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Archive for July, 2011

huh.

Was cleaning up my desktop and came across a letter I wrote to God nearly two months back.  Back when all this *stuff* was just starting.  I had a lot of questions… a lot of doubts… a lot of fears.  Back then, I didn’t even know where this was all headed.  I was at the beginning, feeling unsettled and wondering if that unsettledness was coming from God.  If God was perhaps leading me towards something new… and the answer was “YES!”

In some ways, it’s hard to believe that it’s been two whole months (well, as of Tuesday)… in other ways, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been two months.  But here I am, on the verge of something new and now able to look back and trace where God’s hand has been guiding me all this time.  Wow!

Do they merge like I somehow feel they must?

That was one of the questions I was asking God concerning the seemingly different and random passions, joys, loves and/or skills which I’ve been given.  Mime and tea and teaching and arts and artists and women and beauty and photography and design and encouraging.  And now I can see them woven together into this new dream.  They do merge!  I was not crazy!

So here I go, taking one (small) step at a time towards this dream I dreamed.  It’s exciting.  And it’s scary and overwhelming – because it is so much bigger than me!  But that is quite possibly the best part!  In the next couple of months I will be meting out my personal mission statement, asking for prayer partners for this dream, figuring out things like names and “what this may look like,” taking classes on business and tea and starting small by “catering” tea parties and perhaps even selling jars of my scone mix.  I don’t know any exact timelines or exactly how this is all going to work, it’s a process.  My dream as I envision it is a few years and much work down the road.

But I’m excited.  God is on the move and I have been invited to come along!

I’m glad I ran across that letter from the first of June.  Sometimes it’s good to know where you’ve been so that you can more clearly see where you’re going…

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I do not need attention, approval, validation nor control.  From others.  Nor do I need to seek or crave these in unhealthy, mis-focused or manipulative ways.  I do not need attention from others.  But the truth of the matter is, I have the attention of the God of the universe which is the most incredible thing of all.  Me!  Having his attention.  His full attention!  What a privilege!  I do not need approval.  Except for God’s.  Which is one of those already/not yet things.  Because when God looks at me, he sees Jesus, and I am accepted likewise as His.  And the only approval I seek is that as a workman approved, and that from the One who has already approved me!  I do not need validation from others.  For my being, for my value nor for my work.  For God has already validated me simply in that he is the one who made me, called me to himself, called me to my task and equipped me for it.  I have already been stamped for validation.  I have already been sealed.  And, lastly, I do not need control.  Of my own life nor of others’ lives.  It’s simply not my place.  It’s God’s.  Some things may be mine to steward, but they are not mine to control.  It’s not about me.  It’s all about him.

This was my thought – and my prayer – last night as I went to bed.  It stemmed out of chapter 7 of Thriving As An Artist In The Church by Rory Noland.  As well as things God has been pointing out to me over the past couple of years…  I think I want to remind myself of it again and again and again.

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I was only vaguely aware that I was in danger.  I really thought it was nothing.  Turns out, I was right.  It was nothing.  The nothing.  And I was in much more danger than I realized.

And then he appeared.  Out of no where.  I didn’t know who he was.  Not really.  And he offered his hand and spoke one word, “run!”

He saved me that day.  And many times since.  “Trust me,” he said.  Trust me that I can save you.  Trust me that I will save you.  Trust me that I will come back for you.  Trust me that I will never leave you alone.  “Trust me.”

I didn’t always.  Sometimes I thought that I knew better, that I could do it on my own. Sometimes, to my shame, I still do so now.  But I trust him.  And more and more each day.  “Trust me,” he said again to me today, “and run!”

So I am.

Off on another grand adventure.

There have been many adventures.  And oh the things I’ve seen!  Walls falling, empires crashing, people rising and flying and soaring!  It’s beyond my wildest dreams (and I can dream very wildly) and it cannot be truly captured by words.  The looks in their eyes.  The hope in their hearts.  Changes.  Turning points in history.  The countless lives saved.  Past, present and future.  All because of him.

And I get to be a part of it.  Me.  To see, to witness – and even to play a role myself.  You may think that he needs me.  Some say he does.  And I know what you’re thinking.  But not this time.  No.  Not him.  He doesn’t really need me.  But he wants me there with him.  Because he truly cares for me.  And so he lets me ride along and be a part of his adventuring and world saving.  Imagine that!  Me!  Little ol’ me!  And that just shows even more how wonderful he is.

Because he is wonderful.  And good.  And full of surprises.  Always coming just when needed.  Always saving.  He willingly sacrifices himself to save others.  And he pushes us to be the best we can be.  And more!  And he is more.  So much more.  Some say he’s mad, but really it is that he thinks so much further and faster than we, he is so far ahead of we.  He is also fire and fury.  Oh how he burns when monsters attack the innocent.  And he burns, too, when we choose cruelty, bondage, hatred, fear and injustice.  He is ancient and forever.  He is the morning and the night.  He is both healer and warrior.  And he is more than just a doctor, he is the Great Physician.  He doesn’t simply know the beginning and the end, he is the beginning and the end!  And it’s not just that he can snap his fingers to open doors, he can walk through walls – and on water.  And it’s not just that entire armies flee from him, but that at the very mention of his name every knee will bow.  With one word from him the entire universe could collapse, for with his words it was created.  And he is the word.

