An Encounter with Two Very Different Sorts of Lions

There is nothing but the quiet hush of snow still falling in the middle of nowhere... it is beautiful. Peaceful. Trees laden with two inches of pure white, branches stretching to a dark sky. This should be a holy moment. It should...

But it isn't. At least... not at first.

I am driving along on my way to and from church, and on both trips I have the exact same experience. I don't know how else to explain it than this:

1 Peter 5:7-11:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)

I am trying to do this:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (v.7, NIV)

It ends up being more of a wallowing in the anxieties than a casting of them. Exit: self-control and alertness. Enter: panic, and a very snarly wildcat that has some very vocal opinions of a few people it knows wouldn't like it and more than a few lies it would like me to believe.

Resistance? "Oh, God, please help me." It is the best I can manage.

And there are the trees. Standing tall. Rooted deeply. Covered in pure white snow. Surrounded by quietness. And I hear God whisper... "Steady."

What is that supposed to mean? I am sure it is meant to be comforting, tho I do not understand. I cling to it. Try to ignore the snarling. Keep driving. Get where I'm going. Melt down for a couple of minutes (I'm a girl, I'm entitled). Take a deep breath and get on with what's next...

Rachel posted this a few days ago - a different analogy of maybe a somewhat similar situation, in terms of all hell breaking loose, tho in my case it is much more mental. Ruth commented on her post and reminded us of Jeremiah 17:7-8, which says: "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

Two days later, God's word to me, "Steady...", in light of those verses, makes much sense. And it makes me laugh that v.10 (NIV) says that God will make us "strong, firm, and steadfast..." Steady...

The NKJV (v.10) says, "May the God of all grace....perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." Settle... I like that. I need that, internally. Praise God, I've found a bit of that since the drive... I honestly suspect someone was praying for me even that night, because I could tell you exactly the moment when I started to feel settled...

I've been thinking a lot lately about these verses from Ephesians - mostly because I'm going to be preaching on them (and probably tying them into my failure issues - preach what you know, right?) and praying through this particular experience, I think they really apply:

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19

Rooted and established in love... like a tree. If my roots go deep, if I'm established in God's love, that wildcat can roar all it wants to, and it won't matter. I'm standing tall, arms stretched against the darkness, worshiping my Maker, and totally clothed in white.

1 Peter 5:8-11 (The Message): "Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does."

"It won't be long before this generous God...will have you put together and on your feet for good... He gets the last word."

I love it that God's roar is so loud... and all He whispered was, "Steady..."

accept my heart

One of my favorite things to do is read thru hymnbooks. Quirky? Yes. But there it is. I also really enjoy re-writing hymns - we're doing what I think is a pretty fun version of Just As I Am at Torch these days; of course, I'm biased, since I wrote it. :) As I was looking for a hymn to rewrite, I stumbled across this one, and I love the words:

My God, Accept My Heart This Day
words by Matthew Bridges (1800-1894) / original tune by William James (1726-1800)

My God, accept my heart this day, and make it always thine,
That I from Thee no more may stray, no more from Thee decline.

Before the cross of Him who died, behold, I prostrate fall
Let every sin be crucified, let Christ be all in all.

Anoint me with Thy heavenly grace, adopt me for Thine own,
That I may see Thy glorious face, and worship at Thy throne.

Let every thought, and work, and word, to Thee be ever given;
Then life shall be Thy service, Lord, and death the gate of heaven.

Granted, the theology of that last verse is a little questionable (death will be the gate of heaven by grace, not by works, and one could argue that we're already living into that not-yet reality tho we're still here now...) but hey, it's hard to rhyme much with "given." :)

I really love that first verse, because it gets at a reality I don't always live into - that our acceptance is based on God's favor and not our own merit - and is guaranteed because He said it was. Not straying, not declining - left to our devices, we would stray and decline, no matter how much willpower we put into it (I dislike that intensely about myself) - but by grace, we are empowered to live in a way that keeps us on God's narrow way.

We sang a song last night that I've loved for ages - Steve Fee's Madly - and the chorus says, "I'm madly in love with you." I sang it pretty objectively. I am madly in love with God - I wouldn't be walking this walk if I wasn't - but I didn't feel like I was madly in love... but I suppose we don't, always - feel it, that is. Doesn't make it less true, tho... I'm pretty sure.

(HT: ASBO Jesus)

Sometimes it amazes me that we can very authentically say all three of those things at the same time... but I love it that we can...

the bucket list, addendum

I left a couple items off the list by accident:

11. I want to open for Chris Tomlin. Even just once. :)

12. I want to be the voice of a main character in one of the animated Barbie movies. (Laugh if you will, but The 12 Dancing Princesses and The Island Princess are great movies, in spite of their minor script issues...) :)

tra-la-la, la-la-la... oooh! see the bunnies....

