Shalom

55dc124babdc0f754da4a6b5These days I keep coming back to the word “shalom.”  I heard it used as a kind greeting as a kid, and then I didn’t hear it for a while as if it were taken away by waves in an ocean.  And then it tumbled back into my heart a few years ago…  shalom.

Shalom is a Hebrew word, meaning “peace.”  Matt Pogue, at Timber Wolf Lake, describes it as “nothing broken, nothing missing.”  Shalom has many undulations and nuances:  restoration, rest, blessing, completeness, blessing, wholeness, harmony with our Lord, tranquility, grace, prosperity.

Numbers 6:24-26 says, “May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.”  This is also known as the Aaronic benediction because God instructed Moses to pass this blessing to Aaron and his sons in order to bless the Israelites.  It was a blessing to be passed along from person to person; in Hebrew, the word peace means shalom. 

The beauty of this word is that shalom can only be found in Christ.  He is shalom; He is our wholeness, our grace, our blessing, our restoration, and our rest.

As I came back from assignment a few weeks ago, I could not get this word out of my mind.  The Lord kept whispering it in my heart.  It reminds me of who I truly am created to be: a person of peace, of restoration, of blessing, of grace… all in Him.

Shauna Niequist talks about shalom in her book, Cold Tangerines.  She’s very real about how, ironically, she has to fight for shalom in her life, and I can relate.

The texts are constantly coming in, emails in my inbox, errands to run, appointments to make, television blaring in the background, a house to clean, laundry to fold, things to prepare for and follow-up on.

It can be exhausting.

And then I remember, “shalom.”  Peace cannot be present unless He is present.  So, I whisper the word to myself…shalom.  It’s like a one-word prayer saying so much:  Lord, don’t let me do anything without You.  Lord, let me only rely on You.  Lord, help me to turn off the noise and attune my heart to You.  Lord, let my life not turn into a constant to do list.  Lord, forgive me.  Lord, restore me.  Lord, you are here; help me to see you.

I’ve found that in order to hear the Lord’s sweet whispers of peace, I have to create space and quiet.  I have to fight for the margin to read His bullet points in the dialogue of my life.  It reminds me of a note taking strategy teachers often show kids called “Cornell Notes.”  On the right side of the paper, you write the details of whatever you’re studying, and then on the left, you write the important points that stand out.  At the bottom of the paper, you summarize what you’ve learned.  The purpose of Cornell Notes is to see the relationship between the details and the big ideas and then to reflect.  How often do I get caught up on the right side of the paper and forget about the left?  What little time do I devote to the reflective summary of what the Lord is doing in those details?

I’m also fighting for shalom.  I’m fighting the battle of my heart to do, do, do.  I’m making myself stop to create some bullet points along the way and reflect on His great hand in my life.  This means that I don’t always answer texts right away, I’m giving myself permission to answer emails within a 24 hour period, and I’m intentionally spending time with the Lord and my family. I am aware that I struggle with anxiety and the need to please and perform for people, so when I feel that enemy creep up on my shoulder, I stop and pray.  I whisper shalom.

I am increasingly becoming aware that I cannot live a life of joy without Him, and how I have lived in mindsets that relied on myself and my own achievement rather than on Him.  Relying more on Him is making me more grateful for the texts, emails, to do lists, laundry, etc…  These are all blessings and a joy, but not without Him.

We are living in a world of achieve and succeed, and I want to fight for the space to create, to ask, to listen, to laugh, to cry, and to feel all that is He has placed before me.  To live a life of abundance is not about the things around us, but the experiences He gives us to known Him more.  It’s really beautiful if you think about it.

Last winter, I asked Jesse if he wanted to pray with on the way to school.  He said sure, and lo and behold the Aaronic blessing came flowing out of his mouth.  Now, I know that he learned this at school or Bible Study, but it was the sweetest gift I could have been given.  My four-year old son was passing along the Lord’s shalom to me.  Shalom isn’t meant to bottle up and store in the cabinets of your heart, but it is meant to be shared and experienced together in community like a wonderful party.

