Friday, March 28, 2014

Poison Dart Words and Their Antidotes

Sometimes words, intended to harm or carelessly spoken, can be poisonous darts that strike at places of insecurity and fear in us. Maybe we cannot help being wounded by them. It hurts and staggers us. The wounds may come from strangers or at times from the people who love us best.

The question is - where do we go from there? Do we agree with the deadly and detrimental words that diminish us and let the poison take root? Or do we fight – look for antidotes, combat lies and discouragement with truth and encouragement in order to heal and overcome and live more confidently into who we truly are? As e.e. cummings noted:

 “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  

Recently, I was reminded by my sister that no amount of money will be “enough” to secure us for all future occurrences—real security is not found in finances but in trusting God and relying on His wisdom to direct us in every area of life and in every season.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 – “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, not to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

Isaiah 46:4 – “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you, I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
My sister also reminded me that I do not need to take on other peoples’ worries nor do I need to hold onto my own. Sometimes fear is contagious or our circumstances may tempt us to start freaking out on occasion. But 1 Peter 5:7 says to 
“Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.”
God will help us through everything we face in life no matter how daunting it seems at the time.  

I need to remember that God will provide for me in every season of life and that my worth is secure in belonging to Him and that I have so much to be grateful and glad for right here and now.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Miscellaneous Fun with Poetry

restless freedom
a little blue sky time
feet in the sand
waves crashing


The soul sisterhood, kindred spirit, coffee drinking
Gathering begins


Kindred hearts
Discuss God, life, favorite books
And joy blossoms


The forest beckons
Playfully, bounding
Full of winter sunlight
And laughter


Speak shame withers
Lies exposed to the light
Not perfect – good and bad in us
But not a lost cause either – redeemable
Covered by grace


Scared she was
            What if the words wouldn’t come
            What if she ventured out into nothingness
                        Where would that take her?
                        Where would that leave her?
            Somehow. Miraculously. Surprisingly.
            After all, God’s blessings come in
                        Unexpected Ways.
                        She wrote.
            The fear was vanquished
                        By Grace.
            The words unfurled
                        Not perfectly or always easily
                        But truly, beautifully, joy-filled.
                                    An act of faith
                                    And love.
                        And where the words came from?
                                    That was often a mystery
                                    Of Divine Love and Providence.
            As when she wrote,
                        She experienced God’s wonderful presence
                                    And pleasure
                                                The delight of Life together.
                                                Never alone. Loved forever. Deeply glad.

Some Things to Help Mend a Broken / Rejected Heart

Ice cream
Really living
The intricacy of a snowflake
An old friend
Knowing who you are matters and always will – no matter what others think
Being yourself
Being a child of God
Letting go
Trusting God
Knowing there is more life ahead
Remembering you’re not the only one who has felt this way – most everyone has
You are still wonderful
Getting outdoors
Having a dog for a pet
The people who love you for who you are (strengths and weaknesses)
Continuing to show up
Living each of the questions into a brighter tomorrow 
Savoring today

What makes your list?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Some Thoughts on Joy and the Marrow of This Present Moment

What an awesome winter for cross-country skiing! :) Today, while out on the trail - exhilarated by adventure and joy, awed by the beauty and romance of creation, I was thinking - if only I could get a job where I got to be outside in the woods every day like this.

Then, all of a sudden, I knew God was speaking to my heart a huge, "Hello! What about fully experiencing this present moment!" ;) Of course! I am so rich in what is right in front of me! And - Yes! what I really want is to savor more everyday moments like this and to have a greater awareness and gratitude to celebrate what is right in front of me. Sometimes I do get too greedy and think that I need to somehow arrange for my future happiness with some master plan. But really, there is life right here and now that I do not want to miss! God is continually providing me with life and daily bread. That made me think of this passage from Matthew 6:25-34 NLT about the birds and the lilies of the field and how God cares for us:
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God[d] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Thank you, God, for all of that. I want to keep soaking up the marrow of this present moment with You - and each moment after it on into eternity. Nothing compares to the romance and adventure of life with You :) 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Immeasurably More

Also, this past weekend on an Amtrak train, I sat by a woman who is a minister at an African Methodist Episcopal Church. What stood out the most from our shared conversions and reflections on each of our lives, God, was that you are always working things out for our good in ways beyond what we can ask or imagine - You are with each of us through all the ups and downs of our lives and You care about the tiniest details of each of our lives.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
. . . this same God who attends to the majestic details of the universe also gives meticulous attention to the minutiae of life. For instance, the Bible says that He has the hairs of your head numbered. That's serious attention to detail! Not one baby bird falls out of its nest apart from his attention (see Matthew 10:29-30). He is God of both the macroscopic and the microscopic. Nothing is too big or too small to be beyond His direct control. . . . There is not one person who is continuously on my mind, but you are never out of God's conscious thought or away from His immediate attention. He has been obsessed with you for all eternity and can't take His mind off you. He is so in love with you that He has committed all the resources at His disposal (which are considerable) to your well-being. God has never glanced away from you for a moment. . . ." -from A Divine Invitation by Steve McVey

Condemned ALL - Redemption Possible

This past weekend, I was returning from a conference in Chicago for my graduate classes in library and information science, and I happened to be traveling on the Metra on Sunday morning when a lot of the people who were traveling on the Metra were going to attend the Chicago Gay Pride Parade. That initially got me thinking about how God loves all of us and how I do not want anyone in the world to miss out on knowing God personally, on knowing how much God loves them, or to miss out on experiencing real, abundant life in Christ. As humans, we all desire love, but sometimes we look for it in ways that are not good for us, that cause us and others harm, that are much less than God's best for us, that are not as God intended (sin).

