Monthly Archives: August 2010

Something About Sunday’s

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There’s something about Sunday’s that never fails to make me a little homesick.  I think it’s a combination of things: my dad’s omelets, which I can not recreate to save my life; my small town church, where everyone knows my name (insert Cheer’s theme song here); and spending the afternoon sprawled out in the living room, reading, napping, and watching the last few holes of a PGA golf tournament.  It’s hard to do that anywhere apart from home.

As I got ready for church this morning, I asked the Lord to show up, say something, and make sure that I didn’t leave the same as when I walked in the sanctuary.  And to be totally transparent, I prayed that He would put a band-aid on my heart; to stop the flow of loneliness that has been leaking out as of late.

As I sat there, waiting for service to start, I literally heard a whisper “Psalms 27 and 34… read it.” I’ve never been one to not do what I was told, so I whipped my bible open.

Psalm 27

Then Psalm 34. Verse 18 is what really hit home– 18The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

I don’t know that I am “brokenhearted” God. That seems a wee bit extreme, don’t you think?  Then, it was as if He let me see into my own soul to uncover the answer.

You don’t want to admit that you are or have been brokenhearted because you think that’s the point of no-return. To admit to being crushed, means you are beyond repair, recovery is impossible, and all you can offer now is “damaged goods.”  But look again where I reside? I am “close to the brokenhearted” and I “save the crushed in spirit.”  You are right where you need to be for me to do what only I can.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the actual service, but here’s what I journaled:

You promise to make whole what has been broken. You heal the sick and you mend the wounded. You rescue the captive and you guide the wandering lost. You guard the weak and you carry the weary. You clothe in grace those that shame has left naked. You sing love songs over those who have been passed over. You redeem the disregarded and you restore beauty to the bruised. You justify innocence for the convicted and guilty. You save the wretch and you marry the whore. You breathed life into dirt and called it yours. 

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It’s Simple, Not Easy

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My horses' name was Mr. Destiny. And yes, he was tall, dark, and handsome.

I grew up riding horses. Given that I am from Texas, most would assume that I rode western. False. I rode English.  So if you have never caught a Grand Prix on ESPN (it airs about once a year) it’s where horse and rider manuever around an arena, jumping hurdles as quickly possible while trying not to pull a rail.  I rode for 11 years and there is one thing that my trainer told me during each and every lesson I ever had: “It’s simply, it’s not easy.”

I used to get so irritated when she said that. What does that mean?! Aren’t you contradicting yourself

A truly great rider will appear to be perfectly still while they are on their horse; not stiff, but soft, and completely in control while giving the appearance that they are not working at all.  It’s a simple concept, but it is not easy to execute. 

So how does a rider, a fraction of the size and weight of their noble steed, guide their horse to turn this way and that? Speed up and shorten their stride here and there? Most importantly, how does the ride steer their horse in the direction they need to go without moving their hands?

They look in the direction they want to go. 

Where a rider’s eyes are focused changes the tilt and weight distribution of the rider’s body, something that their horse senses and responds to.  Where the rider looks determines where the horse goes. When I look left, my weight will naturally drop into my left stirrup which means I place more pressure against my horses’ side with my right leg, lightening up the pressure on his left side, pushing him to track left.

 That is not to say that I am blind to my surroundings; my peripheral vision comes in handy, but I would never avert my full attention to what appears in the corner of my eye. Why?

 Because where I focus, he will follow. I want him to stay on course, so I must always be looking in the direction that I want him to go.

I am reading Andy Stanley’s book The Principle of the Path which speaks to this very analogy. And I must say, the simple reminder of this true and critical reality as captured my heart’s full attention.

There is so much packed into this little book and I know that I can not do justice to explain it here, but I will try none the less.

If you haven’t read it, I’m going to give something away– the principle of the path is this: “Direction, not intention, determines destination.”  Simple? Yes. Easy? No.  

The basis of the book elaborates on one central theme: Every decision you make determines that path that you will take.  And every path that you take will direct you to the destination it promised.  

Example- How you spend your money now will determine how much you have later.  Your fiscal responsibility today determines your fiscal stability tomorrow.  Money is just one example though.  The same idea can be applied to marriage, children, relationships, your career, etc.

Andy references (and for good reason) Proverbs endlessly through his book, drawing attention to how desperately we ought to be asking for wisdom from above and applying it to people and circumstances we encounter everyday. “Be wise enough to know how wise you are not without divine intervention,” he says. I read in Proverbs just this morning that the beginning of wisdom is asking for it to begin with! Fancy that.

In addition to wisdom being an absolute necessity in making good decisions that lead to good places, you must be whole heartedly submitted; unconditionally resolved to invite God’s intervention and divine direction to shed light on each step He would have you take.  It sounds simple enough, but what happens when where God would have you go, doesn’t seem to be… a happy place?  Andy explains that “our propensity to defend our happiness decisions with justifications that are not founded in the Truth is what sets us up for trouble when the road will divide later.”

