Thursday, December 22, 2016

It's Christmas

So this year I decided to do some readings for advent. I bought one book and then found a free download from a John Piper so I have ended up having two advent readings on the go instead. And I read them like I read everything right now: words on the page that go right through me.  They don't stick. They don't make an impact. I read them and then move on to the next thing. Usually Facebook or another internet time waster.

The Christmas story is just so familiar to me. The carols are so familiar. Yeah God made flesh. Hail the incarnate deity. Yes foretold before time. Yes I know. Whoopie and all that.

So in the Piper reading today, this is what I read . . .

something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power.

For once I paused and let that wash over me. I sent up a quick prayer that I would feel that amazement of God becoming man. God as a baby. The one who created the world stepping into creation. And the words came to me.  "He stepped into our mess."

HE STEPPED INTO OUR MESS. He left a perfect relationship with the father. He left a world untainted by sin. He left adoration. He left it all and stepped into our messy, messy world. A world where his people were conquered and downtrodden by corrupt leaders. He, the perfect leader, had to submit to jealous leaders. He was born into the mess of a stable, the mess of illegitimacy, the mess of refugee status, the mess of disease, the mess of being misunderstood.

HE STEPPED INTO OUR MESS. But not to simply walk through it with us but to transform it.  He wants to bring peace to the nations, peace to families, hope to the oppressed and downtrodden, legitimacy to the outsider, blessings to the poor, life to the dead and dying.

HE STEPPED INTO OUR MESS. And continues to do it over and over. So I stopped and brought up some messy situations to Him. Step in Lord and work your transformation. 

I want to detail my mess here but it is a shared mess and there is an off chance that some people will see that I have restarted blogging and know of whom I am talking.  If it was just my mess, I would be more free with my words but the thing with messes, is they are hard to keep private. They spill over, affect others.

And yet I do have a private mess that needs transformation. A mess of bitterness and resentment that life hasn't quite turned out the way I want. A mess of thoughts and ideas made from flitting from one thing to another rather than focusing on deeper content. A mess of worldliness rather than godliness. A mess of jealousy. A mess of loneliness. A mess of distance from God. I don't want to look at nmy mess.  I don't want to sweep out the cobwebs of my soul. I would rather turn a blind eye. But God...He wants to STEP RIGHT IN. His presence alone starts the transformation

"Come into my heart Lord Jesus.  There is room in my heart for thee."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Book #3-Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber

This book was an accidental find. I had posted on Facebook my goal of reading 40 books for my 40th year in order to gather some suggestions (which rolled in by the way. So much to read so little time.) In the meantime, I decided to go to my Overdrive App and choose an available one from the library. This popped up and I was like - "hmmm Finding God in All the Wrong People. Sounds intriguing. Sounds what I am looking for."

And boy was it ever what I needed as a follow up to the last book I read. This one too talked about addressing the garbage in our lives, being real, falling on our face. But in this book it is Christ that picks us up. It is Christ that gives us value. It is his community, broken as it is, that holds us together. This book had the hope that the last book didn't. It told me, "It doesn't matter if you are doing your best. God wants to use you ANYWAYS!!  Honestly it doesn't matter what you do but rather how you allow God and others in."  There is grace. There is redemption that is above us. We can give away our mess instead of muddle through it.

This is the type of book that I want to reread. This is the type of book that if I saw it, I would want to buy it because I already fell in love with it.

Lord take my mess. Help me to remember I don't have to own it. I don't have to redeem it. You do not expect perfection from me in order to use me. You do not need me to know all the answers but rather to continually search out the author of truth.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book #2 - Rising Strong by Brene Brown

I had seen a lot of posts about/from this author online and heard some talk by friends and the book was available through my library app so I thought - why not give this a try.  I don't really want this to just turn into a book review. If it sounds like a simple book review than the book didn't resonate with me in the way that I wanted it to.  I guess part of it was I felt like I jumped into a process midway through the process. The author herself said it was almost the third book in a series - that her other books came first. I really wanted to read this book, journal open, pencil in hand, quotes ready to go. This is difficult to do when you are reading in the dark, breastfeeding a toddler to sleep.  I think with written reflection, this book would have had more meaning for me. As it was I couldn't get over some contrived phrases and words. It's too bad because there were definitely some things that resonated with me, some attitudes that I recognized. The book did act like a mirror at times, reflecting myself and I didn't really like what I saw. 

The ideas that resonated with me, that I had to chew on and am still chewing on is her rumble with the idea that people are doing the best that they can. She had difficulty with this idea. She did a poll of friends and strangers and found something strange.  Those who said no had perfectionist streaks. They were as hard on themselves as others.  Those that answered yes were people she considered wholehearted: people who valued their own worth, who were willing to be vulnerable. I might view them as people of grace - those people who I have always admired. 

I too have trouble with this concept. I am so performance based. I can be so hard on myself and that extends to others - especially those closest to me.  What if I embraced this philosophy though?  What if I looked at what others were doing right rather than what they were doing wrong?  What if I gave myself grace to be weak, to make mistakes and share those mistakes rather than hide them?  What if I focused on and developed my strengths rather than trying to work out of my weakness?  What if I could get rid of shame?  What if ....?  Would I be less stressed?  Less bitter?  Less angry?  Would I be more joyful?  More loving?  More kind?  

The poem at the end resonated with me and gave me courage to speak up this week. If I don't like how something is going, don't hide it.  Try to change it. Address it. So in small group I showed vulnerability. I talked a bit about Justin's struggles with depression and my struggle with bitterness and anger. I don't want to hide anymore. I don't want to pretend. 

