Audience Participation

This morning I sat down to “hang out” with God. I barely opened my Bible where there’s a flyer marking some random book,  saw the title of a book and was suddenly flooded with revelation that sent me writing feverishly in my journal and flipping back and forth between books of the Bible, recording, processing, crying.

You probably already know the things I’m about to share, but let me tell you anyway.

The book fell open to Joshua.

First of all, as background I’ve been chewing a lot lately on the idea of holiness. I used to have the view that because it was obviously too hard to be really holy, God didn’t expect perfect obedience from me. He loves me, after all, and isn’t some cosmic police officer. But I’ll be honest- I have often swung between “striving” to please God then giving up exhausted, and falling upon grace. There was a real sense of my unworthiness and God’s goodness and the mystery of his acceptance, but I have never really understood that non-legalistic holiness existed.

Back to Joshua. If you haven’t read it, I’ll give you a little sum up. The Israelites wandered in the Sinai desert for 40 years. On the brink of The Promised Land, Moses gives an epic speech and then croaks, handing the leadership over to Josh…

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The Odd Couple

Having lunch with a close friend after church yesterday I said,

“I don’t know how to be a Christian anymore.”

It sounds both more shocking and less extreme than I mean, but they are the only words I can find to explain myself.

I love Jesus. Even when I’m twisted into some weird, navel gazing obsession over the point of my existence… even when  I’m catastrophically overwhelmed by the clash of world news and daily personal hostilities I have this unshakable hope that God exists and that He is good.

At the same time I have totally forgotten the why and the how of so many rituals. When I try to pray anything fancy about healing or spiritual warfare, I can’t get out anything beyond, “Help, God.” or  “Please, God.” I say a lot more stuff to Him than that, actually I say all of the things to him, but I no longer understand why we concoct prayers that sound like magical incantations.

Last winter when I got this strong feeling that I needed a sabbatical I also sensed God giving me a heads up that this season (that I’ve just walked through) wouldn’t be any easier than the last season when I was piled under an unmanageable amount of stress. When I say I “walked through” this sabbatical what I really mean is I’ve crawled through, often just laying on my face in the mud pouring out of my heart.

I’m super broken, guys…

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The Ugly Truth

Sometimes I go down roads in my head I don’t want to go. This usually has to do with big questions about life and God. Several years ago I suddenly couldn’t shake the fact that the Bible doesn’t say explicitly what happens to babies that die. I couldn’t just believe something happy to soothe my fears, I had to know. And until I worked it out, I had a hard time thinking about anything else.

When thoughts like this come along, I don’t usually want to share the journey with anyone because I fear several unpleasant things. Mostly I fear that they will label me or decide something about me based upon my current feelings and thoughts without recognizing the journey of it. I fear this from others because I tend to do it to myself.

“THIS IS A BAD PLACE AND I WILL ALWAYS LIVE HERE.”

That’s the thing I tend to think when I’m wandering down the miry path called Crisis Of Faith…

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Party Pooper

Taking a sabbatical in my home town is a bit like going to a kids birthday party for some peace and quiet.

Nevertheless coming here and taking a sabbatical were both things I felt like God was leading me to do. It’s much easier to make jokes about than to manage well and I’m taking some time today to lay this situation before God. To be honest, I think this very thing is one of my main reasons I need a sabbatical and a huge part of why God led me to do it here in Washington state.

Like when you pray for patience and discover yourself surrounded by frustrating life you can (wrongly) see it as proof that you shouldn’t have prayed for patience, or you can see it as a divine opportunity to get in plenty of practice. And, let’s face it, life is ever full of such opportunities. It is just a matter of choosing to see each thing as a chance to grow instead of as a God given “trial.”

God is not spiteful, but he is wise and he is loving.

So here I am on the verge of a week in which many “opportunities” are presenting themselves, all piled up, pushing and pulling at me…

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Library of Love

I have fallen so deeply in love with God by studying this weird collection of books called the Bible. I’m not talking about romantic love, but a love that is so, so much better.

Today in class, we finished the Old Testament.

*Pause for applause*

One of our fearless leaders, Scott Frase ended class by playing a slideshow he had made of the 65 books we’ve journeyed through in the last (almost) nine months (they begin the last book this Friday). Each slide was a book title, the main characteristic of God found in that book and then one or two key verses from said book which expressed this characteristic.  Most of us were devouring each slide and responding with tears to see what an epic story we have been immersed in for so long. (Maybe I was the only one crying?)

It was as moving as I’m sure the picture slideshows will be when we finally graduate these beloved students in two weeks. 

When any of our teachers finish their last lecture, it is SBS tradition to shower them with encouragement and prayer. For guest speakers, this happens soon after we meet them, but for those of us on staff with this school, we finish our last teaching near the end of a very long time together.

I was really struck today by a comment one of the students made to Scott as she expressed her appreciation and love for him. She talked about how, before coming to the school she’d had such a close relationship with God and she had feared that studying the Bible academically would suck the life right out of that relationship. It was a real battle for her and for several other students, but to Scott she said, “I thought I had to choose between knowledge of God or intimacy with God, but every time you teach, you show me I can have both.”  …

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The Hem of His Robe

For the past few years I’ve had this problem.

