Monthly Archives: July 2010

A Year in Review: A Series of Reposts

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I recently reread a post that I had written about a year ago and it got me to thinking… “The Lord has done a lot in me; I’m not who I was. I don’t want to forget where I have been.”

So here’s a little look back at things I wrote way back when…

Contentment

I've learned that the absence of everything other than God is the essence of everything I need.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance.” Philippians 4:11

Paul, while being denied every comfort, wrote the above statement from a dark prison cell.
A story is told of a king who went to his garden one morning, only to find everything withered and dying. He asked the oak tree that stood near the gate what the trouble was. The oak said it was tired of life and determined to die because it was tall and beautiful like the pine tree. The pine was troubled because it could not bear grapes like the grapevine. The grapevine was determined to throw away its life because it could not stand erect and produce fruit as large as peaches. The geranium was fretting because it was not tall and fragrant like the lilac.
And so it went throughout the garden. Yet coming to a violet, the king found its face as bright and happy as ever and said, “Well violet, I’m glad to find one brave little flower in the midst of this discouragement. You don’t seem to be the least disheartened.”
The violet replied, “No, I’m not. I know I’m small, yet I thought if you wanted an oak or pine, you would have planted one. Since I knew you wanted a violet, I’m determined to be the best little violet I can be.”

Others may do a greater work,
But you have your part to do;
And no one in call God’s family,
Can do it as well as you.

People who are God’s without reservation “have learned to be content whatever the circumstance.” His will becomes their will, and they desire to do for Him whatever He desires them to do. They strip themselves of everything, and in their nakedness find everything restored a hundred fold.

 

Now I know what you are thinking, “Does this girl write any of her own material?” Yes, I do. But more often than not, what I write about is inspired by something else I have read. Thus, I feel obligated to share with you what stirred me to write the things that I do. That being said…
I have a love-hate relationship with “contentment.” I love the idea. I aspire to be content in almost all areas of my life. I want to be content in my place at work, where I live, my relationships, and who I am. I’m not like everyone else. In fact, like the story, I am like no one else at all. But often times, I like oak and pine tree, wish to be another version of a Compassion employee, a female, a friend, or to have another talent of gift set. Like the grapevine, I sometimes wished I produced a different kind of fruit.
You know the saying “Jack of all trades and master of none”? I think I personify that pretty well. There are days when I find it encouraging. Sometimes I like the idea that I can do many things fairly well; I’m diversified, malleable, and equally as excited about this thing as that thing. However, the older I get and the more I find myself in the world of adulthood and business, I wish that I were brilliant in a very specific, useful, and extraordinary way. I wish that I was talented or gifted in such a way that made me renowned, important, respected, and sought after. I understand that this perhaps is not the most holy or humble desire. I’m not proud to admit it either…I’m just saying.
Granted, I am still young. Perhaps the Lord is developing something in me now that will result in me being used in a big way in the future. Is it just me? Does not everyone want to be a hero in at least one chapter in their life? Does not everyone wish to be the person that has the right answer at just the right time? Not necessarily for personal glory, medals of honor, or 15 minutes on Fox News, but rather for a more tangible confirmation of their intrinsic value. God tells us over and over of our worth; of our inherent significance simply because He made us. We are priceless and purposed simply because we were born by His grace. While this is truth, I still, in my flesh, want to taste it.
It is this discontentment within me that I am disgusted by and I’ll tell you why. It is entirely possible that I will never be known by the masses for anything that I have ever said or accomplished. It is likely that the only people I may impact will not remember my name. My mailman knows my name but not my heart. My co-workers know my principle responsibilities while I’m at the office but they don’t know who or what I am beyond our building walls. If I don’t get married, no one may ever know my thoughts or suspect my fears by simply looking into my eyes or holding my hand. I may, just maybe, leave this earth completely undiscovered.

More tragic than that is this: being so self-involved in my own popularity, being so consumed with my future glory; being so nearsighted that I miss even the smallest opportunity to love my neighbor, to serve the stranger on the corner of the street, to simply sit in the stillness and majesty of a mountain range and realize how little I really am. I fear that my selfish discontentment with whatever my current circumstance, will blind my eyes and distract my heart to the beauty, freedom, and joy of living beyond myself.