And so I pass this on to you today:

May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Shalom.

 

 

 

Listen More, Talk Less

I’ve always had an affinity for the underdog.  As a kid, I often felt like one.  According to the world, I had a lot working against me in my childhood: raised in a single parent family, not a lot of money, wasn’t academically gifted, blah, blah, blah.  I believe that in everyone’s life there are a set of circumstances that one could hang their hat on to say, “The odds are stacked against me,” & I had my share as well.  Society’s labels seem to solidify the world’s perception of kids and adults, so I had a few of them too:  latch key kid, dirtbag (term used in the 80’s for poor kids; that one always stung-  assuming that a kid is dirty because they are poor), stupid, etc…

I have an especially awful memory of my third grade teacher pitying me, using terms such as “disadvantaged, unengaged, poor.”  I hated that year.  Thankfully, I have Laila Ali for a mom, & after having enough of seeing my soul disintegrate a little bit each day, she went down to the school and said enough.   Fourth grade was a gift; my teacher literally spoke my full name with pride & confidence every time she addressed me:  “Kathy Entrekin, here’s your paper.”  I’ll never forget it.  It took me at least six months to believe that I could just be “Kathy Entrekin” & not “poor, little Kathy” in a teacher’s eyes.  I learned a powerful lesson about identity that year… words are powerful.

Growing up in my teen years, I began to discover my voice, & it was no wonder that it had a bit of a boxer’s flair to it too.  A quote that seemed like ta banner over my heart was, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” (Dr. King).  I wanted to fix all of the unfairness I saw; I wanted to be a part of the solution.  I think this is a powerful gift for adolescents; to have the awareness & passion to be a school, community, & world changer.  It’s like the Lord whispering into one’s ear:  You matter.  It’s a powerful soul muscle to develop.

Consequently, this year has brought me to a new understanding of what the Lord wants me to do to make a difference, & that is to listen more & speak less.  Yes, to actually close my mouth & to receive the thoughts of others.  When I started on Young Life Staff a year ago, I had charts, vision, ideas; I had plans.  These are all great things, no doubt.  I’m certain that every great leader is a visionary, but I’ve also learned that a great leader also has great ears & a soft heart; these things keep you humble.  There were times when I wanted to prove myself, when being present with someone’s heart & words was a much better way to serve them.

I’m certain that my “underdog” self plays a part in wanting to see my plans succeed.  But in the end, it’s not about my plan.  It’s about that one person who is front of me, being vulnerable, showing me their souls, & receiving the divinity of that- no matter how that looks or sounds-  & saying thank you.  I could continue being a Laila Ali, but I would rather be a Maya Angelou- a person who takes in the moment, gives it to the Lord.  When I speak, I don’t want it to be about me & my plans coming through, but about His love and truth, where my words mean something.

So, in turn, I’m learning to say, “I don’t have an answer on that right now, but let me get back with you.”  You see, it’s not about proving myself anymore; I’m slowly shedding that winter coat that is three sizes too small.  I have to remind myself that I am no longer that little kid sitting in class fighting labels.

I am learning to fully embrace that in Jesus I am enough.  I am purposeful.  I am the daughter of a King.  I am forgiven.  I am redeemed.  I am fully known.

I’m thankful that the Lord has given me the opportunity to release the shell of prove & perform.  I’m conscientious of the shards that remain when I feel the lurking of wanting to answer every incoming email or text as soon as they arrive or be quick to give a reason behind everything I do.

I’m learning to ask more questions and remember it’s not about me. Performing for Jesus is counterproductive.  Therefore, it’s counterproductive to perform for anyone else.  His passion for His message is in my heart; I don’t have to dazzle & shine.  I just need to show up with open hands.  He has developed valuable skills that are a part of a wonderful, well used tool box, but it’s not about walking around saying, “See what I can do with my cool skills.”  People don’t care about your skills; they care about how you make them feel (another lesson learned from Maya Angelou).

