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Archive for August, 2015

I am undeserving, truly undeserving of these blessings today.

from dropping off a friend to witnessing her spoken word come to life: the visual backdrop

From dropping off a friend to witnessing her spoken word come to life… And this, this was the visual backdrop to it all

Words hold so much value and leave an impression that lingers longer than any smell or touch I’ve experienced.  The sound of a word, a stream of words that encourage the Spirit within me, draw me nearer to the vision Christ lays before me.

I was honored by spending my day accompanying a church, now new student friend through a full day’s itinerary of orientation events.  We’re guilty, we ditched some sessions to pursue our own need for discussion over home-cooked food…twice.

During dinner, she uttered the words, attempting to ease me by saying “I’m not speaking this over you, but I see him coming out of nowhere.”

Thanks God, two hours later and there I am, accidentally, and he came from nowhere.  Not saying this is it at all, but it speaks so much to the power of listening, of believing, and proclaiming the truth God reveals to us to share with one another.

Prophecy, the spiritual gift/super power he actually chose as his “if only” and he himself was the revealing of a spoken word come to fruition.

Joyous laughter is the only method of payment I have to offer tonight.  For God truly is Almighty in provisions for His chosen children.

We’re loved. Be encouraged. Truly, be encouraged and encourage others as you know Christ moves you to press on.

Within 6 hours…I landed a job (same position I held in CA before moving, utilizing my certification right before it is expires)…my parents booked my dream vacation for (most of) our family…and now…I have a date.

“Is this real LORD? Are you sure…I just, this isn’t what I envisioned. Are you sure?” “Yes. Remember when I spoke to you through your sister.” “Yes Lord, I remember.”

Lord, we thank You that You speak and make Yourself known among Your people.  Continue to encourage us everywhere we go.  May we help to make You known among the nations, among the people of every nation right where we are.  Send us as You please, but if here is where You’ve called us, lean in a way that presses us to tend the ground, prune the vines, and water the highest branches.  Your fruit is succulent, the flowers blossoming, the sky–an angelic display before our eyes.  We look to see Your face amongst all people, we yearn to recognize Your presence in every task, as we stride to serve You with excellence.  May we be people of integrity Lord. You my God are deserving of sons and daughters who live genuinely, generous, out-pouring lives for no other reason than to glorify the very name of JESUS.  Praise be Your name forever and ever, Amen.

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I find that most days we hear songs, read books, or continue in conversation hoping in tomorrow.  We ask God for breath in our lungs so we have the opportunity to delight in another day.  We want to have enough days to earn our dream job and experience its’ benefits, to marry our partner in crime, to then see our kids grow up, and be present for their weddings.  We ask God for life in order to treasure that very life itself.

I know this is over-arching, but it is a message of conviction I hear today.

If breath being in my lungs, this very day, is truly better for those around me, then what am I doing?

Paul writes, Philippians 1:23-26:

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

You may expect that my conviction today (based on the afore-mentioned narrative) to be one about “store your treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-21), but it is not.

Rather, I am convinced, that I have fooled myself in believing that for the time being, life on earth is better for myself than life in heaven.  I do believe I will witness all God has promised me for the retreat center before my dying day, but that does not give me the privilege of living every day for myself, nor my own ambitions (that appear God-honoring).

No, Paul clearly says, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”  Or, “I live because it is better for you, if I were pursuing my own interests, I’d prefer to leave this earth and be with Christ in heaven” (my translation for all intents and purposes).

I’m under the impression that Paul’s words are not meant to comfort his family, his dearest friends, but to suggest God’s usefulness in speaking, in acting through his living.

Christ is not finished with me yet.

Heaven would be better for me.  I would have a new body, not brought down by infection and disease, but one that serves as a pure and beautiful temple in Christ’s presence.  There will be labor as we attend to God’s Kingdom, and I will physically be able to successfully honor God properly through such work.  There would be no need to cry, for there will be joyous reunion as we dance and sing, ceaselessly.    There is no shame, no guilt, no condemnation.

That is better for me, but Paul tells us what is better for the people.

How does life look if we are truly living in a way that is better for Christ’s people?

For me today, I have taken a commitment with one other.  We notice a language of sarcasm that plagues our church.  Our prayer is to witness God’s restoration of communication amongst this specific family.  Our action is to commit to removing sarcasm from our lips and model gentle words of encouragement–without giving the impression of judgment towards others for their continued use of sarcasm and demeaning language.  We will wait on the Lord, if He ever does call us to, to bring this to our congregation’s attention, but for now, we will work on ourselves and be kind to one another, and intentional in our use of words and silence with church members, alike.

