Monday, January 31, 2011
So now the Monday confession:
For weeks, I had been storing up petty resentments, nickle and diming my peace away on slights, unable even through prayer to discard them. Moment by moment, I was consumed by self, feeding on this junk and able only to see through my own eyes. Really, I was waiting to release them to someone other than God. I had plans to make my case, unload all the offenses I'd been collecting and then I would be justified. In the light, my innocence would shine forth, other's mistakes would criminalize them and we could all go about in agreement that I am truly such a patient martyr and so good to have kept this all in for so long.
I wanted absolution and didn't realize I'd already been given it.
And so, when my moment materialized, my mouth pronounced nothing.
The night before (Saturday night) I had said to Brett, "Sometimes there's so much to say, it's better to say nothing at all." On Sunday, I realized the legitimacy of what I'd said, the truth that sometimes it is better to say nothing at all. It is often the higher road.
And I had already unloaded - to God. For weeks. What more was there to say? There was no case to make.
I had dreamt a night or two ago that my mouth was full of cotton. Be careful what you pray for. God will meet you where you ask Him, and He will make the old fall away. He will prune you even if in the immediate it is not felt or seen.
I had not understood how I was changing through my prayers. I had presumed that in my obedience, I could give my troubles to God but then in my flesh, I could also give my troubles to another. But my obedience scrubbed my flesh. I found cotton in my mouth not coal but it had the same effect. I was silenced and then purified.
And I found this release pure and simple. So much more freeing than had I been allowed to choose my own path of redemption.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
-Howard Thurman, The Growing Edge
This is from my devotions yesterday. I reread it today. I cannot say how hugely happy it makes me to sustain this truth. To build daily upon the axiom that how other's perceive me is not who I am. How I perceive others has nothing to do with who they are. Who we are friends with or not friends with, this too, does not make us any more or less human. Who I am, is ultimately and only a child of God. A child of God who happens to live here on this earth, in this time. Through His Divine eyes, none us is neglected.
I recognize this much of the time.
And I would also say, that I have been blessed in some ways to have always felt a bit of an outsider. This status has forced me into deeper relationship with my Father and when I've suffered isolation or childish feelings of being 'left out', I have been able to know that I am, as David was, the apple of God's eye. As we all are and that God is not exclusive but loves us all with an everlasting love.
Growing up an only child to my parents, I never learned all of the complex subtleties required in relationship and as a result I have often pressed inward, consummating an odd man out mentality.
I don't know how many other people share this handicap because I'm not sure that loneliness and misunderstanding are trendy topics once outside the walls of high school. But I do know that it is only in my lack that I have gained much. In my silly self-imposed solitude, I have found the Comforter.
Today I can rejoice in my sometimes confusion at how the rest of the world seems to work. I can also, laugh, accepting that we all probably feel this to a certain degree and though we are unique we are the same.
I don't have to see what you see, but I do have to know that you are of worth and are a Child of the Lord, as am I.
Friday, January 28, 2011
No, they still have a fine ability to forgive, but they also have a wonderful way of stumbling upon new and interesting things to tussle over on a constant basis.
So, maybe just the list today?
So I might remember.
My own list of gifts from Him.
How it grows.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
This week, all week, I have woken up alive, cheerful to greet the shine of day. And really, what a difference it makes when I wake up before the kids to special, alone time with the Lord. Ever blooming towards the flourishing Proverbs 31 wife.
Everything is blossoming and I am deliberately ignoring lurking February. I am instead relishing in the fact that on the heel of a sympathetic January there is melting and warmer temperatures.
I can almost taste the delicious smack of baseball season.
And I have been nourished by forcing myself up and out of the house.
First steps taken make each next step all the easier. Plate full and yet, I have none of the funereal dread I've shouldered these past long months.
Why is there always a but?
But.... I've noticed come evening, as the sun departs, I grow peevish. As the lesser stars replace sun, my temperament declines. I become tense. Touchy. Entangled in the weeds of my own rayless feelings.
So, now, though, this pattern made lucid, maybe I can try to beat it. Prepare. Look at it from Spiritual eyes. See significance in the sun and moon, the seasons, light and dark.
What is dark to me is not darkness to God.
He must have cat eyes.
Night shines like day to Him(Psalms 139:11-12).
So, as day wanes, and night falls, I will ask for sight of feline, anticipate illumination.
"Abide with me, fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide."
-Henry Francis Lyte
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Um, how true is this of me?
I am so very often tongue tied and it takes me a rather long time with others to grow comfortable in conversing. Even with those dear to me, compliments and words of encouragement do not flow easily from my lips. My heart wishes to say so many more words than my lips find able. This is why I write. My fingers are adept when my mouth proves awkward and even posting on a blog as if I were in a confessional booth is considerably easier than shaping speech audibly.
I am not a gusher. I, more, trickle.
Until huffy, and then suddenly a stream of fluency. Sharp comebacks, causticity and filth flies, my flesh asserting that I've been muted too long.
What a detestable condition. "What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come..." Mark 7:20-21
Looking up 'evil' in my concordance, I find the word, 'worthless'.
My words can have worth or can be worth- less. Of no worth. And my heart dictates.
In my prayer this morning, I told God, "I don't want to post more on my malignant mouth. Isn't it enough that I confessed yesterday to only You know who all?"
But my devotions led me to Mark 7. God clearly wanted to finish the conversation. After He speaks of evil thoughts he goes on to speak of sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
Well. That couldn't have been made more clear.
