Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Perfect Blending of the Masterpiece of God...

   There's this illustration I've heard a bunch of times in my faith walk about how God is a master painter and we are His paint.  And while we can only see up close the smears of color He is making with our lives on the canvas, if we could just take a step back we would notice that we are just a small section of a giant masterpiece God has been creating before the beginning of time.  Up close we don't see anything but our story and even then at times we miss how each event intercepts with another to bring us to where we are.  But from a distance, where God is standing, everything fits and works together perfectly...for us individually and corporately in the world.
   Tonight I was reminded of this as I  had a chance to share with a few members of my church about my up coming move as a missionary to Ecuador.  I can't tell you how thankful I am to have this opportunity and to know I attend a church where so many people are truly interested in being a part of spreading the gospel to the nations (whether as a missionary or as a sender).  But one of the coolest thing about it all is seeing  the God connections between my story and that of others!
  Tonight as I was talking I got to connect the dots between how God grew me and raised me up in my calling as a missionary to that of the faithful prayers and hard word of other members of my church family when they were at a previous church, that I also attended after they had left!  I know that sounds kind of confusing, but basically God used this family  to  lay the ground work and plant the seeds for the missions ministry at a church that after they left I attended, and through which God placed within me the beginning works of a heart for the nations!  Then to just add icing to the cake he made us both part of the same church family and connect us in working together to send me to the missions field now!  It's crazy how full circle it all feels!
  I bet God does this all the time....connecting His people...intermingling our stories together in HIS story and thus only bringing greater glory to His name!  Praise God for opening my eyes to see it in this moment though!  I am amazed!  God is awesome!  Amen.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Conundrums of Fundraising...

  Somebody asked me the other day how I felt about having to fundraise for missions and I gave them this honest answer....it depends on the moment.  Call it a lack of faith or just being human but I tend to swing back and forth between being totally confident in God and totally freaking out about the amount of  money I need to raise.
  On the one hand I absolutely believe that God pays for what He plans.  I think Hudson Taylor said it best when he said "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply".  We serve a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and thus I have no doubt that God can provide for me or anyone as He sees fit.  And so in that vein, a part of me does not worry at all...why should I?
  But...then on the other hand...in those moments, when I am staring at the facts and figures and realize that I basically have to raise in four and a half months what it takes me about eight months of work to earn....I am overwhelmed.  Can this really be done?  How is this going to work out? Obviously the only solution is that I need stop eating and driving and basically doing anything else that costs money for the rest of the year so that I can save my every last penny for this mission!
  The reality is though...that this....raising money for missions... is not suppose to be like that.  It's not about making my own way and being self-reliant.  It's about asking people to join in the ministry with you and involving others in the work God is doing through you!  And while it's humbling and completely awkward to stand before people over and over and over again, pleading with them to give you money...ultimately it's not about you...or in this case me.
  So am I stressed out about this part of my mission...Yes!  Am I confident that God will provide...Yes!  Do I still worry and freak out...Yes!  But do I trust God...Yes!  I'm not sure how those all fit together...but they do...and that's where I am at.  So pray for me people...and then, if you feel led, join in this ministry with me!  Amen! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In Spirit and In Truth...

  The other day (meaning over a week or so ago) I was reading through John as part of my read through the bible in a year program, and I came to the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4).   It's one of those stories that I am quite familiar with and thus I have a tendancy to skim it more than actually read it.  However, this time around, I got stuck on verse 23 where Jesus says, "But the time is coming - indeed it is now here- when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.  The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way".
  I couldn't help but think what does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth?  I hear people say this verse all the time (and by people I mean other Christians and pastors), but honestly I can't say I've ever really thought about what it means.  So I did a bit of a word study...meaning I looked up the greek words for "spirit" and "truth"...and I came up with a pretty interesting description (although I do not claim to be a bible scholar in any way, so this is just for my own understanding). To worship God in spirit and in truth is to worship Him from the essence of your being without pretense, deceit or falsehood.
  That's the kind of relationship I want with God....a relationship where I am not laying my claim or pretending anything or even putting on a show for God or anyone else.  But rather a relationship where from the very core of my being I am truly seeking God, longing to know Him and make Him known, and worshipping Him with all that I am, because I know how completely loved I am by Him and how much He has done for me!  That's my prayer!  That's what I want my life to look like!  And that's what I think God is looking for!
  It's kind of crazy to me though that all of that can come out of studying ONE verse...and that even weeks later it's still having a lasting effect on my life, in that every day I find myself praying that God would make me a true worshipper...one who worships in spirit and in truth. It doesn't always happen like that though...that I read a verse and it sticks out to me and becomes so meaningful....but when it does, it reminds me of just how living and active God's word is and that He still is speaking to His people through it today!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Narrow Road or a Load of You Know What...

  Lately I have been feeling kind of lonely.  Not that I don't have people in my life...I do!  It's just...I feel....distant....or at least unable to fully connect.  And it's not with everyone...in fact I've been overwhelmingly surprised by they people who have really stepped up to be friends with me and those who have seemingly chosen to take a step back...but...yet....still...I feel separated....or maybe just separate. And honestly...I don't know if this is a God thing or a me thing!
  The Bible says in Matthew 7:13, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through It".  I want to believe that I am on the narrow road heading to the narrow gate and thus I'm walking with the few...and therefore it's obvious that I would feel this sense of loneliness.   I even googled it and the amount of pastors and missionaries and people who are involved in ministry that say they have experienced this sense of "loneliness" that I am feeling is pretty high. 
  So maybe this is normal.  Maybe this feeling of not quite fitting into this world is just an outpouring of trying to live for a kingdom not of this world.  Maybe this longing I have that I can't explain for something beyond what I experience in the here and now, is just the reality of longing for God.  For even C.S. Lewis, the great Christian writer, said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
  But...there's also this part of me that thinks I sound crazy in talking like this....like the problem is really in me and I'm just trying to justify it with words from scripture and scholars.  Maybe that's true....I've been known to push people away when I think I might be hurt by them and the fact that I'm leaving in a few months means I'm possibly setting myself up for the hurt of saying Good-bye.  So I could be alienating myself a head of time.  Yet... as I said above...I have people in my life....people who care and spend time with me and show me love in the way I best except it....and people who allow me to do the same for them. 
  So what's the deal?!  Do I need to change or accept this is life?  Should I learn to walk in the loneliness or do I need to try harder to crawl out of it?  Is it me or is it God? .....Guess I need to spend more time on my knees!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Balloons, Mountains, and where God does His Best Work...

