How God Creates

This post is part of the February Synchroblog. The topic for this month is Creativity and Christianity. There are a lot of wonderful bloggers who participate in these synchroblogs so I encourage you to check out what they have to say on this subject as well.

As I sat with the tangled threads of yarn slipping through my fingers, untangling yet another knot, so that I could roll it into a ball and make something hopefully beautiful out of it, I thought to myself, “This is how God creates.”

God creates by making order out of chaos.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Genesis 1

As I watched children making mud pies out of the dirt, unafraid to make a mess, unafraid to make a mistake, I thought to myself, “This is how God creates.”

God’s not afraid to get his hands dirty or stoop down amidst the mess.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” John 1 (The Message)

As I pulled out strand after strand of yarn to start knitting a scarf over yet again, I thought to myself, “This is how God creates.”

God’s not afraid to start over.

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” Isaiah 65

As I scrolled threw my friends beautiful etsy shop, where every stunning product is made from that which had once been discarded, I thought to myself, “This is how God creates.”

And As I walked through a new interactive art exhibit made entirely from trash and watched my son experience each of the senses through things that were essentially garbage, I thought to myself, “This is how God creates.”

God creates by making new vessels from old. God creates by making beauty from ashes. God creates by taking broken people and making them his children.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of the vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Ephesians 5

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2

As I lay in the doctor’s office and heard the heart beat of the new babe within, and contemplate the last time I had heard that strange sound, I think to myself, “This is how God creates.”

God creates by making one flesh from two. God creates in intimate proximity to his creation.

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2

“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there…For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you.” Psalm 139

I am created in the creative image of God. So, does my creativity look like God’s creativity?

Do I create order or do I create chaos?
When I create am I afraid to get my hands dirty? Am I afraid to create something that’s “not good”?
When I create am I too lazy or fearful or impatient to start over?
Do I create beauty from ashes or ashes from beauty? Do I use the resources I already have no matter how limited or am I too quick to throw things away?
Do I create unity or division when I create?
Do I fully enter into the creative process, getting to know and love my creations intimately, as a mother birthing a child?
Do I create in the image of my creator?

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

PS – just in case you didn’t catch the announcement in this post… we’re pregnant again!

This months synchroblog contributors:

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

December Synchroblog: Experiencing Advent with a Toddler?

NOTE: this post is part of the December Synchroblog I participate in. I’ll post all of the other links as soon as I get them, so please check back later to read some other great thoughts on Advent from my blogging friends all around the world.

EDIT: All the links are added at the bottom of this post now – personally I can’t wait to read what all these wonderful bloggers have to say about Advent. So, grab a cup of tea and join me in checking them all out.

I have to be honest… I’m really struggling with Advent this year.

I want to enter into it and really make my day-to-day life reflect the unique season. I want to have more of a rhythm for our year that includes the rhythm of God’s story. But, I’m not exactly sure how. I have read lots of suggestions. I’ve even tried a lot of them in various past years. But, truth be told, I feel like most of it hasn’t worked well for me. I’m really bad with routines and no matter how hard I try I don’t stick to them… so each Advent I think, oh I’m going to do an advent calendar this year, or I’m going to do an advent wreath or I’m going to do the daily readings from the lectionary for each day of advent, but then I just don’t. Sunday comes and goes without me even realizing it and I forget to light the candles. A week goes by and I realize I’m five days behind on the advent calendar. I start out well with the lectionary, but eventually there’s a day that’s busy full of Christmas prep and party and I forget and then the next day I forget again. This was how it was before I had a kid, I can’t imagine how it would be now, when I can never finish anything and my brain is constantly scattered because of a demanding toddler.

In the past the best way for me to enter into Advent was just to think about, meditation on, pray through and write about the meaning behind the season. I liked the years when I took time to do that. Even though it was informal and I didn’t stick to a schedule or remember to do the advent calendar, I still feel like I entered into Advent during those years.

Lately though, I’m not sure how to do that with a young child. I feel like I don’t have the space or quiet in my life (or mind) to think, meditate or pray more than a quick, jumbled up prayer. Writing has also become a bit of a struggle for me since having a child. I get a little tunnel vision when I write and like to tune everything out and just type, but I can’t do that with a toddler tugging at my leg saying “up, up, maum, up” every few seconds.

Essentially I’m realizing that, as the mother of a toddler the way for me to enter into advent is no longer through the door of the contemplative.