Rabbit trail!

This one is fun. :)

So someone accidentally searched my blog instead of the internet yesterday, and the search phrase was "if I were queen."

LOL! okay.... (it does, by the way, turn up some interesting results as a Google search...) :D

All questions aside as to why this person was googling that - it reminded me of a song. :) Burl Ives sang this song in an old Disney movie called So Dear To My Heart, which I am happy to tell you I just found out is being re-released on May 13th. :) The song was on a record my sister and I used to listen to, back in the days when putting on a record and lazing about on the couch listening to it was the height of indoor entertainment... It's Lavender Blue, and the first verse goes like this:
Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, rosemary's green,
When I am king, dilly, dilly, you shall be queen.
Who told you so, dilly, dilly, who told you so?
'Twas my own heart, dilly, dilly, that told me so.
Silly? Yes. Still, it's always been one of my favorite songs. And it became even more special when I found it oft quoted in The Ordinary Princess (by M.M. Kaye), which I have to say is quite possibly my favorite faerie tale of all time.

The Ordinary Princess is the story of Her Serene Royal Highness, Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne - who is given by one of her many fairy godmothers the gift of being ordinary. She is so ordinary, in fact, that not one prince can be coerced to see past it and marry her. Which really doesn't bother her all that much. :) She is, however, quite bothered by her parents' issues with all of it, and finally decides to run off. So she climbs out the window, and heads off for grand adventures in peasantry. She becomes a scullery maid in the castle of a neighboring kingdom, and meets (of course) a page boy, and the two become best of friends. But neither of them believe anything can come of it, because they both have secrets. By the end of the book, of course, all is revealed in due time, and everyone lives happily ever after, including the fairy godmother, who knew all along that true happiness comes when you are loved for simply being who you are, and not for all the frills or finery that may (or may not) accompany your lot.

This past Wednesday I led worship for an event at my church, and for various reasons I was a little nervous going in. It's what I love doing more than anything - this worship leading thing - and usually I'm ok (except for the inevitable "I think I'm going to puke" moment that happens 5 minutes before the service almost every time - which I have learned to just ride out because it'll go away as soon as the lights come up) - but this time around there were a couple of people there whose opinion matters a great deal to me, and I found myself fighting a desire to "perform" - which was really more about doing well and not screwing up than it was about acting/performing, honestly, but it didn't make the temptation to be "onstage" any less sin. I botched a few things in the first set. Pride and any possible shred of arrogance fled and got trampled in those moments. But the second half of the evening went incredibly well, and it was fun - because I gave up trying to impress anyone except Jesus, and I knew I didn't really need to impress Him. So I just played and sang my heart out...

And Friday, a good friend called to tell me (in response to my last post here) that on Wednesday, she had been praying that as I led worship that night, that I would simply be myself as I led.

God loves me.

I know that sounds a bit preschool in terms of theology, but every now and again I just get blown away by the reality of it, and find myself floored by it. On Thursday night, as I was praying with some friends, I had a picture in my mind of something that represented me and what God is doing in my life; and on Friday morning, one of the "picture of the day" gadgets on my homepage was almost exactly the same image. Someone googles "if i were queen" and I go hopping down a bunny trail that reminds me that I am loved by a King who loves me just as I am - and that all the trappings of "success" aren't worth much... and that story reminds me of some sermons I've been listening to, and what God's been doing in my heart as I've listened, and the transformation that I am undergoing, the shifting that's taking place at the core of who I am, and the refinement that is making me more like Him - and I want to laugh and cry all at the same time for the amazingness of this God we serve, and the love with which He showers us. "How great is our God..." "dilly, dilly..."

*wistful sigh* I think I'm in love... :)

fasting, repentance and freedom

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken. - Isaiah 58:6-14

The first time I fasted was about a year after I came to the Lord... so I was probably, I don't know, 17? Young, anyway. :) I didn't have a clue what I was doing or why I was doing it - the camp where I'd come to Christ held a few retreat weekends throughout the year, and they'd asked us to fast at least a meal that weekend - I (in a fit of maturity, I'm sure) decided to fast the first one and get it over with. (Just kidding... I think...) :) I'm honestly not sure now what the motivation was exactly, but there I was, at the first dinner of the weekend, smelling all that good food and listening to all my friends catch up on the past couple of months' news - and I was "starving." So I went and camped out on the stairs around the corner with my Bible and looked up fasting, trying to figure this thing out...

And God gave me His vision for my future.