So, I confess. Surely, I'm not the only one who suffers humanness. And in confession, I'm able to thank God for release. For showing me my heart, as is, but saying still, He will take it. He will make it clean. He will help me clean house so that I may have a clean and perfect heart before Him. (Psalm 101:2) I only have to walk out before him, exposed and unafraid of my nakedness, and ask for help.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Children, small, let out their anger in a cannonade of feelings and then spent, it dissipates. They speak the truth, if not in love, and then happily rejoin forces in their next activity or game. They don't seem to know how to hold a grudge.
How do we lose this ability as we grow? This quick forgiveness. Why does ire fester, gnaw? Why do I chew it, swallow it, throw it back up in a torrent of unkindness, harshness and intolerance? Producing words that are bile, illness settling in so I find myself asking forgiveness twenty times when once would be enough.
In the moments, I'm so justified, so righteous in my own eyes but after, chapped with unclean lips, I want the coal, hot, to scorch it out of me. (Isaiah 6)
I search for the primary emotion if anger is only secondary and I don't want to admit that it all has to come from hurt. Hurts, I thought so long ago, dealt with, buried. If they haunt, linger, how can I hope to be new?
And I've trained myself to bite my lips hard and often, seemingly victorious over the rot. So, then it comes as shock when I find in a mere instant that I'm not biting hard enough to keep it all in.
How to spill without sin? To break down the walls of protection so strong and high, made of bricks hardened by anger. Uncover wounds in self without wounding others?
It doesn't work to simply act out Proverbs 15:1 - "A gentle answer turns away wrath." I have to learn to be the gentle answer. I have to learn it in my being.
Monday, January 24, 2011
And then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. All in all, it has not been so bad and I have been grateful for this, instead of something else. See, how I do this with God? Basically, I told Him, "Fine, I'll take it. I can deal with this. You've followed the rules sufficiently."
Lately, my legs have grown torpid, just sort of in a nagging way; stairs not as manageable, standing more strenuous. And I've felt this unease which I've kept mostly silent. Because all it amounts to is anxiety.
Things are fine now. But will they always be? What if in the future....?
You know what? I really don't know. None of us know what the future holds and who by worrying can add a single hour to their life? (Luke 12:25) This is something I do know. That fear is fruitless. I get it, but it is often hard to live out.
And so in God's timing, I am reading Ann Voskamp's book on gratitude and being grateful in ALL things. There is no way I can fairly say whether I'd feel gratitude if the worst were to happen. But I can work on being grateful in the present.
If I were not, many times supine in bed, too exhausted, truly, to deal with my children, limbs leaden, I would not pray the way I've been praying. And when praying this way I'm allowing in His strength and I can feel it. So, I am grateful, yes, for this disease.
I have not been able to find my regular devotional for many days, so this morning I picked up an old one; God Calling. And today it talks of "Gray Days". It says, "Never forget your 'Thank You.' Do you not see it is a lesson? You must say 'Thank You' on the grayest days.....If a gray day is not one of thankfulness, the lesson has to be repeated until it is. Not to everyone is it so. But only to those who ask to serve Me well, and to do much for Me. A great work requires a great and careful training."
So, this life is training. Might I learn?
"If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it's not so bad."
Saturday, January 22, 2011
And I have uncertainties brewing subtly in my head that I don't want to form because I can't fathom what the appropriate responses are to be.
How to get across, how to make plain to young souls the weight their decisions carry seems a wide impossibility. I wonder is it? I wonder if someone could have succeeded in holding me back from my own volition when I was young?
It is fresh fear that enters when constructing other's choices. How to employ experience without doubting self?
We attain truth, comprehend it on our own as we mature and I cannot fast forward anothers growth.
I am waiting. Usually as I write, the answers materialize. But I'm depleted.
I pick up One Thousand Gifts, which just came in the mail. I've been waiting for it. Chapter one starts with a quote by Simone Weil, "Every sin is an attempt to fly from emptiness."
Oh, yes! I have not forgotten the emptiness during that fragile footing and so now with this recollection, I release. I am not the filler. There is One who can satiate and I ask Him now to do so.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Anxiety piled high on anxiety and there seems to be no alleviation. I offer up the revelation because I'm imploring help but I'm left with the residue of exposure, sticking.
Oh, to be someone else or somewhere else. Sometimes I want this. Other times I am happy with the way God made me. But it's in the wreckage and weaknesses that I cringe. I want quick deliverance.
But what then would I be, if only a perfect version of myself? I wouldn't need. I wouldn't cry out. How would I pine for a savior?
It's the dilapidated state that brings me to my knees. And on my knees is the best place to be. I find the Holy and the healing and the grace. And then compassion for all others who silently or loudly suffer.
Physical illness I've surmised may be easier to bear than any other. It's less affected by blame. And I'd like to point my finger at my weak legs as the cause, the ailment that brings on all other shakiness rather than my betraying brain. But maybe it's one in the same. This body mind. Mind of body.
It doesn't matter because it's not mine. If I can look at it that way and give it over, saying "Do what you will with all this, with all this stubbornness, this nervousness, this unsanctificated skin I walk around in"
And He does and if I direct my thoughts toward Him, He directs them back His own way.
"...those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. ...they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:30-31
Thursday, January 20, 2011
He makes me smile because when I say "laugh off fear" he allows the fear in and then the next day the laughter. I know then He is here. That each word, breath, movement I make, He sees and that He indeed delights in me. He dances over me while I sleep. That is truly grace. That is truly the epitome of love and blessing. Is there any idea more beautiful than that I wonder?
