of glory to approach the king and ask a favor. Quite clearly the story hinged on the fact that she couldn’t simply saunter in to the King’s throne and demand an audience – to do so would mean death unless he extended the royal scepter  (Imagine me saying that in a very game-show like voice. The rooooyallll sceeeepter!). Ultimately Esther had won Xerxes’ favor over time so he gave her that pass and she was safe. 
Today I read that with the Fall and eating illicit fruit our eyes were opened to evil; we were dismissed from paradise as God created it and “we cannot approach God without facing judgement.” It’s a biblical statement; we hear in Hebrews how such a situation becomes rectified through Christ and we “boldly approach the throne.” It’s standard theology even in our hymnology because I can, without being able to name the song, give the lyrics boldly I approach the eternal throne and claim the crown through Christ my own. (Two points to whomever can name that hymn. It escapes me and I simply don’t feel like googling it right now.)
The rebel in me wonders: do we believe this to be true because the understanding of men back when scripture was written came through their understanding of how Kings interacted with commoners? Do we use throne-approaching language because that’s what the Bible gives us, but the Bible gives that to us because it’s what was common? I’m not trying to negate the truth of the concept, I simply ask because I want to know how we reframe that for our current context. We now live in a society that has no understanding of loosing our life in order to approach our national leaders. We might show respect out to the office and refrain from eating onions the day we visit the President, but fear our lives? Not our first thought or concern. Jack Bauer will bust through the door to the Oval Office and we don’t hold our breath because we think the President will order him executed for lack of invitation. 
The original writers and hearers of scripture knew Kings and authority to have this power to execute based on lack of invitation. One of the ways that Paul described the work of Christ included giving us the power to approach God through the life and blood of Jesus. No longer need we fear God cursing us to death if we come to him – Jesus is the Royal Scepter. 
Nice use of props, Paul. Kudos. 
But what does this mean for a culture who does not understand the fear of death from authority? We don’t even need a Royal Scepter, so why would Jesus be effective? 
I’m not questioning the theology. If this is the understanding of God and Jesus we’ve been given, we start there. But one reason I’ve always appreciated Rob Bell and some of the more contemporary envelope-pushers comes in how they reframe understanding – I believe it to be the call of the prophet and the preacher. There are times when our Biblical language falls short or is simply too disguised. How do we translate that? How do we shed light on its meaning? How do we retell the story without having to convince a generation that we need a Royal Scepter? Is there a better way of describing and illustrating Jesus’ life, death and resurrection while holding true to the meaning? 
I also wonder if we’ve oversimplified through theology work and language; we made Jesus’ death the Hall Pass to God / Royal Scepter. But what if it’s not only his death? What if it was also his life? What if the significance comes from the ways in which Jesus was able to to say, “You believe God to be like this, but actually, He is like that.” What if it’s not just the fact that Jesus died that we have a Royal Scepter – what if Jesus’ entire life reframed God so that people began to understand that God wasn’t like a Pagan King killing off those who needed Him most? When I think about the common quotes of Jesus, a top candidate is “The kingdom of God is like…”. It makes me think, perhaps, that people didn’t quite understand that God is not like the kingdoms in which they found themselves presently living. 
If this could possibly be true, then… well, we no longer need to focus our efforts on convincing people that they need a Royal Scepter. We need to focus our efforts at understanding the nature of God. 
Much like Jesus, we do that in the way we live our lives. God isn’t like this, He’s like that
If I’m on to something, this means a lot more work for the average Bible-reader and Jesus-follower. No longer can we simply quote scripture and hope people understand why this means something to them. It also means not using means of marketing to convince them of their felt need. It means asking the hard question of how we view the world and what God is really like. 
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Good news, bad news

Here’s a little game I like to call “good news, bad news.”

Good news: I’m getting a half priced Sonic shake tonight. Bad news: It’s justified because it was nearly 900 degrees and I’m 9 months pregnant. 
Good news: My husband watched Forks Over Knives and bought in completely. Bad news: Reducing meat intake is significantly challenging me in the menu-planning arena (though the kids chowed down on tonight’s completely meatless table). 
Good news: Those home remedies for carpet cleaning (1 c. hydrogen peroxide + 1 tbsp. baking soda) works great! Bad news: It was cleaning up Lady C’s poop. 
Good news: It’s nearly bedtime! Bad news: they don’t put themselves to bed yet. 
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