There are so many more things to be shared and unpacked from this book, but I would dilute them here. Buy it, read it, and then let me know what you think.

If direction, not intention, determines destination… which way are you headed?

This One Time… in DC

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Plenty of my friends will vouch for me when I say that, I was not in cool in college.  Evidence for this is provided in black and white on my resume.  There, you will discover that I was the Vice President of the International Business Council– an “elitist” organization within the Business department composed of … my four closest friends. We all elected ourselves to different roles and then mandated that entry into the “IBC” was by invite only. Neither cool, nor nice.

Because we were such a small group and our professor had amazing connections, we were able to take a two day field trip to Washington DC to personally meet the Jordanian ambassador at his embassy.

There is one important fact to keep in mind before I can proceed with the rest of this story: I, Meredith, am geographically challenged.  It’s really rather impressive. If you ask me to find any Middle Eastern or Asian country on a world map, chances are I wouldn’t. My brother once asked me to point out the Hawaiian islands to him. I never found them… cause I was looking in the Atlantic ocean. 

Moving on.

As my peers and I walked into the well guarded and gated embassy, we were welcomed with gifts, Jordanian flags, and ushered into a large conference room that was dimly lit and filled with customary foods and drinks.

The ambassador, whose name I can not recall, came in quietly and without pretension. Well dressed, handsome, and endlessly eloquent, he began to unpack for us the long history of Jordan, its people, it’s government, and it’s role in the world today.  He also elaborated for us his role as the ambassador, what that looks like on a daily basis, and what he hoped to accomplish in the near future. He was truly brilliant. And he was royalty.  Jordan is a monarchy, however their royals carry little influential weight in the creating or carrying out of policies. 

After he finished speaking and answering some of our questions, he swiftly exited to attend more important meetings.

My roommate at the time, Sarah, and I decided to wander over to the finger food table.  As we stood there nibbling on baklava (one of my all time favorite desserts) the ambassador’s daughter and niece came strolling up to us.

Now it should be stated that Sarah is Egyptian. As in… she looks like Cleopatra. She’s an incredible girl who loves the Lord, is crazy smart, extremely witty, and was one of the biggest blessings of my senior year of college.  Spiritually wise beyond her years, she was a counselor to me in so many ways.

“Excuse me,” said the ambassador’s daughter. Sarah and I stopped chewing and turned. “Excuse me, may I ask where you are from?” Her question was directed at Sarah.

“I’m Egyptian,” Sarah replied softly. Suddenly, the ambassador’s daughter and niece began talking to Sarah in Aramaic.  Now because Sarah is awesome, she knew Aramaic and was able to respond accordingly.

Thanks to my short attention span, while they spoke gibberish, my eyes wandered back to the baklava and I tried to strategize just how I could sneak some into my purse for the long walk back to our hotel. But my plotting was suddenly interrupted when the ambassador’s daughter and niece turned their attention to me and repeated their question, “So where are you from?”

“Uhh… Texas?” I replied.

“Really? That’s so interesting because we both thought you were Palestinian!”

Now remember, me and geography don’t mix. So instead of laughing and saying “Oh no, no, no. I’m not Palestinian,” I literally thought to myself “Crap… where is Palestine?”

My roommate, seeing my internal turmoil, gracefully stepped in and said “Oh no, she’s not. But I can see why you would think that. She does have darker features.”

Needless to say, I went home and did some serious Googling to determine where Palestine was and what their women looked like. 

 Turns out Palestine is not where I guessed it was and being thought Palestinian wasn’t a compliment.

Epiphany

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I’m not really sure how to introduce this thought…so I’m just going to throw it out there.

“If what enters my eyes does not produce either prayer or praise through my mouth, I’m in direct opposition to the Spirit of God.”

Essentially, if what I see and experience on a daily basis does not either well up in me the need to pray for a person, circumstance, etc. or cause me to sing praise and give thanks because of God’s goodness and grace, than how can I boast of a living, abiding faith in Christ?  He is in all, through all, and for all.  So either what I see reflects a total lack of His presence, which should move me to pray for His coming. Or, what I see, hear, and experience reveals a glimpse of His glory and I must honor Him for the privilege of beholding His majesty.

Thoughts?

Miss Independent vs Miss Compensation

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Yes, we can do it. But the question really is- do we have to do it alone?

It was Senior appreciation day during Friday’s pep-rally.  All graduating athletes were being honored by their junior teammates with the playing of songs that they felt best represented the seniors.  One by one, the junior volleyball girls introduced each senior and their “song.”  Because I went to highschool in Texas, most songs were country.

Except mine. As I stood up, wearing my letter jacket, the juniors introduced me and then pressed play…

“Miss Independent” by Kelly Clarkson started pouring out of the speakers and into the basketball stadium. And I started to cry.