I read Isaiah 58 that day, and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. Do this. This is who I'm making you to be. These are the things that are to mark your life... I'm sure those weren't His exact words, but that was the jist of it.

And in the 17 years I've been chasing Jesus, I have never forgotten it. It's always been there, in the back of my head, as some future thing...

Sometimes I am so incredibly daft...

This Lenten fast I've been doing has largely been an act of obedience - I knew I was supposed to do it. I know on a practical level that it will help me physically and bring healing, as I stop eating foods that harm and start eating foods that heal. I know that there are things that fasting has always done in the lives of God's people - biblically, fasts are ordered for purification, repentance, and discernment.* Lenten fasts in particular tend to be for repentance...** tho I wasn't sure what I was repenting for aside from eating a whole lot of junk and thereby choosing to be less than whole on purpose. I suppose on some level I was fasting for all three things - I have been in the midst of what feels like one of the most major shifts I've ever been through over the past four or five months, and while I have ideas of what He's doing and where this process is going, I've been wanting more clarity, and longing for holiness more than ever as I've taken one faltering step after another down this path on which I currently find myself (as the ground continues to heave unpredictably, and I still distrust my ability to walk it even when the ground is behaving...).

When God first gave me this passage as a calling, I thought of it mostly in terms of how I would live in regards to other people, and I did not anticipate this verse being true of me:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

And yet, last night, this is exactly what happened...tho it is my sense that it was only the... well, beginning isn't quite the right word, because it began awhile ago, but it's not the end either... hm... it was only a step, then - but it was a significant one for all that. Some things have happened over the course of my life that have been terribly unjust. Because of those things, I learned some patterns of thought that were neither healthy nor true. I became intellectually and emotionally bound by them, and the harshness of the judgment with which I have learned to look at myself has yoked me to an unrealistic standard - and worse, an even more unrealistic expectation of how to achieve it. I have been wrestling for weeks now with three major issues: my temper, my rebelliousness, and my issues with failure/perfectionism. They tie into everything - and I have been increasingly convicted of my need to surrender those things to the Lord - and, true to form, I've tried to do it on my own. *sigh* what was that about being daft?

And last night, as someone prayed over me, I realized that a) there's been a spiritual component to those three struggles that I have not acknowledged, and over which God alone has authority; and b) that I cannot on my own overcome them - that what I need is the Holy Spirit at work in my heart and mind to transform me into His image. Jesus said to be perfect (Matthew 5:48) and then He sent us a Counselor to aid us in that task. I have been treating my life, and even holiness, as a project at which I can succeed or fail on my own - and yes, I bear responsibility - but surrender is ultimately the key to getting anywhere, and all I've surrendered to is a false belief that I am going to mess it up...

The chains have been loosened - I felt them start to slip last night. The cords have been untied - truth is unknotting the veil of deception through which I've been seeing for far too long. I am slightly more free today - and the yoke is about to get smashed.

It is going to be a good day.

*Mudhouse Sabbath, by Lauren Winner - p. 86

** p. 85

prophetic ponderings

I don't know where you all come down on the myriad issues and questions about the prophetic. To sum up where I'm coming from, I would define prophecy as encouragement and exhortation, its purpose being to build up the church and/or individual believers within the church. Along with that, I believe that God can and does speak through visions and dreams, and through words of wisdom and knowledge (when He tells someone something very specific about either the present or the future, either for themselves, or someone else), etc. That said, in spite of all I've seen, I am still also pretty skeptical about all of it.

Which makes it tricky.

I've seen the prophetic do some pretty amazing things in terms of building up people's faith, and encouraging them in dark times. I've also seen it misused, misinterpreted, etc., causing great harm. Not irreperable, necessarily, but unnecessary...

So what do you do when you feel like God's told you something? A few months ago, I had an extremely strong impression about something. But other voices - respected voices - had other opinions and so I stayed silent. Mistake? I don't know. I'm not sure I would have been heard. I am sure my motivation would have come under question. And so I said nothing. As it turned out my impressions were - for the most part - correct. I did pray about it - which is the first and foremost thing we're to do with anything we hear from the Lord - continuing in conversation with Him - but was it the only thing to do? I don't know.

There are two situations that have arisen over the past two weeks in which my very strong impressions and the respected voices differ. What do I do?!?! Pray, pray, pray - yes. But silence matters as much as its lack. What's the proverb? oooh - there's three of them (i doubt that's coincidence):

Proverbs 11:14 - For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.

Proverbs 15:22 - Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Proverbs 24:5-6 - A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.

and then there's this:

Proverbs 24:7 - Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the assembly at the gate he has nothing to say.