It’s good to examine one’s self.  This one was a hard one to process this year, but I’m so glad He gave me the opportunity to do it.  I’m examining the labels that society tells us are so valuable (hard worker, go getter, organized, entertaining, etc.), & in many ways they are, & praying about my expression as something that is more & more true to who He created me to be so He shines through.  I believe that’s a better way to leave a mark on the world.

I’m getting used to His voice calling me by who I really am, much like my fourth grade teacher did.  It’s a new normal to receive this & not feel I have to prove myself to earn worldly labels.  That’s a labyrinth I choose not to walk anymore.  I’m doing something more powerful now…I’m listening more & talking less.

 

 

He is in the Details

If you know me, I’m not gifted at detail oriented anything.  I’m a vision person.  Now, my husband is incredible at the details.  I’ve seen him clean with Q Tips in places I didn’t know existed in our house as well as carefully dot every “i” and cross every “t” in paperwork.  I’m grateful for his passion for the things I am not wired to see naturally.

Consequently, the Lord wanted me to have a greater appreciation in the details this year, and for this I am, indeed, grateful.  I especially grew in my appreciation when I was on assignment this past month in the dining hall at Timber Wolf Lake.  When a camper or leader walks into the dining hall at any Young Life Camp, you immediately get a sense of excitement over the carefully set tables and the impeccable food served at your table.  I had no idea all the details involved into the creation of this beautiful picture created three times every day.  The salt and paper shakers have a specific place in the centerpiece and should not be tilting over.  Plates are plotted an inch from the edge of the table, napkins carefully folded and placed, glasses inspected for spots, tables cleaned twice in between every meal, chairs carefully placed in a 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 position, and presets for each meal have a specific place even down to where the handles face in relation to each diner.  For a mom who uses paper plates for most meals and Lean Cuisine meals any chance she gets, this was a whole new world for me.

And then I came across this passage this morning:

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!”  -Matthew 17:5

I thought to myself, “How many times does God actually use an exclamation point?”

Punctuation, as someone who loves expression of words in writing, is very important.  Punctuation isn’t something you slap down on paper carelessly (like I normally do with dinner), but it’s chosen with careful consideration to what and how we are trying to explain.  In the above passage, God REALLY wants Peter, John, and James to listen to His son, Jesus.  I mean, REALLY.  The Lord doesn’t use an exclamation point in the majority of His expression in the Bible, so I’m struck with its emphasis in passion.

The semi colon (my most favorite of all punctuation; yes, I’m a nerd) expresses a continued thought.  The thoughts attached are related in subject and yet to not chop off the thought like a period does, it communicates a fluidity of expression.  It’s beautiful when used well and thoughtfully.

The period.  The end.  Next thought.

A comma, a connection that allows space for a compound idea with a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), or to insert an aside or more detail.  So awesome.

A question mark to stop and ask, dig deeper, and respond either externally or internally.

And many more.

I’m pondering on these detailed oriented things, cultivating appreciation for the little things that I tend to gloss over; these little, often overlooked things that create a beautiful picture of breadth, depth, and flow.  I’m also surrendering what I’ve put too much or too little emphasis on and opening my heart to the editing of His expression in my own life.

I’m asking myself what the Lord wants me to emphasize and be passionate about, as expressed with an exclamation point.

I’m looking at fluid semi colon that connects thoughts that are telling a connected story.

I’m carefully surrendering the periods that end something that is ready to have closure.

And I’m inserting commas to add more details and allow for the conjunctions to add more of a dynamic to my experience with Him.

He is in the details, and I’m thankful to have had this lesson this year.

1 Year Later

One year ago I woke up to a sunny day on the bottom bunk of a cabin overflowing with high school girls, some of whom I had been walking alongside for a few years and some I had not had more than a hello with.  We were at Young Life Camp at Sharptop experiencing Jesus & uncovering the longing for Him in our hearts.  The geography was a fitting place to begin my first day on a new adventure of officially being on Young Life Staff.

