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Chaos, Social Justice, and Facing Fear in order to Seek God's Face

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.  Isaiah 26:3 A warning in advance-in...

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lessons learned in (on) silence…

Throw the whole of your anxiety upon Him, because He Himself cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7(WNT)

It was my intention to call my Gayle this morning between dropping off my children AND retrieving my BFF at the dealership (routine car maintenance). I was seeking to fill the silence. That was not God’s Will for me today. Instead, searching for interesting audio distractions, I landed upon a discussion of 1 Peter, and it was the particular language of the translation that spoke to me…

                Throw the whole (ALL) of your anxiety upon Him…

I would not have learned that lesson, in that manner, had it not been for quiet time to listen, instead of reaching out for someone to talk to…

The message was about worry and about trust, but I had to have quiet to receive it.  It instantly made a difference, and already today in a moment of anxiety, I was able to calm my mind, say a prayer, and repeat this scripture. I felt better, reminded that worry was NOT my job.

There are lessons to be learned in silence. Can you hear them?

On Thursdays, I pray and and play with friends here...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

So much to be learned from silence…

    a time to be silent and a time to speak
Ecclesiastes 3:7b (NIV)

Silence makes me uncomfortable; I know how to fill it. Nervous, I can prattle on endlessly. Neither am I good at being still. There is power in stillness; we dancers convey as much by stillness as by the most dramatic movements. Silence, stillness require great trust. I am working on trust.

As a younger person, less clear about who and WHOSE I was, “peace and quiet” made me uncomfortable. I needed to be doing, saying, or hearing something. Oscar Wilde famously wrote “with age comes wisdom”…I hope so.

To the question what one thing has helped you before that could help you again, my answer was
granting myself permission to be still to hear His Voice.

Last Sunday, weary and overwhelmed, I did the opposite of what I would ordinarily do (read “meltdown”).  I retreated to be silent and still. It freaked the kids out just a little. I went upstairs to the dining room while everyone else was in the library, put on some quiet music and sat perfectly still, eyes closed in a straight backed chair. I cleared my mind and sought God. At some point, each of my children came up to investigate. My mommy(spidey)sense stopped them in their tracks. One claimed she thought I’d fallen asleep (I hadn’t), the other thought something was wrong. Clearly, I will need to teach them to worship in silence. I sat 20 minutes. When I rose, I remembered how richly silence and stillness bless me. I was better.  (Gotta do that again. You should try it. Read what Margaret Feinberg writes about Silence here.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Surrendering to Sabbath, slowly (a series about growth)

Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Genesis 2:3 (NIV)

At Shelly Miller’s invitation (admittedly, I received it as a bit of a challenge), I joined a community of women in the Surrendering to Sabbath Society. Initially, I was clear this call was NOT for me. I have friends who are orthodox, and so appreciate the rigor of observing Sabbath. While I try to honor Sundays and keep them Holy, this was a far larger commitment than I could reasonably make, and why on earth would I commit to failure? Look deeper, something within me said. Take baby steps…

I didn’t say no. I said yes. Quietly. So, for the last three weeks, I’ve been getting my mind right in stages. Change for me in this case another form of surrender, is a gradual process. The first week I thought about what could be changed, and how. Mostly, I thought about the woman of Proverbs 31:26. First, I prayed that all I did might be soft…

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Proverbs 31:26

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Checking in on my list of 10...

Plans fail for lack of counsel,
    but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 15:22 (NIV)

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

Before last year ended, I made a commitment, not to New Year’s Resolutions, but to more consistently intentional living.  I gave myself a list of 10. In terms of making those changes stick, I think it’s important to check in, ‘fess up, and be accountable. This is my first check-in.  In some areas, I’ve got it going on. In others…Lord knows I have work to do.