Is he a fool because he has nothing to say? Or is he speechless because he's an idiot, and he just doesn't understand anything?

Either way, I'd far rather be an adviser than a fool - but I don't want to be a foolish adviser, either. *sigh*


and no, i have no idea how to pronounce that. :)

It's a Koine Greek word that means "compassion." And it's used in Matthew 14 like this:

"When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick."

It's incredible when you think about it. Jesus' cousin John, the man God had sent as "the voice crying in the wilderness" to "prepare the way of the Lord" - had just been beheaded. And Matthew tells us that when Jesus heard about it, "He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place." The Bible doesn't tell us what Jesus thought or what He said, but it tells us what He did - and I think it's a safe bet to infer that He probably experienced quite the range of emotions that day. He needed to be alone... and yet the crowds were still there. They found out where He was and they followed Him. And He had compassion on them. Chances are good He was in a world of hurt that day - but He stepped out of it to minister to others, putting off His own need for retreat and not dealing with His own hurt until later in the evening.

If that isn't a picture of self-sacrificial love, I don't know what is.

Joanna Weaver says, "...Jesus didn't respond to people out of duty; He ministered to them because He felt their distress...He laid aside His hurt so He could pick up their pain. He laid aside His wishes so He could become their one Desire. He laid aside His agenda so He could meet all of their needs. And that is the essence of ministry that goes out of its way. It puts self aside and reaches out in true compassion."*

I need to learn splagchnizomai. I need to learn a compassion that comes from so deep within me that it can't help but rise up and get to work on behalf of others, regardless of what's happening in my own life. I need to learn that other-focused love that automatically views the needs of others as so much more critical than my own. I need humility, honestly, and I need my pride to suffer.

In our devotional time before church tonight, our text was Micah 6:8, and as our director talked about what it means to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God, I was incredibly convicted. Loving mercy means that even when someone doesn't deserve mercy, you still extend it. Mercy can't be deserved - it exists because it's needed... and it cannot be earned. It's a gift of grace. And a humble heart before the Lord loves to love as He loves... which involves, at times, great personal cost. A complete lack of return on the investment.

How often do I love someone only because I expect that love to be returned? How often do I invest in a relationship simply because I think there's something in it for me? And I hope in asking those questions I am not berating myself for selfishness and failure, but rather just looking at my heart with sober judgment and realizing that there are times when my motivations are simply wrong. Times when I've tried to control people (consciously or subconsciously) in an effort to make things turn out the way I want them to. Times when I've been too focused on my own pain to see someone else's. Times when I've been so caught up in my own agenda that I've missed opportunities to speak life and light into others' lives - and missed God's agenda for me entirely....

Except there's grace. And foreknowledge. And mercy. And His agenda continues to be making me more like Him. Because when He looks at me, He looks at me with splagchnizomai.


*Having A Mary Heart In A Martha World, by Joanna Weaver, p. 91

taking a breather

I won't post the cartoon here (largely because I'm entirely too lazy right now to do it) but there is some excellent discussion on ASBO Jesus this week on post 374. No offense to Jon, but sometimes the conversations that get going as a result of his cartoons are even better than the original cartoon! This is definitely one of those, in my estimation anyway.

There are so many things I could pull out of that conversation and talk about - but one comment in particular struck me: Sas said, when Jesus couldn’t cope, he went off and had a rest, came back to it…

I'm not coping well. There's nothing awful, I'm just really stressed and overtired. Still learning to say Kaddish, but it's not the focus; there's no time to focus on much of anything. So since I don't have time to do it - I'm taking a breather. It's been on the calendar for a couple of months now anyway, but the timing's worked out well. Tomorrow morning it's just me and Jesus for about 4 hours, and I'm so looking forward to it. No agenda - well, I don't have one anyway. I often find He has one. :) Can hardly wait. And on that note - I'm going to bed. At nine o'clock on a Friday night. Because I can.


three things

Three things have happenened in the past few days for which I am incredibly grateful, and on the verge of tears:

1) my mechanic gave me my car back - for free. (and it works!)

2) someone anonymously left me an extremely cool gift. (if it was you - thank you. and that feels so inadequate.) i am humbled beyond belief to be so deeply loved by a God who knows every need even before i call... (Isaiah 65:24) and to be so loved by a friend...

and 3) last night, a relationship that's been through a pretty major rift took a step towards being better. i wouldn't have dreamed that possible 24 hours ago. but i am glad to have my friend back.

