Saturday, August 27, 2016

So I may not look cool following Jesus.....

When I was younger, I admit, I was always the kid who wanted desperately to be liked and to be popular.   It often seemed that the harder I tried to be liked, the less interested people were in knowing me or accepting me. I say that not to bash those people; it's a hard truth to accept, but I have come to understand that those people were never obligated to know me or be my friend.  That doesn't make rejection feel good, but it is atleast a recognition of the boundary lines in relationships.  And I suppose desperation is not an attractive cologne to wear either, so that probably did not help my situation.  I remember being the kid in high school who could mostly get along well with everyone, but there was no single group I fit into.  I always felt like an outsider to the other cliques in high school, in many ways.  Sure I had friends, but the friends around me never really meshed into a group of any kind.
In all the following years, sometimes it seems like not much has changed.  I still fall prey to comparison, the thief of joy.  And this past week, I had a revelation: I believe I finally realized  that as much as I would like it to be the case, I will never be someone who makes following Jesus look cool. In my heart, I have wanted that.  I have yearned for it desperately.  For most of my life, I have yearned to find my "tribe", so to speak---the place and people where I would fit in and my idiosyncracies would make sense.  I wanted to be someone who both followed Jesus passionately and was popular with people too. It didn't have to be fitting in with a "cool crowd" by the world's standards; just finding a group where I made sense would have been sufficient.   And coming to accept the truth that I will never be that kind of person has been a grieving process for me.  Maybe that sounds dumb, and I am in some ways embarrassed to admit my shallowness and pride,  but it is what it is.  

 I'm not saying that some people don't like me generally, or even individually; but the truth is, I am not cool or hip. I am awkward and nerdy and sometimes, I am very lonely.  In group situations, I usually spaz out a little. I am not the one people gravitate to in a group, either.  I have spent most of my life battling anxiety and depression, and wasted way too much time  here on earth in the fruitless comparison of my life with the lives of others, or trying too hard.  

The last couple years have been difficult for me, and for our family. After leaving our last church, we have struggled to find our place.  And for a Christian who dearly loves Christ's body, there is no worse feeling than being "church homeless."  And that is what I have felt very acutely.  Adrift.  Trying to figure out where I fit in the body of Christ, and what I have to both give and receive to Christ's body.  Wanting desperately to find the answer, but still at a loss.  Wanting to be more than just a ministry opportunity; wanting friendship, and a tribe to call my own. 

Joe and I have prayed alot.  We are still seeking what God wants for us with regards to where we are supposed to be planted in Christ's local church.  And I struggle not to be jealous  at times when I see other women refer to their "tribe"; not because I wish for them not to have one, but because, while I have good friends (and I love them dearly and am thankful for them), I lack that intangible something called community.   I have several good friends; I am involved in groups and genuinely like people in those groups; but connection on a group level has not happened as of yet.  And even though I am over forty years old, I still feel like I have not found where I "fit in".  Or what exactly it is I offer the body of Christ in service and spiritual gifts, that is needful and something I actually can do well.  Mostly I have plodded along, trying to be faithful with opportunities that come my way, but the fruit I have seen has sometimes been small.

While I will continue to seek spiritual and scriptural wisdom regarding what true Biblical connection looks like, I have begun to think that maybe community level intimacy is not essential for following Christ. It may be that community wide intimacy is not even possible, here on earth, atleast. However, intimacy with Christ IS essential.  While God commands that his people be a part of a local body of believers, and that we love one another, there is no guarantee in scripture that I will feel close to those people, or find one group and be there the rest of my life. I have also realized that I am not called to be "cool".  God is not impressed or unimpressed by how good I look when I serve Him, just THAT I serve him and live in relationship with Him.   And that I am obedient.  Jesus must be my first love. And if I live in a place of abiding in his love, then rejection from people or the world won't hold the power over me that it has held in the past.  Actually, I recognize trying to be "cool" is the opposite of what Christ promised his followers.  If the world rejected Him, why would I assume it would be different for me?  If I am grounded in His love alone, I will be free to truly love people, even if or when they reject me personally.  I will be discerning enough to keep on the path Christ has for me individually, even when it looks scary and different  from others around me.   This has been a hard lesson for a recovering people pleaser like myself to learn.  But I am doing my best to be what I tell my kids to be: teachable and humble. 