   I don’t know where God most often speaks to you, but for me it’s usually in the shower (maybe it has to do with the complete vulnerability... In every way…that I have in there).  Anyway, this morning I was getting ready and thus was in the shower and God began to speak to me.  Now to be honest, I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, and this morning was no different, but I still know it was Him.
  Standing there with the water crashing over me and my soul laid bare before God, this picture popped into my head of this balloon being blown up almost to the point of exploding, and then being deflated….over and over and over again.  It was like with each “blow up” the balloon was being stretched just a little further than the time before, and the capacity for air inside of it kept growing and growing.  It sounds weird, but I immediately felt like this was just a visual description of what God’s been doing in my life lately.
  The Past few weeks and months have been stressful and stretching…and a part of me has felt like I’ve been pushed to my limits time and time again, with a few days of rest and calm in the midst.  In fact a week or so ago... after a time of overwhelming guilt, sadness and shame over my sin,...I was enjoying a very precious time of calm in my life, when I felt like God was telling me to savor it because we still had further down the mountain to go and things weren’t going to get easier just yet.
   It’s funny….I hate this place I am in…. this place of uncomfortableness and vulnerability and feeling like I am walking down the mountain into the valley.  BUT that’s just it…. in the valley is where God does His best work and things do their  best growing!  Basically...in the valley...God’s there!  And I honestly, truly believe that God is leading me there and whatever He is doing in the midst of that leading is EXACTLY what I need!
  So down the mountain I go again, allowing the balloon of my life to be inflated to its limits once again, so that God can do His work IN me, in order that He might have the space to do His work THROUGH me.  Amen

Friday, July 26, 2013

Things that Turn that Frown Upside Down...

  Today after work, I planned to get in my car and just cry.  I was feeling stretched and overwhelmed and stressed to the point that it seemed only a good cry would do.  And then... I got a message from a friend and it made me laugh...and laugh...and laugh some more...until I forgot all about crying.  And yet, some how, I still felt better.
  It's amazing that friends can have that kind of effect on me.  I remember not so many years ago, pretty much swearing off having people as friends.  I had trained myself to believe that nobody ever really cares about anyone else, and I didn't want to be hurt by that fact any more, so I kept people at bay.
  I will admit that these days it's still sometimes pretty easy to fall back into that routine.  To be struggling and failing...and feel like everyone has abandoned me in my time of need....like people have finally seen my dark side and realized it's just not worth it to try and be my friend. 
  Thankfully for me though, over the past several days, I've had a few of my friends really step up and show me that our relationship isn't just one sided... and that I do matter to them... and that in my time of need they will be there (even with snot-rages to clean me up after all my tears).
  It's strange to go from a place of trusting no one to realizing that there are actually people out there who are worth trusting....people who won't turn their back on you when they find out just how HUMAN you are...and people who will choose to forgive you and to continue to stand by you even after you have hurt them.
  I'm not always thankful for the blessings God gives me in life....and I sometimes forget that God has blessed me with such good friends...and I belly-ache and complain about people not being who I want them to be.  BUT then...completely out of the blue...when I least expect it and yet most need it....a friend is there and I am remind how good God has been to me in this area.
  The funny thing is, I had spent much of my day writing a completely different blog post in my head...and then this afternoon in the twenty minutes I had between dinner and heading out the door again... I tried to write in on here and it just wasn't coming back to me.  In all honesty, I'm pretty sure it had a lot of complaining in it....but now...tonight....after spending time with some friends....I'm really glad I couldn't remember it, cause I've got so better things to meditate on!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

You Be You...the message of the day!...

  So I am pretty sure I have shared this before, but in my head I have this idea of what I think a missionary "should" look like.  They are these charismatic, extroverted people, who draw people in and eloquently point them in the direction of Jesus.  They are people who are go getter's and driven....outgoing and un-afraid to step out of the box.  They like the lime light and having all eyes on them, and they feel comfortable in situations when they have to think quickly on their feet!
  In all honesty, I'm sure not all of that is true...some missionaries are gifted or better at some things than others...and some missionaries have different skill sets than others.  But when it comes to comparing who I am with what I think I should be, I can't help but think how far I fall short of this idea in my head.
  BUT then.....and thanks be to God there is a BUT....I have these moments where God finds a way to remind me that even though I'm not who I think I should be, I'm exactly who HE created me to be and who HE has called into the ministry!
  I think it was last Wednesday...I was at work and just thinking about the different people I know who are involved in God's work.  I thought about my current pastor and other pastors I know, missionaries, and people who work in inner-city ministries....and I started talking to God about how much respect I have for these people and how I'm not sure I could ever be like them!  And then somewhere deep in my spirit, it was like I felt God said "I never asked you to be"! 
  It's so true, God never asked me to be like someone else!  He created me to be me and thus I'm not called to be anyone else...or to act like anyone else.  I don't have their giftings or talents because I have my own.  And I also have my own calling, which I wouldn't be able to fulfill if I didn't walk out in who I am!
  But because I'm thick headed...and usually need to hear things a few times before they really take root in my spirit, God took the opportunity to remind me of all this again yesterday when  I had a phone conference/meeting with an OM staffer who specializes in raising support.  He was a wealth of information, and encouragement!  BUT the best...most important....thing he shared with me was this...."You just need to be yourself!  God could have called anyone to this ministry, but He is calling you...that means the gifts and talents He's given you are what HE needs in this moments to carry on His work.  So don't try to be anyone else....just be you!".  The funny thing was I didn't share anything that was going on in my heart that would lead him to say this....he just said it and moved on, as if God was like "Before we go any further, let me remind you again that you...as you are...is who I am calling"!
  And I know those both sound like really corny examples, but they are honestly exactly what I needed to hear and be reminded of at exactly the right time!  God has this great way of doing that....being so precise and specific with His reminders and confirmation!  And while I am sure that I'll probably need another reminder...and another...and another...from Him, I am confident of this, that HE will give me exactly what I need when I need it!  I see the proof of that every day!
   

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Holy Fustration...Hopefully!