We desire to have a voice.  We all want to know that we are heard when we speak, instinctively.  So we will work to not become manipulative; to remain humble, not seeing ourselves as better for this movement away from bettering ourselves by bullying others with our words.  Our voice, we pray is heard when it is meant to be heard, and that the words are clear with purposeful meaning.

Words.

I also was reminded of the power of words today, and take a personal vow to name it, always.  Whatever my fear, whatever my sin–my desire, my foolishness, my pride, my arrogance, my lust, my laziness, my cowardice–I will call it what it is.

There is God’s Will (which is perfect), my will (which I often think is best), and my flesh (which I often foolishly allow to lead me through the day).

As I press the snooze button and remove the possibility of following my will (3 hours of prayer before work), I succumb to my flesh (disobeying the call to ceaseless prayer, God’s Will).

“There is a fleshy taste in my mouth,” my friend said today as she spoke poorly of another.  She labeled it and it lost its’ power.

I sometimes wish sin, our “fleshiness,” had a distinct smell.  One that would make conviction and one another calling us out so simple, so evident, so obviously required.  Perhaps though, we would all avoid one another as though each person were a leper, infected worse than ourselves, and we’d flee each other’s presence and feel abandoned, as we abandoned those we supposedly loved before.  There is reason, this being my small-feeble-minded reason why God did not permit fleshy desires to disgust our senses, nonetheless I pray we acknowledge them and work to remove them from our lives, with the accompaniment of conviction and accountability from Christ and His Bride.

I do believe sin loosens its’ grip on us when we rebuke Satan’s hold on us.  When we call the light that is within us to shine greater than the darkness that seems overwhelming we often find such freedom.

The only word I can think of that has power in itself is JESUS.  There are other names for the Trinity (each member of the Trinity) that are glorious, I recognize.  But calling out “Jesus” in the midst of darkness, I gain strength to endure.

Therefore, I shall say “that was wicked of me to think, to say.  Jesus, enlighten my way” or something of the sort.

Jesus, I come to You today.  I ask You to reorganize my thinking.  May we truly delight in the purpose that You have for our being here, speaking into the lives of others, serving them, loving them as You love.  Demonstrate how Paul encouraged others to progress and be joyous in their faith.  Might Your Truth continue to sink into us.  Might our very skin no longer reek of such fleshy-disgust.  Might we practice rebuking Satan’s grip on us.  Might we identify the spiritual warfare in us, around us, and call upon Christ’s strength, His sight as we endure and triumph over it all for His glory.  These requests and so much more, as You know ponders through our heads, we lift up to You.  Amen.

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This summer I was able to play chauffeur for a brother in Christ who served Christ’s children through the non-profit of my church.

I found myself exposed to Christian and secular rap/hip-hop, and since his departure have continued to digest the intensity of expressed thought and feeling through the poetry.

On a drive we were not intentionally quiet for any partcilar purpose–that I was aware of–I caught on to a lyric “and this will be my legacy,” and asked him, “what will be your legacy?”  I asked with a concept, a predisposition, but wanted to clarify that my prayers, my words of encouragement, my actions had been supportive of his call, in the right way, right direction.   I wanted to know if he was expressing his true self, or if like me, everyone had the wrong idea.

This morning, this morning I know I want to leave the legacy of:

Home matters.

Strange thing is, I never felt safe at home.  How should I know how to run a home? I don’t have a husband or children of my own.  Why should I have the audacity to tell parents to spend intentional time at home with their kids, away from electronics, and to tune into what their child needs, supply proof that their needs are being met, and patiently, gently show that they are safe in your arms, with your compassionate love..

Tonight I have been invited into the home of a dear friend, to join family dinner at a scheduled–predictable and consistent–time.  She sent me the text of “6:30” nothing more to it, and I found myself screaming “Yes! She knows how to love her children.”

Why? Well, I’m in an intensive Trust-Based Relational Intervention workshop this week and have been addressing issues and treatment for families of foster/adoptive children from hard places, post-placement.

Dr. Karyn Purvis makes it so clear, a child’s sense of safety does not depend on your perception, your knowledge that there is plenty of food, no shortage of water, that their bed is their own and no one will intrude, that your hugs can be firm but controlled…that you offer them safety.  Rather, it has to be “felt safety.”

I don’t recall much from my childhood, and most of the stories I can quickly tell may be one or two sentences, with very little adjectives, that have been brought on by others telling me of my past experiences or self-analysis of pictures from the time.

