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For my good?

Sitting here listening to Jesus Culture’s “Your Love Never Fails” (not to be confused with “One Thing Remains”) and the bridge repeats over and over,

“You make all things work together for my good.”

Over and over and over.
My good.
My good.

And suddenly I’m struck by the thought, “but that’s not what the scripture says.”

Romans 8:28 says,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

It’s a popular verse.

Quoted often.

I’ve read it. I’ve used it. I’ve studied it.

I had an entire paper in one of my seminary classes based off of an interpretation of this verse.

 

But for all my reading and studying and discussing this verse, I never thought of the aspect that now perplexed me.

Because I am all at once aware that for most of my life, I (and those around me) have typically understood this to mean that if I love God then God works all things together for my good.

Like the song says.

 

I find such assumptions prevalent in our current American culture. Perhaps even Western culture in general.

We tend to read the Bible’s verses as individual promises.

We do this almost always.

Especially with verses like this one. And Jeremiah 29:11. (But that’s a whole other conversation!)

 

So what if that assumption is wrong?

God does indeed work good.

Out of our bad. Our pain. Our hurts. Our losses. Our messes.

 

But what if the good worked isn’t for my benefit,

or isn’t solely for my benefit,

but instead for the benefit of others?

For the benefit of the Body of Christ. The Church.

“for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”

Plural.

So what if I never see the good?

 

I think it’s possible.

I think I need to stop thinking that this verse is for my personal benefit.

I think I need new eyes to see the bigger picture.

Because God does work good.

But it’s not all about me.

 

A new song indeed…

O sing to the Lord a new song,
For He has done wonderful things…

I usually read the Psalms from my present day viewpoint

… reading it from my own circumstances

… and viewing terms like “salvation” in light of Jesus sacrifice, death and resurrection

Or else I read the Psalms trying to grasp the viewpoint of the original writer

… trying to understand his circumstances

… and viewing terms like “salvation” in light of physical enemies and ailments, sin and the sacrificial system and the Exodus, pre-Jesus

 

I do this because I live in the twenty-first century and all my life has been framed by what Jesus already accomplished and hundreds of years of understanding that and how the Hebrew scriptures pointed to it and how it was fulfilled.

And I do this because I have been ingrained since sometime in my youth (plus years of Bible, ministry and seminary training) to look at scripture in context and to try and understand things like original audience and context and meaning.

But something new happened today.

Something unexpected.

I didn’t plan it.

I didn’t control it.

It was a gift.

And it was beautiful.

 

I was reading Psalm 98.

Verse 3 contains chesed (aka “lovingkindness” in the NASB) and since February I have been making my way through all the appearances of chesed in the Bible.

There are 248 occurrences.

So I was simply reading Psalm 98.

 

But as my eyes moved across the words on the page, I was suddenly seeing the Psalm as though through the eyes of the disciples shortly after Jesus’ resurrection.

Perhaps even just after Pentecost when people from all over the “ends of the earth” were in Jerusalem and witness to the outpouring of the Spirit and first hearing the good news of Jesus and salvation.

Because the Psalms were used in worship.

And for as long as they were able the disciples and new believers continued to go to the temple (or synagogue) for worship.

And can you imagine?

In Luke 24 Jesus begins to open their eyes to how the Hebrew scriptures and prophecies pointed to him and must be fulfilled.

But surely, just as we make new discoveries and connections, they continued to do so as well.

So one day in worship at the temple Psalm 98 is being read or recited or sung and they suddenly see it in a new view.

A view I take for granted here two thousand years later.

 

Oh the beauty and the joy and the grace!

Can you see it?!

This Psalm they probably knew well and heard a thousand times… and it now holds more meaning and beauty than ever.

Step with me back into the days just after Jesus’ resurrection.

Remember the wonder and excitement of Easter.

Walk with the disciples to worship at the temple.

And glimpse through their eyes the reading of this Psalm.

O sing to the Lord a new song,
For He has done wonderful things,
His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
With the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar and all it contains,
The world and those who dwell in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy
Before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with righteousness
And the peoples with equity.

The Year of the Elephant

The 60+ little origami elephant heads which represent the "elephants in my room."