This commitment is a little larger than just doing a few things better. I want to live to my God-granted potential. I no longer want to stay in my comfort zone any longer than necessary.  I read an inspiring article this week called “How to Achieve Goals That Feel Out of Reach,” and I’m taking it on. In the meantime, let’s review a couple things to see where I am…

If I look at the first 4 items on my list, I need work. #1 is a slam dunk and I’m on it. 
1-Always a roast chicken in the fridge
"those with help and accountability
are far more likely to succeed"
from the Do What you Can Plan
by Holley Gerth
Every week since I made this commitment, just before the New Year, I’ve made soup, chicken salad, or a quick chicken sandwich, just because I have chichen around. It relieves me of having to scramble at the last minute. It is absolutely one of those on-top-of-it-girl things that makes me feel a little cooler and keeps life a little simpler. This takes my list from 10 to 9. According to achieving goals that feel out of reach, I have expanded my comfort zone to make a chicken in the fridge the new normal. Gotta find something to add in the open position. I like ticking things off my list.

                2- Always pause before speaking
I’m growing here, but I could use more work. Reviewing my list, it occurs to me that I could wed this to #3 and 4, and work on them together.
                3-Breathe more, talk less, and 4-Consciously stop interrupting
Originally, my intent was to better control the things coming out of my mouth by pausing first. That helps ensures intentionality, and  greater accountable for the things I say. It is one thing to think before speaking; another entirely to pause. I believe that pause honors the listener by conveying a) that I have heard them, and b) they deserve a thoughtful, considered response. I can do better. #3 and #4 naturally follow…breathing more and talking less (we could probably all do with more breathing and less yapping), and to become a better listener.

In giving myself the benefit of the doubt (which I think was overreaching, at best), I claimed  originally that my reason for interrupting is that “sometimes my brain moves really fast, and while I don’t intend to be rude or give the appearance that I’m not actively listening, that may be the way it comes across.” No. How about I talk too much, and I am choosing to be concerned about being a better listener OVER always having my say. I assert now that the thing I am working on, intentionally, is giving a fully measured and well-considered response, after listening carefully AND actively. Fully engaged. Not musing about my reply instead of paying attention. My brain will submit to the patience the rest of me is working on.

With #1 off my list, and #2, 3, and 4 collapsed into one, I’ll do a little celebrating and then get my list back up to 10. We grow or we die, and I’ve heard more than once this week that we need to keep things ahead of us as goals.

I’ve also learned from coach/friend/encourager Holley Gerth that when you set goals, intend to change your life, “Don’t Go It Alone.” According to Holley, writing in The Do What You Can Plan (available here) “those with help and accountability are far more likely to succeed…if we invite someone into our journey, we risk them seeing our weaknesses and knowing that we aren’t (gasp!) perfect. Yet ironically, it is only through letting others see all of who we are—our triumphs as well as the mistakes along the way—that we truly feel loved.”

So, I’m asking you to help keep me honest. Make me accountable. I want to have a list at the end of this year with all new milestones. I don’t want to still be working on the things I started out the year working on, I want to move. Come with me? I’ll still be surrendered; I’ll still be broken, but at the same time, I will be new. You could be too...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

...the first day of my "end of the 40s" world tour...

LORD, make me to know my end, and the measure of my days, what it is
: that I may know how frail I am.
Psalms 39:4 (AKJV)

Today’s my birthday, and even before it began, last night, I realized that I wanted to give it away. I was last night, and am right now, in such a good place. You see, today is the first day of my "end of the 40s" world tour and victory lap. Today I am 49 years old. I am alive (one of 4 living generations in my family), I am well and in my right mind (well, mostly). I have friends. I have family. I am loved. It may ve 20 degrees outside but my body and my soul are warm--I am safe. God is good. He has been good, even when I was at my worst. I could complain. I'd rather rejoice. I choose to start the celebration and my year by declaring that I am surrendered. I am BROKEN, Walking the dog this morning, I heard, in a new way, the lyrics of William McDowell's "I give myself away." You see, since I've already been broken that I might be remade in His Perfect (and in me evolving) image, giving the pieces away is not a complicated thing.  
Take my heart
Take my life as a living sacrifice
All my dreams all my plans
Lord I place them in your hands...
I give myself away…

Between that and “Take Me to the King”, written so beautifully by Kirk Franklin and sung masterfully by Tamela Mann,

Take Me To The King
I don’t have much to bring
My heart’s torn into pieces
It’s my offering…
…No rules, no religion
I’ve made my decision
To run to You
The healer that I need…

I have not only my birthday music, but the soundtrack and the theme for my day and my year.  Happy Birthday to me. When you read this, please indulge me in this birthday gift-hug someone wonderful; be honest about love. Love is a gift. I am content. I choose to share that gift of contentment..soul-deep peace. That is what I desire for my birthday…to give myself away.

