Thursday, March 27, 2008

Our Wedding!

Here is a slideshow of some of the pictures from our wedding day! I still don't have the family pictures uploaded onto my computer yet, so bear with me on the family shots! Jason and I had the day of our dreams, and still talk daily about what a fairytale our wedding day was. We love you, and are so grateful for your love and support as we begin this journey together!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

i return to grant you a morsel...

Yes, yes, I have disappeared for several months, but I return to point you in the direction of the one who has captured my heart. May you enjoy the musings of Mr. Jason Davis as much as I do.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I spent last night with an absolutely amazing set of people. As we talked, joked and laughed until we cried, I couldn't help but think about what it means to be "friends." I've been thinking about that a lot lately. I think I am coming to understand more and more the responsibility of the dynamic we call "friendship."

The more life I live and the more people I meet, I come into a deeper understanding of the impact one human life has on another. I would dare to say that, far too often, we fail to recognize the responsibility we have for how our life impacts the people placed in our world. A person may walk into our world for just a small window of time, but even then, it is a life- a relationship on some level- to be valued. Or maybe it is someone that has been around for so long, we take it for granted. This is nothing profound or new. It's just a pattern of thought that I've been having over the last several days about the value of people. To be a friend is to take stock in the heart and soul of another person, even when it's uncomfortable, and especially when it's hard.


When we forget that, we hurt the very people that have been placed in our lives by God for a very specific purpose. Thank you to those of you who encourage me to be a better friend, and to those who model what a good friend is. Your lives are invaluable.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

just feel it

One thing I have learned in the past several years is that I am doing myself and others a disservice when I pray against hardship. Someone somewhere got the idea in their head that hard equals bad, and pain equals doom. A friend is suffering a terrible loss, so we pray she would feel no pain. A small group member goes under financially, so we pray he has enough “faith” to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe it’s the co-worker we pray for whose child ran off, or the family member who is depressed. When we pray for someone’s feelings to change, what is it we’re really asking? Perhaps we’re asking God to make it better so that we don’t have to worry about what to say to our friend in the midst of the dark cloud that makes us so uneasy.

Call me backwards, but I would like to suggest that devastating emotions, which are certain to accompany crisis or distress in our lives, are one pathway through which personal and spiritual development occurs. Just as remission from cancer does not take place until each cancerous cell has been discovered and then removed or eliminated, growth in the face of despair and extreme change cannot take place until the depths of one’s circumstances are laid bare. These dark nights of the soul are more likely to inform us of the deepest parts of our existence than times of comfort and peace. The concept of choices (and our responsibility for the ones we make) gains new meaning. Dark times allow us to see things which might ordinarily go unnoticed, developing a more keen sense of meaning and awareness. Growth emerges as a result of what we do with this ensuing insight.

This notion of growth amid darkness is not new, but frequently bypassed. It is in the descent of human pain and uncertainty that individuals discover who they are, what they want, what they value, and where they wish to go. The doorway to the spiritual is opened; deeper meaning is sought after. Many, however, step through this door of the spiritual expecting to find glowing, gentle relief on the other side, and what they find instead is a journey into the depths of their calamity. Painful as it may be, it is on this journey that the seeds of faith are planted, and a deep revelation of what our life is about takes place. Healing and growth occur, not by patching up open wounds, but by revealing them, exposing them to the cleansing that only darkness can bring. Here, the relationship between the darkness of crisis and the illumination of spirituality is fashioned.

Personal futility is exposed on this journey from the plights of crisis to the depths of our soul, hastening an appeal to a deeper source of vitality and understanding than exists in ourselves. Answers conceivable with the human mind alone no longer suffice. The hope of Christ is an opportunity for transformation when the core of our being is on the line. This opportunity is accepted as part of a realization that we are limited in the human capacity to understand, reason, or conquer the unacceptable conditions of life in this futile world. We are beings made for another purpose. This act of yielding ourselves, especially when it is unseen in the natural realm, entirely challenges the way the humankind today is told to solve problems. Ideas of gaining control, organizing interventions, and task implementation permeate the modern mindset of how to handle crisis, which cause friction with this idea of surrender. This is not a fatalistic stance, but rather a constructive aspect of admitting personal limitation and divine order. It is what we were created for.

In spiritual surrender, we are submitting to the Divine and being entirely transformed as a result. The ideas of surrender and transformation are not to be confused with defeat, but instead are an expansion of the self in truest form. We encounter something larger, deeper, and more intense than ourselves. By engaging in this process, a new perspective of life and self is found—Truth.

Monday, April 09, 2007

keeping up with Easter

After all of the usual fun and discovery of easter eggs and easter baskets on Sunday morning, my sister and brother-in-law sat down with their boys to talk with them about the reason we celebrate Easter in the first place. After a lesson on biblical history, the family loaded up and headed to church to worship and celebrate our risen Lord.

I can just imagine the boys chattering all the way to church about their new Easter baskets and the candy and treats the Easter Bunny kindly left for them while they were sleeping… but that wasn’t the topic of conversation in children’s church yesterday. The candy and treats were left at the door as five year-old Clayton marched in and announced to his classmates: “All of you kids who don’t know about the REAL Easter, come and sit down. I’m gonna tell you!” Walking them through the story point by preciously memorized point, he finished by telling all of his eager listeners “ you kids need to keep up with Easter, because you don’t want to go with the Devil—when you die you want to go to heaven with Jesus.”

He may very well have acknowledged the true meaning of Easter more than many of us, and he still has candy and presents to be excited about. I think it’s beautiful, and it sure does make me want to “keep up with [the real] Easter.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Sometimes we get stuck in this self-defeating mindset of “waiting around.” All we can think about is how we’re waiting for God to do this, waiting for God to do that… waiting, waiting, waiting… poor pitiful us.

I certainly don’t think waiting is always a bad thing. In fact, I would call it a skill, even a discipline. But it is only such when our hearts are expectant of God’s move. Wait in misery, and we find ourselves doubting that God will ever show his face. But wait in faith, and there is hope. I’m a firm believer in the concept “You can’t walk in hope if you’re thinking in defeat.”

When I read Isaiah 30:18 today, I realized we’re not the only ones waiting… God waits too.

God's not finished. He's waiting around to be gracious to you. He's gathering strength to show mercy to you. God takes the time to do everything right—everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones. (The Message)

God is not afraid of waiting. He’s not afraid to take his time. And he is certainly ok with waiting on us if it means we will eventually see his face.

What good news. He was waiting on me long before I was ever waiting on Him. If I’m worth waiting on, so is He.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

the treasure in jars of clay

“Betsy, you’re like a cracked pot, and if you don’t take care of the cracks, everything inside of you is going to come spilling out onto the people around you!”