A friend of mine is writing an advent series on her blog with scriptures, prayers, and other resources for reflection and I love what she is doing and definitely recommend you check it out, but as I skimmed her first post I couldn’t help but think, “this is a great tool for experiencing advent for the stage of life that my friend is at, but these tools just don’t fit with the stage in life I find myself in right now.” Case in point, I tried to do the liturgy she posted and was interrupted by my toddler or my husband 4 times before giving up. I later went back and tried to watch one of the videos she recommended while my son was sleeping I got literally 10 seconds into it and he woke up.

On top of realizing that this stage of life is not very condusive to the contemplative I’m also wrestling with wanting to find ways to enter into Advent not as an individual but as a family. I want to experience advent not as something I participate in my own “quiet time” (not sure I have one of those much anymore anyway), but I want to experience advent as a mommy WITH my son. I do not want to separate my spirituality from my mothering, I do not want to practice my spirituality apart from my son, but how do I commune with the divine with a 14 month old? Mother is not something I do it is something I am now. It is not a role that I sometimes play and can sometimes lay aside to pursue spirituality. Mother is what I am. How do I connect with God AS a mother, within my mothering? This is my big question lately, and the smaller aspect of it is how do I connect with Advent, with this small part of God’s big story, within my mothering? How do I engage with Advent with my 14 month old? I have ideas for when my child gets a little bigger, but what about now? Am I supposed to just leave him out of it and try to find moments to myself when I can engage with this season? If that’s the case I’m really not sure I can do that.

How do I experience Advent, or any church season, as the mother of a toddler? How do I experience God as the mother of a toddler? Honestly, I’m not really sure right now. Most of the ways that I have experienced God in the past and connected with his story just don’t work for me now in this stage. So, I find myself really wrestling with this question. Where is God amidst the motherhood? I believe that God is present so how do I find him within my new role as mother.

I don’t have answers, I don’t have it all figured out, I don’t know how to practice Advent as a mother, but I do believe that our spiritual life is a journey and we figure things out one step at a time along the way.

Advent itself is a journey – a journey of waiting. And so today I find myself entering into that journey, simply by presenting my questions before God and before all of you and waiting…waiting for him to speak into my mothering. Waiting for him to speak into my questions.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

What some friends of mine around the blogosphere are saying about Advent:

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

October 13 Synchroblog – Same Sex Marriage

The Christian Synchroblog that I am a part of is tackling the issue of Same Sex Marriage today as the topic for October.

I’m sitting this one out, but here are the links from the bloggers who are participating. I haven’t read any of them yet, but I look forward to reading through what everyone has to offer on this hot button topic.

Kathy Baldock at Canyonwalker Connections – Marriage “I Do” For Who

Dan Brennan at Faith Dance – Sexual Difference, Marriage and Friendship

Steve Hayes at Khanya – Same Sex Marriage Synchroblog

Sonja Andrews at Calacirian – In Defense Of Marriage

John C O’Keefe – Exactly What Is Gay Marriage

Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Nobody knows why or how same-sex marriage is harmful

Herman Groenewald at Along The Way – Same Sex Debate

Margaret Boelman at Minnowspeaks – What Have We Done

David Henson at unorthodoxology – ban marriage

Erin Word at Mapless – Synchroblog: Legalizing Same Sex Marriage

Joshua Jinno at Antechurch – The Church Is Impotent

Kathy Escobar at The Carnival In My Head – It’s Easy To Be Against Equal Rights When We Have Them

Peter Walker at Emerging Christian – Synchroblog – Same Sex Marriage

K. W. Leslie at The Evening of Kent – Mountains, Molehills and Same-Sex Marriage

Rejoicing in the journey –

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Immigration: Choosing Love Instead of Fear

I don’t often write about political issues. I don’t like politics. I don’t like talking about politics or thinking about politics. It tends to just make me upset. But I’m excited that the Christian synchroblog I used to be a part of is starting up again and I want to jump back in even though this month’s topic is a very political issue.

I’ll be honest, I don’t feel like I have something really helpful to add to the debate. I don’t have a solution for the “immigration problem”. I don’t know all the ins and outs, or all the pros and cons of different suggestions. I don’t have any idea what a Christian policy on immigration should really look like – I’m not sure there really is ONE “Christian policy on immigration”. I am sure that the issue is complex, that there are probably a variety of solutions that would solve a variety of the problems that arise when dealing with immigration. I’m sure that there are a multitude of “right” approaches.

Personally, I don’t want to talk about solutions, or suggestions today. I don’t want to talk about the legality of the issue, or about how it relates to jobs and the economy. I don’t want to talk about the politics of the situation. What I want to talk about is attitude.

As followers of Christ what should our attitude be towards immigrants? I don’t know about you but so often when I hear people talking about the “immigration issue” I hear a lot of negativity and very little love. I hear a lot of prejudice and racism and not a lot of love. I hear a lot of condemnation and not a lot of love. I believe that as Christians we should take a higher approach, a different stance. We should try to understand instead of condemn, to help instead of degrade and to love instead of fear.