I abandon self, my faint heart trying on determination, which in the past has been foreign and very shortly after, I come head to head with the theft of joy. Sometimes these advances are subtle, sometimes overt. This dare I took, defied.
But I needed the challenge, truly. Because my loyalty and voice now stands stronger. And it is only when fear is faced and conquered does liberty come.
Perseverance leads to character and character to hope. (Romans 5:3-4) The Greek word for hope also means...confidence! Where does my hope(confidence) come from?(Psalms 39:7)
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
That was my word for the day. The word I kept chanting, hearing in my mind.
It was a perfectly fine day, but everything looked...everything felt....everything seemed....lackluster.
That's mumbling, murmuring, grumbling.
My devotions today said that "murmuring is diametrically opposed to" obedience (A Place Apart by M. Basil Pennington).
I was disobeying a call to joy, to contentment. A call to live fully and freely. A call to love.
Maybe I need to learn to love the white of snow. It is as this He will purify me.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
I'm a girl who loves words and the Word. Falling more so every day.
The Word became flesh.(John 1:14)
My flesh turns words and I grapple for my spirit, His Spirit to turn them instead.
Because I understand more so every day that in the tongue is the power of life and death. (Proverbs 18:21) And that it is in silence that wisdom is found. And where sin is quieted.
So being a lover of words and a lover of Him who loves words, who is the Word, I ask Him, "What do you want from me?"
I do not often hear Him audibly or even feel His presence. Though I try. But sometimes I'm just left unsure. So I turn to the Word. Love, glory, seeking, obedience, mercy, humility.
I have a long way to go.
But this is part of how I try. Me, a girl who excuses her reservation as a form of humility. Who judges others as smug when really, they only carry a confidence I do not have.
But I took a dare. A dare made by self to do this. To write online, for purposes I don't quite understand. Maybe to laugh off fear.
What am I so afraid of? God's words or my own? Knowing that it is He alone I write for, I come under conviction at times, attack at others. I read things as a confirmation to cease. Elie Wiesel in Legends of Our Time writes of a "Selishter Rebbe" who told him once to, "Be careful with words, they're dangerous. Be wary of them. They beget either demons or angels. It's up to you to give life to one or the other. Be careful, I tell you, nothing is as dangerous as giving free rein to words." Our thoughts turned words, yes need all the watchfulness in the world." And I am scared right out of writing when I read this. Good enough reason as any to just quit. I can't be trusted, God.
But really, it's an excuse to not be real or honest. To feign coy all the time, stay safe with the few I know who love me, but ineffectual always with any others. So is that what God would want?
How much do I love other's words? Other's candor? How aided have I been by other's truths, their stories and their admissions? Am I so different that I am called to be tongue tied always in the 'real world' and required even on paper to be silenced?
And then I read my morning Ann Voskamp. And every Tuesday she writes of words and of their worth and so I switch my stance. Think, okay, maybe. Maybe, I can do this too. Be brave as well.
And perhaps, I sound like a broken record with this theme of angst and writing. But I can not write from any place but the one I'm at. Or, I could but it would not be truth. And if it's not truth, what would be the point?
"If you tell me the way you see it rather
than the way it "is, " then this helps me
to more fully discover the way I see it."
-from Notes to Myself by Hugh Pranther
So, for now, I'll keep trying on the words given me. I am in front of mirror, trying on words like dresses and I'm a bride. I'm an artisan weaving in writing for His Holy Tabernacle the colors He's laid out before me. It's all I have to give and it's not much, but He loves me and He loves the offering.
Monday, January 17, 2011
This fine line I tiptoe presents itself between the license I've given myself to not go so much because after all it is winter, it is cold, and bears hibernate. And then the other side which is the vault I'm in danger of falling into if I grow careless with my allowances, because I feel the pointed fear and hear the slippery lies shifting closer in each day this slow season goes on. And I am not a bear, grizzly as I become this time of year. I am a mom, wife and daughter, friend. And these titles bid me leave the sheltered but caliginous cave.
When the phone stops getting answered and the grocery store becomes even more unendurable than one had previously thought and the idea of service in any form enervates and even coffee with friends nags instead of invites, well, there may then be a problem.
And I've been told that the first step ( I believe in first steps) is to just do it. Just do whatever it is that's been too long evaded because continued avoidance creates harbored distress. And don't put it off. Don't say, "next week, or tomorrow, when I feel better, when it's warmer."
This is anyway, what I've heard. I have to hope the source is reliable. It is, you see, a source who refused to admit that all "normal" people secretly hate the grocery store when I pressed him on the subject. So, you never know, he could be wrong.
But I gear up though the grocery store is the worst and I have a long list.
And then tonight, service and socializing in one. Will it be so torturous?
There is my truth for the day. And I am very easily convinced that my struggles are unique but perhaps that isn't so. I share because secrets kept are terrible, but engulfed in any disclosure is yet another edge. Confrontation without identifying fully with any one supposed condition. My body is so much more than what in its earthly form it presents, performs. Speaking yet vigilantly so as not to become the one mere fragment of one mere fragment which is me for now, in the here, an unfinished bit, so far from completion, an eternity still left.
And this is a time when the question of "why" won't suffice but I'm burdened with it in my heart. Because it didn't used to be this way, to this degree.
And under all this, last night I went to bed too early, assuring myself it was okay to call in replacements. And it was.
But I am not replaceable every day. So, today I'm off the bench and in the game. And it's not really about winning or losing, but how you play.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
I have learned somewhat to live with fatigue. Mostly because it leaves no choice.