With those words, I was being admonished by a woman—a pastor, in fact—for my apparent vulnerabilities just after having opened my eyes to the deepest betrayal I’ve ever experienced. My heart was torn wide open and ripped apart, my spirit was crushed, and I was being told to pick it all up and stuff it back down into the urn of my soul. The nerve of me—I was making a mess!

Guilt set in immediately. Someone had noticed. I was flawed. I was weak. And this woman was right: Not only was I a cracked pot, I had flat out shattered. There I was, a person who had made a career out of “holding it all together,” now in pieces on the floor. So now, not only was I fielding the pain of betrayal and grief, I was also ridden with disappointment in myself.

The Lord brought that day from years ago to my mind recently as I was praying, and I got to thinking about why it is that we’re so afraid to be broken and petrified of being flawed. Why is it that often it is felt so true that we should not be exposing our weakness, our fragility, to anyone? What are we afraid might come “spilling out?” I think we fear sometimes that the things that eat away at our hearts—fear, loneliness, unmet expectations, disappointments in ourselves and others—will be exposed. In shame, we keep them sealed away for no one to see, and quickly mend any cracks in the vessel of our soul. We become tightly sealed jars.

But I don’t think that’s how God meant for us to live. We all have cracks. We all have moments of weakness, hurts, and flaws. I realize every day just how cracked truly I am. But I have come to realize that my fractures as a person create a space for the love and grace of God to seep out of me and into the lives of others. I am a broken vessel—with weakness, vulnerability, and faults—but that brokenness creates a tiny crevice through which the Holy Spirit can operate. It is only then that Christ is powerfully revealed as a "treasure in jars of clay" (2 Corinthians 4).

Outwardly, I am nothing, but it is God who is at work inside of me… and it is Christ that I want others to see—not a flawless cistern.

”My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Facing up

I was flipping through my journal yesterday, marveled at God's unfailing and continual efforts to mold my life into one that glorifies Him, when I found this sentence:

The benefit of having the rug pulled out from underneath me is that I will most likely land facing up... facing heaven... looking towards God, the only one who can pick me back up again.

However He has to get us there, God's ultimate desire is for us to see Him face to face. May He be glorified.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

the raft and the river

Nine months ago I was a worried mess about some very important decisions in my life. There were many nights that I laid in bed tossing around possibilities, ideas, and questions in my sleepless mind. The decision I finally came to entailed no dramatic display of heroic efforts, no announcement of great leaps and bounds ahead. No, really my decision looked more like a quiet, seemingly unnoticeable tiptoe of obedience. But that quiet step brought me peace.

I was fulfilled. I was happy. I was residing in the will of God.

Like I have so many times before, I started to wonder about this thing we call “the will of God.” The way most people talk about it, you’d think “God’s will” was a dainty raft on class 5 rapids. Flailing about, you’ve got to work your tail off to stay in the raft… One wrong move, and you’re overboard. No wonder I had driven myself to fear “missing it,” and falling out of the eternal raft.

You see, I have a funny history with rafting. I went several months ago, and ended up throwing my oar in the water. Yes, on purpose. I threw it in panic at a snake, but that’s beside the point. The fact is, I threw my only source of direction and momentum right into the water.

It’s funny what panic will do to a person. It causes us to react circumstantially, and muffles the gentle guidance of God.

I’ve really tried to shake myself free of this catastrophic view of “the raft of God’s will.” It just doesn’t seem to align with my understanding of who God is. God has never handed me a couple of oars, tossed me on a bunch of waves, and said, “Go ahead and try to stay afloat!” There have been times that I’ve felt that way, but when I really examine the situation, it’s usually my own fear creating that sort of picture.

In the times that I have been keenly aware of “being in God’s will,” I find that I just kind of… floated there… like water flowing downstream I suppose. There was some sort of natural progression that propelled me in the right direction. No flailing, no oar throwing, just a gentle progression in this tributary of the river of life.

My quiet step to peace nine months ago has flowed into quite the river of possibilities. I’ve sailed into opportunity after opportunity, and have been shown favor like never before. I’m so glad I haven’t spent the last nine months worried about falling out of some raft. The view is too beautiful to miss.

And there is peace like a river...

Monday, December 11, 2006


I read a quote today by Lily Tomlin that I found fascinating:

"The best mind-altering drug is truth."

There is something so powerful about truth.... especially when truth has been concealed, and it is finally brought into the light.

One thing I pray regarding all of my relationships with the people I care about is that hidden things be brought into the light. And trust me, that is not always a fun thing to pray... I have landed some answers to that prayer that I never expected to hear.

But there is such a grace that comes with truth, even when it's painful. More truth has been exposed in my life lately than I care to say, but when it comes down to brass tacks.... I wouldn't have it any other way.

Truth can be painful... and that's why so many people choose to conceal it. We hide who we really are, what we really think about, our struggles and our fears... perhaps because we are afraid of what we might lose. We are afraid of what will happen if we expose the truth.

The illusion seems more liveable than reality.

Could it be, in essence, that we are lacking in our trust of God... that He is bigger than the pain our truth might reveal?

In the last several days, I have become so grateful for the light of God that has forced truth out of the darkness. I am grateful that God has shattered illusions, and that my eyes have been opened to something bigger... something honest.

Monday, December 04, 2006

the avalanche

There is a great book I have been reading for the past couple of weeks that I want to begin by quoting. When I first picked it up, I had no idea how ironic the timing of it would be.

From "Shattered Dreams" by Larry Crabb:

"...We Christians are an impatient lot. We insist on gathering grain before it grows. We want to see flowers before spring and fruit before fall. When a friend is going through a tough time, we insist that the Spirit's work be obvious. Unless they speak of their trials from a spiritual perspective, we tend to apply pressure more than we dispense grace. We rarely believe that life is hidden in the barren tree. Let a friend express his exacerbation with a four-letter word, and immediately we're more concerned with his language than with his agony...

...The deep honesty of despair is reserved for places other than the church, which then becomes a place of pretense, and therefore a place without hope. When brokenness is disdained and the real story is never told, the power of God is not felt. When brokenness is invited and received with grace, the gospel comes alive with hope."


I was recently driven to my knees... and I wish I could say it was in prayer. But it wasn't. It was in brokenness. Have you ever had that “one last straw” pulled in your life? I hit the ground hard in utter confusion and bewilderment, so quickly that it seemed to take my breath away. I shifted violently and repeatedly from paralyzed blank stares at the wall to trembling from the core of my being in a desperate state of despair.