I would appreciate prayer for wisdom on this, and that God would reveal to me what my purpose is here, and how I am called to best live out the Great Commission.  It's my heart's greatest desire, not that I would be cool, but that I would be found faithful, whether I am ever "cool" or not.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A poem I wrote today

A poem I wrote today:

As poetic as my soul may be,
I fear I shall never best a tree.
For strong and silent in the wood,
From age to age the tree has stood.
The rains may come, the sleet may dither,
But still, in forbearance, your branches ne'er wither.
Men may war, and hearts may churn,
but ever deep, your roots, they turn.
Deep calls to deep, as you onward go,
though all around you, as a show,
the sands of time and men, so frail,
boast in their fleeting, with much travail.
I see the tree, and plainly shod,
the footprint of Creator God.
Much love and care He grants to thee,
O lovely, swaying forest tree.
And if He cares so much for thee,
How much more must He care for me!
Humbly, I kneel, beneath your leaves,
and pray that I should be as thee,
Meek, yet mighty,
Rooted in love,
And of the turbulence round me, unmoved.
When I am gone, let it be of me,
That I was poetic like a tree.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Schedule hurdles and other fun

Well, we are trying to get the homeschool year off to a good start this year, with a schedule and a routine.  I had a beautiful schedule of when I work with each child figured out, as well as plans to begin getting up to walk/run and spend time with the Lord, as well as writing regularly.  So far this week, though, I have been battling migraines every night, as well as pain in the right side of my tummy, and then last night and today, Rebekah and Naomi have been throwing up.  And now Jon is complaining his tummy hurts as well.    Both Monday and Tuesday, however, with the exception of me working out, we were still able to stay pretty close to our school schedule.  The good thing was this week we do not have co op or anything else but dance starting up. So we have had alot of wiggle room in the schedule.  It's hard, though, not to feel seriously discouraged when you are attempting to make positive changes, and it feels like you must battle illness in addition to regular self control issues to make change. 
A mystery person (I am not sure who, but I believe it was one of my eldest daughter's friends, who are all such incredibly awesome young ladies) sent me a postcard Tuesday in the mail with a cool picture of Superman on the front (my favorite superhero)and scriptures handwritten on the other side.  One of those scriptures was this:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest in me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I think it is so wonderful how God works out the details of our lives, and uses other believers as instruments of encouragement toward us.  This person had no idea what my week would be this week, and in obedience to Christ, sent me this postcard.  But God knew, and He planned in advance for me to receive this at the right moment to remind me that yes, I am weak, yes, I will make mistakes.  I do NOT have it all together, as much as I would like to.  But God is most glorified when I acknowledge my weaknesses. I feel pretty weak today. When I have been battling headaches, I felt frustrated.  When the kids started complaining of tummy pain, I felt even more discouraged.  But when I remembered this verse, I felt strengthened.  And in the midst of these challenges, I see God's hand at work.  My co op class is coming together, as I was able to get more presenters lined up to present to my class.   I have had two productive school days, despite my tummy pain.  And thanks to migraine meds, so far I have not been incapacitated by a migraine, just not sleeping as well. 

Anyway, this is where I am this week.  I am still plodding along, and every day is a new day.  I try to remind myself that even though we have not met every goal, we are still making progress.  And that is still good.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Thief