This leads, ultimately, to the kind of discontentment that I want to bear; the kind of discontentment that I pray for. I never want to be content in my current spiritual standing. I don’t want to fall prey to the illusion that I have figured it all out, that I have nothing more to learn, and that I can coast into heaven on my accrued spirituality. I pray that I never grow so comfortable, so complacent in my walk, that I simply stop seeking to grow and realize the Lord in a new way. I pray the same for you dear reader.

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A Year in Review: A Series of Reposts

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I recently reread a post that I had written about a year ago and it got me to thinking… “The Lord has done a lot in me; I’m not who I was. I don’t want to forget where I have been.”

So here’s a little look back at things I wrote way back when…

Comfort in Company

I take comfort in being able to identify with people. I like knowing that I am not alone. For example, the other night while my roommates and I were watching the Olympics I randomly spoke up and asked, “When you moved into your first apartment and really broke ground for your independence, were you nervous? Were you anxious at all about how it would all work out and whether or not you really had what it took to do it?”

The looked at one another and smiled (they are both slightly older and therefore much wiser). With simple nods and loving explanations they recapped their first-time apartment experiences.

 There is something about knowing that you are not the first one on the boat headed down a new river that is reassuring. You put in and push off into calm and fluid waters; gently flowing forward with soft ripples tenderly breaking the glassy surface. Yet, it is inevitable that rapids will come; turbulent waters will approach, especially when it rains and the waters rise. More than being afraid of the rapids, I tend to be afraid that I am and will be the only one to face those particular waters.

I have never been one for white water-rafting. I don’t get a thrill from putting myself in potentially dangerous situations. Ironically though, every time I have gone (and by that I mean, pressured to go), I always end up having a great time. I think there are several reasons for this.

 For starters, there have always been eight to twelve other people that I know in the boat with me. So, if I end up going overboard, someone is going with me. Secondly, we have always had an experienced guide who had traversed that very river numerous times. He knows every nook and cranny of the waterway; where the placid and temperate areas are that are good for rest, the areas to avoid, and most importantly, he knows what rapids are coming up and when. He has plowed through them countless times and understands where and how to steer into them. That’s right; into them.

By steering dead ahead into a rapid, you will get shot through to the other side with little help or need from you own paddle. The strength and force of so much water will carry the boat, and its occupants, over the boulder(s), which create the rapids.

If you steer to the side though, chances are your boat will get caught in an undercurrent and you will get sucked into the rapid. It’s not a guarantee that you will flip, but it will take an enormous amount of power and team work from everyone in the boat to get the boat up and out of the crevice. Is it doable? Yes. It is difficult? Yes.

But the guide instructs, calling out commands and directions, telling the people on the right side of the boat to paddle one way and the people on the left side of the boat to paddle the other way.

I remember going down a river with class four rapids (they are measured on a scale of one to five; five being the biggest). Our guide would not tell us how many rapids we would face or when they were coming until they were nearly in sight. It was smart of his part because if I had known what I would be facing from the beginning, I would have jumped overboard and swam ashore.

I think it’s the same with God. If He showed us everything we would encounter along the way, we wouldn’t stick around to see how He would carry us through it. We wouldn’t enjoy the ride because we would be distracted with what laid ahead. We would not enjoy the quiet places; the parts of the river that are meant for swimming and picture-taking.

When turbulent waters do come though, He sits calmly in the back of the boat, steering and instructing us as to what we are supposed to do with our own paddles.

One thing about white-water rafting that is inevitable is getting wet. Outside of the mandatory splash fights, you will most likely get wet when you conquer the rapids. If I had to choose a part of the adventure that I enjoy most, that would be it. Getting splashed.

It is initially shockingly cold. But, on the back side of the rapid, when the water evens out and you can coast, it is so refreshing. As the trip goes on, it eventually evaporates, but not without relieving you from the heat of the sun. It serves a purpose. It renews and revives excitement. It energizes your spirit; it awakens your senses.

When you look back at what you went through, you can smile and breathe a sigh, not relief, but of belief. Belief that your guide, your God, was there, piloting your boat and your life. Never alarmed or overpowered, but in total and complete control. When you turn back around to face the front and gaze out on the water, rest assured that in the same way he steered your way through the previous rapids, He will continue to guide you in the future.

He has no reason to jump ship. He is neither afraid nor unaware of what’s to come. On the contrary, He has permitted the boulders to fall where they may and He plans on using the rough waters to mold and shape you, to strengthen you faith and forearms. The paddle He has equipped you with, His Word, will cut through any water and will propel you forward in the way you are to go.