  So I find myself a little...perturbed... at THE church recently (Note the capital THE...meaning, not my church per say, or even every church....just certain branches of the church.) (OKay so maybe my punctuation is a bit off too, but hopefully you get the point)! 
  For one, about a week or so ago I was watching a video of some missionaries in my heart country of Ecuador and just felt myself becoming more and more annoyed as I listened to these wealthy, white, American's preach to these children that they should dream big and that if they just trust God enough, He will give them every thing they WANT in life!  Seriously?!?!  First of all...as MISSIONARIES shouldn't you're main message be THE GOSPEL?!  You know...Jesus on the CROSS, already giving us EVERYTHING!  Second of all, how irresponsible to tell a little child whose parent's probably make just a few dollars a day that if he just prays hard enough God will do whatever he wants Him to do! 
  And I'm not saying I don't believe that God can provide for this child, or that we, as Christians, shouldn't offer hope to those who are suffering.  BUT... shouldn't our message be JESUS?!?!  Wasn't it Paul...the greatest missionary ever....who said "I resolved to know nothing among you EXCEPT JESUS CHRIST and him crucified"?!?!  I just find it very wrong to set a child up to believe that God's some sort of genie in the bottle you have to rub a certain way to get your wish!  Or to force the "American Dream" on a child who most likely won't ever achieve it (as if the "American Dream" is really worth reaching!). 
  Anyway, I also took some time to watch the documentary "Hell House" today, which is about a church in Texas that puts on a production every Halloween where they set up different scenarios...like a girl having an abortion, or a homosexual dying, or someone killing themselves..in a "haunted" house .and talk about how all these people are going to hell because of their choices.  And I know...or at least I believe...that the point of their message was these "people" go to hell because they never accepted Jesus, but through out the whole documentary it comes across like it's their other choices...NOT their choice whether or not to serve Jesus...that determined their place in either heaven or hell.
  This kind of attitude annoys me so much!  This belief that THE church seems to have sometimes, that we need to clean up the people OUTSIDE of our church and make them live by OUR standards without ever leading them to the feet of the ONE who created the standard!!  How is some one who does not have an understanding of the LOVE and GRACE of God suppose to try and live this MORALIST life we proclaim, when they don't even know the ONE who empowers us to do it?!?!
  And I know I don't know everything....I have A LOT to learn still ...but it seems to me, that it's the people who claimed to be Religious...the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Bible...that Jesus had the harshest words for!  In fact it seems to be that while everyone will be judged at the end of time....that judgment will be based on whether or not you know Jesus.  And THEN of those who know Him and accepted him as savior,  there will be a judgment on how you lived.  It's not those OUTSIDE of the church but those INSIDE whom Jesus calls to this high standard of living! 
  Yeah...so....hopefully this doesn't just sound like a babbled rant that means nothing.  Hopefully you see my heart in the midst of THIS....that it's FIRST all about JESUS and knowing HIM...and THEN about  living our lives in such a way that points back to HIM...not us!  Cause ultimately.....that's exactly what I want my life to be about!  It's ALL to and for JESUS!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jesus in Disguise...

  Mother Teresa, once said “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved” and that “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for."  Today....I saw the reality of that...up close and in a personal way.  And even though it was only a tiny moment of my day...that moment changed me...and broke me.  I am different.....and it's all because of one little boy who I'll probably never see again...
  For those of you who haven't been reading this blog for long or don't know me that personally, I work in a bookstore and am lucky enough to spend most of my days back in the children's department interacting and imparting the love of reading to the generation of the future (I love it)!  This morning I was back there, kind of bummed that not a single child showed up for story time (which we host once a week)...and in walked this young boy, looking just a little lost in a world full of books.  Now I have a tendency to get caught up in trying to get my work done, that I sometimes overlook the customer....but for some reason this boy caught my attention. So I walked over to him and struck up a conversation...
  Within the first few moments of talking, he shared with me that he was six years old and that he didn't know how to read, because there are 8 kids in his family and nobody really pays attention to him.  It was one of those moments when I almost wanted to clean out my ears to make sure I was hearing him correctly, but I knew just by looking into his eyes that every word was true!  How HEART-BREAKING....to be 6 years old and feel like nobody notices you...that nobody has time for you...that nobody really cares!  I just kept thinking...he's the same age as Marissa (my littlest niece) and I couldn't imagine her not knowing how much I love her and how much I care for her!
  I wanted to cry right there....but instead I picked up the books I was going to read for story time and I read to him....and then we did art together....and I watched him smile... and listened to him joke!   Then just as quickly as he came into my life, he was summoned out by a woman who called him by name and demanded he come NOW...  And I watched him scurry off knowing I will probably never see him again!
 After they left...I couldn't seem to get him out of my mind.  I just kept playing the whole scene over and over in my head... feeling like Schindler at the end of "Schindler's List", that I could of done more!  I never know what to do in situations like that...when confronted with the uncomfortable, messiness of somebody else's life.  My immediate reaction is to want to fix things...to somehow make it better or right.  But in that moment....there was no way I could do that.  I wanted more than anything to scoop him up in my arms and hug him while reading stories to him for the rest of the day....but I couldn't do that either!  All I could do...was be there in that moment...giving him my full attention and loving him as best as I could...trusting that some how, some way he would feel the love of a stranger and it would make a difference.
  A little known fact about me is that I keep a folder of pictures of the children I met in Ecuador last summer, on my computer...and every week, at least once, I look through the pictures and pray over and cry for the little ones I met.  When it comes to the little 6 year old I met today, I don't have a picture to add to a folder on my computer...but his image has been engraved on my heart and I don't think I will soon forget about him.  I feel honored that today I met Jesus in disguise!
 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Running, a Metaphor for Life....

  This past Saturday I participated in a local 5k with some friends from work!  It's the first race I have done in almost two years and I was really nervous about it...because I knew my time would suck...but thankfully it was a woman only race and since it was so hot, there was a lot of walkers.
 
(My friends and I after we all completed the race)
I really enjoy running.  I'm not fast by any stretch of the imagination, but I like knowing I can push myself to do something that five years ago I never would of dreamed I could do.  But, every time I run a race...no matter how long or short it is....there comes a point in time when I hit a wall and everything within me wants to shut down and stop.
  Saturday's race was no different.  I was hot, sweaty, and was having trouble breathing cause of the heat (for some reason this always happens to me when I run in high humidity...I struggle to get enough air and then I feel all light headed!!).  Plus everyone in my group...minus one...had passed me out within the first few minutes.  It would have been so easy to quit and say that I can't do it any more...to give up on myself and give into the fear and the sense of failure that I was feeling. 
  But I didn't....I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and setting little mini goals for myself (things like, I just have to make it to that tree, or don't let the person in the red shirt pass you)...and eventually I crossed the finish line.
  Turns out the race ended up being a great metaphor for life for me.  There are so many different aspects to my life, so many different things I am involved in....but in every single part of my life there always comes a point when I hit a wall or feel uncomfortable and want to give up or shy away and not do something.  I have a choice in those moment....just like in a race...to quit or to keep moving.  And when I choose to just keep moving forward....and choose to live in the uncomfortable-ness and face the fear....I end up being a part of something that makes me proud or happy or even just blessed.  Even when things don't go according to my plans or don't turn out as smoothly as I had hoped....if I just keep moving forward and choose not to give up...it's always worth it in the end!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

This, These, HIM..and NOT I....

Lately I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed by looking at all I need to do to prepare to go to Ecuador.  I think about all the things I have to pay for, all the paperwork that needs to be filled out, how much of the language I still need to grasp, and all the details that need to be worked out, ....and I just want to cry...because I don't know how to do this...and I don't know how it's all going to work out....and I don't think I'll ever be ready....
 
And yet...
 
I can't NOT do it..
 