On Tuesday night I went with a friend, and our eldest daughters, to see Jurassic World, in 3D.  I had to say it was a highly enjoyable film.  Years, ago I enjoyed Jurassic Park, so I was looking forward to this film as well.  Christ Pratt did a great job, and the whole thing was pretty cool.  One of the messages woven into the film which really spoke to me was the message of how we, as a culture, have lost our sense of wonder in the miraculous that is around us every day.  It seems ludicrous to imagine that we could live in a world, where someone can be standing in front of a live dinosaur, and be checking their phone, but that is not too far from the reality in which we live.  Well, minus the fact there are no dinosaurs around.  But the point remains.  I recently saw a photo of a man on a boat, with a humpback whale directly beneath him.  And he was checking his phone.Another photo I saw was of students all on their phones, in front of great art.  I realize, of course, that these pictures represent mere moments in time.  It is really unfair to judge someone's motives from a single moment, or to assume the worst with little true evidence.  Perhaps the man was taking a picture of the whale; maybe the students were doing research.  Regardless of the actual motivation of the people in the photos, for me, those photos are metaphorical for how I feel sometimes.   Because I am surrounded daily by the miraculous in what appears to be mundane, and yet at times I struggle to find joy.  At that moment, then the most miraculous and wonderful BECOMES mundane to me. 
I see how often my world is filled with busyness, and yet I struggle to find the meaning in it all.  In a world of cell phones,  Facebook, email,  and Instagram,  I find myself missing the days of land lines and handwritten notes.  Amidst all the activities our children participate in, I struggle at moments to find the purpose of the busyness. With all of the advances and innovations and technologies, it is easy to feel more disconnected than ever.   I don't mean to imply that all the busyness is purposeless or bad, but there is a menace I battle within my own heart, that has the capacity to suck the joy out of living at times.  Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."  And I struggle against the vanity and emptiness of that thief.  Wherever I look, I see the temptation at my door.  Because it's really not at my door, but within myself.  I have this need to make a mark, to live a life of meaning, and to be TRULY KNOWN by others, or at the least, by someone who cares.  When I submit my desires to the One who made me, whose ways and plans are higher than my own, I find my life in giving it away.  In Knowing HIM more, I come to see how He knows me better than I know myself, and loves me.  And in my submission to His ways and His will, I find the acceptance and meaning my heart craves.    But this desire to be known can become twisted when I try to use the choices of others around me, or even their acceptance or rejection of me,  as my reference point for whether my life is meaningful.  And with the internet,along with the fast pace of the world we see around us,  the temptation for a heart to compare is great.  It is easy sometimes to forget, and to become lost in the sea of the  many voices around me.  It is then that I feel the temptation to despair the most, and the most disconnected.  It is in that moment I forget the wonder and the miracle of each breath I take, whooshing in and out, the joy of my children's laughter, of my husband's smile.  I have no time, when I am comparing my life, to sit with a friend for coffee, or relish the joy of sitting down to play a game of candyland with my kids, just because. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Starting FB sabbatical

Well, I started my sabbatical from facebook today, and the first thought I had was that I should post a status about my sabbatical. Yes, I know.  Pathetic.  lol Anyway, I am hoping I will be more productive and focused without the distraction.  Today is April 23.  I plan to revisit the notion whether I will return to Facebook in September.  We shall see how it goes.  I am nervous about the potential for being out of the "loop" on events that are coming up.  But there is alot about facebook I won't miss. And lately it just seems to be more of a headache, that adds to my distraction and takes away from my ability to minister to all the people around me to which God as called me.  As for the information superhighway,   I rather prefer hanging out in my dark, lonely corner of the internet.  That's one reason my blog is fairly lackluster, to be quite honest.  I like to look back over my entries from time to time, but I am just not that concerned with appealing to the masses.  Anyway, I wanted to post something as a marker, just so that I will be able to find out how long it's been, in case I forget.

Friday, March 27, 2015

My Personal Thoughts from the Book of Job

Look, I go forward, but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;

When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him;
When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. 

 But He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. 

 My foot has held fast to His steps;
I have kept His way and not turned aside.

I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth
More than my necessary food. -Job 23:8-12 (Job speaking)