The 60+ little origami elephant heads which represent the “elephants in my room.”

This is the Year of the Elephant.

Not for the Chinese. For them it’s the Year of the Horse.
But for me.

There are elephants in my room.

More than 60 of them in varying sizes and substances and temperaments. You see, an elephant in the room is an obvious truth or problem which is going unaddressed or outright being ignored. But elephants – even invisible ones – take up space. Head space. Life space. And so when there are elephants in your room there is little room to move and little room to breathe.

And there is guilt. Because while some elephants are simply things I’ve wanted to do or projects I’ve wanted to get to some day, most of them are tasks and projects and commitments that were started and never finished. And more of them than I prefer to admit are things I agreed to do or take care of for others which have yet to actually get done. Guilt. And guilt is as hungry as an elephant, eating away at me…

I’ve been avoiding most of these elephants for awhile now. For the past couple of years God has been asking me to let go of some things. To be a good steward of my body and time and head space. To allow margin in my life. And you may remember how over the past few years I have purged and cleaned material possessions and even set aside periods of time where I said “no” to new commitments. The other year I even drew a nice flow chart to help me to say no. But those periods never ended well. God was saying “let go” and my response was “okay. that sounds good. i should do that.” But I never did. I never even bothered to ask, “let go of what?” – mostly because I feared He would ask me to let go of something I didn’t want to.

But all that is changing this year.

It started with stress at Christmas over gifts. And I got this idea that in 2014 for Christmas I’m giving out white elephant gifts. Seriously. Instead of buying gifts, I’m going to give that money to help others. Like buying a water buffalo for a poor family in Asia. 

And I had that in mind the morning of January 2nd as I was thinking over “the new year” and resolutions.  And I was once again  thinking about my student debt and being awed and intimidated by 2 sets of friends who’d hunkered down and paid theirs off early. One set of those friends created a chart of sorts to fill in to encourage them towards their goal. You know how many fundraisers use a thermometer shape to fill up? Except theirs was a rhino. And I’d thought about making mine a teapot because I have no intention of opening a tea room until my student debt is paid. But my debt amount compared to my yearly income is intimidating… except the morning of January 2nd it occurred to me that I could have one just for this year. A smaller interim goal. And it occurred to me that I could use an elephant.

So with these two things on my mind, God pointed out how each year He asks me to “let go” and I avoid it. Which is when I realized it: there are elephants in my room. So I decided then and there that this year is going to be The Year of the Elephant. No more avoiding them. They need named and prayed over and taken care of…

Later that evening – and this completely confirmed my morning thoughts – I went to do my new Page-A-Day (Calendar) Origami for the day and that day’s project was no other than an elephant head!

So the other week I spent a Saturday morning with a pot of tea and a stack of little origami squares and I folded elephant heads and I named the elephants in my room. If something was screaming for attention in my head or demanding to get done or causing guilt or a tightness in my jaw or kept coming to mind over and over (especially at inopportune times) yet I found myself ignoring it, I wrote it down. All 66 of them. And I spent time praying over them. Did I miss any? Which ones made the most noise? Which ones could be relinquished? Which needed taken care of first? 

I ended up putting them into 10 categories of theme or response. I used mini-clothespins to attach them to strings on either side of the mirror in my room.

  • Elephants that are overdue. These are mostly correspondence and completing projects that I had promised to others
  • Elephants that need taken care of as soon as possible. Many of these have actual deadlines, but are ones which don’t involve promises to others.
  • Elephants that are recurring. Not that the elephants themselves recur so much as the task recurs (meal planning, housecleaning, bill paying) and because of my time constraints and stress levels even they have morphed into elephants which I find myself avoiding.
  • Elephants that I will relinquish. This string began with one. It ended up with three. So far…
  • Elephants that I may yet relinquish but I’m still praying over. This string currently holds one elephant.
  • Elephants which are on “indefinite hold.” Most of these are writing/teaching projects that I can file into an idea folder (so I don’t lose the notes I’ve already taken on them) in case they ever come up again. But at least at this point they will be purposefully put to rest.
  • Elephants which are really photo projects. I have unsorted photos (prints and digital) going all the way back to 2001 along with an incomplete scrapbook of my college internship. Even if I relinquish my original “ideals” for what to do with all those, I still have to do something with all the physical and digital photo stuff that is crowding my life.
  • Elephants which are tea or “career” related. This is a crazy category with started projects, proposals, ideas and figuring out what it is I’m supposed to be doing (including that Venn diagram I’d mentioned so many months ago).
  • Elephants which are projects that don’t fit into the previous two categories. Most of these are purging and cleaning projects…
  • Elephants which don’t fit into any other category or are bigger than can be dealt with in a short time. Like that student debt. Or my desire to read more.
Since then a few more elephants have come to mind and been named. Some have been relinquished completely and some have been completed.
But there are still more.
And I’m still praying over them. This was not a one day or even a one month task.

