Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: January 2015 (page 1 of 5)

Blinded by the light

While my evening Pandora listening fluctuates between Mumford & Sons or Nora Jones stations, my morning routine is dominated by the David Crowder Band worship station. This morning I took note of how many of the songs revolved around God’s presence during hard times – storms, raging seas and general calamity. Much of the language (though, thankfully, not all) includes an element of God lifting us out of the pit, our places of desperation.

Looking at it with a historical-critical approach, a good amount of worship music amassed just after our country went through its collective dark time of 9/11 and now we’ve been introduced to living in an era of uncertainty. I recall (a personal favorite) Blessed Be the Name rising in popularity after the towers fell, as a response to tragedy. Later, I sang David Crowder’s Never Let Go on repeat while I miscarried our first baby. I would “sing until it’s true” and music became a rope to pull me from the depths of grief.

It’s a beautiful thing to find God’s presence in the darkness. We need to see the light breaking through.

The other morning, we headed east toward the school and drove directly into the sun’s blinding morning rays. I tried sunglasses, a visor and even my hands to block the glare and see the stoplights. The light was so bright – as one of my kids says, “there’s too much day!” – I couldn’t see right in front of me.

As a culture, we’re good at finding God in the darkness. But could we be blinded by the light?

Is it possible to have so much light, so many good things, that we can barely sense God’s presence? Instead we settle for the neon and chrome the world artificially produces.

When you ask people of faith why they believe, they often site the ways in which God got them through the hard times, which is good and right. Such experiences are unshakable. Finding God in the darkness is not the easy way out. Perhaps, just as believing is often finding God in the darkness, a life of  faithfulness means finding God in the light.

Just before God took his people into the Promised Land, he told them (Deuteronomy 6) through Moses: When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Emphasis mine)

Though far from perfect, I’m living a pretty blessed life right now. We have strong families behind us, friends among us, a family of faith around us. We can pay our bills and feed our family with enough to spare to send them to a wonderful preschool and go on vacation. We’re healthy, happy and free. If my faith was only big enough for God to move into the darkness, then it would be a pretty small place for Him right now. The challenge, then, is to keep moving toward the true light.

Visit me elsewhere:

Reserved

A year ago I got off the plane in Austin, where it was only 2 degrees warmer than Ohio, for the first ever IF:Conference. This thing was an enigma, but I knew I wanted to be there – my favorite writers would be speaking and they were trying for a whole new thing when it comes to Christian women’s conferences. I hungered for a sense of authenticity, a newness within my familiar Christian world.

 

Alas, she will not be at IF this year, she's too busy having another baby. Seriously, who has 4 kids?!

Alas, she will not be at IF this year, she’s too busy having another baby. Four babies. Who does that?!

At the first session Lori and I sat so close to the reserved tables we could have swiped their cell phones and programmed in our own numbers. We refrained. As Jen Hatmaker arrived in the 11th hour, she asked the general population of Reserved Table Sitters where she could find a seat. I said, loud enough to be heard, there was a seat open right beside me. She didn’t rush over.

I rummaged up the nerve to walk over and introduce myself to my favorite blogger, Sarah Bessey. I’m awful at small talk and generally awkward around new people, specifically those who have no clue who I am, yet whose work profoundly shapes me. I can find specific places where her words have etched a new pattern or direction, a new hope, into my life. What is the appropriate way to introduce yourself to such a person? What do you say and how do you not gush?

After my idol-stalking, I made my way back to my seat among the commoners, aware I had made my role for the weekend a taker – a receiver. An audience member. I felt small. Even in a more intimate venue with hospitable atmosphere, I carried a sense of division between those who were doing God’s work and those there to learn how.

This invisible division was not the work of the speakers or event organizers. It was the work of a liar, one who wanted me to take the easy way out – comparing and belittling myself and others.

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In black, on the right, Hatmaker, et. al.

As the worship music began playing, I watched. These women who had such genius thoughts and words, who led organizations and spoke to crowds of thousands, sang with me the same words to the same tune.

I loved IF. I came back inspired, ready to live out my next chapter. I read Jennie Allen’s Restless in its entirety on the plane ride home. I grew in my sense of clarity and confidence. I vowed to stop apologizing for myself. (Thank you Brene for reiterating that promise this year). Overall the conference propelled me into a generally positive direction, getting me off my ass and into work for kingdom things. I dug into ideas for reaching the women of my own church with this fresh breath. My hopes were high – we could grow BIG and be REAL and go DEEP in our faith.

This is what I wanted.

Except, not really. What I really wanted was to do something well. I wanted on the map. I wanted to find a way to that reserved table. I went looking for a way to validate my life and my ministry. I took off in search of a victory story to bring back, believing it was a step toward a someday when I could be a part of that, over there, with those people.

And I failed. And then I quit.

I failed mostly because the thing I offered our church women was not what they are seeking. I worked in marketing mode, starting with my product then creating a felt need and offering the solution to that need. I believed if we just made it BIGGER and BETTER and all of those cool-kid things, we would see success. I was foolish. A successful ministry is one in which people leave closer to God – period. That, over there, with those people, is not this, right here, with these people.

Over and over in our world, I’m convinced bigger does not mean better. It means centralized, it means cheaper and often it means under control. But it doesn’t mean better.