Not exactly a picture of a stable woman with a stable faith in a stable God.

I'm not condoning knee-jerk emotional reactions to circumstances—but I have realized in the last week or so that perfect faith is not about "holding it all together." Once the pieces of my emotional tidal wave stopped falling, I began to feel guilty... I felt like an imposter. There I was, supposed to be a rock, and instead I had created an avalanche. How humiliating. I decided I didn't want to face anyone. Like a cocoon, my bed became a private hiding place. I didn't even go to work. As I buried myself in my own rubble, I began to realize that this avalanche was about so much more than my immediate circumstances. It was a bittersweet revelation, and one I didn’t feel prepared to face.

And then I was surprised... Loving arms wrapped around me—me in all of my pieces. Those loving arms did not expect me to immediately begin gluing myself back together, and they did not criticize the mess I had made when I fell. In that moment, the real story was exposed, and the hope of Christ truly did come alive. And it happened because this person met me like Christ would—arms open, heart extended. No gawking stares, no disappointed reactions.

It may not have been my finest hour, but something in me needed to break.

I needed to stop being God's poster child and become His daughter.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Unload the Camel

In the last couple of days, I have come into a new appreciation for the story of the Rich Young Man (found in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18). Many of us who are familiar with this story have often heard it equated to a love for money and sacrifice for the Kingdom of God—which I am not denying. But, as I read it a few days ago for probably the 100th time, I gathered something else from the words of Jesus to this curious man.

The man wanted to know what he must do to inherit an eternity with God. Apparently, he was a man who obeyed the Law and also possessed great wealth. This is important to the story because riches in that day were thought to be an indicator of God’s favor. Wealth was said to be an index of a person’s spiritual state. Therefore, the man had probably until this time bore his wealth quite proudly as an assurance of his salvation. And then came the unexpected announcement of Christ: Sell it. It’s worthless. It’s not what I’m looking for.

In fact, Jesus went so far as to say that a camel could more easily pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter his Kingdom.

There is much debate about this analogy, but I find it quite interesting that the “Eye of the Needle” was also a phrase used to describe a small entrance in large gates for passengers on foot. The large gates were opened only for pack-bearing animals (i.e. camels carrying a large load). For one of these animals to even have a hope of fitting through this small, single-person entrance, it would have to remove all of its packs.

The Rich Young Man had loaded his life with his own idea of “spiritual indicators.” He was like a camel, bearing his hefty load with pride. Much like him, we often stack our backs high with good deeds, the “right” words, and dutiful devotion times—packing for our self-navigated trip into the Kingdom of Heaven. We compose man-made indications of our spiritual relationship to God, and we follow them like a script. We put on our suits and ties and our best Sunday dress, we set our timer and pray until it dings, memorize our bible verses, and promise to save one more soul. With our checklist, we dutifully pack our bags for eternity.

And then God says, “Unload the camel.”

It’s not the way in. The loads we attempt to bear are often endured in vain, and to get through the eye of that needle, we have to let it all go.

I am not discounting the relevance of spiritual discipline, nor the importance of intentional sacrifice for the Kingdom. But I have to wonder at times if we have mistaken these things as a means to an end. When we unpack our camels, what is left? What are we without the things we do? To be more clear, what is in our hearts? What is our heart’s attitude towards God? What is our heart's attitude towards the ones we love... and even those we don't?

Do we love from the deepest corners of our heart... or do we spend our time looking for more self-serving novelties to pack away in the luggage of our soul?

God has really challenged me to unload my camel and examine my heart underneath. More than anything else, I want my heart to be pure before Him. And even if it means stripping my devotion to everything else, I want to be able to fit through that door.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Lady's Lizard

Today would probably have to qualify as one of the most beautiful days of the year. Taking full advantage of the clear skies, light breeze, and radiant sunshine, I was outside walking and playing fetch with Lady, my puppy. There is a large grassy area with a big hill right behind where I live, and it is one of Lady’s favorite spots to run and play. Several days ago, Lady found a dried up dead lizard in her “play yard,” and proudly brought it to me clenched in her tiny jaws. Disgusted, I made her drop it and took her to another part of the hill to play. The next day as we were out walking, Lady found her lizard friend again, and smugly brought it once more to my feet. Still grossed out at this stiff, desiccated reptile, I once again let out an “Eeeewww!” and we promptly retreated to another part of the field, leaving behind her dead and shriveled friend.

Well, Lady is a persistent little girl. She is 3 pounds of pure energy and determination. So, of course, when we went out to play today (hundreds of yards from the last spotting of her reptile friend, mind you), Lady once again made her way to her lizard. Shocked that she found this one tiny little lizard in the midst of the huge field, all I could think was “For the love of God, how do you keep finding this guy?!”

As gross as that lizard is to me, I got to thinking that for Lady, it is just in her nature to hunt and sniff out things like that. That is what she will always do. It is her instinct to sniff out and track down things that are dead, that are dirty, and she will for the rest of her life bring those dead and dirty things to my feet in pride.

Perhaps Lady isn’t so different from each of us. As Christians, isn’t it supposed to be a part of our nature to go seeking out the spiritually dead and wounded? It is far too often that we stumble upon people who desperately need Christ, and instead of proudly taking them to the feet of God, we grimace and cry out a prideful “Eeeewww!” as we leave their desperate and withered souls in the dust.

How quickly we forget that God is in the business of bringing life into dead things. May we always take the dried up and dead, the lost and missing, to His feet.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Thank you Hattie and Lance

I was completely lost in my own world when opportunity met me today. My mind was on receiving a piece of mail I had been anticipating and trying not to get frustrated while fidgeting and tugging to get my key out of the mailbox. I wasn’t looking to make a new friend. No wonder I was so surprised this afternoon when I turned around and almost tripped over an older woman and her shy grandson.

She was striking. Dressed in a bright fuchsia suit with her raven hair in the tidiest French twist I’ve ever seen, the woman reached out her hand and said “I’m Hattie.” I quickly noticed that her hand was trembling. She proceeded to tell me that she had Parkinson’s disease, and was in need of a ride down the street to her daughter’s house. She had been taking care of her grandson, Lance, and they had walked to the grocery store. Her medication was wearing off, she said, and she was afraid she wasn’t going to make it home.