Hence why I’m calling it the Year of the Elephant.

Best part is, I’m not doing it alone. Getting over that initial avoidance -that hesitation- and actually bringing this all to God and being willing to listen (and let go where needed) has been perhaps the best part and is already freeing. So much has been learned already. And perhaps over the next few months I’ll be able to share some of that with you in more detail.

Because as of now, the elephant labeled “Tauta Logizomai” has not made the relinquish string!

We hear it every year. Often more than once. It’s the Christmas story. The story of God in a manger. It’s angelic announcements and hard decisions and awed obedience and virgin mother and brave father and lowly shepherds and traveling wise men and smelly stables and brilliant stars.

We hear it in song and in story and in scriptures read. We see it on television specials and in movies and by live dramatic productions.

And there are so many ways to come at it. So many perspectives from which to see the story… so many considerations we could take… To see it from Mary’s perspective or to try and understand how Joseph made sense of it all… To focus on the shepherds and why they received an angelic birth announcement or to zoom in on the wise men and their deeply symbolic gifts. Max Lucado wrote a fascinating story book from the angel Gabriel’s point of view. We compare the bustle of Bethlehem with the bustle of our lives and how easy it is to miss the miracle, to miss Jesus. We can contrast the power of Rome with the humble circumstances surrounding the birth of the Lord of all.

And we do this because we want to connect to the story.

Because we need to connect to the story.

After all, if the seed falls by the wayside, falls on soil which does not receive it, it does not grow.

The birds come and eat it.

That was the lesson I taught last time I taught my Sunday School class.

The seed needs to grow roots, to connect to the soil, to dig in so it can grow. And produce.

So we also must connect.

And isn’t that the point of the Incarnation?

To reconnect what was disconnected?

“The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”

That’s how The Message phrases John 1:14.

God became human. Put on flesh. Flesh is of the earth. Dirt.

Oh and how we have dirtied up the world!

What a mess we have made of our own lives and of the world!

But God came into our mess.

God got messy with us.

She unmarried and with child. Them ostracized by the community. Living in an oppressed nation. Forced on a long, harsh and inconvenient journey. Taking shelter in a stable. Sharing it with animals. Making do with a feeding trough for a crib. Dirty. Smelly. Messy.

And yet that is how God chose to enter the world. To connect with us. To ultimately save us and restore relationship with us. A relationship we had broken.

I had intended to send Christmas cards this year. I was going to do my own design and on the front it was going to say “Have Yourself A Messy Little Christmas.”

Because life is messy. And Christmas is no exception. Oh, we try. We try to make it shiny and bright and neat and clean and pretty and joyful and special and… for the most part it often is. And yet… yet there is the chaos of traffic and overcommitting and busyness and frustrations. And trees topple and ornaments break and cookies burn and families fight. And sometimes the “Christmas miracles” we hope for don’t come through. Even at Christmas time diagnoses come and people leave and crime happens and loved ones die and jobs are lost and people give up on their lives.

Life is messy.

Even at Christmas.

But the beauty of the Christmas story and the grace of God is that Immanuel has come. God is with us. God is present even in our mess.

And more than anything else, what I really want for all my friends and family this Christmas is to experience the presence of God in new and deeper ways. I can say “Have yourself a messy little Christmas” because life is already messy and the grace is that God is present and can do incredible things with our mess.