Because...
 
   THIS is why I was created...THIS is why my heart beats in my chest and why it breaks... THIS is why I ache in deep unexplainable ways...and THIS is what sends me to my knees!  I can't explain it....but there's an ache in my heart that says THIS is where I belong....THESE are my people....THESE are the ones God has laid on my heart...that THEY would know HIM...that THEY would experience HIS life and HIS love...and that THEY would know how DESPERATELY HE LONGS FOR THEM.
 
And some how...
 
in the midst of remembering THAT...
 
I am reminded...
 
that THIS ....
 
is NOT about ME!
 
  So I fall on my knees and I cry out to God...because THIS is for HIM and for HIS people....and thus HE has to make a way!  I can't do THIS....not in my own strength...not trying to make my own way....I NEED HIM...DESPERATELY!...and I think that's what He's been waiting for....that moment of SURRENDER...when I say God, it has to be YOU!...Here I am...I am yours...so have YOUR WAY!
 
And THAT is where I am...
On my knees...
SURRENDERED to GOD...
CLINGING to HIM...
 
...and even though it's uncomfortable...
It seems so right...
like THIS...right here...
Is exactly where I am suppose to be...
 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Because..this was NOT How this was Supposed to Be...

  I have been struggling to blog so much lately...and it's really starting to bother me!  I started this blog several years ago as a way of sharing my weight loss journey, and while over the years it's morphed into a place where I now share a more important journey…my spiritual journey.., I've kept it going because it's always been such a place of release for me....somewhere where I can just share what I am thinking and how I am feeling, without having to worry about what the immediate reactions of others might be or how people might view me.  There’s an anonymousness of being able to share on here that takes away the fear I feel in doing so in real life….and I like that.
  But lately....that’s all been changing and instead of the freedom I’ve come to enjoy in writing, I’ve found myself  constrained… second guessing what to write  and worrying about how people might take the things I say.  It’s like the very thing I've loved about having this blog is slowly fading away....and I think I might have discovered why.
  You see, in my mind I have this idea of who I am supposed to be....not just as a person, or a Christian...but as a future missionary. I feel like missionaries…..or really anyone in ministry…are these put together people, who are talented and capable and ready to take on the world.  They have their faith journey figured out….know exactly what they believe and don’t believe about God and his calling on their life…and they trust God completely in everything that they do.  There’s no hidden worries, doubt, or fears…there’s no self-centeredness or self-concern…there’s no inner struggle or personal demons to work through.  They just know God has called them and in that they boldly step out in faith without any sense of failure.  It’s all so picture perfect!
  And obviously I know not ALL of that is true!  Missionaries aren’t perfect and they struggle…In fact I just finished reading this book about a missionary from Papua New Guinea who shared throughout the story her own struggles with her calling, and her relationship with God, and how different God’s plan looked being lived out compared to how she had imagined it!  But I can’t help but have this idea…this standard in my head…that now that people know I feel called to missions, I’m supposed to live up to. 
  And  that’s where the problem comes in….because I know I don’t live up to that standard….in fact I’m nowhere close it.  I don’t feel qualified….I’m not all that talented….I don’t like to stand out…. I struggle to find my place in the body…I doubt God sometimes….I don’t understand everything in the Bible…..I still don’t fully grasp this concept of grace…I’m still learning who God is….I wonder why God would ever choose me….and there’s a whole mess more I could share…but I think you get the point!
  So when I come on here to write….to share and work through some of these thoughts and feelings…I start to type out the words and realize that if I’m going to be honest on here and say things like what I started to say above…then….I’m basically proving to the world how much I’m failing to be who it is I’m saying I’m called to be.  In fact I seem to be saying….look at me, I don’t measure up….see all the ways I’m not qualified…and how incapable I can be!  It’s  scary to admit that….even through the computer screen….especially when I know the very people reading this are the people I’ll be counting on to support me as I pack up and ship out to live out this calling!
  I don’t know if that makes any sense…..but basically, I’ve been struggling to blog because blogging is a place of honesty for me…and…well…I fear in being honest and sharing my struggles, I’m giving people reasons NOT to support me!  But if I am not honest in my writing then it basically defeats the whole purpose of this blog to begin with….so it’s all pretty much a catch 22…and I’m not sure what to do!
  Why can’t it just be easier to fake it until I make it?!?!

    

Friday, June 28, 2013

Unfounded Fears and the Memories Behind them...

  When I was a little girl, my best friend lived just four houses down the street.   We were a year or two apart in age, but when we played together....which was all the time...it never seemed to matter.  My friend also had an older brother who was in high school, he played on their baseball team and every week her and her family would travel to where ever his away game was and cheer him on.
  One day my friend asked if I wanted to come along with her family to one of his games.  The particular game she was inviting me to was an away game, over an hour away, and at night (they were going to play under the lights).  Having been an avid baseball player myself at that time, I of course wanted to go and ran home excitedly to ask my parents for permission.
   I remember walking the short walk from her house to my house, practicing the speech I would give that I was sure would convince them that I had to go to this game!  I walked in the door and immediately asked my dad his opinion since I knew he was always more lenient than my mom and that if anyone would say yes it would be him.  Unfortunately, his response was his typical "Go ask your mother" speech and after several unsuccessful tries to convience him that he should make this decision alone....I went off to find my mom.
  My mom of course listened to my requested and my list of reasons why I thought she should say yes....and then...when I could no longer think of anything else to say....she said "Not on a school night"!  I tried to stay calm and reason with her that one late school night wouldn't kill me and that I needed to go for "educational" reasons (afterall I was a ball player myself), but she stood firm....I could not go because it was a school night.
   What I did next will live down in infamy as one of the gutsiest stunts I ever tried to pull off in my childhood life.  I looked my mom squarely in the eye, told her I understood exactly what she was saying and that I would obey....and then I walked out the door, down the street, into my best friends car and drove off with her family telling them my parents had no problem with me going!
  Everything was great about that night....our team own, I got to try all types of stadium food, and my friends brother even told me I was his favorite fan of the night!  Then I got home and walked in the door at eleven something at night...aka well past my curfew and bed time....and found my frantic angry parents waiting for me!
   They had been worried sick about me....this was before everyone had cellphones so they couldn't just call my neighbor and find out if I was with them...so for the last several hours my family had been searching the neighborhood and calling everyone they could think of to find out where I had gone.  In the back of their minds was the possibility that I had gone to the game anyway, but neither of my parents wanted to believe I would disobey them so out rightly, but now that it was apparent  I had, they were angry to the tenth degree.
  I remember my dad marching me upstairs that night, kicking my sister out of our shared bedroom, closing the door, and giving me a spanking that reminded me for weeks after, never to disobey like that again.  I also remember while my dad was punishing me...he was crying....real solid bonified tears.  Now I've only seen my father cry a handful of times in my life, so that's probably why it stands out to me....but also it gave me a real sense that my wrong had hurt him as well....and that was a much worse punishment than any spanking he could of given.
  Flash forward 25 years or so...I find myself once again excited to step and do some thing I think it great....and while I have all sorts of reasons as to why my parents should feel the same, they have some trepidation.  And once again I find myself listening to their concerns all the while knowing in the back of my head, no matter their feelings on the matter...I'm still doing it!  I'm not a little girl any more...I don't need their permission...and while I would like there support...no matter what, I'm going to walk out that door and metaphorically "go to the baseball game".  I just worry that when the games over and I come back home...I'll find them once again frantically waiting on the other side of the door, stressed and hurt by my choice...and that's a scary thing!
  Anyone else still stuck in that cycle of wanting to please your parents even though you're an adult?  How do you break it?  Do you ever really stop caring what they think and longing for their acceptance of your decisions?  Any advice or thoughts would be appreciated =)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Treading Water in the Open Sea...


