Lyla, GuGu, & Me

Lyla, our newly adopted 2 year-old, affectionately calls her 4 year-old brother Russell “GuGu,” which means “big brother” in Mandarin. She adores him, looks up to him, follows him around and takes her cues from her GuGu. Lyla has gone through a huge adjustment, leaving her home country for a new country with a family that speaks a new language and looks different from the faces she had grown accustomed to seeing. One of the ways she has coped with this change is to attach to Russell. Russell also has gone through a huge adjustment, from being the only kid in the house to immediately having a 2 year-old sister with whom he does not always want to share his toys, his time, or his parents. He is often tender and sweet towards Lyla, combing her hair and feeding her yogurt, but sometimes he reveals just how difficult this change has been for him. Today, Russell not-so-affectionately (but hilariously) said to Lyla, with great passion, “I am not being your sister anymore!” (yes, he said sister rather than brother 🙂 )
Transitions shape us. Sometimes transitions come to us abruptly or violently, and other times we choose them joyfully, but they usually bring challenges. We will either become bitter or better through them. We will either find a way to embrace the change, or we will find ourselves resisting it and possibly arguing about it at every turn. Through changing seasons of life, our hope is to become more like Christ Jesus, who, during his greatest transition, did not resist but “being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but rather made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and being found in human likeness, humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.” Jesus modeled extraordinary peacefulness and non-anxiety as he allowed transitions to shape him.
After seminary Tim and I moved to Iowa for Tim’s job. Initially, I was eager for that transition and chose it, but once we arrived, I did not embrace the changes easily. In my heart I fought the changes that came my way through that move, the small town, the church culture, and the new life. It was only through a combination of counseling+coaching+spiritual direction+time that I found my way through that season.
In hindsight, I wish I could have done some things differently; I regret my resistant attitude. Yet, as hard as that experience was, I wouldn’t remove it from my journey because in the end it shaped me in so many positive ways. I am grateful for the incredible guides I had along the way, who compassionately listened, provided space, challenged me, and guided me through the valleys and mountain peaks of that challenging terrain.
Now, when I see others in transition – like Lyla and Russell – I remember the part these seasons play in our development, and I thank God for them.

Spiritual Formation at Work

There is so much written in the ancient scriptures about our work! Paul of Tarsus said, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your work in the Lord is not in vain.” -1 Cor 15:58.
I used to think that my “work in the Lord” was just my church work. So, my small business work, or my working at home, or my yard work did not “count” as the kind of work Paul is talking about here. But, my perspective on this has changed.
I’m starting to see that my “work in the Lord” is really about doing all my work – paid, or unpaid – with Him. It is learning to pray with every breath, with every dirty diaper, with every trip to the bank, and with every meeting, “God, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven – right here in my work.”
Sometimes I hear people ask, “How can I bring Jesus into my workplace?”  Well, you don’t… because Jesus is already there. Jesus is every bit as present in your M-F job as he is when we gather in worship on Sunday. You will probably spend 40+ hours a week at work on average, and you will probably spend 1-2 hours a week at church. The goal is not to undo in the 1 hour at church everything that happened during the 40+ hours at work. The goal is also not to just increase our time at church. The goal is to learn to be with Jesus 24/7 because he is already there in our work, in our play, and in our worship. He cares about our work in the little “kingdoms” of Comcast, or Target, or Kaiser, or Facebook just as much as he cares about our time at church.  He wants to see the big kingdom of God invade all these little kingdoms on earth.
In fact, our primary place of spiritual formation will likely be at work. Spiritual formation is the process of shaping our thoughts, desires, habits and choices. Everyone – Christian or otherwise – is being spiritually formed all the time. It’s not just an extra-credit deal for the super devoted. It is the most important thing going on. We can participate in our own spiritual formation through our mindfulness of our work as a holy space where God is fully present.
So today, when you go to work, remember that you never do that work alone. Jesus is present with every photo you take, post you make, meeting you attend, and meal you cook. May all that we do be to the glory of God today.