As quickly as the rapids come, they pass. You are on the other side before you know it and you are one rapid experience stronger, more assured, and confident that you can handle the rest of the river. Not because you and your paddle saved the day, but because your guide knew where he was going and how to get there.

So grab your paddle, strap on your life-jacket, and jump in the boat. Get ready for the ride of a lifetime. And remember, you’re not alone.

Heev-Ho!

A Year in Review: A Series of Reposts

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Here’s another blast from the past.  As I’m sure you will notice, I was trying to be a philosopher… and I fell fantastically short.

Look at the Clouds! They’re so Beautiful!

This is not just a statement. The above title is actually an excerpt from a song I wrote when I was… ready? Three years old.

The following lines went something like this:
You can see Shamoo! And all the dolphins!

Prodigy child… I know.

Despite my severe lack of musical gifting, that song came to mind the other day while I was driving to work at sunrise. I have seen sunrises all over the world, quite literally. I have been blessed with ample opportunities to travel extensively, but I have yet to find a place that has the consistency of breathtaking sunrises as much as Colorado.

Something dawned on me (yes I know, cheesy, but that’s how I roll) when I was watching the sun explode over the horizon and light up Pike’s Peak like the fourth of July.

 One of the (big) reasons that sunrises, and sunsets for that matter, are so spectacular is because of the clouds that are often in the way. I don’t know the exact science behind the chemical and biological makeup of clouds; how they are formed; what makes them disintegrate; what makes them big and bubbly or what makes them think and wispy.

All I know is that were it not for their apparent obscurity, we may give little or no notice to the power and majesty of the sun. We may not recognize the radiance and brilliance of the sun’s luminosity if it did not have something to shine on or shine through.

Consider with me if you will: as 6th graders we are told numerous times, “Don’t look directly at the sun.” Why? It’s more than our human eyes can behold. If we were to stare at the sun, our retinas would all be but singed. Our sight would be compromised. Our vision would become blurred and distorted. It is simply too much for us to absorb.

But, through lenses of clouds, that which is damaging about the sun is filtered and what remains is that which is intoxicating. Colors that can not be replicated. Patterns that can not be imitated. Scenes of seemingly endless expanses of skies that intoxicate the soul, romance the mind, and whisper to the heart of an artist that has been inspired by his passion and desire for his love. He creates such scenes as a way of describing the splendor and beauty of her; his bride. Words scarcely do her justice and no picture could capture all that lies within her heart that has hypnotized him.

I am a hopeless romantic…. Hopeless.

There is another way of looking at the same sky. This is way is a little less whimsical but to me, just as radiant and lovely.

As I stated earlier, clouds are obscurities. They are molecular occurrences that detract from a blemish free blue vastness. It is for this reason that many people complain when they appear. “It is cloudy out,” It is overcast today.”

I wonder if clouds are not more than just puffy pillows that float aimlessly. I wonder if perhaps, clouds are meant to reveal, literally and metaphorically, mysteries about the nature, character, and love of God. Could it be that we dismiss them too quickly as being purposeless accidents of high and low pressure systems?

What if, instead of being instigators of shade vs. sunshine, they were in fact the providers of promise? Stick with me…

A verse that has become as real to me as my slightly burnt tongue (thanks to my tea) is found in Romans 8:28 which says “He works all things together for good to those who love Him.”

What if clouds are those things in our lives that for a time obstruct our view of God? What if they are those things that seem to block out the sun altogether? What if they are those things that bring more shade than sunshine?

Ok, one more step before we reach the top…

If that’s the case, look back at where we have come from. Clouds were those things that we first stated are instruments used to glorify God, radiate His splendor, and magnify His power. So, if that is the case, wouldn’t the clouds in our lives result in the same beauty once the sun comes out? Will they not also become illuminated with the same essence? They too will glow in hughes that defy description.

So perhaps the next time you see sunrise or sunset, think of that thing in your life that seems to be eclipsing the sun and remember that, in God’s sovereignty, when the time is right, He will shed His light through it and good will flow fourth.

I wonder if this made any sense to anyone?

For the record, I don’t recall that it did.

A Year in Review: A Series of Reposts

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I recently reread a post that I had written about a year ago and it got me to thinking… “The Lord has done a lot in me; I’m not who I was. I don’t want to forget where I have been.”