Final thoughts? This is my year. This is the year I pull so much of what I have experienced together and I believe that this is the year in which so much in me will be released, in Jesus’ name. What a birthday present! What a year! 

I just read something by sister-dreamer Mel Schroeder, guest-posting at (in)courage today...not about my birthday, but so about my birthday....

"I have no doubt that God was in it, and He worked it out exactly as it should have been. He knew what I needed more than I did and met me exactly where I was. As He always, always does."
On Thursdays, I pray and and play with friends here...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Learning not to be an island…

Bear one anothers burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

I have problems asking for help; It makes me uncomfortable. I’ve already confessed to a capacity conundrum
…I'm neither stubborn nor masochistic… It's just that I've got little engine that could-it is…I think I can. I push when I should rest. I move when I should be still. I offer because I can. I have a capacity conundrum.
We hide our own needs,
out of pride or fear, not only
robbing ourselves of the blessing
but also robbing others of
an opportunity to bless. 
I am very good at helping, offering, covering, being the kind of friend I’d want to have. I just don’t have any idea how to receive what I’d expect anyone else to…It wasn’t until I realized that my selfishness, my inclination to be an island, is a sin. We are taught in Galatians that it is the law of Christ that we bear one another’s burdens. So, by insisting upon not asking for help, I sin.

As usual, Matthew Henry’s Commentary of Galatians 6 makes it plain.
 It becomes us to bear one another's burdens, as fellow-travelers. It is very common for a man to look upon himself as wiser and better than other men, and as fit to dictate to them. Such a one deceives himself; by pretending to what he has not, he puts a cheat upon himself, and sooner or later will find the sad effects. This will never gain esteem, either with God or men. 
I’ve often put that cheat upon myself. I meant no offense, but knowing better means you do better. I declare here and now, I know better.

Fortunately, God sent me just the teachers I need to get over myself, since the other thing I’ve learned is that if I insist upon continuing on my own, disaster is imminent.  I have my own blessed trinity, in the form of my Gayle, My BFF, and my newest best gift, a hundred or so sister-dreamers, featuring my very own sister encourager. Let me tell you how they change my life.

If you read my writing regularly, you already know about my Gayle. (you can read more about my Gayle here)
Oh come on, if you’ve fantasized at least once about being Oprah, you know who a “Gayle” is…)
My Gayle is my ride or die friend. We have been friends since college. She is my oldest friend, more than 30 years, knows all my stories, even the ones she wasn’t around for. My husband is first in my life, but Grey’s Anatomy fans will get this…she’s my person. We’ve prayed together, laughed together, and she was my first teacher in accepting help with Grace. You see, my Gayle is retired senior military.  She spent her career telling people what to do. She is gracious enough to seek my advice, and I do not argue when she offers advice, or assistance. I didn’t say I ask; but it is she who taught me to receive.

My BFF became essential to my life when she bought the house across the street. She is that friend. Our children run ingredients for spontaneous kitchen inventions back and forth across the street (we share one pretty remarkable mega-pantry). We don’t impose upon one another—we wouldn’t know how. She is among the most gracious, thoughtful, and considerate people I’ve ever been blessed to know. I have only asked her for anything when I was in desperate need; usually at her prompting. Just yesterday, primed with a bribe, I screwed up my courage. (I know God is working on me) I was very uncomfortable, but really needed to ask her a favor. It wasn’t such a big thing, but I swallowed my very real discomfort and asked anyway. As only she could, she laughed (she has a hearty, all in laugh), having already assumed she was part of the plan I was agonizing about…
My Gayle taught me to receive. My BFF taught me to ask.