And everything I’ve ever known to be good or wonderful or beautiful I’ve known because of him.  For when I see beauty, I see his face.  When I see hope ignited and hearts rekindled, it is his spirit that is at work.  And when I see darkness and injustice and hatred and suffering, it is his heart I feel breaking.  Even when it’s simply a story.  For I realize again that every story, every mystery, every grand tale told in epic wonder when good battles evil and hope rises against fear and mercy triumphs over judgment – every one of those is his, showing traces of him.

For he is truth and beauty.  And his eyes hold it all.  The beauty, the glory and the depth of sadness that what was meant to be has not yet been.  Not in full.  Because of us.  And yet still there is hope.  Still he persists.  Still he comes.  And rescues.  And invites us to come along.

And that is what brought me here again today.  The nothing was creeping in again.  I had let it.  And yet I wasn’t fully aware of it.  And then he appeared, arm outstretched towards me, “run!”

Off on another grand adventure!  I can only imagine what worlds may lie ahead.  What risks.  What hopes.  What changes.  Walls falling and people soaring!

“Trust me,” he says.

And I do.

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I grew up in “meat and potato” country.  For a proper meal you need both meat and potatoes.  It’s real substance.  It needs chewed, swallowed and it offers the body nutrients.  In recent years, I’ve also taken to making a quick smoothie for breakfast.  They’re fast, sweet, easy and (if you do it right) can also offer some nutrients.

But – despite what some diet plans may advertise – you simply can’t live off of smoothies only.  Or processed foods only.  Or fast foods only.  Or even instant foods only.  At least not to be your healthiest and not for an extended period of time.

But still we try.  We go out for cheap food that someone else has prepared for us.  (Or even expensive food that someone else has prepared for us.)  We buy processed or partially processed and instant foods because they’re fast and easy and there is always enough fat, sugar or salt in them to make them tasty for us.  We fill our lives with so much stuff and so much busyness that we seek food that requires the least preparation, the least work and, along with that, the least amount of digestion.

Take oats for example.  Did you know that steel cut oats are better for you than rolled because they require your body to work harder to digest them?  And rolled oats are better than the instant ones which are partially broken down already so that they simply just “slide” through your system?

We do the same in our spiritual lives as well.  There’s this cartoon in a book I have at work that shows a book sale with a sign that says something like “Everything you need to know about the Bible.”  Of course, there are lots of people at the sale table buying up this book.  Then there are two people walking past and one exclaims to the other, “What some people will do to avoid reading the actual Bible!”

When I taught a class called “Greek to Me: Understanding the Bible without going to Seminary,” I used food and digestion as an analogy for levels of Bible reading and study.  Simply reading the Bible is like consuming soft solids.  Whereas studying the Bible is like eating regular solids, meditating is like getting to steak and other things that need well-chewed and take longer to digest and memorization is sort of like your body applying the nutrients so that the food becomes part of your body.

And really, we should have a little of each on our plates.

But too often, we settle for smoothies and instant oatmeal.  We let someone else process God’s Word and feed us smooth and easy morsels that are often very palatable.  Sweet to the taste.  Go down easy.  Done in 5 or 10 or “15 minutes with God.”

Don’t get me wrong here.  I think that devotional books and other “Christian living” and “Bible-explaining” books can be good and have their place.  I’ve thought of writing a few myself.  Not to mention that this blog is often made up of my “processed” thoughts on what God is showing me in the Bible and in the world around me.  (Although, honestly, my goal is to not only encourage you by my sharing God’s truth, but also to incite you to begin to read, search and keep your eyes open for it around you as well!)

And God was the one who gave some to be prophets… pastors… teachers… so that we could be built up and helped along in our learning and growth as Christians! (See Ephesians 4:11-13)

But if you only ever listen to sermons.  If you only ever read those little devotional pamphlets that may or may not include actual scripture.  If you only ever read books about what the Bible says.  If you only ever listen or read what others have processed and never read the Bible for yourself, then you will not be as healthy nor strong nor grow as you should.  And certainly not for the long term!

So read your Bible.  Not just what others say about it.  Read it, study it, meditate on it and memorize it.  Fill your plate with a variety of healthy foods that require different amounts of preparation and digestion.  And let those smoothies and instant foods be only secondary.  Otherwise, how will you know if they even contain the truth?

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I did this a few years back.  Just after the turn of corner into the second half of the year, I reviewed my “resolutions” and how far I had come…. Well, my “resolutions” have now turned into a colorful and categorized list of “Priorities, Goals and Projects” for the year.  But I need to review them nonetheless.  Mostly because I’ve been forgetting to notice them anymore…

My “theme” for this year is “Do less, live more. Learn less, apply more. Spend less, give more. Worry less, dance more.”

