Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: Jesus (page 1 of 4)

Ordinary Magic

When I was growing up, our friend Erica had one of those big backyard trampolines. Because her parents and my parents were beyond  BFF, we spent many hours trying to conquer the butt-knees-back-up and playing add-a-trick.  It was magical.

It wasn’t until late elementary that my dad decided to get us a trampoline for our own backyard. We loved it. This set of springs got plenty of wear. Then we reached a point when the only time we played Popcorn was when our friends were over. We didn’t dislike it nor were we bored with it; the trampoline simply lost its magic. It became ordinary.

Watching my own children jump with glee the other day, I reflected on how frequently this happens. We allow the magic to dust off when we make it commonplace, which I believe to be the real reason God tells us to “be holy.”

Much of the first testament gives instruction about how to keep certain things separate: men from women, wheat from beans, cotton from polyester.* Often we read this with a cultural lens that one of those things is less than the other. Not good enough. Even, dangerous. We approach the idea of holiness as if the ordinary makes the holy dirty; hence “unclean” (literally, “polluted” in the Hebrew).

I see this change through the words of Jesus. He tells people, often through parable, to let the weeds grow among the wheat. He says God will sort the sheep and goats. This makes sense, coming from a ridiculously terrible farmer who believes good things can grow in hard places.

The common, the seemingly less-than, can do nothing to change the nature of the holy. Like a life-long islander, we get used to the scenery and forget its magic. The mountains aren’t less majestic or the waves less soothing. We’ve simply made the holy, ordinary.

The good news: we can reverse this. Actually, when you read many of God’s commands and you find this great reversal at work.

Three meals a day, every day, often made from the same thing? The people could complain of another bowl of lentils but God says to bless them. Give thanks for the rain and the sunshine, miracles outside of your own control, required to make them grow. Did you know that the most devout Jews pray a toilet prayer (my term, not theirs), thanking God that all systems work like they’re supposed to? If ever there was a place to mix the ordinary and the divine, the bathroom is a good starting point.

My cousin works in the bridal industry. Every day, she sees young women on the cusp of what they imagine to be the most amazing day of their lives. Each and every one of them are special and unique; yet she can see 5 of them in a day. The 300 dresses hang on the rack as inventory. They’re numbered.

But when a bride walks out of the dressing room, sometimes with happy tears, it’s no longer a pile of satin or lace – it’s the dress. At least, to this bride, it is. Laura’s job is no longer to take measurements and find a matching veil; it’s to honor the magic amid one of her most ordinary days.

And this is the work for most of us. Teachers may tie shoes or plan lessons on long division or recount the events of the first world war. Ordinary, everyday stuff. Or, they’re inspiring children to ask questions, to follow their curiosity and find solutions to problems. Inspiration. Literally: to breathe into. (You know who did that first, don’t you? That first, holy work of making things come to life? Oh, yes, I just compared teachers to Genesis 1.)

A dentist or a doctor might feel as if they’re diagnosing or prescribing, but to the person who finally feels relief, they’re doing the holy work of healing.

We tend to make the magical into the monotonous. It’s just another day, another school year, another student/customer/patient/client. But we can seek the divine spark in the most ordinary of all things. By the nature of creation, God’s fingerprints cling to every day, person and place. The work of holiness is to see it and honor it as such.

 

 

*I’m being funny. I know the cotton/poly blend was not an ancient stumbling block. But something was, because Deuteronomy 22:11 exists.

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God, the Terrible Farmer

I grew up in Farm Country with a Farm Family. I was potty trained behind tractor tires and spent Easter Sundays with shredded chicken sandwiches in the back of a pickup truck. I climbed in empty orange wagons for fun. Our family retired the Internationals when I was 16, but I have some familiarity around farmground.

Which gives me the authority to tell you: Jesus was a terrible farmer.

In two editions of his life story, we hear him tell about this farmer, representative of God, who sowed seed. Some fell on the road (and the evil snatched it up, we hear later), some in the thorny patch (choked by the cares of the world), some in the rocks (which withered when the sun came out) and then some in the “good soil” which reaped a healthy crop.

Anyone with a Life Application Bible immediately jumps to “how to become good soil” so the Word of God takes root and is fruitful. Well done.

Except.

If my dad’s good friends, all farmers, were to follow around this God Farmer, they would do so with satchels over their shoulders and dustpans in their hands to pick up all the seed God is wasting. I can hear the expletives escaping from Don’s mouth already, how only an idiot tosses perfectly good seed every which way.

God would make a terrible farmer. He doesn’t even know where to plant the seed. It goes in the field, God. Where it has a chance to grow

Jesus offers us this parable for reasons that extend beyond an encouragement to “be better soil.” This is paradigm-shifting stuff. He’s moving us from commands – not to plant more than one kind of crop in the same field – to tossing around the seed all willy-nilly.

I see your eyes shifting slightly to the left, the way that they do when you wonder where I’m going with such an idea.

Because everyone was quite confused (Wingfield Farms wasn’t the first to figure out seed grows best in fertile soil), Jesus tells those closest to him “the seed is the Word of God.”

Fast forward to all the other little tales Jesus tells. Something about a treasure chest  in the middle of a field and a pearl at a flea market… that’s funny. God’s treasures seem to be sown about in the most unlikely and unexpected of places. Nay, dare I say it, in the most unlikely and unexpected of people. Maybe the most unexpected experiences, moments and relationships.

In this life we have a few options. We can believe that corn goes in corn fields and beans go in bean fields, forever and ever amen. And we’ll find what we expect. We also might get a tad upset when a random weed creeps in, disrupting our work of perfection.

I believe Jesus invites us to a life of discovering God everywhere. The places you would least expect. In the Bible it was in a bush, in the belly of a whale, under the clear blue sky, and under an unpredictable plant. In the hick-town of Nazareth.

If God shows up there, who is to say he won’t show up in the football locker room? During the spelling bee. At the board meeting. In the simple act of teaching a child to tie her shoes. In baking for a family who grieves. You could say “God is in the small things.” Or, perhaps more accurately, there are no small things. There are no insignificant things. There are no insignificant people, places or moments in life.

God sows his seed all over this creation. His gift is the process of discovering it.

I’ve mentioned Sarah Bessey before, and my passionate love affair with her book Out of Sorts. I feel like we’re kindred spirits when it comes to this issue; she writes that God is in the work of our every day, normal lives. Of course, God is in the church work, the groups and studies, as we might expect. Church can be a bean field, filled with beans. Good soil. But please, dear friend, don’t limit God to that. Don’t put up a fence row and go on believing you’ve done sorted out all the details. Please don’t believe you’ve found all of God under that little steeple.

Our God is much bigger than where things are supposed to go and supposed to happen. He’s throwing Himself into everything. Perhaps it doesn’t always take root. Perhaps evil will steal a bit away. But He keeps throwing his seed around. He throws it around like he will never run out.

I want to live my life like that. With that kind of generosity; that kind of hope. May we live like God has planted Himself anywhere.

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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.

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