So here’s a little look back at things I wrote way back when…

Peaks & Vallyes

We have all had them. Mountain-top moments. Times and seasons in your spiritual journey that are drunk with the presence of God. The Word is alive, beating, breathing, and bleeding the power, love, and truth of the gospel over your soul. Your life’s meaning becomes crystal clear.

Colors are brighter; fragrances more potent and alluring, nature is suddenly singing “Holy! Holy! Holy!” Fellowship is sweet, encouraging, and fruitful. Relationships bloom with the beauty of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Everything; all aspects of your life are completely and utterly in perfect unity.

Then, out of nowhere, and for some unexplainable and unapparent reason… it all ends. Abrupt. Unwarranted.

Suddenly, sunrises are no longer welcomed. Silence is preferred over singing. Being alone is more comfortable than being in the company of friends. Joy seems a distant memory. And despite all your efforts; you can’t reason your way out of it.

At least, that is the way it happened to me.

 Senior year of college is somewhat of a blur, for multiple reasons. For starters, it went by much too quickly. The fact that it is over is baffling to me. Secondly, fall semester and spring semester were spiritually polar-opposites.

Fall semester was the mountain-top experience I described earlier. Everyday was bright whether the sun was out or not. Every time I opened my Bible it was as if God transcended the heavens to come and sit next to me, translating every word into a language that spoke with passion and purity to my heart. The semester flew by, easily and with little or no stress. Only bliss. Only happiness. Only fun.

Then something happened over Christmas break. I literally woke up one morning and realized… I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Worse still, I didn’t know who I was. I had an identity crisis.

The entire spring semester, right up until graduation day, was a long, fierce battle for my sanity. I felt my faith deteriorate at the speed of light. Questions that I had never asked before suddenly drowned me. People I had criticized in the past for their lack of understanding, I suddenly identified with.

To say that I “struggled” merely scratches the surface. I was overwhelmed to a point of confusion and sorrow that I had only heard about. I was distraught and anguish burned within me… I felt completely alone. Deserted. Forgotten.

How could what I had and who I thought I was disappear? Had I tricked myself into believing I was someone that I had never been? How could I have grown so disillusioned with reality? How could I become so desensitized to my spiritual state of being?

Looking back at what, thus far, has been one of the most stretching experiences of my faith walk yet, I can not help but smile. Perspective will do that; because I can see now what I could not then.

The lessons I learned I don’t plan on forgetting.

Lesson One: Turning to others will not get you anywhere.
I am a highly relational person. Being able to confide in and identify with someone, on some level, it critical to me. It should not be a surprise to you then that during this season, I felt as if I could not talk to anyone. How could I? I didn’t know what was wrong; I couldn’t explain my own feelings because they seemed to have no source. Who in their right mind could relate?

Lesson Two: Sometimes God doesn’t speak.
This was the hardest lesson by far. I came to find that there are some things that He is able to teach us that don’t need words. This too went against all my natural inclinations. How was I able to stay close to a God that wasn’t responding to my prayers? How could I follow after a God that wouldn’t allow me to hear His voice?

Lesson Three: He is faithful.
Such a simple statement. It seems to say so little, but it encompasses so much. In the midst of every emotion; at the end of every question…there He was. Steady. Stable. Sovereign.

When I finally felt myself give up; when I finally decided to accept that this Walk was not going to be easy and conceded failure, I suddenly felt completely enveloped in grace and cloaked in comfort. I felt life breathed into me.

I had to learn to walk again. I had to learn to let go and trust that when I lost my balance, He would catch me. So, with every new step, He spoke to me what each struggle was, why He allowed it, and how He would use it for my good and His glory. Everything I felt and fought was purposed. Go figure.

I was never lost. I was never alone.

So bring on the peaks. I like to climb.

Bring on the valleys. I’ve learned to crawl.

How He Loves Us

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This song and it’s message seem to be all-encompassing as of late. I keep reading it in scripture, hearing it in sermons, reading it in books… and I think I have heard the Lord whisper it a few times too. 

He’s in love with me.  He’s captivated by who I am.  And not because of anything I have done or anything I have said.  He is in love with me because He finds me lovely. 

And He is after my heart. He is pursuing me. Of all people, me.

I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around it; I can’t rationalize this kind of romance at all. And perhaps for the first time, I’m enjoying the mystery. 