Young Life was a wooing of my heart &  soul that began a little over three years ago.  I fell in love with Young Life much like a couple decides they want to make a commitment to one another- it started in the hallway of the school in which I taught.  My friend, Sarah, who knew and loved Young Life already asked me to be a part of it as it was starting in our school district.  It was in between classes, kids at the water fountain, lockers slamming shut, a cacophony of junior high voices wanting to be known, and here we were having one of the most like changing conversations of my life.  It went something like this:

Sarah:  “Hey, did you know Young Life is starting here in Hamilton Southeastern?”

Me:  “No, I don’t know even know what that is.”

Sarah:  “That’s ok, but you should totally do it.  It’s going to be awesome.”

Me:  “Cool.  I’m in.”

That was it.

Isn’t it funny how the craziest of things are birthed with simple words such as “awesome” and “I’m in”?

Our family had a life changing experience the prior year with the adoption of our son Jesse from Ethiopia.  Like the shaping of clay, our hearts had been stretched and pulled by that experience, & we found ourselves very uncomfortable with the comfortable in which we called home.  We were longing to know how the Lord was going to use us, what a new normal could look like, & then came this conversation ordained by Him.

As I continued in conversation with people who have become amazing friends (Jon Houghton & Michelle Devoe), I realized what great company I was in.  I was being handed an invitation to be a part of a ministry that not only spoke to the present of my heart but also the past.  I was a teenager who did not know Jesus, & I certainly would have told anyone who tried to tell me that Jesus was what I needed to go to a few inappropriate places with inappropriate words.  In many ways, although I was struggling in so many ways in my adolescence, I thought I had things figured out; I thought I could do it on my own, in my own wisdom.  I wanted to draw my own map.

Young Life is not about telling you what you need.  It’s about loving teenagers where they are, celebrating them for their creation and uniqueness, & earning the right to be heard.  We do not ask kids to perform for us, & we do not demand a response in a certain way.  We invite, we listen, we ask, we walk alongside, we show up because we know that every kid, every where is worthy of experiencing the Gospel, no matter what.  We do that through friendship.  To many, Young Life looks weird.  Why would we go out of our way to hang out with kids in football stands, Taco Bell, Friendship Bracelet Club, awkward lunch tables, etc?  Because that’s exactly what Jesus did for us.  He showed up, He invited, He listened, He asked, He walked alongside.  And He changed our world.

Thinking back to my teenage self, I probably would have made fun of Young Life, but I probably would have been secretly intrigued.  What kid, what person is not captivated when someone sees them; I mean, really sees them, and says you’re worth my time?  If this was who Jesus was and is, that would have made an impact on my own teenage heart.

If you know me, I’m a risk taker, a dreamer.  I love anything that is out of the ordinary to share Jesus in an authentic way.  Doing something authentically means doing it uniquely.  It often means flipping the script and not doing things on a “set” way all the time.  It means I’ll go where you go: to your prom pictures, your volleyball & tennis matches, your graduation open house, & an ice cream shop when you just want to cry.  I’m willing to fight against the “should” in my own heart and others’ to say “what if.”

It’s a reliance on His plan, not mine.  And I’m all about that.

I’m blessed to be a part of this community of Christ followers, dreamers, dependents on the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told us over and over that we were worth dying for.  I just want more kids to know this, every kid, every where.  I’m thankful to be a part of a conversation, a movement, a story that is more than I could ever imagine.  Our family’s new normal is purposeful, intentional, &  yet way out of the ordinary.  In many ways, we’re even still figuring that out, asking the Him to guide and lead into unknown territories.  It’s good; it’s very good.

*For the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year.  I truly believe the Lord has done a mighty work on me this year, and I’m grateful for it.  Talk soon & many blessings.