And looking at that alone I have gotten off track.  I have once again taken on too many projects (that are outside my main areas of skill and gifting), I haven’t given much more and I certainly haven’t danced more!  And considering I’m in the middle of a business tutorial and may be taking a class or two here soon, I can’t really say I’m learning less…. But I have been applying more.  I note this especially in regards to my faith and walk with God.  Not that I’ve been applying everything or very adept at it, but I’ve been doing it more.  In fact, there have been two sort of breakthroughs this past spring which are super hard to describe – but let’s just say that a couple of things that I’ve been wrestling with the past several years that I have tried and tried and tried to grasp – have suddenly become tangible.  Life realities instead of mind-only truths.  And that is very exciting!  One of those has helped me along the “worry less” path as well!

I am doing pretty well so far as my financial priorities go.  My only remaining debt is my student loans and I may take the idea of a friend as inspiration to work out a way to pay it down even more quickly.  I want to be free to go as God calls me without being overwhelmed by my debt.

I hit about half the things on my “this year I want to” list.  I am on track for listening through the Bible again this year and I’m still actively working on being a good steward and being more aware of (and focused on) others.  Not that I’m “there” in either case, but at least partway… I’ve been reading more, writing a little more regularly and blogging more than last year – though none of those are quite up to what I had pictured myself doing!  Especially the writing bit… I really want to finish my book!  And dance?  I certainly haven’t been dancing enough…

My “Events and Ideas” category is seeing less fulfillment – but it wasn’t a resolute category to begin with.  I have hit 1 of my last 4 states and do have plans to get to the last three this fall!  But I have not hosted any tea parties (oh wait, does the one at Rhodes Grove count?), I have not had a prayer retreat nor a writing retreat nor have I kept up with family and friends like I had thought I would…

I have finished 6 of my 23 books (and am in the middle of 3 more) so far (so just less than halfway).

And I have not even thought of most of my Creative Arts Consultant projects although I did end up sort of creating one new mime piece…. but all of that may be about to change here soon…

So in some ways I’m about halfway to where I wanted to be… and others I dropped by the wayside.  With the exception of those CAC projects, my intention is to realign myself with my theme, my “want tos” and at least remember to consider those other “events and ideas” before the year is out.  The main thing of which is my theme.  I want to do less and live more.  I want to learn less but apply more.  I want to spend less and give more.  And I want to (continue to) worry less and (definitely) dance more!

 

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Every time I read about King Josiah, I admire him more.

His great-grandfather was the one who did the most to bring Judah back to the Lord than any had before him.  His grandfather was the one who did the most evil and led Judah most into sin than any other king.  His father had one of the shortest reigns of any king of Judah.

And then there’s Josiah.  With such a wildly oscillating family history, I often wonder how he ended up with a heart for the Lord.  And being only eight when he became king? Wouldn’t it have been easier just to maintain the status quo?  Though it isn’t mentioned in the text (at least not in 2 Kings), I wonder if God didn’t place some good people around him as he had Joash several generations before…

Josiah was a good guy.  When the book of the Covenant was found and read to him, and he realized how far the people had strayed from their God, he tore his clothes and repented.  He inquired of the Lord because he recognized great wrath was due to come upon the nation because they had forsaken the Lord and His commands.

And God’s response?  “You got it, Josiah, I will bring evil to Judah and all its people because they have forsaken me.  The wrath and punishment you read about is most assuredly coming.” (my paraphrase)  In fact, the wheels had already been set into motion for Babylon to eventually come and take down Judah!

So what did Josiah do? He tore down alters of false gods, brought the people to repent, renewed the covenant, organized the first celebration of the Passover in centuries and even took down idols and pagan worship places outside of Judah’s borders (including that stupid calf that Jeroboam I set up when the kingdom split way back when)!

Honestly, I’m not sure if that’s how I would have responded.

When we as kids (or adults) get into trouble don’t we more often than not repent in order to avoid the coming consequences?  Don’t we want to get something out of our repentance and obedience?  Had God told me, “I see you are repentant, that’s good, but the destruction is still coming,” I probably would have simply curled up in my bed and not gone any further.  I mean, I was sorry and stopped doing the wrong, what’s the point of doing more if punishment is still coming anyway?

But that’s not how Josiah responded.  To be fair, God did tell him that he would postpone the destruction until after Josiah’s death (but Josiah didn’t have a really long life and he died by being killed by the king of Egypt).  But even Jehu in Israel got promised that his sons would be kings “to the fourth generation” because he had been obedient to certain commands of God!  All Josiah got was “I’ll push it back a few years.”

But still, Josiah worked to actively remain obedient to God and bring the people along with him, clearing out the idols and renewing the covenant.  That is true repentance.  That is unselfish obedience.  Not seeking rewards for repenting and obeying, but doing it nonetheless.

I want to be more like King Josiah.

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