I Am Woman! Hear Me… Whisper

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I am in the midst of rereading John and Staci Eldredge’s book “Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul.”  And I must say, it is really shaking me up; it is really stirring up some unfortunate little lies that have settled conveniently at the bottom of my heart.  And with all these past experiences now floating on the top, God is slowly but surely skimming my heart’s surface and clearing it up, and what I am seeing, perhaps for the first time, is the real me… through the eyes of Christ.

There are a few bases that I must cover first before I can really expand on why the discovery of who I am really is such an epiphany. So sit tight, we have to go back to the beginning of creation.

Every piece of creation, be it an inanimate object of a living creature, is in some form or fashion a reflection of God and His nature.  For example, mountains, in my opinion, reflect His majesty and granduer. More specifically, men reflect God’s strength, His warrior-like tendencies to fight for what is right and defend that which is good. Men reflect God’s nature to be a provider and a leader. Perhaps most important, men reflect God’s sense of adventure and desire to rescue.

Rescue what, though? Enter Eve.

Eve was the last thing to be created; the last character to enter the story.  She was not last because she was the least important, mind you.  She was the last to be created because she was the most mysterious and complicated, the most critical component that would ultimately complete God’s work.  She was, in fact, the pinnacle of creation.  She encapsulated all that was left for God to display– His beauty.  And His beauty is immense.

Eve was a reflection of the tenderness of God’s heart.  Eve was the reflection of God’s nurturing and maternal nature.  She displayed His goodness, His grace, His kind spirit, His gentle touch and through her, He revealed His desire for an intimate and emotional relationship. Eve was uniquely equipped to be relational, to communicate without speaking, and to offer comfort, safety, and rest by simply being beautiful.  She did what no other piece of creation could– she captivated her audience by her the essence of her being.  And her essence was found in her being, not her doing.

Learning just how we, as women, reflect God’s heart is an incredible and overwhelming thing. What a privilege!  John and Staci give extensive examples that correlate God’s nature to a woman’s essence– her intrinsic and natural inclinations towards love, romance, and the like.  One of my favorite examples was this: “Most women define themselves in terms of their relationships. I am mother, sister, daughter, or friend…This is not a weakness [this does not make us needy and pathetic], it is a glory. A glory that reflects the heart of God” and His desire for relationship with us, not because He needs it, but because it brings Him joy.

Ladies, does this not sound like something you have said; “You will find me when you seek my with all you heart”?  I know I have thought it myself!  Why do we want to be pursued? Why do we want to be fought for and sought out?  Why is that we would rather be seen and known, than heard (sometimes)?  Because God does.

“God waits to be wanted,” says Tozer.  Don’t we also wait to be wanted as women? Don’t we want to be pursued for the simple fact that we are beautiful as much for the fact that our hearts, our very souls, are intoxicating? Refreshing? Alluring?

YES.

So what’s preventing that from happening?  Why do I feel, you feel, as though that love, that romance, that pursuit was predestined for everyone else?  Why do I feel sidelined so often?

Because I am busy striving. I’m busy covering up so much of who or what I am for fear of not being found lovely.  why do I fear not being found lovely and beautiful?  Because beauty matters. 

And this is exactly where John and Staci Eldredge spend pages upon pages explaining the 5 reasons that beauty matters. Beauty matters because:

1. It speaks- “Beauty says ‘you can rest here. You can breathe easy in my presence.’  Beauty says ‘all will be well.’ And this is what it is like to be with a woman at rest, comfortable in her femininity. She is enjoyable to be with; she is lovely.  In her presence, your heart stops holding it’s breath.”

2. It invites- “Recall what it is like to hear a truly beautiful piece of music. It captures you; you want to sit down just drink it in… You want to enter in, explore, and partake of it.”

3. It nourishes- “It is like food for your soul. ” C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “We do not want merely to see beauty… We want something else which can hardly be put into words– to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves.”

4. It comforts- it soothes a hurting heart; it embraces the soul and says “I love you amidst it all, and that is enough.”

5. It inspires- This is best represented in the movie As Good As It Gets, with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, when he says to her “You make me want to be a better man.”  Beauty inspires those it surrounds to rise to the ocassion, to be the hero.

6. It is transcendent- “It is our most immediate experience of the eternal.. beauty reminds us of an Eden we have never known but experienced in our souls.”

And this is a woman’s heart.  Absolutely captivating. Completely intoxicating. Divinely beautiful.

This is who I am. This is who you are, sister.