And so it goes in the Christian Celebrity world. I have continued to voraciously read the work of well-known leaders and grow from their wisdom.  I have also become alert to the dangers of celebritizing them. There’s a concern in believing an elite group keeps all the answers. (It’s especially dangerous if you put people like me in that group because we like to think we have all the answers.)

Not a single woman on the panel of speakers comes from a rural context, where talented and faithful people grow disciples, largely unnoticed. If the pastor of my childhood church could get the town’s entire population into church on a given Sunday, s/he still would not have more than the local megachurch here in Dayton on a slow day. Numbers don’t tell the whole story.

This year as IF approaches, I’m taking a different approach. I value the words and wisdom of conferences – I’m a complete geek. I’d learn from all of the conferences, all the time, if I could. I’m not going to miss the inspiration of some of the top voices of my generation.

Instead of longingly watching The Reserved and feeling as if I should aspire for more,  I’m reserving seats for some of the most amazing women I know from Ohio. (And Troy, MI.) When I take a good look at the women I know, let me say, I know some fabulous people. Loving, beautiful, talented and faithful. The way in which we live out our faith is quite diverse (though we as a group are not diverse. I regret we’re quite monochromatic. I would like to see that change).

if lakeIF I believe (which is the theme for 2015) that bigger is not always better, than I’m determined to live it. I have 12 beautiful souls joining me for IF:Lake – most of these women I know. Others, they are awesome by association because my friends have good taste. It’s not a closed group, I simply started with those I know and threw open the doors.

My heart is so full as I dive into these final 2 weeks of preparations. Of course, I’m hoping that the women making the trek will hear something to inspire their life with God. Yet I’m most excited to hear from them. They may not have a stage, but I can learn a thing or two about living as IF God is real from these ladies.

Visit me elsewhere:

Beauty is in the eye of the Maker

Admittedly, I’ve never been much of a fashionista. Until I was 22 years old, I chose my daily outfit based upon its ability look okay with my running shoes. Even then, my wardrobe only stretched as far as flats and black GAP t-shirts. I’ve worn the same lipstick since 2003. My hair goes into a ponytail 98% of my days. If I ever do something with my nails, it’s trim them, although I try to keep my toes polished during the summer because I’ve been blessed with horridly ugly, long & gangly toes. A little OPI Maui Mango (from 1998) goes a long way at shining those up.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my young girl of 4 practically oozes glitter. She chooses her outfits, largely dresses and skirts, by the brightness of color and amount of pattern she can cram into those little 5T’s. She loves to talk about “make up” and the Lip Smackers her blessed Aunt Gigi gave her are always nearby.  She relentlessly brushes her hair, even when we tell her we love her strawberry curls.

This. Girl.

I don’t even know what to do with that. When it comes to the classic nature vs. nurture debate, this girl gets it all nature, I’m telling you. We watch very little TV and her overall exposure to fashion and beauty is minimal – we don’t have Glamour lying around and she (clearly) doesn’t watch me put on endless coats of mascara each day.

In the community of belief where I came of age, beauty was something largely shunned. Of course, all the boys wanted a beautiful wife – but the girls weren’t supposed to try to be that. We were supposed to let our inner beauty show and hope that the menfolk could see it shining through our one-piece swimsuits and crew neck t-shirts.

Vanity was warned against. Beauty is skin deep. It’s on the inside. While I appreciate these warnings and truths, I think the fear of beauty is a tad shallow itself.

We’re encouraged to appreciate the glow of a sunset or the reflection of the ocean. We applaud the work God does among the flowers and trees, and yet we want to limit His human canvas to the innermost and unseen. Eyes that sparkle and smiles that knock you over – those somehow seem to lack his fingerprints in our practical theology. But it’s simply not true.

God makes beautiful things. He makes beautiful people.

Having celebrated the incarnation less than a month ago, it’s apparent that our presence in this world – the way in which we occupy space on the earth – matters to God. He came here in flesh and blood and experienced this physical place. So, too, does our physical being have meaning and value. We care for it and we celebrate it because God made it. 

The first letter to the Corinthians says that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit… a church in which God Himself lives. Previous generations of believers spent lifetimes erecting cathedrals of elegance in an effort to honor God and make a home befitting of a deity. Imagine if we cared for our own little temples with such intention. If I knew God were to walk into my home this afternoon, I’d probably spend a few hours picking up, maybe even vacuuming the floor. If God is going to reside in my physical self, the least I can do is take out the trash and hide the shoes in the closet.

I have no desire to see my little lady obsess about her looks. We make sure our messages of beauty include an understanding that our outward appearance complements our inward character. My friend B said it best: the most beautiful thing about you is your heart. We love her and value her first for who she is, but ignoring what she looks like – her physical being in this world – doesn’t help her gain a full confidence in herself. If God made her beautiful (as I believe He did all his creatures) and she wants to be beautiful, then I want her to live out this sense of identity.God doesn’t love her because she’s beautiful; she is beautiful because God creates beauty and God created her.

Now, then, I begin this daunting task of teaching stewardship of her physical self. How do we love and care for our bodily self without worshiping it? How do we decorate and celebrate what God has made without becoming consumed with things that add sparkle? And the added challenge of doing this with a girl who was born with an gravitational pull toward things in the beauty aisle. Yet I won’t belittle her love for sparkles, I want to find a way to let her shine in a way that reveals God’s hand in her life.

Visit me elsewhere:
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