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… Continue reading “Audience Participation”

Perfecting Weakness

It feels good to be small.

This is my main take-away from six months of sabbatical.

Recently I described the year like being lost in the woods .

It felt like I ceased to be myself for a whole year. I ceased to know the things I thought I knew well and stopped connecting with many things that had previously given me joy and life.

It freaked me out to be unsure of everything I used to know. To add another metaphor to the pile, I was drowning.

And kept drowning…  Continue reading “Perfecting Weakness”

Just To Be Clear

I have read several articles on the when and the where of using, and not using, Christian jargon (this one being the funniest), but I would like to propose that it has no place at all in the communication of faith.

In a post about words, an “official” definition seems appropriate:

Jargon = special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.

Probably the most slanted definition I found was this:

Jargon = a form of language regarded as barbarous, debased, or hybrid.

There are several places where verbal short hand and specialized phrases are handy. They make work and study more efficient if the jargon exchange is between two people “in the know.”

Unfortunately, because people love to sound smart, they will often use their specialized language with people who are not “in the know” either as a way of detecting such fools, or to impress newbies or outsiders… Continue reading “Just To Be Clear”

Getting it Right

Most of us want to be Good People. We tend to think that, just as a child grows from infancy to adulthood, everyone is at some stage of “growing up” toward maturity and greater independence.

A few months ago I posted something a friend of mine wrote where she mentioned a pastor who had committed suicide. Weeks later, another friend asked me about this- disturbed to consider a pastor doing such a horrible, desperate thing. Because of this idea we have that spiritual growth is a steep climb up a mountain made increasingly on your own, it is horrifying when someone “ahead” of us on the path gives up or slides dramatically backward.

We ask ourselves, “What is the point of my climbing if  someone like that can fall?” 

The bad news is that being a pastor or a missionary or a nun will not safeguard us from being Bad People, from getting depressed, from having broken relationships, from sin or from tragedy (a fact that is noticed easily by people who keep their distance from Christianity). Although we gain maturity and we learn lessons, we’re always light years away from being grown up… Continue reading “Getting it Right”

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… Continue reading “Party Pooper”

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.”  … Continue reading “Library of Love”

A Plan to Lose it All

Lately I have been a real mess. Not a quirky, things-will-come-out-right-in-the-end kind of mess, either. A gross and ugly mess that you’re sure will yield rotting surprises. I have seriously questioned my mental health and the wisdom of even interacting with other humans. My heart and mind have been dark and confusing. Even just last night, all of the worst lies came out to taunt me as I tried to go to sleep.

When I woke up (after very little sleep) I felt that same raw and twisty anxiety, but as I sat down to spend some time with God, he came quickly in just the way I needed. He didn’t soothe me with “No, everyone really loves you, it’s okay,” but instead pointed me to how incredibly faithful he is, has been and will continue to be. I think it’s only after I recognize how big and good he is that I am able to feel comforted by what he then says about who I am.

Then, at the end of class today I had a good dose of “hindsight” as I finished up my last teaching in the School of Biblical Studies.

What I got to see at the end of my teaching is how all the things that God spoke about this season before it happened  (this season being my involvement with SBS since the beginning of 2012)  have taken place… Continue reading “A Plan to Lose it All”

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)… Continue reading “The Hem of His Robe”

Growing Young

I know Rich Mullins was not your typical kind of hero. From what I understand, he was a  very flawed and broken man. Nevertheless, the music and the words that God gave him have impacted me in a bigger way than I had realized until seeing  a movie about his life. He taught me two very important things about following Jesus.

His message resonated so quickly and deeply that I didn’t even know it was him that God was using to teach me. While this is about the influence of a musician, it’s mostly about the faithfulness of God to walk so near to me.

Lesson 1: Honesty

“These days I need more than just a line about Jesus.
I need to see his love, these days.”

I grew up going to a Southern Baptist church. What I learned as a kid was that the best Christians looked good and shiny on the outside. They had two parents, and plenty of money, they dressed up for church and they never said bad words. I saw nowhere to express my confusion and pain over life (not to mention I was poor with divorced parents and started swearing in elementary school)… Continue reading “Growing Young”

Purposely Provocative

Generally, my desire is to encourage, bolster or soothe people. This is not because I just want people to like me, but because my own troubles stem from an internal chaos of which I long to be free.

Being provoked to passionate feeling is not the opposite of what I’m looking for. In fact, if the provocation is well done and hits in a place I really care about, it will lead me to a greater sense of focus. It banishes chaos equally as well as comfort, although since my ability to change the world seems quite limited, the action that wants to flow out of the focused passion is often frustrated at the door of reality.

