Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

The pots and pans...

Stay awake today.

There is no such thing as an ordinary moment.

Despite our labeling of parts of our day as boring, repetitive or meaningless, every single moment is God-saturated.

So wake up.

And stay awake.

When you turn toward a task you consider boring, say - washing some pots and pans - remember the wise words of the ancient mystic Teresa of Avila, who said:

"God walks among the pots and pans."

And as you scrub, you can even say to God,

"Speak Lord, for your servant is listening."

Or,

"Hello God, I am glad to be with you in this moment."

Or,

"Show me your beauty today."

Or even,

"Thank you that I am blessed enough to have pots and pans."

Just don't miss the moment.

Don't miss God.

For God walks among the pots and pans, however clean or dirty.

So stay awake.

Perfect, but not quite perfect ...

When my kiddos were little they had a piano teacher who was originally from Poland. Communist Poland.

She was intense.

WAY too intense to be teaching my children how to play the piano.

For awhile, I didn't realize this was a bad fit. We had never had a piano teacher before and I just kind of thought maybe it was all supposed to be this intense.

Until one day, my middle daughter, who was beautiful, socially self-conscious and pretty intense herself, played a little piece she had memorized for her teacher. It was lovely. A little wooden, and perhaps played with a tinge of fear, but lovely nonetheless.

Ms. Intense Piano Teacher said to my somewhat fragile child:

"You played that perfect ... but not quite perfect (imagine a Russian accent here). Therefore, I will give you a gold star on your sheet of music, but I will Ri-i-i-p one of its arms off to make you remember that you played it perfect, but not quite perfect."

The next day, I fired Ms. Intense Piano Teacher.

But her phrase, "perfect, but not quite perfect" has remained in our family through the years, and we are able to laugh at it now.

But there is a lot of junk underneath and within and around that phrase.

So many of us see our lives this way - Perfect, but not quite perfect. And that last part - not quite perfect - detracts from our joy, our wonder at things, and our satisfaction in a job (pretty) well done.

So, here's a humorous little example of this:

Yesterday, I wrote a pretty serious post about finding God in the ordinary.

Lovely writing about a lovely moment in my life.

And I edited it, or so I thought.

And then I posted it! Out there for all the world (well, maybe 47 people) to see.

And in it, there was this hilarious mistake ...

I meant to write: "I felt the wind ON my cheeks..."

and instead wrote:

"I felt the wind OF my cheeks ..."

which kind of makes it sound like I enjoyed a good round of farting on my porch.

Which, of course, is NOT what I meant to say.

I read it this morning and my initial reaction was disappointment in myself:

"How could you have missed that? Everyone is is going to notice that, and they will think you shouldn't blog, you are not worthy to blog. You made an error ... perfect, but not quite perfect."

Instead - and I am starting to think this may be the truest sign of maturity - I laughed aloud at the hilarity of it all. And my own ridiculousness ...

My husband read it and e-mailed me: "Perfect, but not quite perfect."

And I smiled.

Life is good.

Life will always be perfect, but not quite perfect.

And so will I.

And so will you.

So, enjoy!

Paying attention to the ordinary ...

I was watching a storm roll in this weekend. I love impending storms.

So I stepped outside onto our screened-in porch and gazed up at the roiling sky.

It was a strange confluence of events ... it was raining, dark clouds were flying past, and the sun was peeking out, all at the same time.

A hawk caught my eye, high up in the sky. It was coasting on the shifting winds, up near the darkest clouds, peaceful and slow it coasted as the wind swirled, the thunder rumbled, the sun shone and the rain fell.

And the beauty of it all took my breath away.

It reminded me of some great writing I had just finished reading by Kent Dobson:

"The spiritual life is my actual life ... The sum total of our experiences, in all their messy glory, is where we live our spiritual lives. The walls come down between sacred and secular. The car ride on the way to church, when we're yelling at our kids to shut up, is just as much our spiritual life as the music we pretend to like when we get there.

Who we are, right now, is enough. The life that we're living right now, is enough.

God will not show up if we're good enough, right enough, spiritual enough, or somehow have the moral fortitude to ward off all ambiguity and messiness. God will not meet us on top of a mountain, just because we make a big deal out of going there. God is not actually hiding somewhere or waiting for us to play the game of beliefs in order to pass the eternal mega-test.

We have to learn to trust our real life again, the one we live in our body, spirit, and heart ... the secret to this kind of spirituality is to pay attention to the ordinary.

That's where God shows up."

Watching that hawk,

experiencing that impending storm,

hearing the rain pitter-patter on my roof,

feeling the wind of my cheeks,

looking for the rainbow,

I was "paying attention to the ordinary."

This IS the spiritual life; there is no other life. The porch from whence I witnessed these things was my temple. My spirit worshipped. My heart sang. I whispered "thank you" over and over and over. This ordinary moment became holy.

Or maybe I should say, this ordinary moment always was holy - every moment is holy.  I just became still enough, awake enough, attentive enough, to notice.

Amen.

Spiritual malpractice ...

A few more great thoughts and insights from Adam McHugh on listening to people in pain ...

McHugh writes about how a colleague of his was headed to visit someone in the hospital and announced, "Time to speak some truth."

McHugh says, "This idea prevails in many Christian circles, that preaching is the healing balm for suffering.

Whether it's sickness or divorce or job loss, a crisis calls for some sound biblical exhortation.

I have a number of issues with this.

First, it assumes that hurting people do not believe the right things or believe with enough fervency. They may end up receiving the message that their faith is not strong enough for them to see their situation rightly, or that something is wrong with them because they are struggling.

Second, preaching to people in pain preys upon the vulnerable.

It's stabbing the sword of truth into their wound and doing surgery without anesthesia.

Unwelcome truth is never healing.

Third, 'speaking truth' into situations of pain is distancing.

You get to stand behind your pulpit or your intercessory prayer that sounds a lot like a sermon, and the other person is a captive audience, trapped in the pew of your anxious truth.  [Alice here ... I couldn't love this last phrase more!]

Suffering inevitably makes a person feel small and isolated, and preaching to them only makes them feel smaller and more alone, like a scolded child."

This entire section in my book is bolded, circled, underlined and marked with ten exclamation points!

As a person who suffered through a couple wicked years of post-partum depression while my husband was in seminary, I was "preached at," "prayed over," and scolded with Scripture more times than I can remember.

It was always horrible.

It always made me feel worse and more alone.

It often made me feel like my depression was very much my fault.

And it insinuated that, if I just believed the right thing, memorized the right verse, or prayed the exact right prayer, I would be miraculously (and very quickly!!) healed.

"Speaking truth" to people in pain is spiritual malpractice.

That is what I wrote to one "Christian physical therapist" who did nothing to treat my physical pain, but simply told me that the reason I was suffering was because "the devil did not want my husband to go into the ministry."

Incredible that this stranger knew this very bizarre truth, huh?

Then he charged me for a medical visit that never took place.

Even in the midst of my depression, I knew enough to tell him I would report him for spiritual malpractice if he tried to collect on this bill.

I never heard from him again.

Thank God.

We walk with people in their pain.

We save our preaching for other venues.