 I have ended up in the book of Job this morning, for my quiet time.  The book of Job has always been a book I have wrestled to understand, and for years it has made me uncomfortable, to be honest.  I believe that God is good, and that His ways and His plans are good.  But within the book of Job, we see God give Satan permission to take away everything (sparing only his life) from one of his most faithful servants. When I have read the book of Job in the past, I have read it attempting to glean from it what the point of suffering was. But I read it this morning, trying to figure out what God wants me to learn about HIM from this book.  
In my reading through the entire Bible in an orderly fashion, which I am still working through, I have read through Job in the Old Testament and 2 Thessalonians in the New Testament.  What I am discovering anew is that God's ways are NOT man's ways.  God seems to delight in taking the worst possible circumstances and turning them to something He uses to advance His plans and purposes.  That is the "foolishness" of the Cross.  God sent His son into the world.  He fulfilled the prophecies about him, but he didn't send Him to be born into a wealthy, powerful family.  He sent him to a poor, teen girl.  He was born in a barn, or something like it.  The people who attended this occasion were the most common of people-shepherds, and a few wise men who weren't even Jewish.  It was in God's plans that His son, the son of GOD, work as a carpenter, do full time ministry for only three years, and then DIE.  The Jewish people were looking for a Messiah who would come sit on the throne of David here on earth and restore a political kingdom.  But God had greater plans than overthrowing Rome, and he set about to do them through the means of  an instrument of Roman torture---the Cross.  Jesus suffered and died, that God would raise him from death, thus demonstrating God's power OVER death.  And if God can conquer death, how much more can he conquer sin and bring holiness?  
Coming back to Job, I see this same pattern at work.  Again, we have a righteous man, suffering for God.  And from an earthly perspective it doesn't make sense. Job is a righteous man, and God allows the devil to attack him on every front.  Job is in agony, in sack cloth and ashes.  We can see from the passage above the depths of Job's agony; God feels far away from him in his pain.  He feels abandoned by God.  It seems the only thing God leaves for him is a bitter wife, whose foolish advice to her husband is to "curse God and die." Ugh, Lord, help me not to be that woman. Then we have Job's friends who show up to grieve with Him.  At first, they sit with him silently grieving, for days. I have to say that that might have been the best thing they did.  Then Job's companions approach him individually and try to offer what appears to be godly wisdom.  It's the kind of wisdom you get when someone knows ABOUT God, but they don't really KNOW him personally.  They see someone suffering, and they want to make it stop.  They want to solve a "problem" that they see.  It all sounds great on the surface.  These are my paraphrases, but it's stuff like, "Job, you need to repent.  If you would repent, God wouldn't be judging you like this." Or "If you had more faith in God, he would deliver you from this stuff."  Or my favorite: "Who do you think you are to ask God these hard questions? God doesn't answer to you! Quit questioning God!"  The final friend to speak seems to be the best of the lot, esteeming God's holiness and reminding Job why he is unqualified to question God's plans.  There are varying levels of truth to all of these statements, depending on actual circumstances. And the final guy seems to be the most true.  The problem is, Job's friends spout these platitudes off with little to no actual knowledge of what God is doing in this particular situation.  They speak FOR God, without having heard FROM God.  
Job recognizes he is imperfect, and even though he is a righteous man, even that righteousness is as filthy rags.  He longs for a mediator to stand between him and God (Job was on the right track, I think, as this is pointing to God's plan for the messiah).  We see this in Job 9: 32-35:

For He is not a man, as I am,
That I may answer Him,
And that we should go to court together. 

 Nor is there any mediator between us,
Who may lay his hand on us both.

Let Him take His rod away from me,
And do not let dread of Him terrify me.

Then I would speak and not fear Him,
But it is not so with me.

Job longs for God to answer him, which he is told is wrong to long for, by his friends.  And yet, lo and behold, God DOES answer.  And the thing is, when God shows up and speaks, people shut up.  All of their reasonings, justifications, and arguments are exposed for the foolishness that they are.  From all we read in Job of God, we can see God cares greatly for Job.  So for him to answer him is a great honor.  But laying out the facts for Job, hearing them from the Creator of life itself, humbles Job greatly.  How could it not, when God says things like, 

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding. 

 Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?

 Or who laid its cornerstone, 
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7)

And Job is quick to repent for the wrong attitudes he himself has, because once He is in God's presence, all the questions become irrelevant.  When we finally taste and see that God is good, when we see Him as he is, then it is easy to trust what He is doing, even when it doesn't make sense.  Eternity becomes the perspective, and not just our natural lives here on earth.  Job finally sees, at the moment he is vindicated in front of his friends, that the only audience that matters for how he lives his life is NOT the naysayers, not the culture, not his closest friends.  But the Audience of One.   Job's response after hearing God speak is much shorter, and we see a humbled Job when he says,

Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 
 Listen, please, and let me speak;
You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’

 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You. 
 Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.”
Job's response to God makes me long to know God more.  The answers God gives Job for his suffering are not an explanation for the suffering.  When Job gazes upon God, he no longer CARES about the suffering.  Because knowing God is enough.  Suffering is temporary; God is eternal.  Job sees finally views himself with the context of a holy, righteous God, and he realigns his thinking of himself to a place of humility.  What I find slightly humorous is how God handles Job's friends:

 And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.  Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” -Job 42:7-8

The only one we hear talk after God speaks is the one who knows him---Job.  Job's friends, who had so much to say BEFORE God showed up---are now silent.  And God humbles them by telling them if they wish to approach HIM, they must ask JOB to pray for them.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"He must increase...."

Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification.  And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”
 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.  You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.  He must increase, but I must decrease...." -John 3:25-30

"If you become a necessity to someone else's life, you are out of God's will.  As a servant, your primary responsibility is to be a 'friend of the bridegroom.' (John 3:29).......Listen intently with your entire being until you hear the Bridegroom's voice in the life of another person.  And never give any thought to the devastation, difficulties or sickness it will bring.  Just rejoice with godly excitement that His voice has been heard.  You may often have to watch Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it (see Matthew 10:34)." -Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

This was God's word to me today, and it was a sobering, encouraging, difficult word.  My firstborn child graduates in May.  The graduation gown and cards are ordered, the date is set, and she has been accepted with a full scholarship to the university she wanted.  For all but six months of her education, she has been at home learning under both my and her father's tutelage.  We have watched her grow and change, from an opinioned, small little girl to a still diminuitive, still opinioned, but refined young lady of character.  It has been a joyful journey, and I admit we are blessed that she has received wisdom and grew in it, and I can see her making far wiser choices than I made at such a young age.  We have gazed with pride and admiration,  as she has undertaken to own her faith for herself, and soon she will launch out as an adult, free to make her own decisions, both mistakes and victories.  Free to fly or fall on her own.

As a mom, it is hard.  I remember how I held her in my arms after she was born, so tiny.  And I remember the overwhelming love I felt for this little person, the amazement I felt at how she had instantaneously transformed me---not into an angelic being, to be sure--but that someone else's needs could have so instantaneously supplanted my own.  That I became secondary. I remember the fierce determination and desire that took root in my heart to protect her and nurture her.  To guide her safely through the pitfalls of life, and to help her avoid the hurts and pains which I had experienced.  Such are the joys of motherhood.  Truly, from the first moments I knew she was growing within me, I committed myself to sacrifice in such a way that my child, and later my other children, should benefit.  I do it imperfectly, and often I falter on the way.  It's not that I haven't had selfish moments.  Like everyone else, I contend with my flesh.  And my children have heard their mother utter "I'm sorry" more times than I can count.  But overall, the overarching desire of my heart has been that my children should know Christ and make Him known, and that they would see Him most clearly through me.  Whether I have succeeded in this daunting task remains to be seen, but that has been my prayer.
At the same time, I admit I struggle with being a bit of a control freak in recovery. It is one of the areas of my life where I see the Lord most clearly at work in sanctification.   I recognize God's providential hand in history, and that He is in control, causing all things to work for the good of those who love Him.  But sometimes I struggle to let go and rest fully and completely in that trust.  I struggle to remain silent and let Him do His work in other hearts, when I think I can see so clearly (ugh, such pride) what HE is doing, and how much FASTER and BETTER it would go if only I could TELL them what I see.  I know how foolish that is when I say it out loud, but in the moment, it is so HARD to watch another falter when you feel that you could help them to avoid pain.   The truth, however, is that there are seasons and times for ALL things.  As it says in Ecclesiastes,
"To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

 A time to be born,
    And a time to die;
A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
    And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
    And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance; 
A time to cast away stones,
    And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
    And a time to refrain from embracing; 
 A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
    And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
    And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
    And a time to speak;
A time to love,
    And a time to hate;
A time of war,
    And a time of peace." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

I can see more clearly, at this season of my life, that so much of life is more about discerning what "time" it is, and behaving accordingly.   Too often I am silent when I should speak up, and speaking when I should remain silent.   Too often I am holding on when I should be releasing, and releasing when I should be holding on.  There is a rhythm to life, it seems, and a method to what can appear to be chaos. 
Soon, in my daughter's life, will be a time to step back.  Actually, I can say it has already begun.  It has been a gradual process.  My role is changing.  For a while,  I have been like a coach in a game, intensely involved, giving commands and sometimes training her through drill practice to prepare her for what life will throw her way.  But now, I must fade.  I must decrease.  Now is the time to step back and let prayer be my primary focus, to see the hand of God at work.  I must let go and begin to become less of a coach and more like a devoted, faithful fan, cheering her on from the sidelines,  grimacing at her challenges and cheering her in her triumphs. Still giving what wisdom I have, but only when and if she seeks it out.  Allowing her to experience more fully the consequences--good and bad-- of her decisions and actions.  I must trust in the hand of God to lead her and guide her, independently of myself.  This new phase is going to be challenging for a recovering control freak like myself, but it gets easier the more I KNOW the God I serve.  After all, theology is life.  What I do often speaks more of what I believe than what I say.  So I will consider this truth when I am tempted to hold on.  I will pray not just for my daughter, but for myself.  That when all is said and done, she will see GOD's hand at work in her life, and praise HIM.  Not me.  If at the end of life, everyone says what a great person I have been,I will judge that to be failure.  Because I am not great.  I am merely a servant of the ONE who is.  THAT is what I hope my children see.