I had reasons, I did.  But in an exercise labeled “Ouch” where one partner wore gloves of velcro and touched the face and arms of the other, I relayed to the class that it felt “soothing.”  Does that make sense to you?  It sure shouldn’t, and yet it means so much.

I’m understimulated because I still, to some extent, don’t feel safe with touch.  Through the past decade of my life (at least), I have learned to cope…predominately in ways I am not proud of.

I inflicted the pain and discomfort on myself that I felt from others, so that I had control.  I attempted to calm myself in ways that did not overlap with a sense of touch that I associated as bad, but that were actually worse (looking back).

Why am I sharing this?

I don’t want us walking around in fear for our own safety, nor for the unknown boundaries others in our lives may have or require.  But I have been living with perameters for some time now, and the journey of discovery where they are, when they were built, and how to safely remove layers of bricks at a time, or maybe it is one brick at a time, is a difficult one.  I wish we all had someone we really truly felt safe with, a community of someones to walk along side us through.

But really, that is where and when Jesus came into my life.  So I am grateful and will continue to lean on Him as I explore this new chaos of my reflective life, to not allow it to shape the way I interact with kids in my future life.

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Intimacy.

DSC04922“Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.” – Rilke, poet

Solitude to me, has for a long time, been the time spent where I am most intimate with myself.  Simply put, to be intimate is “to make the innermost known,” to portray “the truth about who one really is” (Cassidy, J., Truth, lies, and intimacy: An attachment perspective, 2001).

The Holy Spirit, God Himself, resides within my heart always, but when I enter into a safe place where I dedicate my full attention to seeking Him with my mind, body, and soul fully integrated, I feel a special invitation to enter into His peaceful, Almighty presence.  In that safe place, everything I am and everything He allows for me to understand about myself, my surroundings is exposed.

I’m going to expose the reality a bit and say it as it is, this summer there have been many days where I catch myself saying things like, “I really don’t like myself right now…if I were a new person meeting me, I don’t know if I’d want to be my friend.” Not that I was being led by pleasures of the flesh, but nothing I did seemed to be done as a servant of the Lord Most High would present before their King, nothing seemed to have purpose.  Very little was done with joyous laughter, with complete dedication, or with a sense of coming together as a band of His Family to secure His will in our actions.

I don’t like who I am, when I am not who I am in Christ Jesus.

“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar…for you created my inmost being” (Psalm 139:2,13).

This inmost being, is said to have meant (to Hebrews): the seat of sensation and feeling, of desire and longing (“The Treasury of David” Commentaries).

My feelings, desires, and longings are always known by God, who formed me; yet, I am most reflective in processing them with Him when I am in solitude.  Therefore, it can be said that intimacy with the Lord is the only intimacy I have explored on a regular basis up until recently.

This summer, God introduced a brother in Christ into my life.  Within the first few meetings, he cried in front of me, and ever since, I continued dialogue with God and with peers, mentors, and books alike to explore loving him fully, appropriately.

A (desired) need to understand the labeled and unlabeled boundaries became a distraction for me, and I never fully lived up to my potential in serving him as the Lord pressed on my heart.  Our friendship never really deepened with any new found knowledge of eachother’s true selves, but still, just having him present was my motivation to discover the real me, to acknowledge my own feelings.

I do think that in relationship with those whom we trust–God, ourselves, family, spouses, children, mentors, and friends–we are meant to grow in an outward expression of our genuine selves.  Up until living in New Orleans, I never had a problem with this.  Ironically enough, as I studied and analyzed every single possible and real interaction between this new friend and I, I found myself muting my voice.  With others here too, I have confined my true self to the image they initially label me as.

I am not okay with this.

So, to this friend, I am thankful.  For several years now I have cried countless tears for a friend, a stranger; I have carried burdens to the cross that are not my own; I have sobbed when I’ve been overwhelmed, but unable to express the feeling or find resolve; I have “protected” myself from feeling for too long.  Enough is enough.  I’ve been living as if mercy isn’t relevant in my own life, and that is not okay.

His freedom to express and his willingness to withdraw, process, and speak with wisdom at the appropriate time (if the appropriate time exists) has established in me the ability to withdraw, process, and speak with wisdom at the appropriate time (if the appropriate time exists).  I am still learning, but am a willing participant in this path of sensing my own connection to Christ’s connection to what is all around me.

I feel my feelings, I’m no longer numb.  This memory of mine better not suppress anything more, for I have a life that belongs to the Lord and I want to be able to tell its’ stories.

For the relationships that God intends to grow in my present and future, I look forward to truly acknowledging their presence, as they are in Christ, as we–two emotionally-led, attachment-seeking, passionate to seek purpose individuals–live united together.