On the crowded train, I happened to overhear one young man questioning the Bible as a comprehensive guidebook for life - when it does not tell a person how to run a computer, etc. - and more to the heart of the matter, how it could condemn a whole group of people?

My introverted brain does not often function in a way that allows for instantaneous responses in life - I tend to react slowly because I have to take time to internalize a statement, turn it over in my brain, and then consider what my response would be (and I certainly do not have all the answers to life's mysteries and questions).

In that case, something struck me as incongruous, and I greatly appreciated his statement because it got me thinking and reflecting... The Bible does not single out the gay community for condemnation - in actuality, it condemns everyone.

Romans 3:23 NIV says:
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God".
And likewise, the first part of Romans 6:23 NIV says:
"For the wages of sin is death"
We all sin and fall short of God's perfection and holiness and righteousness and goodness. Fortunately, for all of us, that condemnation does not have to be the end of the story! Yes, we are all condemned by our sins, but we can all be redeemed freely by God's grace because Christ died in our place. God came to earth as a human and walked among us and experienced what we did and then died and rose again from death to life; Christ conquered death to save us, to pay the penalty for our sins, to redeem us, to restore us, to transform us for the better. The verses of Romans 3:22-27 NLT say:

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith.
Likewise, the full verse of Romans 6:23 NLT says:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
As I have mentioned before, I really liked how a friend put it that "we are all sick with the same disease (sin) - we just have different symptoms." We are all in the same boat. There is no room for pointing fingers or judging others or condemnation when we all sin. We all desperately need God to save us. We all need grace. We need God's help to be free of the enemy's grip on us, to live lives that are free of sin's power over us and lives that are transformed for the better. Galatians 5:16-26 says:

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are redeemed once and for all - because of Christ's sacrifice, the ugliness of our sins (areas we stumble in past, present, and future) can be entirely covered over by God's righteousness. We just need to receive the gift of redeemed, eternal life in him. Our sin separates us from, God, but because of redemption in Christ, we are made righteous / right with God and can have a personal relationship with Him.

There is nothing better than being restored to a personal relationship with God (the Most Wonderful One of All who Loves us Truest and Best).

Once we receive salvation in Christ and surrender our lives to God's leading and desire to walk through life in a personal relationship with God, the Holy Spirit (God choosing to dwell in us) is present with us always, every moment, every day and begins the process of daily transforming our mind, heart, attitudes, actions, lives for the better. In accepting Christ's sacrifice, in knowing God's great Love and salvation, and in walking daily with God in relationship - Real, abundant life begins - the Great Adventure and Romance of knowing God personally and experiencing life together with Him.

But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    you are my God, do not delay.
-Psalm 40:16-17 NIV

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Marriage Question & on Wholeheartedly Living Now

I thought I would share some of what has been percolating in my heart lately, so that God may possibly use it as a source of encourage to someone else.

The desire to get married has grown in my heart immensely in the last couple of years especially. I'm still learning, like Rainer Maria Rilke writes, to:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions”

Sometimes, with such a deep desire, it can be hard to be patient. Sometimes it can seem so intense and urgent. I think of how there are a lot of great guys at Bible study in the young adult community at church whom I am blessed to know as friends, but I only get to see them about once a week, and their is no guarantee that one of them will be God's choice for my future husband. It seems like nothing is happening yet, and if it were to happen that it will have to happen SLOWLY. lol. Or, at times, there is this ridiculous fear that if I miss one single social event, then it will happen TWICE AS SLOWLY. lol. Sometimes I have to tell myself, "get a grip!" Seriously. lol. If I am really seeking to follow God, then I cannot in any way speed up or slow down His will and timing for my life - nor would I want to! God sees the whole picture and knows best.

And, ironically, if God did begin to bring something about in that area of my life, I would not want it to be rushed. I do not want to date or marry just anyone - I do really want to know God's will for that area of my life. And, if I ever do fall in love with a man of God who pursues me and where God has guided and directed us both clearly, I would want to savor that and to continue to seek God every step of the way (as with every other area of life).  Besides, it takes time to get to know people and that is good. I want to just keep being myself and to let others be themselves and to get to know people and to really celebrate friendships and having fun together in this season of my life, and to wait (patiently) for God's will to be clear.