I don’t know a thing about Parkinson’s disease, except that it broke my heart to see this woman, so beautiful, regal even, so weakened as to being drawn to ask a perfect stranger for help. Call it naivety, but I quickly cleared my bag from the front seat, invited them into my car, and down the road we went. Lance was thrilled to find an “army guy” in my backseat, and immediately told me I was “the nicest lady he’d ever met” when I told him he could keep it. Hattie just did her best to hold on to her groceries and purse, and thanked me over and over again during the ride and as I helped her carry her groceries inside.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see Hattie or Lance again, but as I walked back to my car this afternoon, I heard Lance, army guy in hand, say “Nana, I think she loves Jesus like we do. Do you think so?” It was enough to make a tear escape down my cheek... beccause that's what this is all about. Hattie and Lance put a smile on my face today, and I wasn’t even looking to make a friend.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

the treasure is not in the golden ticket

I have absolutely nothing to complain about. My life has had so many positive turns in the last several months—well, in the last year really—that if you didn’t know better, you’d think I was God’s favorite kid. (Actually, I am… I just usually try not to brag about it…). But I realized today that it’s not enough. I want more.

Now, before you go thinking I’m the spitting image of the selfish, hair-raising Veruca Salt from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, let me explain. I wouldn’t say I’m feeling an internal demand for the golden tickets of life… I feel like I’ve already gotten those—from family to friends, relationships, and a career. Yet, something remains to be desired. And it’s nothing that any golden ticket could ever satisfy. You see, I find myself longing for more moments that have nothing to do with golden tickets or living “the good life.” I want more moments of deep satisfaction, of true meaning, of heartfelt attempts to be a light, even if it means risking failure.

The things I want more of are times like when I was hugging a woman twice my age in the parking lot of my place of employment, crying with her and praying with her as she left a place of safety and restoration, and began a new life of sobriety. Or when I was kneeling on the floor of a grocery store isle, praying for a perfect stranger as he died, inches from my hands that failingly attempted to save him. And the time spent talking and praying in a woman’s apartment, who had been so badly abused she had to move halfway across the country and change her name and social security number in a desperate attempt to find safety. Or making a quick phone call to a friend, whose mother passed away halfway around the world. And the unanswered messages I continue to leave on another friend’s voicemail, who made a huge mistake in life, and is too ashamed to face God or anyone else.

I am eternally grateful for the blessings God has granted me. But I never want my life to be about seeking a golden ticket. I just want more moments like those—moments of vulnerability, snapshots of the grace of God. Because eternal treasure will never be found anywhere else.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Amber on Elizabeth Layton

I came across this post on a friend's blog not too long ago.... it is beautiful in its raw simplicity:

bloggeriffic: Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton

What bravery. Many of us can and want to do heroic things, but few of us can stare ourselves in the mirror with honesty, and share the reflection with others. That is true courage.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

take it all in...

I love the silence of contentment, the stillness of security, and the pacing of a heart that is alive. I am grateful for endless skies with wispy clouds, and for the colorful early breaks of dawn, even when it’s too early to be awake. I am thankful for long conversations and short moments of bliss, for truth and honesty and even exposure. I love long, refreshing naps, and watching the sun fade behind ribbons of purple and orange in the late evening sky. I love the idea of family, of sisters and brothers, of friends and love. I am intrigued by the search for something more, whatever that more may be. I am grateful for memories that rekindle moments of forgotten joy, and even for those that are pointed reminders of the need for grace. I love the budding flowers in the spring as much as I admire the changing and falling leaves of autumn. I laugh as I watch boys slide down steep, grassy hills in cardboard boxes, then tirelessly climb to the top to do it all again. I love the fullness of a deep breath, and the calmness it can bring. I love the idea of an endless journey… it gives me time to enjoy it all.

Friday, September 15, 2006

watching them bow

I seem to be in a place lately where I am really thinking about the effect others’ words have on our decisions and convictions. I have watched too many people in my life bow out of circumstances at the whim of other people and their opinions. To say it is aggravating would be an understatement, but the best understatement I can come up with this late at night. Being a person who puts her whole heart into everything I do and into every person I care about, I have a hard time understanding the concept of being so drastically swayed by the simple remarks of another. I make it a habit to try to be uncomfortably honest with myself, which assures me that my convictions come from deep within me… from the heart of God in me… and not an eclectic version of surrounding opinions.

It is disappointing to receive the swift rebuff of a person who merely reacts to the opinions of others… and unfortunately, this is a cause for the demise of many friendships. I was thinking tonight that if I were swayed by every remark someone made, my life would be a circus act—jumping through endless hoops and juggling with the fire of insecurity—desperate for the applause of some audience that is only there for a show, and not for me personally, anyway. That is a performance I hope to never take part in… and yet I watch people I care about signing up for the lead roles. Desperate for fulfillment, they charge through the hoops and juggle fire, they take their bows in longing for the acceptance of a deceiving audience… They get lost in the spotlight and set up camp on a stage of shifting emotion, never to return. And ones like me can do nothing but watch them painfully from offstage…

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

the power of one choice

When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved. –Hosea 9:10

I stumbled upon this verse just over a year ago in the aftermath of a wave of destruction in my life. It really made me think about the power our choices have on the rest of our lives. As my eyes were being unveiled to the nature of deceit and manipulation I had fallen prey to, I was startled to realize that it all began with one choice. That’s all. It took one decision against my better judgment, and in the time frame of one year, my life was nearly destroyed. My sensitivity to the Holy Spirit had dwindled and my passion for ministry was barely visible through the fog of self-betrayal.

It pains me to think about what that one choice did to the heart of God… I imagine it was something like what we read in the above verse. I think God was full of grief to see the children of Israel—whom he had set apart, who were such a source of refreshment to his heart—take on the very nature of the thing they chased after. “Vile.” What a dramatic change from being an image of the glory of God, the one(s) to reveal Him to the nations.

And yet, in the messes we make, there is grace.

Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. –2 Samuel 14:14

It really is that simple. It is a beautiful thing to step into an understanding of the incredible mercy that flows from the heart of God… He always seeks to restore us back to Himself.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

to be near God

“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” (Psalm 73:28)

It can be daunting to think of all of the unknowns life possesses. Realizing that the line between contentment and eagerness is faint, I often wonder which side of the line I am on. Perhaps I have a foot planted on either side. The thought struck me today that maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Can I be content with where I am today, and still possess an eagerness for what I will do tomorrow? Is it possible for us to rest in quiet confidence that today we are near God, and that is the goal of our salvation… and yet operate in eager preparation for encounters with the lives we have yet to touch?

Perhaps contentment is not a state of being still, as it is often portrayed. What if it is a dynamic, yet peaceful way of functioning, of thinking, of preparing our hearts for what is ahead? My experiences have shown me that movement birthed out of contentment seems to bear fruit that is much stronger than movement birthed from restlessness.