That brings me to the newest of my blessings, in the form of the Divine Miss N (she is actually Mrs. F, but I like my nickname better. I hope Mr. F doesn’t mind…) Once I signed up for this God-sized Dream Team (we now refer to ourselves as GSDT), I promptly moved left (or right, no, probably left) of center to watch the action. I’m a bit of a lurker, and believing God to get me over my sudden attack of self-doubt ( I am so NOT that girl) I got a blessing in the form of an encouraging buddy.  But I didn’t just get any buddy. I got someone who told me she was going to be in my face (in a loving, Christian way). God didn’t just send me any buddy, because in typical me fashion, I wasn’t even in the asking line. I inadvertently waited a couple days, NOT ON PURPOSE, to even connect with someone. God knew what He was doing. He does. This is how God does a blessing. Here is how my Divine Miss N introduced herself…
Thanks for daring to let me be your buddy. I will encourage you and pray for you. … I will be dedicated to touching base with you every Tuesday…I may check in more often, but want to let you know when you can count on me. Feel free to let me know how I can best encourage you this week. I will read up on you (nicely stalk? Yikes) and start the check ins next week. Cool? Blessings to you!
I was stunned, because her showing up just the way she did gave me the very real reminder that God is AWESOME. She can’t have known how I saw God in her message. And, not only did she make the offer to encourage me, she showed up and showed out.

Just a few days later, uncomfortably for me, I reached out to the group to ask someone, anyone, to critique an essay. In strolls the Divine Miss N, offering to read it, asked numerous questions, drew me into a dialog about faith, socio-politics, race, and history, and made me want to pull up a chair with her at Starbucks or a library or over a pot of tea where we might share and fellowship for a few hours. In one week’s time, the Divine Miss N has become my girl.

The further along I journey with my GSDT, the more I understand that the dream I’m working on is as much me as what God might see fit to produce through me. It’s already a miracle.  

Lord, I didn’t mean to sin, but I know better now. Often we see one another’s burdens and instantly know how to anticipate sharing. We hide our own needs, out of pride or fear, not only robbing ourselves of the blessing but also robbing others of an opportunity to bless. We have not because we ask not.

This week’s lesson is learning not be an island. No (wo)man is an island. Lord, I declare my thanks to You, for sending my sisters to light my way. Thank you for my own blessed trinity. I can be better because they’ve taught me better. I read just yesterday that “broken things can become blessed things if you let God do the mending.”Lord,  I’m grateful to be broken. I’m more thankful You are my God, the mender.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Soundtrack to my OneWord

The Lord God Most Powerful has spoken.  He calls to everyone on earth, from where the sun rises to where it sets.
Psalms 50:1 (ERV)

The Lord God, Most Powerful, spoke yesterday. Quietly. Perfectly. Clearly. I’m still shaking off that fog of despair that had me feeling like I was in the shade rather than basking in the light of the Son. But just about the time I think I can’t go one, He speaks. In my listening, I discovered the soundtrack for this year. I found the music to accompany my OneWord

Truth is I’m weak
no strength to fight...But still my soul
refuses to die
One touch will change my life
Take Me To the King
Kirk Franklin wrote a song for actress and gospel artist Tamela Mann called Take Me to the King.  Blogger Chan-lo, describes the song as follows:

 Tamela Mann ... is known for her beautiful voice, but this time she kept it relatively simple (with the help of Kirk Franklin who wrote and produced this record) and instead delivered a song that will speak to and identify with many of our individual struggles.
While the somber feel of the record is evident, Tamela sings something in the first verse that sounded a war drum in my very own spirit:
“…But still my soul refuses to die, one touch will change my life.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to those places when I’m tired of church, tired of praying, and tired of feeling disappointment. However, in those moments my soul knew and understood that I just needed the right word from our King. I also knew throughout all, good and bad, His glory is evident and still remains.
I’ve found a new fight song.  Right there on the radio, commercial radio, by the way, someone was singing my sadness. Someone was singing my despair, my empty feeling, but also my redemption, reminding me that I’ve never been alone, and while this might feel like forever, this is merely a valley I must walk through. I am reminded that this too shall pass.

I am a little less discouraged, and feel the light of the Son again. I am thankfully broken; I am never beyond the reach of His Love.

Take Me To The King 
by Kirk Franklin 

performed by Tamela Mann

Take me to the King
I don’t have much to bring
My heart is torn in pieces
It’s my offering
Take Me To The King

Truth is I’m tired
Options are few
I’m trying to pray
But where are you?
I’m all churched out
Hurt and abused
I can’t fake
What’s left to do?