God did incredible things with my mess yesterday.

Because the reason my friends and family won’t receive any “Have yourself a messy little Christmas” cards is that I have yet again tried to do too many things and have overcommitted myself and overwhelmed myself with ideas and desires of things to make and do and give. And because I constantly overestimate the time I have and underestimate how long things will take to accomplish. And because I have a chronic illness that flares up at random and makes me more vulnerable to colds and bugs and doesn’t respond well to stress.

And let’s just say that a tendency to overcommit and overdo and a body that has significant limitations and physically reacts to stress is not a good combination.

And for the past two years God has been telling me to slow down. To let go.

And I’ll let go of something for a bit, but I keep acting like I can do it all.

Which is how I got to my current mess.

I got sick last Sunday and I was good to my body and I rested and even took Monday off to rest. And it helped and Tuesday was good and Wednesday and Thursday were better. And I thought I was being smart by only having a goal of getting two things done on Friday and two things on Saturday… But Friday I was time crunched to finish things at work because of the upcoming short week and so I was there very late and had a nasty headache and was nauseated and though I tried to get at least one of my tasks done that evening (and stayed up an hour later than I should trying), nothing got done and I went to bed in lots of pain.

My nights have been rough with wakings and tossing and turning and pain and bizarre frantic nightmares and Friday night was no exception. I awoke Saturday morning with the headache still present and a greater soreness and stiffness than usual.

And that was just the physical.

My heart was hurting, too. Within the past few days my cousin lost a good friend, one dear friend lost her beloved companion kitty and another dear young friend is facing a terrifying and likely debilitating diagnosis.

In fact, finding out that the kitty who had so suddenly become sick had to be put down was one of the first things I saw when I woke up yesterday morning.

So as I sat doing my “Stretching for Seniors” Saturday daily stretch video and hurting in body and heart I thought to myself, “I don’t feel like dancing.”

Because each morning I do the daily stretch video (which lasts anywhere from 3-6 minutes depending on the day) and then I put on some music, usually praise and worship, and do some combination of aerobic dance and stretching and mime and ballet tech so that I end up with ten minutes of stretching and movement each morning.

But today the three minute stretching video hurt and I was listless, having not the energy nor desire to spend another seven in movement.

“Dance a prayer.”

I pondered the thought that entered my mind. Dance a prayer. I could do it slow. I wouldn’t have to think of specific movements like I typically do. I could just move. Pour my soul out with gesture and movement rather than words.

Okay.

Since the beginning of Advent I’ve been doing my movement times to Christmas music. But I didn’t want just any Christmas music. So I went to my Advent playlist. These are longing songs. The one closest to seven minutes was a Celtic version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Eden’s Bridge. Perfect.

The music began and I began to move. I couldn’t tell you now what I did but it involved a lot of longing and a lot of reaching and even a lot of statues and movements of despair. And even as the words spoke of mourning and lonely exile and tyranny and the grave and misery, my movements became prayers for my scared and hurting friends. Prayers for God to be tangibly present in their lives. Prayers for Emmanuel to come and comfort and work in their lives.

And as I got to the verse about the Dayspring and dispersing gloom and putting to flight death’s dark shadows I found myself slowly collapsing to the ground and suddenly weeping. And the chorus sang, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel” and I lifted my hands, reaching for Emmanuel.

And I suddenly thought of the Hebrew “yadah” which is translated “praise” but connotes a raising of the hands. Like in Psalm 42’s “Why are you downcast O my soul, why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise (yadah) Him, my Savior and my God.”

And oh how reaching is like praising.

Or is that praising is like reaching?

That dance-prayer. That time of pouring out through movement and of crying out to God on behalf of friends. That time of weeping.

I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.

It was grace.

Grace in the mess.

And I continued to get ready for my day and I sat down to do my Lectio Divina and my prayer and I talked with God about all I had to do and how I was already running late because I’d gotten up an hour late and I had those two things to do that I hadn’t gotten to the night before but I still had to bide my time to leave for my errands because I was meeting someone else and the lists weren’t even made yet and I had to eat yet and…

And God tried to get me to let go.