Lenten praxis, addendum

A few days late, but the topic of the week demands that it be shared:

HT: ASBO Jesus, as usual. :)

Lenten praxis

All I know about Lent in two words: "not much." For more than you may ever have wanted to know, feel free to check out this article. But for what it's worth - here is what I do know about it and why my praxis is what it is:

Lent is the season lasting the 40 (or 47, depending how you count it) days before Easter. From Ash Wednesday to Easter, the liturgical calendar marks this season as a time of mourning and remembrance of the passion of Christ. The Scripture readings for many traditional churches during this season will often focus on the last days of Christ and the events leading up to his crucifixion. It's a season of testing, a season of trial, a season of waiting, and a season of preparation. But we are blessed because even as we live through the darkest days of the Story, we know the ending.

There will be the strange and wonderful beauty of Maundy Thursday, as we partake at the Lord's table and remember the Last Supper and the confusion of the disciples as they try to understand and begin to grapple with what He's been telling them. There will be the awfulness of Good Friday - the darkness and disillusionment that accompanies the liberation of the world. There will be the silence of Saturday - the waiting for... what? And the glorious and joyous celebration of Easter and a new dawn, as we celebrate His resurrection and the new life we have because of Him, singing at the top of our lungs, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today; Alleluia!!!!"

Lent is the waiting, the preparation, the meditation... on all of that.

I am sorry to say that my church doesn't celebrate it either. I believe it is their very deep loss.

40 days. It's a significant number. Israel spent 40 years in a desert; Jesus spent 40 days there too. Moses spent 40 days on the mountain of the Lord; Elijah took 40 days to get there. Jonah gave Nineveh 40 days to repent. The tie-ins and the symbolism are worth an entire book, so I won't even begin to touch it here. (Lent, by the way, doesn't count Sundays.) So for 40 days we walk through a season that is inevitably sad - a season in which we remember our sin that separated us from Him and our need for His death and resurrection - and yet also a season in which we remember with deep and solemn gratitude the great love that drove Him to the cross for us.... and then, on Easter, we - like Miriam on the far side of the Red Sea - dance for joy and sing of what He's done.

Fasting is a traditional practice during Lent. I believe its roots are generally Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox - not all Protestant churches that observe Lent encourage it. The idea, I think, is to give something up - either a vice (which we ought not to have anyway, but do) or something we enjoy. (For me, a daily trip to the coffee shop would fall under both those categories!) It's an act of love - an act of worship, an act of gratitude - "because of all You gave up for me, I will give this up for You, Lord..." In some circles, it is observed as an act of penitence - a price voluntarily paid as an outward symbol of our inner repentance. (I'm okay with the symbolic part of that, but the debt for our sin has already been paid, so theologically that gets a little sticky.)

The first time I ever really registered Lent as a season to be observed was when the church I attended in high school began a series of Lenten suppers. We met for dinner on Tuesday nights, had some kind of soup, watched a video or read a chapter of a book, and spent an hour discussing it after dinner. They are memories I treasure for many reasons, and were the doorway for me into understanding the importance of remembrance. It wasn't until later in my walk that I began to observe the practice of "giving something up for Lent" - and there are times I will confess when it's been because I felt I "should" and not because I wanted to - but now it is actually a part of the praxis of my faith that I look forward to because of what it will teach me every year.

Last year I wasn't at all well as we headed into Lent, and I felt the Lord call me to a 40-day fast from meat and bread. It was hard. I was hungry a lot, especially at first. There were times it was frustrating - to be somewhere, watching people eat pizza and have to say, "oh, no - thanks, tho" - when really, I wanted a piece. :) But the fast brought me both better health and a deeper understanding of my need for and dependence on the Lord - and those are both things I need again now. Fasting accomplishes a lot of things in us, both physically and spiritually (more on that in another post later this week, probably) - and I think it can accomplish quite a bit as a tool of intercession, tho I do not entirely understand how or why that works - and one of the things it does for me is to increase my hunger for God's presence. I have been waiting for Lent, and preparing for it this year, and I am glad that it's here, in spite of the difficulties that come with the extremely restricted diet I've chosen/felt led to for this particular fast. I am looking forward to seeing what the Lord will do in and through this season. And I am looking forward to Easter, and the promise of new life and resurrection at the far end of so much struggle and darkness and sadness. It has been a long year, these past 12 months. There is much I regret... much I can no longer do anything about, much I cannot change, much said that I cannot take back. There is also much I can do to make this next year better. And it starts with seeking Him.

It will be an excellent 40 day sojourn. And I am hoping that as I walk in the desert, the rebelliousness in me will die the certain death it was promised. That the seeking of the Lord's voice I will do will result in hearing Him speak quietly on the mountain on which I also want to spend this time. That I will come to repentance where I need to. And that at the far end of this hike, I will find Him, not just waiting for me, but also to have been with me. through it all. And I know that He has been, is, and will be.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite parts of the liturgy my church used growing up, every Sunday:

Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.