What if, for right now, it really was good enough to be near God, to make God our refuge? The fruit of our lives may be that much more nurturing to hearts that need to be fed.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

the dark

One of my least favorite memories is of the very first night I was left alone at home to babysit my little brother. I was petrified. I’m not even sure how old I was. All I knew was that it was getting dark outside and mom and dad were leaving… and every young child knows that the monsters come out when mom and dad aren’t around. It wasn’t until that lonely night that I realized the element of safety that my parents’ very presence could establish.

We lived in a 1900s remodeled Victorian style home, complete with its creaks and squeaks. The doorways were large, the ceilings were tall, and the stairway was endless. Oh yes, all the more room for the shadows of the night to haunt and the creaks to echo through my desperately ringing ears. Suddenly my home became my worst enemy—the source of my mental tantalization with its creaking and settling in the gusting night’s wind. It was me against my very own fear of the lonely night. In short, I was afraid of the dark.

I chuckle to myself now when I think about that night and all of the silly things I did in distressed attempts to overcome my fear. I laugh as I think about trying to comfort my little brother while I was shaking in my own boots. But as I reflected this morning on that fearful night so many years ago, something stopped me dead in my tracks. I am still afraid of the dark.

Yes. It is true. I still exhibit a panicked display of thoughts and behaviors when I come to a situation in which the light is dim. Although I say that I “rest in the shadow of the Almighty,” the creaks of the howling world seem to become louder and louder in their distraction, and my blood pressure rises when the fierce winds of uncertainty rattle the windows of my life.

There are a few things going on in my life right now in which I am distinctly seeking God’s direction. And yet, this seems to be one of those times where I am timidly walking the halls of my own faith… in the dark. There doesn’t seem to be any well-defined direction as to what to do or where to go next, and so I just keep walking. I could lie to you, but I won’t: I don’t like the dark. Darkness requires slow, careful movement. It demands patience. I’m not very good at any of those things!

As much as I don’t like the darkness, what I do love is the peace that comes with trusting God fully. When you’re in the dark, there’s not much else you can do. I suppose I could drive myself nuts with the endless questions of “How?” “Why?” and “What if?” But I’ve been down that road before… and I got so busy rattling off questions that God couldn’t get a word in edgewise! It’s amazing the peace that comes with learning to shut your mouth. Even in the dark.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

trading in the lantern of logic

Have you ever noticed that much of the time God is not logical? Forgetting that God sees the entire canvas of our lives, it often happens that our finite minds supersede the vision of God’s heart for us. Being the definitively logical person that I am, sometimes He and I go around and around about this.

This morning while I was reading my bible and devotions, I read something that struck a cord with the things God has been doing in my life: “It cannot be stated definitely what the call of God is to, because His call is to be in comradeship with Himself for His own purposes, and the test is to believe that God knows what He is after.”

I am the queen of logic. I am dangerously analytical and I think things to death. I am the girl with the plan. I am the girl that was the heartbreaker in high-school—not so much in the boyfriend-hopping sense—but because most of the time when someone would ask me out, my response would be somewhere along the lines of, “Well, I know you’re not the type of guy I’d like to marry, so probably not.” Sure, I still acted like a squirrelly schoolgirl some of the time, but it was never long before my logic would crash the party of my adolescent emotion. Perhaps my logical intellect was also part of the reason I never got caught up in scenes of drugs and alcohol that were rampant in my small town. It just didn’t make sense to me.

The logic that spared the innocence of my “youth” sometimes feels like it could be the death of me today. Sure, my intellect could take me straight to the top if my goals were fame and recognition… But there is something different my heart is chasing after. Something deeper. This “something” is the heart of God, and it is attached to His purpose for my life. My intellect will never get me to the heart of God—it is a place I can enter only through the shadows of faith and obedience. My logic detests this.

For much of my life, logic has been my light in the darkness, my way of seeing the world in a manner that is a step removed from the hype of those around me. As God continues to speak to me about the next steps in my life, I have been asked to turn in my lantern of logic and reach instead for the right hand of God in the shadows of my uncertainty. The test truly is, as Oswald Chambers so beautifully reminded me this morning, “to believe that God knows what He is after.”

Saturday, July 22, 2006

to sit at the throne with friends

I came across an interesting segment in Henri Nouwen’s book, “Life of the Beloved.” Here is what it says:

“I have been cared for by many people with much tenderness and gentleness. I have been taught and instructed with much patience and perseverance. I have been encouraged to keep going when I was ready to give up and was stimulated to try again when I failed. I have been rewarded and praised for success…but, somehow, all of these signs of love were not sufficient to convince me that I was the Beloved [of God]…"

These people were, however, the one's who directed me to the One who could, and did, convince me—God Himself.

I would not hesitate to say that most of us have stumbled upon one of those people who carry a “savior complex” and insist that they have the insight and answers to everyone else’s problems (I almost married one). They buck ownership for their own faults by parading the weaknesses of others and smothering those around them in their self-righteousness and their own self-labeled “perfection.” If you’ve ever found yourself tangled up with one of these people, you probably ended up exhausted, weary, and not liking yourself very much. I did.

And then God “brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19). He brought me into relationships like the ones Nouwen speaks of—a place where I can breathe, where I am free to be who God created me to be, and where I am able to love with everything inside of me. As I think about what makes these relationships so special, I realize that these are the people who point me to God. Not to perfection. Not to a pre-conceived ideal. The relationships that pull the most weight in my life, the ones that touch me so deeply, are the relationships I have with people who care less about their concern for me than GOD’S concern for me. They don’t take it upon themselves to be my “savior,” and in turn, I am not expected to be my own (or theirs). When I have been lost, they have taken my hand and tenderly led me to the throne of God. And they sit with me there.

So, to those of you who sit with me…Thank You. There is no other place I’d rather be than at God’s feet with you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I was out on the town during a recent “girls night out,” and, in the car, I found myself saying, “Do you every feel like your headlights aren’t on?” We were sitting at a stoplight, and the beams of the headlights directly across the intersection were glaring right into my eyes. They seemed so bright, and for a moment, I was surprised that everyone else’s headlights were working at such a better capacity than ours.

The reality of the situation was that our headlights were working just fine, and they were probably just as bright as everyone else’s—it’s just that I was seeing ours from behind, and not head on. Kind of like a flashlight—it seems a lot brighter when someone points it right in your face rather than pointing the light away from you to illuminate your surroundings.