  I shared a few weeks ago about how lately I feel like I am struggling in my relationship with God….how my sin, while showing me my need for a savior, literally makes me sick to my stomach!  I feel unworthy and completely incapable and unacceptable to God….and yet I know He is my Savior, the lover of my soul, and the only thing I can cling to in this world (You can read more about that here).
   But what I didn’t share a few weeks ago, was that a few months ago I began asking God to show me the depths of my sin.  While I’ve always known I was a “sinner”, my sin didn’t really seem to bother me…as long as I didn’t get caught in it by someone else….and I really felt like I needed to understand how much of a “sinner” I really am in order to understand the full depth of God’s love, grace and forgiveness.
  The thing is….I don’t really think I thought about the ramifications of that prayer before I started praying it.  It’s one of those “dangerous” prayers….right up there with “God break my heart with the things that break yours” and “Give me patience Lord”….that are awesome in terms of your relationship with God, but often involve a refining fire and being broken and pruning….and well those things just aren’t pleasant!
  I have been living in the “unpleasant-ness” of that prayer for weeks now it seems….week upon week of feeling completely distraught and overwhelmed with my own self-centeredness and the reality that I will do pretty much anything to bring honor to myself instead of God….and yet I’m sure I haven’t even seen more than just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to depth of my sin! 
  I wish that I could say I see the end in sight….like there was a light house in the distance or a beacon of hope telling me that the lesson is almost over….  But I don’t.  In fact, I kind of feel lost at sea….like I’m in the middle of the ocean with water and waves all around, but no land in sight! 
  I have so many questions and feel this sense of disconnect between what I know in my head to be true about God and what my heart is feeling!  I want to understand why God would love me so much to forgive me time and time and time again….why He would choose not to give up on me….and why he would even call me into His service, when all I bring to Him in return is a heart that desires to honor Him, but often carries that out in ways that just don’t…..but I can’t seem to find those answers….and that’s frustrating!
  Maybe the problem is that I’m looking for reasoning in something that can only be understood through faith and I have to learn to just accept truth because it’s truth and not because I understand it from beginning to end.  Or maybe this is God’s way of bringing me into a deeper relationship with Him, where I understand that I am nothing and I have nothing outside of Him.  Or maybe….this is just the answer to my prayers.
  All I know for sure is that I must keep treading this water…and so I do…praying along with Paul in Ephesians 1 that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give (me) the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that (I) may know Him better…and that the eyes of (my) heart may be enlightened in order that (I) may know the hope to which He has called (me), the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe”! Amen!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

To Whom Else Should I go?!?!....

  There is a story in the Bible where Jesus is preaching to His followers and He gives them a hard teaching, causing many of them to turn away and no longer follow Him.  After so many people desert Him, Jesus turns to His 12 disciples and asks "Are you going to leave me now too"?.  Simon Peter replies to Him.."Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” 
  This week I feel like I could almost voice those same words.  I don't really know how to explain it....words seem to fail me when deep stuff is going on in my heart.....but the past few weeks I've been struggling....at least when it comes to my faith. I believe in God....I know He is real...all my hope is in HIM....and there is nobody else to turn to.  Yet......I feel dirty, unworthy, incapable and unacceptable....and like I have no right to come to the Father!
  Now logically, as a Christian, I know this is NOT true!  I've been preaching to myself for weeks now about how because of the blood of Christ I am forgiven, justified and sanctified.....holy and blameless in the eyes of God!  I am grateful for this..... Thankful for this....know this is my ONLY hope!  And yet I'm struggling to walk in it.
  I go to church....or listen to our current sermon series online....and think about the high calling God has placed on all of our lives....how He's called us to be perfect and set a standard of living that is so high none of us can obtain it except through Him.  And then I feel this despair come over me, because I know I don't live like this....I'm so far off the mark....and I begin to wonder what's wrong with me that I can't seem to allow God to live all this through me.
  And...to be honest....I guess a part of me knows I'm missing the whole point of these sermons....that at some point I chased a bunny off the trail and got lost trying to catch it.  But I can't help it.....I feel like I'm suppose to GET THIS....like I'm suppose to be a Christian who understands the fundamentals of faith...and isn't this fundamental?!?!  Why is this, for me, such a hard teaching....showing me just how wrong I am and making me feel like I will never get it right!?!  I feel strapped to God's operating table once again...with His inspecting lights shining down on me...and it's uncomfortable....and I don't like it one bit!
  And YET...the truth of the matter is....no matter how uncomfortable things get, no matter how much I don't understand or how Dirty and unacceptable I feel.....I find myself clinging desperately to the very thing that scares me the most in this moment....the very heart of Jesus.  Because even though I feel like I'm covered in Mud, with cuts and bruises all over me and bones broken  before Him, I know He is the healer...and I know He is the one who can make sense out of this chaotic misunderstanding...and I know HE is my only Hope!  To Him I cling....Amen.
 
 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Humbleness 101....