You don’t really want to hear all about it, but for the sake of what I want to share, I will tell you. I have too much estrogen. You’d think this would lead to more awesome womanness, but actually it causes several problems. It’s not just constant PMS symptoms, but also constant bleeding. The good news is that I went to the doctor years ago, and although it has gotten worse, I have stuff I can take that helps minimize these things (and totally eliminates the constant bleeding).

I continue to look for ways to be more hormonally balanced by eating differently, minimizing stress, etc. The symptom that is the most bothersome to me is extreme irritability. The difference between normal grumpiness and hormone induced irritation is marked. My rational mind tells me when a situation or interaction should or should not lead to anger and when this problem is at it’s worst, I walk around in a fog of anxious irascibility. I find this side effect the most disturbing because it impacts my relationships with other people and those are what I value most. Also, I don’t enjoy being angry!

Every once in a while I run out of the medicine that helps me and I usually keep a pretty relaxed attitude about it until, three or four days later, my skin hurts and I’m trying desperately to not bite people**.

I ran out of medicine a week and a half ago and while I’m not having horrible symptoms, I did have a revelation last night about a story in the Bible. I suddenly realized that I am the woman with the issue of blood from Mark 5 (also Luke 8 and Matthew 9)…

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The Big Idea

Studying to teach is a beautiful and frustrating process for me. If I spend too much time on details, I am immediately lost. What happens instead, is I spend a few weeks just thinking about the book I’m supposed to teach. Clearly, I have read through it and I will often gather bits of big picture information to chew on.

I ponder.

At some point, in the  pondering (and attempting to study), I Get It. This usually happens much closer to the time I’m to teach than is really comfortable, but that also somehow suites me. I take the stress and I plunge head first into papers and my teaching outline. What I want to give my students is the Big Idea- the perspective they will not have time to discover for themselves in the two days they will get to study the book I’ve been studying for 4 weeks. But it takes me most of that four weeks to see the big idea clearly enough to teach it to them.

Something else happens while I’m studying to teach a particular book- God allows me to somehow experience or feel this Big Idea in a personal way in my own life. You can imagine because of this factor I was a bit nervous before I started studying to teach the book of Job!

Now I am currently working on the prophetic book of Hosea

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Being Here

What I’ve really be thinking about this week is God’s love. I’m stuck on this topic because not only is it taking this long for me to grasp it, but I’m starting to think it may be the only truly necessary topic.

Yesterday at the end of a lecture on the book of Ecclesiastes, Angela wanted us to spend time sharing what we had learned about God’s character this year. She connected this thought to the question that, since life is meaningless without God (vanity, vanity!) how does knowing him give life meaning?

What I’ve been learning about God in the last few years has to do, first of all, with the message of the Bible as a whole. Big picture- God’s desire is to dwell with man. Time and again, we make a mess of things and time and again He steps in to set things right. But this “dwelling” isn’t just about cohabitation- it’s not just about the Most Holy Place or about Jesus coming to earth, or even, ultimately about our final hope of living in His heavenly mansion. The Being Together that God wants is a kind of active presence that I’m just barely able to wrap my mind around.

You know how some people are always someplace else, even when they are with you? Their eyes are looking, not at you as you talk with them, but far away and they merely nod their head in rhythm with the tune of your words. Then there are others who are so present that you actually feel heard. Their eyes pierce into you and they respond to what you’re saying with insightful questions, laughter, tears. They are with you and completely present…

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Let’s Fight

When I was young I had a pretty bad temper. “Seeing red” was a figure of speech that I understood completely.

Back then, we also did our family fighting with really loud voices. When it went on between others and myself, it was cathartic, when it was other members of my family with each other, it tipped over into stressful. I remember one time going into my room, slamming the door and plugging my ears so tightly that I hurt myself, all because of an argument in which I was not involved.

It was for that reason that I began looking for “fixes,” or, more appropriately termed, “diffusers.” Jokes are my favorite- ones that make me the fool usually work out the best because there’s no possibility for things to be taken wrong. Every once in a while I found actual wisdom that calmed things. Not so much like Solomon, but more like the time I encouraged my sister to not stay stubbornly in the car at McDonalds because she’d be hungry later when her anger had cooled.

As an adult there is really never any yelling. I still sometimes get the urge to slam doors, but if I notice the urge in time, I can diffuse it by calling myself out as passive aggressive…

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Narrativity

The small note on the main page of this blog says,
“Here’s my story. It’s God’s story.”
It’s something I have known, but learned recently in a much deeper way.

For the past few months I have been evaluating and praying about what will come next in my story. We had a staff conference for the last few days and a man named Brad Stanley spoke about several things that really illuminated some dark places in my head. One thing that he said was that when you’re looking for where to go next, it’s important to understand where you’ve been- to see the context and continuity of the direction of your life. I had already been doing that (in a drastically divergent manner) but something else he said caused me to realize how I was doing this poorly.

Instead of this being about the story of my life that God is writing, it’s actually about his story that he is writing with my life. It may sound like semantics, but it completely changes the perspective I have as I take stock of the details. The continuity I’m looking for, which points me forward, isn’t located within the narrative of my specific story, but is found where my story connects to a much larger one…

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