But Sundays, the day of rest, comes weekly to demand of me a stilling. Perhaps, the symptoms, psychosomatic because Brett is home and can help. I am more inclined then to sit. Or even sleep.
Lazy Sundays, for body and mind. Even my brain hushes. Studying the Naturalist Worldview is laborious because it is all very philosophical and thus I strain to take it all in.
I should have completed my homework on Saturday.
But oh well.
Acceptance is key. Acceptance of conditions and fatigue and weakness. I don't need to be stalwart on Sundays. His power is made strong in my weakness. And His grace is sufficient.
So, I resign, am patient with the progress and the process. I oblige myself mercy because God does. Because God is not a legalist.
This is what I have come to hear on Sundays. Rest. Everything else can wait. Tomorrow is Monday and everything will resume, but today, just be. Allow others to be.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
And I can't say that I have anything new to offer the subject. It's just that as one grows older, this portion of reality assumes the form of unavoidable. Though we certainly try our hardest to withdraw from it, as John Steinbeck says, "like a child who abolishes the world by looking away from it. " We attempt this annihilation, even as adults, though it grows more difficult.
But ignoring truth won't make it go away.
And it beseeches acknowledgement.
Even ten years ago, it would have been hard to imagine the tragedies and complications life was going to deal out to those I know. Diseases, deaths, divorces to name but a few of the more common place cruelties.
I've been weighing lately, what it would have been like to hear these fortunes pronounced when we were all still innocent, before our first tastes of death and tragedy, to have a grim reaper sort visit our schools, us all in assembly, and predict what was going to befall each of us.
I don't think we could have handled it. Would we even have believed it?
I suppose it's inescapable and there's not a human on this planet who hasn't been contaminated in some way by sickness or sadness.
It might be the hardest thing for humans to explain. The why of pain. The point. The purpose. And there's so many different layers, reasons, manifestations, that one simple answer would never do.
Maybe some don't question or dwell on these type of thoughts but I've never been one capable of tuning out. And though I believe strongly in the idea that ignorance is bliss, I don't think that one of us is called to that.
I search, because I feel. My feelings are tied up in my thoughts and I can't separate one from the other, nor would I want to. And it comforts me to find that there are names for this condition. There are many books out there now, speaking of 'highly intuitive' people. People who feel others feelings. And it is of greater interest to me, because I have a child this way, in whom anxiety demonstrates itself because she takes on too much of what is other's.
Wouldn't I wish a certain oblivion for her, knowing what the heavy knowledge has been to me all my life?
But in the end, I believe that we live in a fallen world. And that in some ways this is all inevitable.
I heard recently on Christian radio, someone speaking of this, saying that he too used to pray these all encompassing but simple prayers but now he prays that when his children do encounter that ugly bit of truth of affliction in their existence, (because he knows they will) that they will know how to cope with it. Or more aptly put, Who to go to for help in coping with it.
So, though there is no great easy way to explain meaning on any one ounce of suffering I've endured or have my loved ones, and there are things which just ache inside us, take our breath away, I can say that had I not the knowledge of God, I would simply drown in it all. My heart is too tender for this world. This is what I've always thought. And what I've often prayed; "God, I don't belong here. If it's going to be this bad and hurt this much WHY did you put us here?"
In the end all I'm certain of is that this is not all there is. Thank God. Because if it were....it would be hopeless. I find my only hope in knowing that there's something bigger, a Being who has the answers when I don't, Who will complete all of everything, Who really cries with me and captures tears and loves with an amazing love even as we are unaware.
And I think He not only allows our eyes to be open to the suffering as we grow but also asks to share in the suffering. To share tears with God and cry at what makes Him cry.
He asks if we are willing.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Once God has been seen and sensed in this way, the heart aches for more. And I know that I could find Him in other ways. But this has been such a major avenue in bringing me to a place I want desperately to be.
But there is a fine line. There are always fine lines in life. We are tightrope walkers, balancing gingerly between the right and the wrong. Whether it be motives, actions, thoughts, desires. And I am constantly praying, "Do not let me use you God. Use me. Let me not seek You for my own purposes, because really I haven't a clue what my own purposes are even to be."
I want fiercely to train my mind to be clear and open to hearing His voice without mistaking it for my own.
I can see why the draw for some to a monastery. To the quiet. To the inauguration of silence which then brings release and then finally His voice. It is a drastic measure intended in some ways, to silence the overpowering voice of this world. God's voice, remember is still and small. It is huge and thunderous when we look at Creation, when we witness a miracle of healing, when His fingerprints show up in obvious places but in the day to day it is small and still and it takes utmost concentration to hear it. And so I see the need to abhor the world. I want it to hush. And here is that fine line. I am here. In it all the time. And of course, I need to hear the voices of these all around me, these other, also, frail humans. Sometimes I need to cook dinner.
So then, it must become a regular practice of learning to do both, but not in the multitasking way mothers are so guilty of taking on, where we only half do anything, only half give our attention to any one thing, but rather in the way of welcoming His voice in the center of pandemonium, allowing it, in it's soft way, to somehow drown out all the needless noise.
Can I hear my children and cook dinner and play games with them and still listen to the still?
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Thank you, thank you, thank you! The Bed and Breakfast was really what the doctor ordered. Laying in bed reading, not watching the clock, lounging, all positively luxurious. I felt as though I could have probably stayed a full week there without growing homesick.