  The other night at my community group we were discussing worrying and the question was posed, "What are the worries that keep you up at night".   For most people it's money....and for some others it's lack of control....for me it's probably a little bit of both those things but also another....which I discovered last night.
  As some of you know I am planning on joining Operation Mobilization as a missionary to Ecuador sometime in the coming months.  Last night I received an email from them which involved me having to do a few more things before being sent to the field, after already being given the green light to prepare, and it basically felt a little like a step backwards for me.
  I sat in bed trying to fall asleep and just kept thinking it all over and over and over again and realized while I was not concerned about how things would work out or even about any of the extra work I had to do, I was very concerned about what others would think about me having to push back my leaving date.  I was worrying over whether people would understand, if people would still support me if I ended up having to leave later and if people would think bad of me for saying one thing and having another happen.
  I was up for hours stressing about how I could changed things and if I could make people understand without thinking bad of me.  And then in the midst of all my worry, it was like God asked me...."If you're really doing this for the glory of my name, then why are you so concerned about your own reputation"!!!  OUCH...
   I can't even begin to explain how dirty and sinful and wretched I felt in that moment when I discovered that here I was taking something so "of God" and making it all about me!  It's like 200x worse than that moment when you discover your fly is down after talking in front of a whole crowd, or finding a piece of food in your front tooth after talking to a really cute guy!  It's just mortifying!
  I felt undone standing before a Holy God, understanding in that one moment that I am more sinful then I could ever understand...and how I use the things of God for my own Glory instead of allowing God to use me for His!  And in that one moment I understood what Isaiah must have felt like when he said, "Woe is me.  I am undone"!
   I woke up this morning completely humbled....confident in God, but humbled that in spite of the fact that I seem to be more concerned about people thinking well of me than in trusting in God's plan, that He has still called me, chosen me and will use me!
  Thank you God that you don't treat me as my sins deserve and that you are not surprised by my failings!  Thank you that you see my willingness to serve you and never give up on me!  Thank you that every day you are showing me how much more I need you and for taking the time to conform me more and more into your image!  Continue your work Lord until all I am is truly yours.  Amen!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Meaning in the Midst of Meaninglessness....

  I am working my way through a bible reading plan that currently has me reading Ecclesiastes....you know, the book where "everything is meaningless".  I think if I was reading this book at any other point in my life I would walk away from it feeling completely helpless....like what is the point of anything if God's only plan for man is a life of toil and then death.  But right now...at this moment...I'm almost finding a sense of reassurance....like, yes...life really isn't about me and really is about God.
  I've mentioned before how I keep having these moments wherein all the clutter of the world seems to clear out of the way in my mind and for a brief second I get life!  For example, in those moments, I get that I was created to bring God glory and everything I do in this world should point to that.  Of course moments later that clarity gets swept away by my own self-righteousness or self-centeredness or even a need to be accepted.
  None-the-less I think King Solomon had it right....how meaningless would it be to spend your whole life working for yourself and your own comfort and your own gain...only to die and have none of it mean a single thing!
  I don't know about you but I don't want to waste my life...I don't want to cling to the temporary or chase after that which I can't take with me to heaven.  And so I sit here tonight...praying, asking, pleading with God to open my eyes more fully to the reality of what He's doing in this world and what it looks like to live for Him in it.....and seeking for the strength to walk it out (Amen)!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Speaking of What Really Matters...

  Several years ago I heard this analogy on a podcast of a sermon by Tim Chaddick out of Reality LA.  He said that knowing God is like having the cure for cancer and more times than not instead of sharing that cure with the friends around us that are dying from the disease, we just place a bottle of the antidote on the table and hope they see it and ask us about it.
  I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and about how often times I only share my faith when people ask me about it.  I see my friends struggling and suffering and longing for hope...and I sit there offering my limited comfort instead of being forth right enough to tell them about the Savior. 
  I think this quite possibly makes me a bad friend.  I mean if I truly believe that Jesus is The way, The Truth and The life....and I truly Love my friends as much as I say I do....then wouldn't I want to share this truth with them?!?!  Wouldn't I want them to have the Love, Hope, Joy, Strength, etc that I've found in him?!?! 
  While this has been on my mind for a while now, I guess I started thinking  about it a lot more after church this past Sunday.  You see, my pastor had shared in his sermon a quote by CS Lewis that says... "just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about"...and while his point had to do with prayer, I couldn't help but think, why is it so easy to share my praise of so many other things in life with my friends, but yet I struggle to do so with things of faith if I know the other person doesn't believe?!
  Obviously the answer is cause I'm self-centered and approval seeking....and I care more about what my friends think about me then I do about them and their heart!  So I sit there celebrating with the cured that we have been cleansed from cancer....all the while allowing those in my life who need the cure the most to continue deteriorating with out saying a word.
  What really makes me a better friend....not trying to step on anyone's toes by mentioning God and thus living a life of "don't ask, don't tell"....or letting my relationship with God freely flow through my lips so that the people I care about most will know there is a God out there who sees, them and loves them and wants nothing more than for them to come to Him and find true freedom?!?!
   I think the answer is obvious!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Getting Real with Myself...

  I use to think that I was the type of person who expected more out of myself than out of others.  I have said things like....I'm just really hard on myself... and.... I just expect better of myself....and basically acted as if the standard by which I choose to live is so righteous that I am as close to perfect as a sinner can get and everyone else should just bow to my greatness (okay..so I'm not that full-of-myself, but you get the point)!
  Lately though...I've been noticing the cracks in my own theory.  In the past week alone I've gotten angry, frustrate and annoyed at people in my life for doing the same things I have done myself and yet I've excused my behavior without offering that same excuse to others!  HYPOCRITE!
  I am the type of person who expects immediate forgiveness when I hurt people....and then drags my feet in forgiving people in return!  I am the type of person who talks out the issues I have with one person to everyone but that person... and then gets mad when that person doesn't approach just me when there are issues!  I am the type of person who gets frustrated when it feels like nobody is really listening to me...and yet when people ask for my listening ear, I am often so distracted I miss their main point!
  I act like everything is fine when it's not.  I throw people under the bus to protect myself.  I lie when I should be truthful.  I put my own interest above others.  I seek my own comfort first.  I think I'm right even when I know I am not.
  Basically...I am learning more and more... that I am a SINNER....just like everyone else!  THANK GOD for a savior!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

To Live in the Light...

  I use to struggle with sharing my sin.  Not that I enjoy it now....but...I guess I am starting to understand it better now.  I seem to be realizing more and more how bringing things into the light takes the power away from any situation or sin.  And I think in turn I'm growing up and maturing just a little bit more.
  I guess my biggest fears in sharing my sin have always been that people will judge me or call me out on it....in both cases my reputation is the thing that is tarnished.  But lately I have been having these brief moments of clarity....these fleeting times where in the midst I am able to see life and myself clearly...and in that I find power to be who God says I am.
  I know that sounds funny (and maybe a bit confusing)....but the truth is...when I really think about it, I see the freedom in being a slave to Christ.  I use to see my religion as a list of do's and don'ts and I would find myself so frustrated at the end of the day because of how imperfect and far away from that goal I got on my own.  But lately I've been sensing this reality that it's okay to fail and not get it all right in my own strength...in fact maybe that's even the point...because it's only when I realize how much I sin and fall short, that I really take the time to seek God and call out to Him.
  My sin points out my need for a savior.  I see it in my interactions with people I can't seem to get a long with, even though I am called to love them.  I see it in the moments I care more about my own acceptance than the heart of my friends when I tell them what I know they want to hear instead of the truth.  And I see it when I get angry and frustrated because I didn't get my way or what I was expecting.
  When I admit these things about myself and speak of them freely...it's not that I am sucumming to them...I'm not giving up and saying oh well this is who I am.  Instead I think in sharing my struggles I'm allowing people to hold me to a standard of improvement and I am admitting that in order to change I need the grace of God.
  It's safer to say I'll make it on my own...I don't need anyone or anything....but I think it's in community and among friends that God can really open up our hearts and do the deep inner work in us.  When we stop hiding in the shadows and pretending like there is no problem, God can take his examining light and shine it in such a way that he can do the most intricate work in our lives.  And that...I think...are the exact moments he uses to make us more and more like Him.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's Never Easy to Do the Right Thing!