May the Lord be with you, this day and always. Happy Sunday, everyone.

fasting makes me grumpy

I discovered something today. It wasn't even necessarily something new - just a new phraseology that made me see it a little differently, I guess. I was standing in the laundry room, leaning against the door and praying - somewhat frantically I might add - and that prayer went something along these lines:

"I can't. God, I just... I can't. I can't do this. I need your help. I am starving, I am tired, I have a million things to do, and I have no patience. I really need you to help me. I'm sorry, God, I know You're really busy and You have a billion things to do..."

And I heard His whisper: "Never feel guilty for needing me, Hap..."

You know, I hadn't really registered - until I said it out loud just that way - that I really do. That my perfectionist, "be all things to all people" thing that I struggle with so much (and yes, I know that's a wrong application of Paul's words, but I still find myself doing it) has actually led me to feel guilty for doing exactly what He said to do - approaching His throne of grace with confidence so as to find mercy in my time of need... (Hebrews 4:15-16)

*sigh* more places to grow, I guess. I seem to be finding an awful lot of them lately.

Fasting, for instance. In reading the Sermon on the Mount for class this semester, I've been thinking about that a lot... and I know what Jesus says about it has so much to do with our religious attitudes, but I just find myself wondering... what am I supposed to do with the fact that when I do fast, I just tend to be a whole lot more irritable? Is the process of being disciplined about doing it anyway going to eventually eek that irritability out of me? I doubt it... tho who knows, maybe it could... and is breaking a fast that God called me to wrong if I'm doing it because I'm realizing that I can't do everything and be everything all at once, and that simply eating something will improve my attitude immensely? I'm not sure... and find myself not knowing whether to feel like a failure or not... :P

answer: err on the side of "not" and just trust mercy...?

it's all about You...

My dear friend-whom-i've-never-met (Linda), over at faintnot's frenzy, has written an absolutely brilliant post on worship. You should go read all of it, both for her thoughts on worship and to hear her story, but here's part of my favorite part of what she said:

"Worship is what pours out of me when I lift my voice to Him with the greatest joy, or the deepest sorrow. As I sing and play I know it is because He is Who He is. It has nothing to do with what I want Him to do for me. It has nothing to do with the way I may be feeling. He is God, He changes not and if He never did another thing, He has done more than we ever deserved anyway. He is magnificent, faithful, kind, generous, powerful, and He has decided to allow me to benefit from all this. Worship happens when I reach beyond what I know I am capable of because God is calling me to do it and find a way to trust Him when all of me wants to be scared, or unsure, or just not getting it at all. It is all about Him, this worship thing."

I broke a toe leading worship this weekend. No, seriously, I think I did. And the awesome part: I was sitting down. What are the odds?

I have this weird quirk - I used to mock (in love and good fun, of course) an old friend of mine for a very similar quirk - and I am now paying for it. (There is justice...) :) When I'm playing guitar, I can't dance around, but as a worshiper I just tend to move a lot, so I've developed this sort of stomp thing I do with my left leg when I'm leading. Most of the time, this works out just fine, and it's not even all that distracting because I lead sockfoot, so it's not like there's this loud thumping or anything from the stage... but this weekend... well, apparently I do the stomp thing a bit when I'm sitting down too, and I must've hit the rung of the barstool on which I was sitting at just the right angle, because my second toe and the entire top of my foot are a series of absolutely glorious shades of black and blues, purples, and greens. I didn't even notice when I did it. (I noticed when I stood up to head off the stage, tho!)

It hurts a bit. Not much, but a bit. And I find it rather ... ironic.

We launched a new sermon series this weekend entitled "Greatness: Discovering Your Incredible Potential" - a seven-week series on the life of John the Baptist. Jesus called John the greatest man that ever lived - on his absolute worst day. (The story is in Matthew 11:1-11.) Our pastor's message was excellent, tho extremely...lengthy. And it blew me away how the songs I'd chosen actually had some of the exact phrases he used in his message. It was pretty cool. I planned it two weeks ago, and I designed the set to point to God's greatness. They were songs that recognized our ... gift... for screwing things up, for failing. Songs that recognized our need for grace. And songs that said thank you for this amazing grace and expressed a heart-felt desire to have our lives reflect His glory to a world that needs to see it.

The pastor concluded his message by reminding us that if we're willing to simply lay down our lives, and say, "here I am, Lord - take my life, and make of it what You will" - the potential for what God can do with that kind of surrendered life is simply incredible.