Sometimes I blind myself by staring down everyone else’s “headlights,” or the direction they seem to have in their lives. Have you ever noticed the times when it seems like everyone in the world has it made, and we are the only ones fraught to figure out the pieces of life—tossing around the questions of family, career, education, relationships. How often do we begin to panic when we steal a glance dead on into the lives of others, thinking we’re the only ones who don’t have everything “figured out” yet? Flustered and unsettled, we scurry about thinking our lights just aren’t bright enough. Maybe I’m the only one, but I have been guilty of double-checking to see if my “headlights” are working.

I would be lying to say I didn’t want to know what is ahead of me. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I like to know what to expect. It sure does make this whole “trusting in God” thing interesting! As soon as I think I know where I’m headed, a sharp curve comes that I couldn’t have seen, even with the high-beams on. The beauty of it all is that even with the limited visibility and sharp turns, there is such a peace that comes with following God. And the destinations he takes me to are more wonderful than anyplace I could have directed myself to (believe me, I’ve tried). The light that God shines on my path is just for me—no matter how bright or dim it looks to anyone else—it is just enough to illuminate the path HE has for me… Much more, and I may go wondering down other paths. God knows I’ve done that before. It is a path of trust, and one we can only walk if we shed our panicked attachment to the high-beams.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

in a flash

I was driving home late tonight in the middle of one of the most amazing storms I have seen in quite some time (I love storms!). The lightning was spectacular. Huge raindrops were beating against my windshield and the road had that slick, wet glisten on it that makes it hard to see when it rains at night. But I didn’t mind driving slow—I was enjoying the lightning.

The lightning made me think about God, about how he shows up in our lives sometimes. As I watched the jet black sky abruptly being lit up by bolts of electricity, I remembered all of the times that God has broken into my world—completely out of nowhere, when everything was dark and the rains poured all around me—unannounced, He was there.

With God, things have the potential to turn around in an instant. As I heard one pastor put it on Sunday, “Trusting in God changes all the possibilities.” I have come to realize that I never know just when an answer to my prayers is going to come. Time and time again, God sweeps in and lights up my world without any warning.

My life has had a lot of unexpected but exciting changes during the last month or so—many steps of faith and much waiting—but with every change, God has been right there, sending His flashes of light to illuminate my path. Such is the life of faith, I suppose—learning when we are to take steps of faith into the darkness, and when to be confident enough in God to stand still right where we are and wait for Him to shed His light.

That's the beauty of darkness... The moment we least expect it could be the moment God is about to break into our world.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

freedom found me

As I prepare for an evening of fun on this 4th of July holiday, I can’t help but think about the freedom I have found in my own life. I am so glad that I celebrate and step into new realms of freedom more than once a year on a blazing summer day.

Freedom may not always appear as booming displays of sparkling and radiant color lighting up the night sky, and it is not always choreographed to the tune of songs we wish to hear—but God alone is the author of true freedom, and I count it an honor to be a part of His story.

Freedom has found me like a hero in the night over and over again. It found me when I was hopeless; it found me when I had walked away from all things true; it found me on the lonely roads of destruction and uncertainty; and it even found me when I had settled for being a captive.

So, I celebrate today like I did yesterday. And I will celebrate again tomorrow. Freedom has found me.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

from one wiser than I...

I recently received the following words of wisdom from a mentor and friend after we had spent a morning discussing the changes soon to come in my life. Her words pierced my heart with such conviction that I was compelled to share them with you as well…

“Because I fight perfectionist tendencies (there is more than one of us!), one of my greatest dreads is missing it—somehow missing God’s voice or direction and totally missing all that God has, messing up my life and others’ lives. But some time ago, I felt the Lord’s conviction that, in times of crisis and decision-making, I have been guilty of idolatry—of worshipping at the altar of answers and guidance, and that I was being driven there by fear.

We can so easily, in times of critical decision-making, make the entire focus of our spiritual life on getting an answer rather than on trusting Christ. It becomes “answer worship” or “confirmation worship.” And, often the driving factor in seeking His voice and confirmation is fear, not trust and love. Fear of disappointing others, fear of having a wasted life, fear of missing God’s highest and best, etc., etc., etc.

Fear is rarely a God-sanctioned motivator. And I sense that He is affronted by my panicked genuflection before the altar of answers. He motivates us by life, draws us through His love, and promises to be a good shepherd, whose voice we recognize. His purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son, period. That, of course, happens through the exercising of talents and vocations. But it also happens, unfortunately, by God-ordained delays, switchbacks, forks-in-the-trail when He confounds us and invites us to trust Him at ever-deeper levels.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

lessons from playdough and new/old friends

I have a new friend. Well, really, she is an old friend… Actually, she is my sister’s friend. Anyway, the phone rang one night and this new/old/sister’s friend and I began talking, and kept talking. What started as an unintentional conversation is now recognizable as the grace of God in the lives of two young women that He deeply loves.

This new/old friend and I were talking the other day about the things that God is doing in our lives. As we were sharing our feeble and insecure attempts to “figure out” God (haha, that sounds so absurd in hindsight), I commented on my realization that sometimes I am guilty of taking my plans (in all of their logicality and reasonableness), shoving them recklessly into a mold of my own choosing, slapping some Jesus-colored paint on there, and calling it “God’s will.”

The image that ran through my mind was of a child with one of those devices where you put playdough inside, crank a little handle, and out comes the mushy concoction, now in the form of “spaghetti,” or some other creative pattern. Have you ever watched a child play with one of those? It’s a riot. They get such a kick out of taking a lump of something absolutely formless, and proudly creating it—all by themselves—into something recognizable and useful.

You see, there is only so much I can do with the lump of mushiness that is my life. And sometimes I get impatient and attempt to form from it things that only God can ordain. I pick a mold that I find logical, pour my heart and soul into it, pray dutifully while I’m turning the handle, and expect God’s best to be what is cranked out on the other side.

The problem here is not the clay, not the mold I have chosen, and not the turning of the handle. It has its origin in my own discontent with the lump of clay that I began with. It is rooted in a misunderstanding of the person of God and His irrevocable plan for my life. And from such a root grows fear and an intolerance for waiting. I am a block of clay impatiently longing to be a monument.

One thing I have learned from this new/old friendship is that some of the most monumental things take form when no one is trying to create them. There is no formula, no mold. Just the simple hand of God, who has shown two young women His grace in eachother.

As for my own devises… I think I’ll stick to playdough.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

joy is not a moving target

Very recently, I led a discussion with a group of women about “Joy.” The one thing that these women had in common is a dark history of pain, hurt, and suffering. For this particular group, joy was a topic that compelled a myriad of thoughts, perspectives, and even confusion. When I asked them what joy might look like, here were some of their responses:

“Being really excited about something.”
“Maybe like winning the lottery.”
“It’s being so happy you can’t stand it.”
“Something really great happens that you really wanted.”