  Several months ago I began working a few shifts a week at a local bookstore (same company I worked at before, just a different location).  I'm not in charge of anything, I get to pretty much work all over the store and I'm only there a couple of hours a shift.  It's great!
  Unfortunately, I work with someone whom I am having a really hard time with.  I don't think she is a bad person, I just really struggle with her personality, work ethic and how she tends to come across.  Normally I can pretty much get along with everyone....even people I don't particularly like....but for some reason with her...I can't seem to do it!
  In fact the other day I was quite rude to her over a mess she left for me to deal with.  I knew I was being rude....I knew I should have just kept my mouth shut or tried to say something edifying in the moment of annoyance....but I didn't, because quite frankly I wanted her to feel my wrath!
  How wrong is that?!?!  Here I am....a Christian who is suppose to Love people, not judge them and not treat them as their "sins" deserve...and yet all I want to do (and quite honestly am doing) is make myself out to be better than her and thus cut her down to size!
  I was so convicted of this on Sunday as I listened to the sermon at church, that I decided the next time I saw her I would be the bigger person and apologize.  And yet...on Monday, when I had more than one chance to do so....I just found myself getting more and more annoyed with her and completely unwilling to say anything!
  Why is it so hard to do what's right sometimes?  I'm a sinner just like she is and I screw up and rub people the wrong way all the time....so why can't I just see that and find a way to love her?!  Anyone else ever struggle with this?!?! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Distracted Prayers....

  I do a lot of praying in my car.  It's one of the few quiet places in my life where I know I will spending a lot of time and where I won't be interrupted.  So... usually I get in my car, leave the radio off or lowly play some worship music and then spend most of my drives centering myself on God.  And it is glorious...just what I need!  This morning however.... my prayer drive was....RIDICULOUS...although it didn't start out that way! 
  I got in my car as usual and has I began to drive, opened up with my normal "Dear God please protect me in this car as we both know how "wonderful" my  driving skills are", and then proceeded to go thru my normal list of thanks, praise, confessions, and requests (although never said in that order or one by one...in fact it's usually a mixed up mumbled mess of words that cascade out of my heart all at once).
  Before I even got to the highway...which mind you is within 5 minutes of my house...I realized I was no longer praying but rather singing Maroon 5's "One More Night" out loud.  How does that happen?!?!  How can I get so distracted from praying that I don't even realize I've moved on to doing something else when I'm suppose to be in the midst of prayer?!!
  Anyway, once I realized that God's not exactly "Stuck on my body like a tattoo", I moved back into praying and tried to really concentrate on what I was saying.  But once again I found myself lost in thought and not in prayer....and basically  using my prayer time to think about my day and where I would fit the few errands I need to do, into the short breaks I have between activities today. Not exactly Godly in that... my life and schedule should fit into His mission for the world and not the other way around! 
   Well, by the time I caught myself this time I was already at my first stop and put my "prayer" on hold until I dropped off my young companion whom I take to preschool.   The original plan was to pray in my head while driving with him (since I usually just pray out loud in my car), but the second  we got into the car we started talking about the storm we had last night and how cool it would be to have the power to control lighting...and well I never got back to that plan.
  I guess I should have picked up my prayers after dropping him off but honestly, once again I was distracted by the thought of how it would look if my interactions with my friends went like this morning prayer time was going!  I thought about how annoyed people would be with me if I started off sharing the story of my day with them, only to stop midway and break out into some top 100 radio hit that's completely unrelated.  Or how self-centered they might feel I am for interrupting their sharing with a list of all the things I need to do in my day that didn't include them!
  You'd think this would drive me immediately back to prayer.  That I would see how frustrating it might be for God never mind another person to have me so distracted  in my time with Him....but it didn't.  In fact I actually had to write all this down before I could push it out of my head enough to really concentrate on my prayers.
   The thing about praying is that some times it becomes so nonchalant for me that I forget I'm coming before a HOLY God.  It's like in trying to maintain my relationship with God, I make prayer so "normal" that I forget what it took for me to have the privilege to speak to God myself and not go through a priest. 
  I don't think prayers are suppose to be "stiff"...I don't think they are suppose to be structured and said in some sort of specific order, or otherwise they are not valid.  In fact I think prayer really is just talking to God. However, I never want to forget the implications of what that means...that I'm talking to GOD...and I never want treat my time with Him like it's of no value. 
   So this morning I repented...and I went back to my car and spent that time with God...thanking Him, Praise him, Confessing and laying my requests at His feet....and basically taking the time to make Him the center of my life.  And...once again....it was just what I needed!
 
 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dangerous Prayers...

  In life there are a few prayers you can make that I would consider DANGEROUS.  Now what I mean by DANGEROUS is not that they are bad things to pray...but...rather they are the kind of things that when you pray them, God will answer and the consequences will not always be easy.
  One of those DANGEROUS prayers is the prayer for patience.  The second those words pass through your lips and up to God, it's like you've given Him permission to put you in situations that will test your patience (for it's only in stretching your patience that it will grow).  I made the "mistake" of praying this before....and boy did I learn my lesson.  Before I knew it everything in life seemed to be gnawing on that part of me that hates to wait.  And while I'm certainly not the most patient person in the world now,  my patience certainly grew....through lots and lots of moments of testing! 
  Another one of those DANGEROUS prayers is the "break my heart for the things that break yours" prayer.  Great prayer in theory.  In fact praying that prayer will change your life.  I guess the question is, are you really ready for your life to change.  When I first began praying that prayer I had no idea it would mean creating an uncontrollable ache and longing in my heart for the orphan....or a somewhat idealistic desire to stand up for those who can't speak for themselves...or even a willingness to sacrifice everything I've ever known in order to pursue something greater than myself.  That prayer alone has changed so many of the priorities in my life and flipped my perspective on what truly matters in this world.
   And now, just recently I've discovered another DANGEROUS prayer...the prayer to ask God to show you the depths of your own sin.  I don't know what possessed me to begin praying this.  I guess it started before Easter when I found myself face to face with the cross, knowing in my head what Christ did for me on it, but longing in the depths of my heart to understand it more fully.
  It seems every day since I began praying this, I've been confronted with my own self-centeredness or selfishness or need for approval.  I can't even make it through a quarter of my day before I realize I've fallen into a puddle of sin and spent, at the very minimum the last five minutes, wading in it.  It's not that every moment of the day I'm doing something wrong...in fact I think a lot of my sin comes more from wrong motives than wrong actions....but it's the fact that I'm recognizing it more and more...and realizing every day, a little more fully, just how much of a wretch I am.
  Now like I said....just cause these are DANGEROUS prayers, doesn't make them bad prayers.  I think it's through prayers like this that God is given permission to transform us more and more into His image.  I certainly have a long way to go in this....and there's certainly a part of me that bucks against the "pain" of these types of changes.  But ultimately, my biggest prayer and probably the most DANGEROUS one I could ever pray... is for God to make me "just like Him", and with that comes the willingness to risk praying the DANGEROUS. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Want to WANT...