And now I know why. It is the reason I have to address this blog to You. I am so easily anxious. I so easily strive. I so easily fall into the unoriginal trap of fear. In this home, which is my job, attaining perfection seems appropriate when it is not even required. And if I don't come directly to You, then I will fail to hear what You really want from me. I can too easily exclude you from my all the small moments in my life.
Coming home, seeing all four children rush toward us, exclaiming, "Mommy! Daddy!" The baby waving, waiting for the big special smile I reserve just for her because she is the baby. And the two older already working on workbooks, and Verity, wearing a princess dress with rats in her hair, saying, "You weren't here and now you are!" This is better than time alone. This is what it's really about. And there will be a day when I have nothing to do but read in bed and I will crave little voices making little requests.
And so I relished more in those first moments with these little lives, my life wrapped so up in them, than I did in the quiet of my getaway.
But then too soon, I forgot. I forgot that the home is to be a haven. And I do not need to rush, or rush them. We can slowly, as slowly as I moved on my little vacation, return to our going abouts. The laundry will get folded, school work will be finished, our brains won't stop functioning if we just still ourselves for a bit.
Where do I come up with this pressure? Remind me, God, that You are here and everywhere and slowing is often necessary to see you.
Allay, Lord, my compulsion to hurry and to strive. Give me a Mary heart. Let me welcome both time away and time here, finding contentment in all places. I want to not race ahead to each next thing but savor the here and the now.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Uh, it's not. And, it doesn't seem like this ought to be a hard concept, but....
We see things from our own eyes. We live OUR lives. We view things in relation to how they affect us.
And it takes practice and training and discipline to see outside ourselves. At least, I find.
It's quite easy to be selfless with one's children. Even, when learned, with one's spouse. Or feel compassion from afar for the suffering in the world when it is not exactly tangible.
But daily, to be a servant to all. To feel God's burdens. To not control all circumstances. To be tolerant when our plans are turned upside down by other's desires.
This is harder.
So, I've been asking myself, "Would this irritate me, if I realized that it wasn't all about me?" Would lines or crowds or lack of service or innocent requests bother me if I really digested the truth that in actuality, there are six billion people on this earth alone. I am only one of them. This is only one six billionth about me. I should make that my mantra.
It's about God.
And my life is to be hidden in Christ.
That one thought requires a life's worth of meditation.
I think a lot of people are afraid of God and of praying because they don't want to be told this. That it's not about them. That God may ask us to suffer for others. To feel other's pain. To sacrifice like He did. We never really know what we're getting into when we begin to pray and when we ask God to change us. And after praying certain things, and receiving certain answers, especially in relation to the burdens of others, I've been tempted to say to God, "I was just kidding. Leave me alone."
Emilie Griffin says, "Don't we know for a fact that people who begin by 'just praying' - without a particular aim in mind- wind up trudging of to missionary lands, entering monasteries, taking part in demonstrations, dedicating themselves to the poor and the sick?"
And finally, finally, pastors and a few Christian authors and others are beginning to get back to this. To get back to truth that we need to be sold out. That it's not about us! That it's not necessarily about the American Dream. Gasp. Or fame or recognition or riches or even maybe, happiness as we understand it.
I read somewhere recently the terrifying question, "What if God is calling you to obscurity?"
And I write things like this, that may incite, because I am feeling them. The pressure of these questions, these disturbing heart truths. Because I need to change more than any one I know. What if I am called to obscurity? What if God wakes me in the night to pray? What if God places a burden on me that crushes my insides? What if I really, really felt what He felt?
What if I just need to say yes to the simple request of a family member and have the heart of a servant? What if God says to me, "Lay down your life in the little ways. If you can't do this, how will I use you in the big ways? Can you be brave enough to pray for your heart to change, To be more like mine?"
This is what He asks of me. And it's heavy and difficult to receive. I feel convicted. Because I fall so short of being Christ like. The very minute I begin to think I have achieved anything like His mind, I will suddenly be shown another area where I have not given it all up.
Praying is scary business. When you ask, "God, change me," He might.
Monday, January 10, 2011
In spite of the fact that writing this way has been so enlightening and thus such a growth experience for my walk with God.
When I started back up, I felt a strong urge to post every day.
But now I've been wondering about completion. And purpose. And the point.
Because to be honest, there would be a relief that would follow if I were to stop. I am not a person who thrives on this sort of sharing.
But what of completion? Who is this work for? God, self, others? All?
I do know, that the more I keep my eyes open, the more able I am to glimpse His hand. The more I hearken, the more I really hear Him. He is present. He does talk. He does answer.
This whole world, whether we are aware or not, weaves itself together to make sense. We are just blind.
I finished The Genesse Diary last night. Nouwen spent seven months in a Trappist monastery and then left. He spoke about how he thought he'd be completely different when he returned home but found instead that he was much the same.
So the journey never ever ends until the Lord completes it. And that will not happen in our lifetime on this earth.
But I am seeing now, how each day, we get a little closer to some sort of end. And maybe we are to live our days in preparation of our deaths.
In class, we are talking about Genesis and Creation and now, naturalism. And yesterday in church, the pastor talked about our life purpose.
And I've been thinking of my friend who's Jewish and how she writes God, "G-d" and how I sort of love that because it shows a reverence which we all need. And I remember reading to True about how Jewish people don't believe in saying God's name, so I looked that back up and then today, Ann Voskamp talked too about it! About the name of YHWH. So, I see. I see, that as I seek, I find answers, or at least more questions which propel me still forward toward answers.