So here I am, limping into a tomorrow that has limitless potential... and Monday happens. The fever I had all weekend comes back. It's a long day. I could use a nap, but don't get to take one. I go to leave for our young adults group, and my car absolutely refuses to start. A friend kindly loans me hers, and I go to church, and I fall apart on the first person I see because I don't know what to do about the car and the concurrent lack of finances and it's the third time in four weeks it'll be in the shop (hence the current financial issue). I hit a "God, how much do you think I can take?!" moment. And the worship set tonight ended with "Jesus, Lover of My Soul."

This is the song with which I spent the first of what I've come to call my "Geneva" days. A "Geneva Day" is a day away, dedicated to the Lord, solely His to do with as He likes. I was supposed to sing this song for church one weekend years ago, and I nailed it vocally in rehearsal, but there was something missing. Matt asked me, "Do you mean it when you sing it?" and I was forced to admit that no, I didn't. Not really. I meant it, but.... I believed it, but.... So I went away for a day, and asked God to help me mean it. I learned a lot about surrender that day.

Our pastor this weekend challenged us to stop believing God only up to a point. To lay aside our "practical atheism" and truly trust God with our entire lives - and to see what God would do with our surrendered hearts.

Well, the chorus of the song says that it's all about Jesus, His glory, and His fame, and that it's not about me, as if He should do things my way... and that's where I get stuck so often - in that I really do think God should do things my way, as if I actually know better than He does. (Whatever...) I know He knows better. And so I will say with Job, in the face of things far less dire than what he faced, that "though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him." (Job 13:15) And I will sing again, that He alone is God, and I surrender to His ways.

Even when they include brokenness. (Literal and metaphorical.) Even when they include the going-wrong-nesses I feel I'd be better off without. I will remember the deeds of the Lord (Psalm 77). (Again.) I will take heart, because I know it gets better. (I've read the end of the Book.) :) And I will worship. Because (and thank you, Linda, for these words):

"Worship is what pours out of me when I lift my voice to Him with the greatest joy, or the deepest sorrow. As I sing and play I know it is because He is Who He is. It has nothing to do with what I want Him to do for me. It has nothing to do with the way I may be feeling. He is God, He changes not and if He never did another thing, He has done more than we ever deserved anyway. He is magnificent, faithful, kind, generous, powerful, and He has decided to allow me to benefit from all this. Worship happens when I reach beyond what I know I am capable of because God is calling me to do it and find a way to trust Him when all of me wants to be scared, or unsure, or just not getting it at all. It is all about Him, this worship thing."

no, wait.... it gets better...!

sorry, i just couldn't help it....

Heather, you had to post that Christmas video, didn't you.... :)

on navigating "The Minefield Of Caddishness"

or: "How to Become a Good BCW" - Step 1

lol... this is awesome....

It's the video guidebook we've all been waiting for...

(Mike, this is for you - in response to - or maybe the prequel to? - "The Man Song")

for Jacob so loved Rachel...

I woke up today thinking about Jacob and Rachel - twice, actually. (I took a nap today, and it was heavenly... tho I am still oddly tired.) I find myself hesitant to say that I feel like God was trying to speak something in my half-conscious almost-but-not-quite awake-ness... and yet, I think He was. Is... :) I'm still not really awake, I don't think. I had a really high fever yesterday, and took the day off today to sleep and rest and maybe try to clean up a bit of the chili from earlier this week, and I am still very tired... but it feels... significant... that Jacob and Rachel were on my mind so randomly, and so persistently.

So the one thing I've done today aside from procrastinating on the internet is reading their story in a couple of different versions. I really liked Walter Wangerin's re-telling of the story in The Book of God. It's a longer story, and there's a lot you could unpack from it, but the part of their story I am mostly thinking about today is in Genesis 29:1-30. Somewhere over the course of time, I got the story a bit muddled in my head... I thought that Jacob waited 14 years for Rachel. But he didn't. He worked for 7 years, spent a week with Leah, and then got Rachel - and worked for another 7 years after that. I find this... disturbing. I know culturally it was totally acceptable, but poor Leah...

But here's something about Jacob: he didn't take Rachel and run.

That seems significant. Particularly because Jacob was once known to be a bit of a rat. What did those 7 years of laboring for Rachel teach him? And how did getting Leah affect him? And what possesses a man to stay put and keep working for something he already has?

I haven't done the research; I can't tell you if it's an appropriate lesson to take from the text or not, or even what exactly the lesson is, but I feel like that last question touches on what God was trying to get at with me while I was half-dreaming their story twice today. (And trust me, if it happens a third time I will be taking this very seriously!) What is it that we're willing to do for what we really want? And are we willing to keep working for what we already have? (And what does that mean exactly?!)