 I've been in this religious funk for a while now....okay so in my world...where  days stretch on like weeks and weeks can feel like months or even years..."a while" is probably just a week or two, but none the less I've been living in this....FUNK....for a while, and I hate it!
  For years now I've been saying that I don't WANT my relationship with God to be a list of "do's" and "don'ts".  I don't WANT to serve Him out of obligation, or make my ministry a "have to" and  I don't WANT to read my bible, go to church, pray or do any of those other "religious" things out of duty. 
  All those things....all the "stuff" that comes from serving God... are things I WANT to do because I WANT to do it.  I WANT my heart to WANT to WANT to do them.  I WANT to be so in love with God that these things are my automatic desire.  But I'm just not there...all the time...yet.
  The Bible says something like, no man can come to the Father unless God draws him.  And I know in my own life, if it weren't for God seeking me when I was doing everything in my power to hide from Him, I wouldn't be a Christian today.
  So is it possible that the "WANT" to WANT God....to read your Bible, to pray, to worship, to serve God....has to come from God himself?  Can we really genuinely muster up within ourselves that WANT, or is it in fact something that God has to do in our hearts?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Hard Part of Old and New..

  My birthday was a week or so ago and for a present my parents got me a new laptop.  It's so nice and has all these great features (like a web cam and Microsoft 2013) that will come in handy in the future, but I have to admit the gift was a little bitter sweet. 
   You see my old laptop was basically falling apart....the screen was held together with medical tape and was connected to the keyboard with only  one screw...oh and it had to stay plugged in at all times when it was on because the battery had died.  But it was also my prized procession.  It was the first major purchase I ever made on my own....plus my brother in law helped pick it out for me (and by helped I mean did all the work and left just paying for me), so it's one of the few connections I still had with him. 
 And now, with getting ready to lay that old laptop to rest, it feels like I've come to the end of an era. I know that sounds totally over-dramatic and a bit cheesy...and it is, I'll admit it....but it's true....I'm going to miss that old laptop!
  The funny thing is, I am like this with a lot of things in life.  I hold onto everything until it's absolutely falling apart and can't possibly go on much longer.  My car's been on it's last leg for years, but I keep driving it.  My socks almost all have wholes in them somewhere, but I keep on wearing them. Some of my favorite board games are missing vital pieces, but instead of throwing them away I keep them just in case I find what's missing and can play it again.  Maybe it's separation anxiety...or maybe I'm just a hoarder...but I really hate getting rid of stuff, even if it's just to make room for the new.
  Am I the only one like this?  Do I need to check myself into a 12 step program and teach myself the importance of letting things go?  Or is this all just pretty normal for all of us in the world?
  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Re-focusing at the Center For Retreat and Renewal....

  Yesterday was Good Friday and thus continuing on in my theme this year of spending more time thinking about and reflecting on what this Easter season is all about, I spent some of my afternoon at the Center for Renewal and Retreat.  The Center is this retreat house in the "backwoods" of a local town that is located on 38 acres of land.  It has hiking paths, prayer huts, and even an outdoor chapel...as well as a comfy little house...for you to use and just get away from the hustle and bustle of life in order to meet with God.  I had been there before, but I was really excited to go back....especially after the crap-tastic morning I had.

  When I first arrived, I stopped in the house to say hello and then headed out into the great outdoors.  There's a little prayer hut by a little stream in the woods just a little up the path from the building and I knew I wanted to head there to quiet myself and read a bit of God's word.  I read through Matthews account of Jesus's last days...his trial and crucifixion...and the about His Resurrection.  And then headed for the trails to reflect  and pray.

  There's something about being surrounded by nature that truly helps me to connect with God.  I see Him in the glare of the sun or the formation of the clouds.  I hear Him in the chirping of the birds or the flowing of a stream.  I sense Him in the current of a breeze and the crunching of leaves beneath my feet.  It's like He's there....right there....all around me....and I know it!
   I guess it's for this reason that I find it so easy to  pray while
hiking in the woods.  Some people talk to a walking buddy, I use the time to talk to God...and yesterday was no different.  I spent the good part of an hour walking and talking with God...and I was brutally honest with Him, sharing how at times I feel like I'm not even a Christian because the most basic concepts of faith I fail to truly understand.  I even repented for the times and ways I've put on a show, pretending our relationship was what I thought it was suppose to be instead of what it actually is.  And I relished in the fact that, even when I'm not honest with the world, I am always honest with God...and I'm no longer afraid to be real with Him....even in the ugly times.  Then I headed inside for a time of group worship.
  I can't seem to find the right words to explain myself... but group worship was so hard for me.  I should have spent the time reflecting on the cross, but my mind was on how sucky of a Christian I felt like in comparison to every one else that was in the room.  I would try to sing and try to pray but I just kept getting more and more frustrated...because I'm not like them.  I don't like to pray out loud....I don't lift my hands in worship...I only get on my knees before God in the comfort of my own room. I found myself boiling down Christianity and faith in God into these simple outward displays... and the fact that I don't show them to the world was making me feel pretty condemned.
  Then I opened my bible to Romans 5  and began reading...." Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory...When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners... And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation."
   "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).....NO CONDEMNATION...NONE!  As I read these verses, and thought about the rest of Romans (by far my favorite book in the Bible), I couldn't help but praise God!  In fact I ended up heading back outside after group worship, and going to the outdoor sanctuary to sit in front of the cross there, singing my own songs of praise!

  I may never get this Christian thing right....I may always struggle to want to fall back into works over grace or just to put on a show....I might never even feel comfortable praying out loud or raising my hands in worship....BUT  I'm still saved and there is no need for me to feel condemned!
  So maybe that's not the traditional lesson or focus for a Good Friday...but for me it's what I needed....especially heading into celebrating Christ's Resurrection Sunday....where it's His freedom that allows me to worship Him in my own way....no matter what it looks like or how it compares to others!