These thoughts started with some movies I’ve seen recently which purposely inspired strong feelings about what is wrong with the world. There are many people who prefer soothing because they dislike feeling helpless more than they can’t stand that others really are powerless to truly horrible situations. Slavery, war, violence, addiction. Most of us feel (when we are faced with the real facts on these issues) that there is really nothing we can do to help… Continue reading “Purposely Provocative”

The Great Exchange

One topic that has come up for me a lot over the years is homosexuality. Same-sex attraction is the reason that my ex-husband decided to divorce me. He certainly has his own story and I don’t attempt to tell that here (I am not outing him to the world, he has already done this). That is parenthetical to what I really wanted to say, but important for you to know about my perspective.

You may or may not be surprised if you knew how many Christians struggle with same sex attraction. I know several. Before you get upset with my using the word ‘struggle,’ recognize that I’m not making a judgment- all of the people I know would admit that for them it is a place of great difficulty. I myself glimpsed into that struggle by marrying a man who was not attracted to women.

Was I fully aware of my own foolishness? No. Talking to a friend last night about this issue, she expressed thoughts I carried years ago when I got engaged…. Continue reading “The Great Exchange”

Paul’s Secret

During discussion group last night we went around in a circle talking about what we have learned from studying the New Testament. The students finished Revelation this week and will begin with Genesis on Monday.

It was so encouraging to hear the answers from the students because they are the reason that we, as staff, are here. I know that my part is a small one, but I’m grateful to have a part.

The staff shared, as well and I was glad to be last in the circle because I had no idea to say. I had some words floating around in my head and was also trying to listen to what others were sharing. It wasn’t until the person before me wrapped up that I grabbed ahold of the bones of a thought. Then the most unfortunate/wonderful thing happened. The truth I was trying to convey hit me as it was coming out of my mouth. Which, of course, means I cried.

Here is what I learned this last quarter:
Early on I was wrestling with the Apostle Paul… Continue reading “Paul’s Secret”

What God Says

I am inexorably attracted to people who know how much they are loved by God and they allow this knowledge to change them.

This Spring I will have been a Christian for twenty years. In that time I have met all kinds of believers; the bitter but tenacious, the happy naive, the fearfully upright, and the broken beggars who walk around amazed to be so beloved by the creator of the Universe.

“If we know how great is the love of Jesus for us we will never be afraid to go to Him in all our poverty, all our weakness, all our spiritual wretchedness and infirmity. Indeed, when we understand the true nature of His love for us, we will prefer to come to him poor and helpless. We can be glad of our helplessness when we really believe that His power is made perfect in our infirmity.” ~Thomas Merton

Honestly, I still spend much of my time with my forehead wrinkled up, carrying this weight of worry around with me. Every once in a while I look up and realize how truly ludicrous is this posture… Continue reading “What God Says”

When You’re Gone

My strongest urge right now is to clam up. This rarely leads to anything good, and so I’m writing.

Today is my daughter Sarah’s sixth birthday. How does one celebrate (commemorate?) the birthday of a dead person? When people have children, they usually spend a decent amount of time planning birthday parties. What you do, you do for the kid. I assume you do what you think your kid will enjoy most. Birthday cake with trucks, cake shaped like a doll, colorful streamers, games, friends. If they are really young, you invite whoever will come and everyone sits and watches this dexterously inept human smear frosting from ear to ear, and from nose to toes.

But does a person who has stopped living continue to age? And what do you do on their birthday every year?

I have been asking those questions on this day for the last six years… Continue reading “When You’re Gone”

Mental Digestion

I’ve been mentally digesting two important thoughts today that seem to oppose each other.

Thought number 1 came this morning from the Twitter world. It struck me so soundly, that I typed it into a sticky note on my computer. It’s been staring at me all day.

“Hyper-individualism leads to spiritual homelessness.” -Bevin Ginder

This makes so much sense. I have walked that particular road, although I have also seen God pushing me ever toward interdependence with other believers.

Thought number 2 came this afternoon in class. Ron Smith, the founder of SBS is here teaching the Gospel of John to us. Today, in the first four chapters, he touched on several great things about Jesus, but one that got stuck right in my throat. In John chapter 1 Jesus is baptized. John the baptist (who dunked the Lord himself), says that he saw heaven open and the Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove. He saw the Spirit, and it was like a dove.

Ron pointed out something that makes the dove particularly unique among birds; their flight pattern is unpredictable…. Continue reading “Mental Digestion”