And I read 2 Corinthians 8: 1-15 today, which I did not fully understand but it talks about completion. The KJV uses the word performance instead. This did not lead me any closer to an answer on my own completion in any given task but something did stick out to me. Verse 12 says, "For if there is first a willing mind..." and verse 11 says, "there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have." Now replace completion with performance. Shall I then continue to perform, based on what has been given me, which I've found only by the beginnings of a willing mind and the readiness of desire?
Because my desire quickly turned to the sober realization that each word I write, each avenue I choose to explore is important. I cannot seek to do this, for God, others or self, if I don't take it seriously. Because I don't want to waste words. God never did. And the more I write, the less I want to speak. And it is real work. And there is a risk in sharing even that. Sharing that I come here, into my bedroom, to write, and I bend over computer and put real effort into this, at the same time, trying to let the effort be all His.
And so I offer myself to God. If He gifted me, should I not gift Him, with my very, very little?
Exodus 35 tells of the calling of those who were to work on God's Tabernacle. And it says, "everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing" came to work. To create beauty for the Lord. And the "children of Israel brought a freewill offering" Freewill.
And then Moses spoke, confirming that the Lord had gifted these 'artisans' with wisdom and skill which both come from the same Hebrew root word.
Read it and see how many times in this chapter, the words artistic and skill and wisdom and willing and work are used, intertwined.
As the women whose hearts were stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goat's hair, God in His infinite wisdom spins our stories and our gifting and our skills together to make a tapestry of which we are to then turn back to Him to decorate His holy place. Which is this earth. His creation.
I possess not much skill, or artistry or wisdom. but I possess a willing heart. So, from there I will continue to perform.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Except we don't get to celebrate because another winter storm intrudes, ruining the plans we'd made for this evening.
And this weather report made me grumpy, childishly so. I was grouchy with Brett, on the worst day of the year to be so with him, as if it was somehow his fault that we live in cold country where the climate is unpredictable. And I brought into the house the icy element which I so detest outside.
And I didn't want to write. Especially, after yesterday's post because I know it's not good to complain often, only vent occasionally.
And I didn't want to clean. Brett's mother is coming in tomorrow and after cleaning, we were at least going to get to have a date night as a reward. Now, no.
And it is not an understatement to say that I hate cleaning. Luckily, I have learned to hate a messy house more.
But...I got to work. Praying, through the work, saying, "God, you'll have to give me something to write about if you want me to write. Cause I'm irritable now.
And I want to acknowledge the blessing which is this marriage but what words could contain all of these ten years and do justice the beauty and the heartache and the growth and the miracles which have all occurred. Especially when I'm in this place?
And I DON'T WANT TO WRITE ABOUT THE WEATHER ANYMORE!"
And Brett was in the kitchen cooking because he's lovely like that, and True was fretting because he couldn't polish the kitchen table well enough where the baby sits and Annika was organizing her Barbie dream house and Kristin was cleaning the bathroom and Verity was being a princess while not contributing and I was pouting, dusting.
And suddenly....I felt God's joy. Really felt it. In my stomach. Flooding in with the simple thought, "Whatever." Not a "whatever" felt with bitterness, but more a "Whatever, it's all good."
Because it is. And He is. And my life is.
I have so much to be grateful for. I spent the morning of my anniversary in church worshiping and listening to a sermon on glorifying God. And I received the most beautiful message from a dear friend whom I've missed so much these last five years. And I have a sweet, loving, amazing family and we clean our house together and we help each other clean our spiritual houses.
I could go on and on about all I have to be thankful for and I ought, for this is one way I can glorify the Lord.
I am so grateful for what God has been bringing me into with this blog. Who would have thought that a blog of all things, could have such an impact on one's life? Because readers or not, my heart is changing as I open up to honesty and seek God's face and seek also to share what I have found.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
So this now, becomes a true confession.
Because, maybe, my giving voice to it, not allowing it to stay harbored, secret and safe but exposing it to the light, can I then be fought.
Depression. It sounds like a dirty word, for it is a word smeared in shame. It resonates of loss. Implies defeat.
I need a battle cry.
To say it out loud, to reveal such a thing, promises relief but that promise is buried deep beneath the looming fear. No one wants to be pitied.
I put it all out there because it's truth. As true as anything else I've known to be true. And it's unexplainable. Not circumstantial.
I heard sad news about my friends today and read online tragic news about Congresswoman Giffords. And there is nothing in my own life happenings that compares. Maybe, my heart heaviness is just simply a sharing in the suffering, a burden known before any actuality. It helps to probe for reason.
As a Christan, especially.
Because I'm tempted to believe the lie that it is oxymoronical.
But reading the Psalms, I'm convinced David struggled.
So, I google. Does google have the answer? I google Christianity and depression. There's stuff out there. But it doesn't help. Mostly it talks of unrepented sin and guilt which I find not only to not be helpful but actually rather cruel. Sometimes Christians are wrong.
Maybe I'll someday write a book on hope for those in pain. Maybe someday I'll find one already written.
I'm still in the fight. And I'll be intrepid for other's sake and my own to own up to what's real. Because if I don't, I won't know what's real anymore.
I'll confront the cowardliness in me that is dying writing this, hoping against all hope that no one responds in any way, because it is not a plea.
And because platitudes and cliches fail. It's the Lord who does not.
"For you are the God of my strength" Psalms 43:2
I pray His strength be today with all those who are suffering.
Friday, January 7, 2011
Challenged yet still adoring.