Genesis 29:20 - So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her. (NKJV)

Matthew Henry
comments: "If we know how to value the happiness of heaven, the sufferings of this present time will be as nothing to us in comparison of it. An age of work will be but as a few days to those that love God and long for Christ's appearing."

Galatians 6:9 - "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

That's true on any number of levels - both in terms of how it affects others around us, and in terms of our own journeys...

I don't know where I'm going with this. I think I need to drag myself to the grocery store in search of real food... the snacking just isn't helping the mental sluggishness. In the meantime...

Insights, anyone? :)

123 meme

Ha - just when you think you got tagged for an "easy" meme. :)

Erin over at Decompressing Faith tagged me in a meme called 123. The rules are.... "simple":

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. No cheating!
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.

LOL. Erin hasn't seen my room.

Do you know how complicated it was to determine which book was physically the closest?

It turned out to be the Book of Common Prayer, which was about 2 feet closer (being next to my bed) than Lincoln's Word Commentary on Ephesians that was on my bed and didn't have 8 sentences on page 123. I need to warn you, tho - the 3 sentences in question on page 123 in the Book of Common Prayer, while God's Word (and therefore living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)) were somewhat... spirit dampening, I guess, I don't know. They just made me sad:

And they took counsel, and bought with them a potter's field to bury strangers in. Wherefore the field is called Acheldema, that is, the field of blood, until this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremie the Prophet, saying, And they took thirty silver plates, the price of him that was valued, whom they bought of the children of Israel, and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.

Elizabethan English. *wry grin* Gotta love it.

"the price of Him that was valued." Does anyone else see the irony in that phraseology? How could anyone put a price on the greatest treasure ever?

I tag:

Jake at Funky Homily (you can put it on your other blog, but it needs a cooler name...)
Rachel at Just Something I Was Thinking About
Kathryn at Good In Parts
Hanan at Scribbles from the Journey
and Jemila at Quirky Grace

the bucket list

One of my silent readers, whom I have sneakily tracked down - (not really - I just followed a link one day, landed on his blog, and found the Shift on his blogroll - nice picture, by the way, John) - has posted what he refers to as "The Bucket List." Apparently there's a new kick going around because of the movie by that name for people to write their own lists... a "bucket list" (in case you didn't know) is a list of things you want to do before you, um... kick the proverbial bucket.

So just for fun, here's mine:
(and somebody ask me when I'm 80 if I've done it all) :)

1. I want to learn to fly a plane - one of the old-fashioned puddle-jumper type bi-planes. Not because I really want to be an African bush pilot per se, but because at some point when I'm in Africa (or anywhere really) and the stakes are high, time is pressing, and our pilot is nowhere to be found, or sick, or wounded - I want to be the one person in our small crew who can say, "oh, it's okay - I'll fly the plane" and wow everyone with my amazing secret talent as I rescue us from what might have been certain death. (lol... whatever. I just like to fly and I think it would be fun.)

2. I want to write a book. Maybe a story, maybe just a "here's what I've learned in my life" sort of a book... I don't know. I just want to write... something.

3. I want to see the world. Africa (especially South Africa). India. Italy - 6 weeks, at least. I want to go to Tuscany on my honeymoon. (I want to have a honeymoon... someday.) Austria - 3 weeks in Vienna. Switzerland. Germany - again, especially Berlin. London. Wales. Belfast. New Zealand. Australia to visit Rachel and Heather. I want to go back to Albania, even just for a visit. Stratford-von-Avon - in England and Canada. Prince Edward Island. Hawaii.

4. I want to own a horse. Just for awhile. And go riding every day. For maybe a year.

5. I want to own a house with a wood-burning fireplace, and comfy couches, and have friends over all the time.

6. I want to own a house with 17 bedrooms. And for all my kids to have friends that pretty much live with us. (and that don't mind cleaning all the bathrooms a house that big would have to have)

7. I want to adopt a dozen kids. Emotionally, if not legally. :)

8. I want to take 6 months off from my entire life and just travel. (This is different from #3 because I'd envisioned that as periodic vacations. This would be more of a "get in the car or hop in the plane and just go, and figure out where I'm going when I get there" sort of a thing. Could be cross-country, could be world travel, who knows?)

9. I want to bike across Montana.

10. I want to die knowing that I didn't waste this life. That I lived every moment I possibly could to the fullest. That I did what I needed to do, spent time where I needed to spend it, and knew who I needed to know - for their sakes and for mine. And that grace covered everything at which I failed. (That, at least, I know will get checked off the bucket list. Thank you, Jesus.)

There's probably more, but I think that's a good start, anyway. :)