Miss Independent, miss self-sufficient. Miss, “keep your distance.”

This song was in no way then, nor is it now, reflective of me. And yet, people continually tell me on a consistent basis that I am “intimidating” because of my apparent independence.  “You just portray self-confidence and strength; you know who you are and you know what you want,” said one guy. “That’s not approachable. Guys don’t feel needed around women like that.”

As I sat for a moment thinking about how big of a cop-out that was, I decided to be equally as honest with him.

“Huh… well.  Allow me to clarify something for you __________ (the pansie shall remain nameless).  I am not independent by nature.  My intrinsic strengths are not necessarily bent towards being independent or being the star, solo player in the game of my life.  I’m not independent because I want to be. I am not this independent and self-sufficient because I am naturally inclined to be so.  I am compensating.

“I am compensating for my lack of compliment. Notice I didn’t say that I am not complete.  I am a whole person. I am complete in Christ. However, I am meant to compliment a man, the same way a man is meant to compliment me.

“But because so many guys are putting growing up on hold, hiding out in their mom’s basements, playing Wii, and claiming that 30 is the new 21, women have suddenly become these ‘fiercely independent’ creatures that are intimidating to you because you have refused to be who you are supposed to be.”

*blank stare*  He didn’t really say much after that.  Come to think of it, I haven’t really heard from him since.

Here’s why I feel this way. There is an impressive difference between “christian guys” and “Godly men.” 

Christian guys are just that– they claim the label and wear it well, often with too much cologne.  They show up consistently, but you know that they are there. They make entrances and sit where they can be seen.  How much they walk away with at the end of the service is hard to determine because they spent most of the time texting or silently flirting with the girl sitting next to them. They look good to be sure. They say all the right things; they speak “Christian-ese” fluently. Where it all tends to come to a crashing to halt is when you don’t actually see a difference in who they are, how they spend their time, or what they talk about, one year later.

Godly men are a different breed though.  They go to church too, but they actually go to hear what the Lord will say through the preacher’s mouth. They show up, but they don’t show off.  Their motivation isn’t to be seen or heard, but instead to see where service is needed and to hear how they can be praying for their brothers and sisters in Christ.  They study the Word on other days of the week, because they want to.  Their hearts are transformed by the truth and weight of the Gospel.  They know the depth of their depravity and they press into Christ, spending more time in prayer and inviting refinement and sanctification.  They lead others by simply being honest.  They invite others to be transparent because they are a safe place. 

Let me just say, I’m not a man-eater/hater. I’m not bitter. Truly.  This is based solely on my personal experience and observation.

It does seem to be a trend in my generation though.  There’s data and statistics to show how Milliniels are breaking the mold culturally and spiritually.  I just can’t figure out why we feel the need to.

What Productivity Isn’t

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I’ve come to this realization, yet again, that I am getting it all wrong. And by “it” I obviously mean life.

I had the privilege of going to Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. Hosted every year in Chicago by Bill Hybles, influential leaders from all over the world, both in the church and in Corporate America, are invited to come and share their insights on effective leadership.

Speakers included Jim Collins, author of the critically acclaimed “From Good to Great”, Tony Dungy, Andy Stanley, Jack Welch, Blake Mycoskie, founder and chief-shoe-giver of TOM’s shoes, and many others.

I was truly inspired by each speaker; challenged to be more proactive, challenged to face personal and professional obstacles with a little more excitement and gumption, and challenged to be great. According to Jim Collins, “greatness is not a matter of circumstance, rather it is a conscious decision to be disciplined”

One question that Mr. Collins posed was this– “Do you spend more time trying to be interesting, or do you spend more time being interested?”   

And this was the first of many times throughout the conference that I thought to myself, “Crap. He saw me.” 

Because I do. I do spend more time trying to be interesting.  How? I stay fantastically busy.

I keep myself busy doing… stuff.  Little of it is ever really important or productive.  I have always associated being productive with staying busy, doing things, accomplishing tasks, etc. For me, those tasks have been completely self-serving and of absolutely no eternal significance. Staying busy has been, for so long, a way for me to feel valuable and important.  Because if I am doing things, going places, and seeing people, then surely it is because I am needed or wanted.

Negatory. On all accounts.

Productivity has nothing to do with doing– it has everything to do with being.  Productivity has nothing to do with what I accomplish; instead productivity has everything to do with what is accomplished in me.

Productivity isn’t about what I produce, it is about what is developed in me.

I am most productive when I am most quiet and still.  Productivity comes from undeterred concentration and undistracted contentment in God alone.  Productivity comes from being in His presence. Because to be in His presence promises that I will be changed– I will not be left the same when I see Him clearly, hear Him speak candidly, or feel Him move closer; I can not remain as I once was.

Productivity is in essence, total surrender.

Consume all of me
And leave nothing untouched
Go on and take everything
Cover me with the blood of your love
Cause all of me is all for you
Do with me whatever you want to