Manual

When we give our children gifts, we see these gifts not as an end, but as the means to an end. Each year at Christmas, we give an “experience” gift which has either “family-bonding time” or our girls’ own “personal growth” in mind.

This year we accomplished both!

After putting up with used single-geared “kids” bikes for many years, we decided an upgrade was in order and purchased all three of our girls new multi-geared mountain bikes. We knew the concept of shifting gears would be new to them, but the challenge is what this was all about, right?

Well, our first few rides have certainly been family-bonding time, but not for the reasons you might think. Our idealistic dream of off-road adventure has been a constant stop and go of: “My bike isn’t working!”

The other day, we finally came to the realization that, having been raised in a digital world, our kids expect to push a button and have the thing they want to happen, happen. They’ve never searched for a radio station with the slight adjustment of a knob, fast-forwarded and rewound a VHS tape 20 times to get to the exact spot they’re looking for, or had to follow an encyclopedia rabbit-trail of “see page ____” to get to the information they need. When they twist the arrow to “3” they expect their chain to slip perfectly into third gear – and when it doesn’t, they don’t know what to do!

As experienced riders (and non-digital-natives), Tim and I know that shifting a bike (especially the budget-friendly versions we purchased) requires a “manual” mindset. Moving the arrow to “3” spot might not put you in third gear, but a few slight up or down adjustments will get you there eventually!

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I’m a huge fan of the “next big thing,” not in terms of what’s trending, but in terms of what’s going to “fix” my relationship with God. Whenever I experience a dry or apathetic season, I find myself looking at that “3” over there and thinking, “If I can just push that button, it’ll take me right where I want to be!” Sometimes it’s a book I think will have all the answers. Sometimes it’s a practice I know will finally kick me into gear. Sometimes it’s a return to an old discipline that worked before and will surely work again.

But as I wrap-up my 25th year of this relationship, I can say for sure that it’s anything but digital. Every “button” that promises a specific “outcome” is only a vague guideline which, over time, may lead to a broad range of results. Because I am not an automated human and my God is not a programmable God.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
   so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
(Psalm 42:1-2a)

A relationship with the “living God” is just as much a “relationship” as my relationship with my husband or my children or a friend. A relationship with another “living” being is not something I will ever be able to manage with a button. The definition of life is that a thing has the potential to move, grow, and change and movement, growth, and change happen in fluid, subtle variation.

Every move I make with the hope of knowing Jesus more is a manual adjustment. It’s never a steady ride – there will always be ebb-and-flow, up-and-down, and back-and-forth shifts required as circumstances and seasons change. I regularly feel disappointed that my next big thing is “not working”! But that’s probably a good thing because a deer-panting, soul-thirsting desire for God isn’t something that can be selected from a screen.

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This is my last post before I take a break for the summer. School is about to end and I’ve got a few short weeks to prepare for our SERVE 2019 high school and middle school trips! And after that, as I shift out of “writing” gear, I’ll be shifting into “learning” gear. My project for the summer is prayer and a giant textbook-size manual called “Prayer Portions” my friend Jess finally convinced me was worth the investment.

In the introduction to the book, author Sylvia Gunter says, “You will miss the essence of this resource book if you are looking for formulas.” She makes sure her reader understands that she doesn’t teach “‘Domino pizza praying’ – thirty-minute-guaranteed delivery” because intimacy with God is not for the “quick inquirer” but is cultivated in daily practice over long periods of time.

This time, and maybe for the first time, I’m not expecting this book to be my “next big thing”. I’m not hitting the “Awesome Prayer Life” button and assuming I’ll get there by September (or ever!).

Intimacy with God is not measured in whole numbers or even half-sizes – but it sure is an off-road adventure!

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Happy Summer – see you in September!
Until then I’ll be reposting from the 2017-2018 year and I hope you’ll follow along 😊

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