And I stubbornly refused.

After all, all those things needed to get done. Now!

But it was quite after 8 when I actually sat down to eat breakfast and I had wanted to leave at 8 and my mind raced and raced and I pushed and struggled to figure out how to get it all done and when I got up to take my dishes out to the sink a wave of wooziness and nausea hit and I thought, “No! Not today! I have too much to do!”

And I sat down at my computer and sipped on my ginger tisane and looked around me at the things I’d wanted to get down and… I let them go. The two things I had found it so important to get done yesterday – in the morning before I left – I relinquished to another day. I messaged some of the friends my decision would impact and it didn’t bother them nearly as much as I had made out in my mind that it should.

Then I turned to Saturday’s tasks. Groceries and errands and gift shopping. And I made my list and organized it and I looked at the clock and it was 10 and I had told the lady I was going to meet that I’d be in the shopping area between 9 and 10:30 and I was really pushing that so I hurried out to my car and got in and sent her a message that I was on my way and then I started the car and proceeded to back out.

My neighbor started across the street, waving to flag me down.

“Where are you headed? Are you going by your chiropractor’s?”

Well, not exactly, but I could take that route to where I was headed…

Turns out, she had lost her car keys and had an appointment with the chiropractor in 10 minutes and could I drop her off? Of course. But how would she get home? Her husband (who was at work) had an appointment with the chiropractor an hour later. So she could wait for him. I had a lot of errands to run but if I got done early, then…

And isn’t it funny how she was there needing to leave and discovering that she needed a ride just when I was pulling out of my driveway?

Two hours later than I was “supposed to”?

And I told her how messy my morning had been but if I had been running on time I wouldn’t have been there to give her a ride.

And we agreed that God makes good of our messes.

Then partway down the road a thought occurred to me. I forgot the check!

You see, Dad and I had ordered a gift for Mom from someone and I was to meet her in at the shopping center to exchange payment for product. But the check was still on my desk at home. If I turned back then, my neighbor would miss her appointment.

So I called Dad. He retrieved the check and headed in to meet me at the shopping center to give me the check so I could get the gift. Then as I continued on with my errands, Dad headed home. But first he stopped by the chiropractor to pick up the neighbor lady who was done and grateful to get home sooner so she could look again for her keys and finish packing and preparations for the trip they leave for today.

And you know, if I hadn’t have forgotten the check, she would have been stuck at the chiropractor’s longer.

God makes good out of our messes.

Because God is present in our mess.

And you know what? That’s what Christmas is all about.

It’s grace.

And it’s real.

And it’s tangible.

And it can be seen all around us.

We can hear the Christmas story every year until the day we die. We can look at it from every angle, we can study it like some academic scholar, we can dissect every song, movie or drama about it.

But unless it connects…

Unless it takes on flesh…

Unless we realize the presence of God with us… It’s just a story.

I didn’t go through the standard lesson because I don’t want it to be just a story.

I wanted to help you see how the story can connect.

How God is still Emmanuel… present with us.

Even in our mess.

So have yourself a messy little Christmas.

Have a Christmas where you see and experience – tangibly and deeply – the presence of God in your life.

The angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

That includes you.

A Multi-talented Introvert?

When I first met him, we were both students of the same physical art form. He was a full-time student at a full-time school that taught mime and ministry. I was an intermittent attendee of mime workshops hosted by that school/ministry and a full time student at a Christian liberal arts college studying youth ministry. I went on to seminary to study theology and arts, hoping but never managing to pursue mime training in a greater capacity; I remain a student-apprentice. He completed the apprenticeship, the journeyman-ship and is now a master in his art form. Even more so he was then given the reigns to take over leading that same school and ministry. He is a man of God who excels in his art, a highly intelligent man who perceives deeply and a passionate man with a heart for God and people.

In other words, I greatly admire him and therefore his words carry weight in my consideration.

I tell you this so that you will understand where I was coming from as I tell you the rest of the story.

I got to see him again the other week. First time in two years. He was performing (with some other friends) and I got down there shortly before the “mime concert” (as it is called) began.