One lady, who was the last to speak, had a response that I found particularly disturbing. In almost a whisper, she said, “Joy doesn’t happen to everyone. Joy is for those people who have everything they want and they are smart enough to have not made the mistakes that I have made. I’m not sure I’ll ever know what joy feels like.”

After some discussion, I posed the following observation to the above answers:

“What if joy wasn’t contingent on any form of external circumstances? What if joy took the form of… Contentment? Feeling safe and secure? Knowing someone loves you unconditionally?”

My question was met with eyes the size of softballs and the most piercing silence I think I have ever experienced. It nearly cut my heart right in two. These were looks of shock, wonder, and perhaps a little bit of timid hope. No one spoke, and all 15 of them leaned forward to see what I would say next, as if wondering what the catch was.

You see, this is such a common dilemma. We substitute external situations and tangible expectations for true joy and peace in our hearts. I watch these women as they struggle and toil, thrashing about in a world that keeps throwing them curve balls. They swing high, they swing low. They maneuver about in desperation, hoping beyond hope for a hit, for a break. They try, they try, and they try harder—to no avail. It’s no wonder they are in despair. They are chasing a counterfeit form of joy, and every time they grasp it in their hands, it escapes them yet again. One wrong move, and it is gone; one mistake, and it vanishes.

How often do we chase after a person, a word, a look, a purse, a drink, a book, a dress, a sport, a show, a scent, a smile, a promise, a home, maybe even a sermon, a mentor, or a class… to give us the fulfillment that we so deeply desire? We set our eyes on moving targets and begin to engage in a sort of mental gymnastics as we chase these things down, demanding the “joy” they have promised us. The entire time that we are running the gauntlet of our own dissatisfaction, God is waiting on the sidelines for us to come to our senses and rest in Him. What usually happens is that we finally collapse under our own exhaustion, and He scoops us up in His arms and carries us off the playing field of the game we were never meant to play.

The joy of God is not a moving target. It is not something we must search and seek to attain. It is a place of the heart where we rest in the comfort of the One who created us, where the world is silenced and all is forgiven.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

the good fork

Decisions are so hard. At least, they are when you're faced with several very good options. I'm in the process of making some big decisions and making some plans that will have a huge impact on my life, and let me just say-- this is hard stuff! I am so grateful, however, that I am facing options that I know are of God and that suit who I am and who I am trying to become. There was a time in my life not very long ago that I was making big decisions and plans, but something deep in my heart knew I was not staying true to the person God has created me to be... now THAT is risky business. Those decisions were hard, but for a whole different reason.

In a class discussion at ORU, I remember saying once that "God's will" was not necessarily a specific path we are to follow, but that it seems to be tied more to our relationship to Him. I have learned a lot about the grace of God during the last year, and I feel like I've spent too much of my life trying to "perfect" my walk with God, to do "His will," when all he really wants is for me to be close to him, to feel when he nudges me. It sounds so simple when I write it here.

The closer I am to God, the easier it is to see what things (or situations, or people) in my life are keeping me from the purpose God has for me... simple enough. So, now that I have spent many months getting rid of those things (and will most likely continue this process throughout my life, as most of us will), I am still left at a fork in the road, with multiple excellent pathways to choose from.

At least it's not the "bad fork" in the road that I was agonizing over a year ago... But, as exciting as they are, good forks can be hard too.

Friday, June 02, 2006

let it all unfold

So, there is someone that I’ve been getting to know lately, and I have to say, I am quite surprised at what I’m learning about this person. I find it so interesting how people tend to surprise you with unanticipated tidbits about themselves, and they unfold in ways you never expected. And this person just keeps unfolding, and unfolding… and unfolding. It’s almost comical. It’s nothing I would have ever expected. But I love it, because it reminds me how unique each of our histories are.

It’s kind of like the astonishment that dashes across people’s faces when I tell them I have a tattoo. Disbelief. Shock. A part of me that no one expects. (Am I right, those of you who, until now, didn’t know that about me??? Don’t worry. I'm just a rebel wannabe).

I guess my point is, I find it interesting how startled we get when we are swayed from our little ideas of “the way things are.” What do you mean Betsy? Well, I’m glad you asked… Do we not tend to see people as we wish to see them? Or view situations in ways that most benefit us? For example, when someone hurts us, sometimes it’s easier to dig up all the dirt we can about them, and focus on that so we feel justified in our pain; or maybe we justify ourselves in circumstances we know aren’t of God so that we don’t have to face the grief of parting with our personal comfort and desires. There seems to be something almost inherent about our attachment to our self-serving perceptions. It’s somewhat disturbing.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about expecting God to speak to me when I ask Him something. I’ve realized that there have been situations in my life when I have sought God, but quite frankly, I wasn’t prepared to hear His answer. I sought God because I knew it was the right thing to do, but when it came down to it, my own answer was easier to deal with than what God expected me to do. It was easier (or at least, felt so at the time) to keep a deathly grip on my ideas, my justifications. Unfortunately, my short-term cop-out nearly cost me my life. Literally.

Perhaps this is nothing deep or moving for anyone else but me, but I am so grateful that God has been teaching me that, just like the people we get to know bit by bit, He is somewhat like a big wad of paper… (It doesn’t get any less spiritual than calling God a wad of paper, I know). He just keeps unfolding our lives for us, His will for us, piece by piece. The creases are many, and the crevices are inconsistent. And that is ok. I’ll take God’s wrinkled paper over my wadded up perceptions and excuses any day.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

the revelation window

The other night I had a very interesting dream... The dream itself was nothing shockingly dramatic. In fact, this dream in particular was quite simple. What made it so powerful was the emotion and the thought it compelled in me.

It was dark. Very dark. I was fumbling around for something, anything, to tell me where I was and how I could get out of the darkness. The space I was trapped in was not very big at all. I felt suffocated by the darkness and fearful of what it could be hiding from me. I kept patting down the walls in a desperate attempt to find something that would give me a clue as to where I was and why I was there. Suddenly, as I made intense contact with one of the walls, I discovered that it was, in fact, a window, just shy of the length and width of the entire wall. As I forced all of my weight on the frame, it swung wide open, breaking free of the shutters that had provided a protective enclosure. Sunlight rushed in on me, and although it was a warm relief, its intensity was quite painful to my eyes, and it took me a few moments to see into the light.

Is it just me, or does it seem that this is often the story of life? The story of faith? There have been so many times that I have felt like I'm stumbling around in the darkness, timid and afraid, cursing the walls that trap me, when all along, my "entrapment" is actually encompassing a window that I simply cannot see-- a window of freedom, a window of light-- encased entirely by my misguided perception of imprisonment.