I think it is just hardest at times to feel the intensity of a desire and feel like NOTHING is happening. But, other times, I am hopeful and believe that God is already at work on certain things behind the scenes in so many ways that I cannot see. Or it can be hard to think that just because something has not happened yet that it might not ever happen (not true, but sometimes feels true). But with God, all things are possible. And I want God's will for my life whether that means being single or married. Both are gifts. There are often other moments when I am so filled with joy in God and in life now that I think - life is so deliciously good - take your time arriving, future husband, I am savoring and living up life now being single - no need to be in a hurry ;) lol. What a waffle! I believe it is always important to acknowledge and surrender all of the deep aching desires and glorious dreams on our hearts to God, and also essential to savor LIFE wholeheartedly and contentedly and with thanksgiving - right here and now and always and wherever we are at. Whether single or married that is "real life" too with both ups and downs and bitterness and sweetness and goodness and wonder.
In all of life, it hugely helps me to know that:

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless." -Psalm 84:11 [emphasis added] 

God's plans and timing and ways are perfect. 

 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." -Romans 8:28

I want to wait and see all that He has in store throughout this life :)

I think it was Eric and Leslie Ludy's book When God Writes Your Love Story (although I could be confusing that with a different book) that I read awhile back that mentioned how part of the romance of falling in love is that time of mystery before you ever know who your future spouse will be - that time of wondering. Sometimes I think, yeah right, when I am exploding with curiosity over what I like to refer to as "the marriage question" or "mystery man" - wondering who my future husband will actually turn out to be - if it is part of God's plan for me to get married. I JUST WANT TO KNOW THE ANSWER! lol. But other times, I can see the wisdom in that, I think that everything good in life is worth waiting for and part of what makes it worthwhile / romantic is the hope and curiosity and wonder and anticipation, and yes, even the waiting part that can be so terribly difficult at times. As a Josh Turner song puts it, "The longer the waiting the sweeter the kiss." 

In the midst of the waiting and wondering why that desire is so huge on my heart lately, I am continuing to find that there is so much treasure in each in every day spent with God - the Most Wonderful One of All - Who Loves us Truest and Best - even when some areas of life are "hope-deferred" ones that remain shrouded in mystery and unresolvedness and that require great patience. Even then, God brings to every single day unexpected treasures and romance and adventure! :) I recently discovered this Bible verse via a book (I think a Robin Jones Gunn one), and I absolutely love it:

"I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." -Isiah 45:3

God is always doing that! Bringing out treasures in unexpected ways. So keep your eyes peeled. It may not be the particular treasure you are hoping for just yet, but look out! There is so much goodness in store! :)

And, while sometimes it can be painful to feel rejected at times or to look back at my various crushes (a.k.a. wrong guesses thus far at who my future husband might be), I also frequently find it to be quite funny and laughable. Some guesses were clearly ridiculous and short-lived and cases of letting my imagination get ahead of reality. Some were guys I appreciate and admire and still do, but were just not "the one" God has chosen for meI do believe it is so true that some of "God's greatest blessings are unanswered prayers." I have been blessed to meet so many wonderful people in life and have many amazing friends. But I will just marry one man, and I want him to be clearly God's choice and for it to be God's timing and handiwork.

Sometimes, I liken wanting to get married to waiting for Christmas day when you know that you have this amazing present coming, and you just want to KNOW what it will be and in the meantime to guess at what it might be! But ultimately, you have to wait and see. Or, it is like being excited / curious to solve a perplexing mystery. But again, in this case, the answer will only come with patience and time and seeking God along the way for discernment.   

Somewhat related to that, I have always really liked the saying, "If you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans." :) Not at all in a bitter or cynical way, but rather, because I LOVE the thought of making God laugh :) Sometimes, when I am talking with God, I purposefully create ridiculous scenarios for how my life will turn out in general or how my future husband and I will meet just to share a good laugh with God :) Sometimes, it is just so good to laugh :) And, at the heart of all of that, I know that God's plans are always way better than anything I could dream up (thank goodness. lol.) 

I have several journals of letters to my future husband and pray for him at times now before we have met. Sometimes that seems confusing and hard, when I have only been wrong so far and still have no clue as to who he will actually turn out to be. But I want to continue to be hopeful because I trust God to lead me through the labrynth / confusing conundrum of relationships and the marriage question (and all of life!), and I trust that God will make things clear when I need to know themI pray that God would help me to live well in purity and faithfulness. I want to love God and others well. And I want God to chose for me IN EVERYTHING. I like these Jamie Grace lyrics about listening for God regarding the marriage question:

". . . when my ears start hearin' what people say
Hurry up find love cause times tickin' away
Well, I'm not bein' lazy I'm just waiting for
Still waiting for the right boy
Cause I only want to listen to Your voice
So I'll be listenin'
Always listenin' to You everyday"

I want God to choose in all His wisdom and goodness what is best for every area of my life. 

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." -James 1:16
And ultimately, while I do really hope to get married at some point, no matter what the outcome, I know that I will be okay - because the deepest desires of my heart and life are already (and always will be) fulfilled in knowing God, in His Great Love, and in belonging to Him and doing life together :) God is my Husband, Protector, Provider, Pursuer, Lover, Friend, Greatest Joy, and much more! I am so blessed!

"I will betroth you to me forever;
    I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
    in love and compassion." -Hosea 2:19
 "For your Maker is your husband--the LORD Almighty is his name--the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth." -Isaiah 54:5