In situations such as this you really only have a few minutes to speak to and attempt to “catch up with” each person. Which is near impossible to begin with and if you know me at all (or have read even a few of my posts) you know that I love words and stories and details. And connections (but I’ll get to that another time). Not to mention how many introverts such as I have a near-phobia of small talk – not because we don’t like people, but in that “small talk” feels disingenuous or superficial to us when we prefer to connect more deeply. The whole polite society “how are you doing? Fine, and you? Fine” thing is lost on me. It feels like an outright lie or, at best, an ineffectual communication of anything of value.

So when my friend was asking me how I’ve been doing and what I’ve been up to, I quickly searched for an answer which was genuine, descriptive and succinct. Plus I was fighting feelings of guilt like I always do when someone who has experienced my excitement and lofty hopes and dreams in one of my passion areas asks about how it’s been coming along and the truth is I haven’t really done anything more with it… Somehow I managed to mention how everything had been rather put on hold with more than a year’s worth of roller coaster health issues but now I am on the upswing and starting to look ahead again. And somewhere in there I rattled off something about mime, tea, writing and teaching.

“Ah!” says he, “Multi-talented!”

And I bit my tongue.

I bit my tongue because of how his eyes lit up when he said it and how genuinely his response came and because of the great respect I have for him as a person of talent, as an artist and as a man of God. And I bit my tongue because I was suddenly very aware of the reaction I would get from him if I tried to dispute his comment.

“HA!” I wanted to respond.

“I wish!” I wanted to cry out.

“I’m barely mediocre at best in each area!” I wanted to explain.

But I bit my tongue.

And I allowed the words he had spoken to carry the weight they were meant to… past my doubts and defenses and into the very core of me where I needed to hear – and accept – them.

And the moment stuck out to me.

And in days after I tried to let his words and his perspective take root.

Because it is something I’ve struggled with a great deal over the years.

These varied passions and interests and, dare I say, talents of mine.

Then several days back I came across an article that really helped to explain my struggle.

I almost didn’t read it.

After all, the title was “23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert” and I well know (and am sure most who know me do, too) that there is no secret at all that I am an introvert!

But I was curious as to what the 23 characteristics were and so I read it.

And I am so glad I did.

The article brought up characteristics (and perspectives of characteristics) that I had never really noticed before. So many things made more sense than they had before. Such as the dislike of small talk as previously mentioned as well as a distaste for networking. Why I hate phone calls so much. Why I’m so easily distracted. Why downtime is not something I struggle with like I see others do. Why my blood pressure has always been good and low. And why I prefer to single-task.

#12 is “You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.”

Ah!

Herein lies my problem.

For while in all other areas of personality for which I’ve taken tests I tend to fall towards the middle between two categories (sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, etc), with introversion I seem to be about as textbook as they come.

It’s no wonder I struggle so much with having these four main areas of passion and, er… uh… talent!

What is a “textbook introvert” to do with these four only tangentially related areas of passion and interest? When I try to focus on one (or even two), I begin to feel off-balance and like something is missing in my life. Sometimes I think that maybe one or two of these areas was a phase and I’m no longer meant to pursue it now. Yet I find the same excitement and energy and I’m-in-the-right-place-ness whenever I begin to talk about or act on one of them. Each one of them. I have a friend who can confirm this. My face quite noticeably lights up with each one. Yet how is one to divide attention and time and focus and priorities and commitment to excellence  (not to mention health and energy) among four different things?

Especially when one is an introvert and this seems to go against one’s very wiring?

You know, I try to take these “personality tests” and characteristics and distinctions and all with a grain of salt. Because while I believe it is really truly helpful to better grasp how I am wired and how others are wired and what is good about that and areas of weakness or common “pitfalls” and how we can better understand and relate to one another, I never want some test or category to have the last word or be an excuse.

“I can’t help it if I have a short fuse and explode all over people, that’s just how I’m wired!”
“Quit bugging me about putting dirty dishes in the sink, I’m just not a neat freak like you!”
“I can’t go to that event, I’m an introvert and I hate small talk.”
“We can’t work this out because we have two different personalities.”

Words such as those spoken by others (and sometimes by me) tend to get under my skin. Learning about personalities is meant to facilitate understanding, not make excuses.