I find it not at all startling that the light that suddenly pours in on us during such moments of revelation is often more stinging than soothing. (Have you ever felt the burn in your eyes when you sit in a dark room for a period of time, and someone suddenly turns on the lights?) There is an initial shock that comes with revelation. No matter how much you want to see, it still takes a moment or two to adjust to the brutal exposure. The end result is, indeed, triumph... but those initial moments of adjustment are, without a doubt, bittersweet. The illumination of truth demands the dissolution of what had previously thrived in darkness, and somehow, in all of their somberness, we miss those things. We attach ourselves to our ideas, our words, and our ways, and the very nature of revelation shakes them to the ground.

In hindsight, it is all quite beautiful, but the destruction of all the things we had previously thought true is, in its time, devestating. Just like the blinding light that flooded in the window of my dream. It was a sign of freedom, a sign of hope, and a sign of life. And yet, for a moment, it was piercing, it was staggering. I have found myself often in these circumstances: either cursing the walls or cursing the throes of the light. It shouldn't be this way. The walls are embracing my window, and the sting in my eyes is merely a sign of new truth.

Yes, in hindsight, it is all quite beautiful. Perhaps in foresight, I can call it beautiful even before I am able to see it.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

the muddy water that cleanses

I was reading an interesting passage of scripture today... 2 Kings 5. It taught me a lot about myself.

Naaman, commander of the army of Aram, had leprosy. He had gotten his king to send him to Israel (Aram's enemy) in order to be healed by the prophet Elisha. Upon his arrival in Israel, Naaman received the order from Elisha's messenger that he would need to go and dip in the Jordan river in order to receive the healing. Naaman got a little upset. That's where he started to remind me of myself...

v. 11-12 read "But Naaman went away angry and said, "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?" So he turned and went off in a rage."

I practically tripped over myself in that passage. The first thing that I recognized was Naaman's frustration that his move from God wasn't coming in the manner HE expected it to. "What?! All I get is a stinkin' messenger?! Isn't the prophet going to speak to me? Aren't I going to feel something? Isn't this going to be a big deal?"

Second, Naaman was bothered by being told to wash seven times in the Jordan. The Jordan, from what I understand, isn't exactly a pristine river. It's murky. It can be downright muddy. "Are you kidding? You want me to dip myself SEVEN times in this nasty water? How can something this disgusting possibly cleanse me?" I get the feeling that this wasn't the grandiose healing experience that Naaman was hoping for.

And so, here I sit--guilty as charged. I too have thrown fits like Naaman. I have ventured off on desperate journeys in search of an act of God, only to find that He doesn't move in exactly the way I had expected Him to. I couldn't even begin to count the number of times that I have expected God to turn a situation out a certain way, and not only does he NOT do it my way, but he also sends me to be cleansed in ways that aren't so pleasant at the time. And not only are they unpleasant, but sometimes it seems like what God asks me to do will take me in the opposite direction of where I'm trying to go!

There have been so many times that I have sought cleansing, and God has pointed me to muddy waters. How often do we expect our renewal to come as a nicely packaged, sweetly fragranced remedy for life, when in fact, what we need is a humble dipping in the mud of our own understanding. Ah, but yes... just as with Naaman in v. 14, obedience releases the grace of God for me to understand...

Somehow, every single time, it works. Every time, the muddy water that I try to avoid is exactly what carries me into the next sphere that God has for me. It washes away doubt, fear, pride, pain, and self-reliance, and it flushes me clean of my own expectations.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

it takes a brave soul to be broken

As I think about my future as a professional in the fields of psychotherapy and spiritual direction, I am poignantly aware of a progressive nature towards the annihilation of discomfort. This seems to be occurring not only in the realm of the "helping professions," but in society as a whole.

An astounding majority of psychology’s involvement in the area of personal discomfort lends itself to the concept of dissonance as something that must be either skillfully prevented or promptly annihilated. This is illustrated in the vast amount of literature and practice claiming to help individuals prevent personal troubles or eradicate them altogether. Our society has come to embrace a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality. It can be seen everywhere. Walk into a local bookstore, and you’ll find hundreds of psychological books on moving beyond grief, simple ways to relieve anxiety, and “bouncing back” from virtually every kind of major life disruption. It is not a seldom occurrence to hear of some highly praised Ph.D. coming to your area to give a motivational seminar on how to fix the problems that life presents so you can go back to enjoying the “good life.” The problem at stake is that, in the shadow of these glorified professional wound-dressers, we have come to define “good” as “the absence of bad.” As psychologist Dennis Gibson puts it, we become emotional hemophiliacs, terrified that the slightest touch of pain will cause us to bleed to death--but the good news is that God made our blood to coagulate. We are not going to bleed to death. There is no need to avoid all injury because we have the ability to heal.

We have been taught to avoid it, but it is detrimental to smother the reality of the hurt we all encounter. This is a fallen world, and we have all been suffocated. That is both of us, and everyone around us. We can either bury it or to let its texture mold the monument of our lives. Someone once said, "We have every right to be greatly disturbed." Disturbance does not equal doom. I am certain that if we will allow ourselves to face some of our harshest realities and deepest wounds, we will someday look back on those long days of piercing darkness and uncertainty and say, “Those were, without a doubt, some of the most important days of my life.” I am also certain that, especially as Christians, we will find that they were times when we came to a profound awareness of the grace of God, and that in those moments, God spoke things to us we may not have heard under any other circumstances.

Just as moisture softens clay to be fashioned, so the human soul is made supple in moments of vulnerability, and will eventually take the form of a monument—shaped over time by the etching of adversity and the flames of fortitude. Perhaps its placard would declare the words of Nouwen: “In the midst of our sadness there is joy…in the midst of our fears there is peace."

genesis of the MoSaic

I was talking with a close friend of mine not too long ago about "post college graduation life." It was a delightful, yet awkward discussion to have, as the reality of my current transition is, to this moment, still hitting me. I recall saying, "I really just want to be tucked away somewhere where I can just write...think, and write..." For some time the desire to somehow etch my thoughts and reflections into tangible existence has been searing inside of me.

And so, although I am certainly not locked away anywhere, this blog was birthed. It is the attempt of my heart, not to attract any kind of following or fan club, but to express some of the things that I believe are God given reflections, questions, and ponderings. My head just gets too full sometimes. Perhaps this can be my release valve. If you read this very often at all, you'll find that all I have are little pieces of life that I am attempting, by divine grace, to position together in some fashion that can point others towards the God in whose arms I rest.