Faith Part 2: On the Ground

We’re all trying very hard, aren’t we?

This morning I was awake an hour before my alarm was set to go off and I was filled with both excitement and anxiety (I start college today!). I decided to work out with that extra time and while working out I had so much inspiration about this specific post. I was going to title it, “Work: Burden or Blessing,” and it was going to help us all get a better view of God and who He has made us to be.

Not surprisingly, I managed to get really tangled up in stress before I could sit down and start writing. Instead of that calm inspiration I felt on the elliptical machine, I was staring at a white screen and I was filled with wordless frustration…

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What God Says (revisited)

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….

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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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All Manner of Thing

I am mentally or emotionally uncomfortable about 80% of the time. 10% of the time I’m checked out and the remaining 10% I feel good, happy, joyful. Say what you want about the difference between happiness and joy, I’ll take what I can get. (That’s not entirely true. I do recognize the difference between things that are merely soothing me and feeling a real letting-go kind of peaceful joy.)

I took an online test recently (certainly reputable!) that told me that I’m a “Highly Sensitive Person.”

Good one, Captain Obvious.

The most enlightening/depressing thing I read, as I studied up on this before unbeknownst to me legitimate personality profile was that Highly Sensitive People spend much of their time unhappy because they’re always kind of struggling against an overstimulating world and struggling toward an inner sense of quiet. (An impressively long sentence, if I do say so myself.)

Good luck with that inner sense of quiet I’ve been working on so assiduously…

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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…

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Failure Loses Its Sting

How was Paul the Apostle so confident? So active, so joyful, so sure of his position in God?
How am I so insecure? So easily discouraged, so doubtful of my position?

As I asked those questions, I heard in my head, “because you make it about you.” I make it about how I feel, what I think, what I’ve done, who I am.

When I woke up Friday morning I felt a kind of inner turmoil- like there was something rotten that needed attending. As I sat down to write in my journal I couldn’t really think of anything to say and I couldn’t figure out what my problem was. Because I’ve been slowly learning this lesson about the fact that my identity is not swayed by whatever my current emotion is, I just asked God in my head, “Is my heart in your hands, Lord?” and he simply responded, “It is.”

As I study Philippians, I’ve been kind of astounded by this statement, “If I am in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” (Philippians 1:22)

Paul knew that his work would accomplish something because he was doing God’s work, following God’s call, living in obedience. He was sure that God would make it fruitful.

He even says later in chapter 3 that he puts no confidence in himself and his abilities – it’s not about what he can or cannot do. He counted all of his former trophies as garbage so that he could cling to the sacrifice and perfection of Jesus. He strained toward identifying with Jesus in love and suffering – looking to position himself firmly in Christ…

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Out of Hiding

About a year and a half ago God totally blew the lid off of my hopes and dreams for the future. At that point he told me I wasn’t dreaming big enough and when I examined what I’d been “dreaming” of, I realized this was absolutely true. Without thinking it through, I was just putting one foot in front of the other and looking for ways to come alongside others in their dreams.
Honestly, a bit of that is good because I really still have a heart to see other people walk in their calling and purpose, but what God was leading me to see was that He had something specifically for me that was way beyond what I’d ever considered.

As last year progressed three things appeared to be a part of that dream, 1. the whole world, 2. every area of discipleship and 3. teaching.

I can guess what you’re thinking, “Peggy, that’s too big. You gotta narrow it down a bit or you’ll do nothing.” Believe me, I said that to God. To be honest, I don’t know all of the specifics. I don’t know how the years ahead will look. What grows and grows and won’t stop is this deep hunger to teach people, show people, walk with people in such a way that they really know who God really is. There are many facets to that, but I am jealous for God’s reputation and His name not only because I love Him, but because I know that when people really know Him, they will be surprised, then saved and transformed. He is so good and so worthy…

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If I Find My Way

Lately I’ve been finding (and needing) such deep encouragement from friends. A few days ago I posted about an email from one friend and last night I had a really life giving conversation with another friend who was willing to just dive right into my inner mess.

Sometimes I hesitate to post about messy stuff because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not doing well. One thing my good friend reminded me of on the phone last night was that I am usually more honest than is socially normal. So why would I avoid talking about feeling down?
Partly I’ve been avoiding it because I haven’t had time to understand it and find words that fit. It’s only those who especially love me who are able to sit through the words that don’t fit while I find the ones that do.

This morning I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller, The Wounded Spirit. He uses several verses from the book of Proverbs to talk about the many varied reasons why a person might feel crushed in spirit and what might be done about it.

Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” This well describes what has been going on recently, but there is also much more…

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The Etymology of Identity

I went to the bank the other day to change my name with them. One of the ladies who was helping me asked for the reason I was changing my name and I simply said, “Divorce.” She related with me that she also recently changed her name because of divorce and we talked a little about the joy of returning to our maiden names. As we sat down to go over some other things with my account, she was open and really friendly. A compatriot.

Then somehow it came up that I worked for Youth With A Mission. At this news she ever-so-slightly stiffened, both in her body and in her banter.

When this is brought up with strangers, I look for the most non-threatening way to explain something that is so far from what is normal and also far from its stereotypes. I try to stay focused on things that make sense like how I love to teach and travel.
Sometimes I have to walk people gently through this and often it actually makes me happy to confess that I’m a Christian and proceed to be different than I know they’re expecting.
Telling people I’m a “missionary” is a bit like telling a boyfriend, “we have to talk.” They start to sweat a little and blood rushing through the head causes their hearing to decrease….

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