And I believe that the beauty of God’s creation is that we are different and have different ways of seeing and thinking and doing and we are meant to work together in all of this. And I believe that part of the effects of sin is that each of our wiring is a little askew (hence the “pitfalls” we tend to and a more difficult time in relating to one another).

So because I believe that introversion is a good and beautiful personality trait and I believe that it is God who has wired me and given me these four passions and areas of talent, I have to trust that my Creator knows what He is doing.

Even if it means I’m a multi-talented introvert who never really becomes a true expert at just one thing.

That night at the mime concert I told my friend that I am currently seeking direction on how this all works together and praying and seeking to know how to proceed and how to prioritize… And I am. And since reading that article and grasping better why I struggle, I have something else to take in prayer to this Creator of mine who redeems and guides and sustains.

And there may also be a Venn diagram in my near future…

#12,097 Mime Hugs

“Mime hugs” made my gift list that night. And I’m not talking about those awkward never-touch-the-other-person hugs that another mime ministry I often associate with is rather known for… I’m talking real hugs. From people who do mime.

See, there’s this mime troupe that is very dear to my heart and is located not-too-close yet not-too-far-away from me. Some of the troupe I’ve known for more than a decade and some for about 7 years and some for about 4…  And about once a year they hold a concert that I make the 2.5-ish hour trip down for and then every other year or so they host a workshop with Innovo. And though I’ve only made it to one of those actual workshops, I do make sure I make it down there for the performance at the end.

There are always many friends to see.

And you know it’s always welcoming down there. Going to see people you haven’t seen for awhile and whom you hold dear to your heart… and it’s so lovely to see their eyes light up when they recognize you and run and give you a hug.

So it was that a few weeks back a friend and her daughter and I reached the venue in time to watch them wrap up a quick run-through of the group piece before the show started. And even in the dimly lit sanctuary with almost nothing but the stage lights on as they received final instructions and then turned to their appointed tasks, it was fun to see them spot me and smile and come over and give me a hug.

Yes, mime hugs made my gift list that night.

Experiencing and Abiding

Sunday’s closing hymn was an old favorite of mine – Trust and Obey. (And, yes, 30-something young ladies who are into the arts and greatly enjoy or even prefer contemporary worship music and services can still have favorite hymns. Even several of them!)

I suppose it is a favorite because of the chorus and the oft repeated “trust and obey” phrase which comes to my mind often (complete with melody) as I read scriptures or hear sermons or have deep conversations about walking with God.

And perhaps I’ve never really paid much attention to the verses. But Sunday verse two caught my attention.

Not a shadow can rise,
Not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear,
Not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a doubt or a fear? Not a sigh or a tear?

The words suddenly seemed bitter in my mouth.

And I’m really not surprised they did. For though Sunday morning found my health and energy in a much better place than earlier in the week (when I had missed some work due to illness), I was still reeling from the news that a couple of friends had lost their unborn child (the third loss of that kind within my friend-family this summer) and the death of the husband and father of a mother and daughter with whom I’m friends and the powerfully resurfaced doubts and fears and frustrations of a very dear friend who is battling some hideous darkness and has been for some time.

Not a doubt or a fear? Not a sigh or a tear?

You’ve got to be kidding me!

Conversations with the latter mentioned friend and God also played into this. For I had been thinking about how I do not want to be completely stoic, where nothing touches me at all. After all, emotions are not evil and it is okay (and even healthy) to fully experience emotions. Often, as my friend was counseled by mentors, we need to embrace the [hurt, pain, fear, loss] before we can release it to God.

So verse 2 struck a chord. A very much discordant one.

The Christian life doesn’t mean we won’t ever have doubts or fears or sighs or tears! And pretending we don’t have them does not do a bit of good! Why would that even be in a hymn?!?!

But then I saw the word.

Abide.

Abide: To remain. To dwell.

The verse isn’t saying that we will never experience hurts or fears or pain, but that as we trust and obey Jesus those things will not remain forever. They do not have to abide or dwell or control! Ah, yes!

Now I can sing:

Not a doubt or a fear,
Not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey!

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