As with the call to discipline myself in other areas, I am being trained again in waking up before the children do. I have always felt the morning to be a special time but long winter days have not been conducive to waking. In The Genesse Diary, Nouwen talks to John Eudes(one of Nouwen's spiritual mentors) about his fatigue, which is something I battle every day. John tells him that it is a "proven fact that those who meditate regularly need less sleep." I am hoping to find this to be so.
Studying and meditating has been enlightening and exhilarating but also wearing. I have felt spent and fulfilled, both, in the same moment. I have to remember that anything God calls me into, He will complete. I aid in the work but the finished product is His.
Romans, The Gospels, 1 Peter; these were my Bible readings today. I've always joked that new Christians ought to start with the New Testament because Jesus is nicer than God. A lot of people seem to hold this view - that the Old Testament is hard to read but the New Testament is easy. I may have to amend my thinking on that. Jesus' words can sound downright harsh at times: "Who is my mother, who are my brothers?"(Matthew 12:48-50). And Peter can make me squirm as much as Oswald Chambers does.
Today as I was reading Jesus' words in Matthew I wished that I could have been there to hear His tone, His inflections. Does my mind add an inflection which was not there? Were these words delivered with gentleness, were they said in a straightforward, unapologetic manner, or in some other way I won't know in this life time?
I'm currently taking a Christian Worldview class for school. Many of the students are believers and many are not but I notice that even among the believers, our perception of Jesus differs.
But Jesus is the I AM. Which means He IS. He is the truth. But how does each of us accept that? Can He manifest Himself differently to each of us?
Words like debate and legalism and literal and stir the pot are coming out on the discussion forums in my classroom. And we are all questioning ourselves and each other and our preconceived notions and our heartfelt beliefs and our knowledge of the Christ.
I am seeing the need to be childlike in my faith and wise not in my own eyes.
And I am learning that learning never ends. But I must be taught Truth. And I believe in an absolute Truth.
However, though God is unchanging, He reveals Himself endlessly and perhaps our convictions change as we are daily convicted.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
And I am seeing God's promises revealed in perfect timing with the seasons.
I am seeing things with new eyes and with joy. He has shown me that as I proclaim His promises, they will come to pass. And He has shown me the power of His name.
I can literally feel my heart being turned to clay. Last night, I was thinking of how easy it is to harden one's heart but how difficult it is to soften it again. I know this because I have had a hard heart. And I have built walls, high, of protection, of defense, impenetrable, and in doing so, I erected an obstacle between others and me, between God and me, which took a long time to tear down. In fact, the work is probably still not finished.
The more I seek God(and this blog has been a huge step toward that for me,) the more I can feel Him molding me. I find myself longing to be in His presence and a desire to devour His word. In all honesty, I have not ever before felt in love with the Bible. But I have found it to be true that the thirst comes, once the discipline has been formed. So much of what He is showing me is unexplainable and really only discerned by heart knowledge. And still, my heart burns to be able to share, release His goodness.
But last night, praying before sleeping, I felt very strongly God warning me, if you will, to heed what the Word says about the cross offending. (Galatians 5:11). And I felt very clearly, that this was not intended to cause distress. I myself, am to work diligently to not offend (Romans 14:21), I am to be a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9) but Christ (Matthew 10:34) came bearing sword ....and yet, still, leaves His peace with us (John 14:27).
The more in love I fall with Him, the more I want to proclaim His name. And, too, the more I adore,the more I understand that being a follower of Christ demands a certain boldness. But the more I walk into this courage, the easier to fall into doubt. Because as we thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6) and acquire the hunger, so the enemy grows ravenous (1 Peter 5:8).
When I proclaim:
"I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew and then for the Gentile." Romans 1:16
Then immediately, I will feel accused.
But then comes,
"There is therefore
now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)
This is my son's Bible verse that he is memorizing and it came to mind today to overpower the fear that was creeping in. So, I learn again, the importance of binding the scripture on my heart.
I am not under condemnation. I have been set free. But my life is not perfected. And this life is both a blessing and a curse. And God is a mystery which we are to seek to understand. God was man and He is God. He was and is and is to come. Wow.
I think God loves paradoxes. Isaiah chapter 11 is the chapter which talks of the little child who shall lead them and of the wolf dwelling with the lamb. We are to be cunning as serpents but gentle as doves (Matthew 10:16).
A paradox is something which appears to be contradictory but may in fact be true.
It's baffling and intriguing, God's word, God's hope, His promises, His very life.
My prayer today is that I never stop seeking or learning and that I allow my heart to be soft and confounded again and again and that His power would always eradicate my fears.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
How easy it is to forsake the contemplative life. To turn your mind from God and onto other things, fruitless and worthless things.
This is why I must practice His presence. As with anything, it takes discipline and training, to develop a habit. It takes practice to learn to hear Him and when I listen, instead to the voice of the world, it takes longer then to return to the place where it is His voice I hear.
Of course, I live in this world. But we are called not to be of it. How does one accomplish that?
"Before men are led into themselves by one person, they are drawn outward by thousands; before they are once taught with doctrine they are many times confused by bad example." -Henry Suso
The voices of this world are many and the voices we hear may not necessarily be what we would consider evil. But they can be a distraction. So, it's a persistence in this pursuit for holiness. The pilgrimage never ends. Daily, I must ask God to order my days. Daily I must clear my mind of all that is not from Him and put on the mind of Christ.
There is a prayer by E. Stanley Jones which says, "O Christ...For I want no manifestation that doesn't manifest You - manifest You in Your sanctity and Your sanity. For You are Life..."