I think a lot of the problem comes from fear. People fear immigration and immigrants. They fear the influence that immigrants (both legal and illegal) will have on the American economy, culture, and political system. They believe that we have to protect America and that the protection of America is the ultimate goal and makes any act (including the restriction of civil liberties) justifiable. Out of fear, policies are then made that restrict civil liberties (case in point: Arizona). The restriction of civil liberties due to fear is much more detrimental to America than immigration will ever be.

The truth of the matter is that we are all foreigners and strangers on this earth. The truth of the matter is that our ultimate allegiance is not to a specific country and protecting its way of life. Our ultimate allegiance is not to a specific political or economic system. Our ultimate allegiance IS to Christ Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and his radical new kingdom.

As Christians, I believe we need to support policies that are not driven by fear, but are instead driven by love and sound reasoning. We need to remember that although we owe America some gratitude and allegiance for the gifts that it provides us with, America is just a nation – nations rise and fall, but our allegiance is to God most High and Him alone. We need to remember that immigrants are our brothers and sisters, even if they look and act differently than we do. They each have unique stories to tell and a no matter how they crossed our boarders, or why they crossed our boarders, God loves them passionately and recklessly and so should we.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

Here are the other synchroblog participants posts. Hope you all enjoy the discussion! I know I’m really looking forward to reading through these:

Mike Victorino at Still A Night Owl – ‘Being the Flag
Sonnie Swentson-Forbes at Hey Sonnie – ‘Immigration Stories
Steven Calascione at Eirenikos – ‘The Jealousy of Migration
George Elerick at The Love Revolution – ‘We’re Not Kings or Gods
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – “Together We Can Make Dreams Come True
Sonnie Swentson at A Piece of My Mind – “Immigration Stories
Matt Stone at Global Christianity – “Is Xenophobia Every Christlike?
Steve Hayes at Khanya – “Christians And The Immigration Issue
Ellen Haroutunian – “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses
Beth Stedman – “Immigration: Choosing Love Instead of Fear
Pete Houston at Peter’s Progress – “Of Rape And Refuge
Joshua Seek – “Loving Our Immigrant Brother
Amanda MacInnis at Cheese Wearing Theology – “Christians and Immigration
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian – “You’re Right
Kathy Escobar at Carnival In My Head – “It’s A Lot Easier To Be Against Immigration Reform When You Have Papers
Jonathan Brink – “Immigration Synchroblog
Beth Patterson at Virtual Tea House – “What we resist not only persists but eventually becomes our landlord”

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

What is a Spiritual Practice Blog Series

Christine Sine’s blog series on What is a Spiritual Practice has been going strong and there have already been a number of very interesting articles and the promise of more to come. If you haven’t been following this series, I encourage you to check it out. Here are the posts so far:

Jason ClarkSmoking to the Glory of God?

Mark ScandretteLove-Making as a Spiritual Practice

T FreemanThe Spiritual Practice of Apologizing

Brigid Walsh Gleaning as Spiritual Practice

Bowie Snodgrass Grief as Spiritual Practice

Thomas Turner Engagement as Spiritual Practice

Stan Thornburg Making Space for the Rabbi

Gary Heard Encountering the Stranger as Spiritual Practice and GPS Navigation as Spiritual Practice

Jason Fowler Listening for God’s Voice in Music

Sheila Hight Birdkeeping as Spiritual Practice

Steve Taylor Composting as Spiritual Practice

John O’Hara Anyone Can Cook – Spirituality in the Kitchen

Bethany Stedman – crying as a spiritual practice

Christopher Heuertz – Feeling close to God in the graveyard

Gerard Kelly – twittering as a spiritual practice

Tim Mathis – blogging as as a spiritual practice

Mary Naegeli – Writing a sermon as spiritual practice

Hannah Haui Cultural Protocol as spiritual practice

Jamie Arpin Ricci Pet Ownership as spiritual practice

Matt Stone – Listening to Enemies as Spiritual Practice

Dan Cooper – Washing Dishes as Spiritual Discipline

Maryellen Young – The spiritual practice of taking a shower

Christine Sine – virtual Eucharist: Is this a spiritual practice

christine Sine – Is Breathing a Spiritual Practice

I found today’s post “Smoking to the Glory of God?” to be particularly helpful to the dialogue as it reminded us that, “Everything can be a ‘spiritual practice’, but not everything is a ‘spiritual practice’.  It is the ends, the means, and the formation that takes place within our activities that determines what is ‘spiritual’.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.