To brush up against one another, to stimulate the growth, and trust in Your steadfast love.  Be our calm Lord, as You promise.  This is my prayer I lift up to You tonight.  Might we trust so deeply in Your promises, that we expose our true selves to one another, enabling You to fully use each member of the Body as One.  I pray a prayer of blessing over all those whom will honor me by their touch.  Guide us, Lord, on a path that pleases You.  Might we find ourselves in digging deeper with our toes, reaching higher with our arms, and walking with courage as we provide strength and encouragement to one another as You provide in us.  You are our purpose, our motivation, our drive.  And with great desire we pursue to love You by loving as You love us, with a great sense of compassion for all Your children.  O Israel, let us claim His Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven. 

This is me, we are exposed as You are present, the innermost being made known for all to see.  Praise, praise, we glorify Your name!

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And you wait, keep waiting for that one thing
which would infinitely enrich your life:
the powerful, uniquely uncommon,
the awakening of dormant stones,
depths that would reveal you to yourself.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, a Czech poet

This summer has been tough.  Today, I found myself saying “This isn’t wilderness.  Whenever I find myself in a wilderness I’m sick, stuck, made to be still before the LORD for extended periods of time.  The wilderness is a time of preparation, of separation from the chaos of life to be renewed, to dig deeper and to fully lean on the LORD.  This, this is waiting.  Oh shoot…this is wilderness.”

I began an intensive class today, and in our introductions my professor responded, “that doesn’t sound anything like what you planned for this summer.” And she was right, is right.

India…Missions…Mentoring…Advocating for at-risk and foster youth…

“I’m a secretary…oh wait, and I volunteered at an intercity kid’s camp.”

My “profession” this summer doesn’t begin to illustrate the frustrations, the challenges, the brokenness, the tantrums I felt like throwing in resistance towards God’s lessons for me.

And yet, in the midst of that brokenness, I am reminded that God hears our cries.  Every day I felt my worst, the days I could not see the reflection of Christ in myself, the most beautiful psalms came out of me.  Praise inspires a heart of gratitude, which makes us recognize the fullness of our days as we see how God’s presence was made known throughout each moment, every turn.  When we worship, we attune our hearts to His.  When we sing His name, we enable His power to run through us, His compassion to wash over us, and His kindness to be offered to those around us.

I do not think my mind matched my heart on many of these days, but I do know that God had purpose in them, even when I could not sense it.

For in the midst of tears streaming down my face, disguising the sadness in my voice, it clicked.  And with a friend on the other line, I chippered up and shouted, “this is my answered prayer!”

I came into this city and soon after grieved an adoptive child, never adopted.  Then I approached my Court Appointed Special Advocate Swearing-in Ceremony, and pulled out.  Being surrounded by foster and adoptive families makes me so happy to know that there are Christians who truly care for God’s children, for the orphans of this earth.  But it also makes me so eager to be involved.  It is my heart’s desire.

I read probably 1400 pages in 4 days.  I was captivated by the material.

There has been an email hanging out in my drafts for 6 months now, often the content adjusts ever so slightly, but still it sits..

I’m not sure what my role will look like for the present, but I know (at least, I think I know) once I am trained I will have the opportunity to care and train parents to better empower, connect, and correct their children once a child has been placed in their forever-home.

And this, I have hope in.  My hope remains in Christ alone, but I rejoice knowing that with every breath there is purpose in how He enables this creature He’s formed, to serve His mighty children who crave His merciful love.  Their pain is deep, but His love is deeper.  Their reach is high, but He soars above and comes along, beside.

LORD, as we approach Your children, as we are Your children, we ask You to continually use Your rod in guiding us to love them with great compassion, to respect them as Your own, to appropriately discipline them, and to always be kind and near as You are to us.  You offer us Your home, and we are grateful.  We thank You for Family.  May we come together with eagerness to express Your love for these children, and to invite them into our expression of Your life that is within us.  Be watchful, You promise not to slumber.  We trust in You.  Teach us, too, to be watchful so they may trust us. 

Forever and always, Your children.

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G-d

Having it been my birthday this past week, I just received a card from my grandparents.  The same grandma (my only living grandma) who sent the text of panic last week.

In it I found, “G-d.”

Hmm… “Oh ya, part of Jewish custom is to hold God’s name with such high regards as to not write his name. How beautiful it is that I am able to read such kind words praising the work of G-d who leads me and blesses me, from a woman who believes he is worthy of such respect and honor.”

It hit me and moved me, and I hope for you too, that we go about our day a bit differently representing God who is completely worthy.

Praise be to your name, YHVH, forever and ever we lift your name.

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