When I read that, I thought that it was odd to think in terms of Christ's sanity. But this led me to contemplate the mind of Christ, which we are to be able to put on. This word mind also means, understanding. I will never understand all of the mystery of Christ but I can proclaim that because He lives in me, I have been given a sound (sane) mind. As I press on, I will become more and more sanctified, things will be revealed, and peace will come. I will understand what it means to say, I was not given a "spirit of fear".
So I must be in the world, especially in regards to my family and friends, be present with them and also aware of what is happening outside my own mind so that when entering again into the contemplative, I know what then to reflect upon.
So comes another tricky paradox, to see the world around me and it's needs, placing myself within, enough to partake and to aid but staying outside enough that I guard my mind from those things which are time-consuming and life-stealing. Empty endeavors.
Guarding my mind, meditating, practicing His presence; this is all work. It is far easier to ignore Him than to invite Him in, to entertain my mind rather than clear it. So, I have found, before all else fails, to pray. Pray scripture. The Psalms above, I use, or the Jesus prayer.
And writing this blog has not only helped me in my quest for a more deliberate existence but has proved as an accountability holder for me, for as I give voice to these matters I grapple with, I am reminded to live a certain way. If I am to talk about going about my work in a quiet and uncomplaining way, God will bring that to mind the first moment I am tempted to complain. If I am to talk about being diligent seeking His face, then He will prompt me toward this, when I am more inclined toward inattention.
Phew. This was a heavy one for me. But thank you for allowing me to voice these lofty thoughts and bearing with me as I persist, albeit clumsily.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I know that it is other's openness which has impacted me and which has spurred my desire to give of myself in that way as well. Writers like Anne Lamott, Susan E. Isaacs, Henri Nouwen and Ann Voskamp to name only a few who have been willing to share their messy stories, voice their qualms and setbacks. What these authors have taught me exemplify all the reasons I would never want to be preachy or teachy, as they are not. I am merely a student and this is an adventure in attainment for me. What could I possibly provide in my work except an authenticity of who I am and what I daily receive or attempt?
But to bare oneself, especially in this way, through the Internet is a leap for me. I am a person who tends to keep to myself until very comfortable. In fact, I enjoy writing fiction because I can somewhat hide behind my characters. Yes, we all know that authors often incorporate themselves into their stories but it is guess and speculation as to how much of me is in any thing fictional that I write.
Another paradox? I love to be on stage. Love it. But I'm dreadfully shy. Giving a speech in a class would make my knees shake and my hands sweat, but in a play, I'm someone else. The fear is gone and I'm a character with a different life. Do I draw from the truth of who I am to play someone else? I do, but that is not always evident from the audience's view.
So here, in this setting of the blogosphere, I've decided, why bother, if I can't be real. Being real with my readers forces me to be real with myself and with God. And through that eye-opening contemplation that comes with the writing, God then shows me areas of my life that he wants to mold or that He is pleased with or that He wants me to share.
And it is a trust, too, every time I hit the post button, that this is God ordained. That I am doing His will, that it is not merely me but something bigger than me, something coming from obedience which I don't always understand. My mind races with ideas for writing, which is great for an aspiring writer because I am learning how to note things in the world around me that are of interest and of worth but too, when I sit to write, I have to open myself up to what it is He wants me to write, where it is He wants me to go. I have to clear my mind and look away from the screen to let Him dictate His direction. And I never reread my posts once published because from that point on it is in His hands and He will do what he wants with them. I remove myself.
Why even this topic is being revealed here now, I don't know. Maybe it is a precursor into what still will come from me. Or a disclaimer. Maybe I am slowly working myself into the courage to reveal those things which are scary to yield, walking that line between revealing too little and revealing too much.
It's all trust isn't it? That's just about what everything in my life seems to boil down to. Each step, each word, I give back to Him to do with what He will. And in that, I should rest assured. This world is not mine. It is His and thank God, I'm not in charge of it.
Monday, January 3, 2011
And I enjoyed both teaching and learning today and also starting back up the routines that we need, the structure. I could so easily, in this season, fall into discontent, noting all the things I still don't have or desire changed or I could work peacefully in this household on all prosaic tasks, aware that each day God has so much knowledge to give me and joy to impart within the simple which becomes profound.
Monks understand that working quietly with their hands is a form of prayer and this is an attitude I want to develop this new year. Doing dishes, laundry, cooking, housecleaning can all be times of meditation, reflection and conversation with God, rather than the slow drudgery I tend to make it. To be a servant to my family means I am allowed to be like Christ. He came to serve. Why would I want anything more? Each moment needs to be intentional and will be, so long as I recognize it's significance. I truly want for nothing because with God I have been gifted everything.
I am grasping this truth daily and experiencing the gratitude and love my heart feels with this thought.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Saturday, January 1, 2011
The sun was streaming in! Glorious way to wake up to the new year. How amazing what light can do not only to the look of things but to one's spirit. I felt like this soft shine was God's morning gift to me, welcoming me into 2011, telling me that all is well and all will be well.
So yes, it is bitter cold today and there was a thick layer of frost on my kitchen window but the sun's bedazzle keeps my spirit high. This is all, to me analogous of God Himself being the light, and how in His presence, there is a surety of well-being. Everything looks different within His perspective.
I would love to wish away the winter and the way she stretches on like an endlessly enduring eclipse, wearing out her welcome by too many months. But then would I be able to appreciate the light had I not experienced the dark?