Truth is I’m weak
No strength to fight
No tears to cry
Even if I tried
But still my soul
Refuses to die
One touch will change my life

Take Me To The King
I don’t have much to bring
My heart’s torn into pieces
It’s my offering

Lay me at the throne
Leave me there alone
To gaze upon Your glory
And sing to You this song
Please Take Me To The King

Truth is it’s time
To stop playing these games
We need a word
For the people’s pain

So Lord speak right now
Let it pour like rain
We're desperate
We’re chasing after you

No rules, no religion
I’ve made my decision
To run to You
The healer that I need

Take Me To The King
I don’t have much to bring
My heart’s torn to pieces
It’s my offering

Lay me at the throne
Leave me there alone
To gaze upon Your glory
And to sing to You this song

Lord we’re in the way
We keep making mistakes
Glory is not for us
Its all for You

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Baby Steps…

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. Its a ghost, they said, and cried out in fear.

ut Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Dont be afraid.
Lord, if its you, Peter replied, tell me to come to you on the water.
 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Matthew 14:22-29 (NIV)

I haven’t been myself lately. I haven’t felt like I was in the sun.  I don’t mind shady, but I’m a sunny girl. It’s always a good day. There’s always a reason to look up. I’ve spent the last two years blogging that “when life gets particularly rough, there is comfort in that in an imperfect world, a perfect God loves us and abides with us through all things." Yup, that's a quote, and it's mine. There is always a reason to praise the Lord. I know that. but honestly, on some level lately, I've been phoning it in. 

I am sincere in the encouragement I offer; I know how to be happy for someone else while feeling like I’m breathing under water…struggling. I’ve been feeling breathless a lot lately, and not in a good way. I know that God never fails; that His Love is unfailing and endures through all things, but I also know that I’ve been feeling like the Pearly Gates just closed, and I’m on the outside looking in. It might be enough to make you give up. 

Click here to read the article
But you see, God gave a message that every now and then I need to return to …when life gets particularly rough, there is comfort in that in an imperfect world, a perfect God loves us and abides with us through all things. So, if I have faith, then I must proclaim that I don't want a right away God/ I must proclaim that I worship a God who is right with His timing, with His lessons, and with His Love. And so, in faith, I take baby steps.  

The disciples expected to perish in the storm, but Jesus walked out to calm the water. So traumatized by their fear, they mistook Jesus for a ghost. Peter took a baby step, asking, “Lord, if it’s You, call me to Your side.” Isn’t that the prayer of desperation? Doesn’t it resonate with the deepest, most afraid, most human part of your nature?

I took a baby step. As a member of the God-sized dream team, my mustard seed goal was to do one thing in furtherance of my goal to write and publish a book. I will not say that I offered my best work to God (my piece could have been better edited; I forgot include images, I’m sure I could have re-written it several times over). I was discouraged, frustrated by being on the sidelines joyfully cheering my sister-dreamers, more than a little sad that it wasn't yet my time. I took a baby step anyway. God blessed my mustard seed and now I’ve been published in an online magazine. I wasn’t rejected. I took a baby step.

Paraphrasing something Holley Gerth wrote that I read this morning, listening to her constant encouragement, listening to God, I crossed the ocean, burned the ships, and felt dry land under my feet. My toes got wet, but I walked in faith. (baby steps, but moving forward). I feel like dancing, and in fact I did, in praise, this morning.

I cannot say that I am enjoying being in the shade, but being in the shade still means you’re in the presence of the sun. The Son. Son shine. So, I will live broken, reminded that I am nothing without You, Lord. I will (try to) remember not to be discouraged… (I know Peter loses his nerve and falls in the water, but that’s a story for another day.) For now, I’m taking baby steps…

Don't be discouraged
Joy comes in the morning
Know that God is nigh 

Stand still and look up
God is going to show up
He is standing by 

There's healing for your sorrow
Healing for your pain
Healing for your spirit
There's shelter from the rain

Lord send the healing
For this we know
There is a balm in Gilead
…To heal the soul

Richard Smallwood

On Thursdays, I pray and and play with friends here...

OneWord 2015

OneWord 2015

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