"When we deny our stories, they define us.
When we run from struggle, we are never free
So we turn towards truth and look it in the eye"

I guess over all I felt this book to be empty, flighty, rootless. Everything was about what we could do and nothing about what God does on our behalf. When I fall down, flat face in the arena, he can help pick me up and brush me off. He gives me the strength to do that. He can help me look deep into my emotions and pain.   He writes my story. He is the truth. He can help me face what is truly going on. I don't want to hide anymore. 

My closet as a metaphor

So after reading Seven by Jen Hatmaker, I was inspired to do a bit of a closet makeover.  I asked my hubby whether I should try to keep just 40 articles of clothing or get rid of 40 articles of clothing. He suggested to start with getting rid of 40 articles of clothing, so on Saturday, I had some time and set out to do the cull.

The result?

I didn't make a dent in my pile of clothing. My closet is still packed. I still have 9 dresses, 2 grubby Tshirts, 2 grubby pants, a passel of scarves and the list goes on and on.  More stuff than I could ever need. This  cull did  not involve sacrifice. In fact most of the items removed from my closet are more suited to the rag bag than the thrift store. It was more getting rid of the weak and decrepit. Still necessary. Oh boy was it necessary but not quite the life lesson I thought it would be.

Instead it might have been the life lesson I needed. I found myself debating which raggedy tshirts I wanted to keep vs wanted to put in the rag bag. I debated keeping a pair of ripped up, holey jeans.  I had items that didn't fit, were in disrepair or just looked hideous and I hated getting rid of them. This is so true in life too. I hang on. I hang on to memories when the reality isn't the same.  I hang on to relationships that are tattered and torn and frayed. I maintain a view of myself that isn't  true anymore. I try to fulfill roles that I have outgrown, moved past. I have sin, habits, routine that fill space but drag me down. I look at them every once in awhile and ponder what I should do with them, and then stuff them back into the closet. They don't repair themselves there. They continue to deteriorate, collect dust. I need to make  a decision to either discard the things that take up space or repair them, update them so they fit the times that I am in.

My closet is still full of faded and tattered clothes. I would love to update it (if I had unlimited resources). But until I clean out more items, adding more and better items just contributes to the clutter.  The new and beautiful will be overshadowed by the used up and threadbare. I need to purge the things that have served their usefulness in order to fill it with items that can be used.

This is my desire this year with my life. What habits have served their usefulness?  What traits are a little worn and threadbare?  What thoughts and voices are providing clutter rather than beauty and clarity?  Help me to get rid of these things so that I can fill my life with the perfect.

As far as this challenge goes, I achieved it but I think that it will be a repeat challenge. There is still more to purge and get rid of. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Book 1 - Seven by Jen Hatmaker

So one of the challenges that I want to do as I transition to 40 is read 40 books. Books that will challenge me, form my worldview.  Some of the books can be rereads but I want most of them to be new.  The one that I read most recently is Seven by Jen Hatmaker.  In this book the author gives up, simplifies drastically seven things in her life over approximately seven months.  These were drastic fasts: seven foods for a month, seven articles of clothing for a month, a month of no media, a month of remembering the Sabbath and other spiritual disciplines, a month of only seven stores, amounts of environmental care.  She trimmed the excess of life, lived radically so that she could make room for God to move.  She took out the weeds, started tilling the soil and waited for the best of God's plan to come.

I had been thinking of commemorating my 40th with some challenges and this book confirmed that I should at least try. There is so much excess in my life. In my 20s I was living a somewhat radical life - serving in the middle of nowhere as a teacher, stepping out in faith that what I did made a difference.  Then in my early 30s, I was burnt out, embittered, jaded and moved to civilization to heal.  I gave up some of my passion, started pursuing other things, thinking that my time of normality was a phase.  But now I seem stuck in this phase.  I no longer live and act radically.  I am more interested in protecting my own than stepping out in faith.  The matter has become more complicated as I am now married, have a child, have more to protect, have someone that needs to agree with any crazy scheme I might think of.  It is more difficult to step out in faith now when I have pledged to not walk alone through this life any more, when I have yoked myself with someone else.  (I am not dissing my husband here but stating the reality of marriage)

Forty is a good time to reevaluate.  After all it has significance in scripture as a time of testing and trial that in the end resulted in some pretty good things.  For example Noah spent 40 days and 40 nights on the ark and gave birth to, well all human kind, all nations.  The Isrealites spent 40 years wandering in the desert, as part of a refining process due to their disobedience and lack of faith, and gave birth to a nation.  Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness before stepping into ministry and gave birth to a revolution.  All of these times of testing resulted in changes that reverberate through history even to today's times.

So what will my 40th bring.  What kind of passion can be birthed into my soul spirit?  What kind of action can I take that will have eternal consequences?  What type of things can I give up so that I can make more room for Jesus's work?  Let the adventure begin.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

The Big 40

So this year, in July, I turn the BIG 40. I am not sure exactly how this has come to pass. Even stranger, how at 40, I have a husband of 3 years and a clingy one year old. This is not how I envisioned my life.

But I have been contemplating 40 lately and contemplating things that I could do over the next year and a half to commemorate my 40th birthday. So the resurgence of this blog is for me as I celebrate, reevaluate and prepare for this next decade of my life. I want to make it a worthwhile decade. A decade dedicated to Christ, to my new family, to others.  Frankly I feel I have so much to dedicate my energy to that I feel spread thin and ineffective in most areas of my life. So I want to learn to say no to the good so that I can say yes to the best.

I am contemplating trying to do 40 challenges. Not sure how I am going to squeeze these in to an already spread thin life.  But maybe by challenging myself to new things, stretching my faith, questioning my values, I will learn something about myself, my faith and my world. I want to challenge myself to put faith into action, to live out my stated values, to live an uncompromising life with grace and love.

So here's to the last half of 39. Here is to another decade. Here's to the grand adventure that is life.