Category Archives: Self / Emotions

Focus, Breathe, Listen

Sorry I’ve been so hit or miss this year. I could easily pull the “I’m so busy” excuse, but the truth is, writing has always been a priority for me, and if it’s not happening, than something besides busyness is going on in my life.

As for the last two months (some might say last four?), I’m not exactly sure what that is, except that today it feels like I might finally be pulling out of it. Nothing has changed. I still have all of my commitments and potential distractions, but I sense a pattern emerging.

That, and I am learning a truth. For at least the last two months people have been telling me how they have so much filling their lives – school, activities, obligations, relationships – and yet, if they rest in God, if they focus on Him, if they give Him a bit of time each day, it all gets done in a comparatively unharried manner.

Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention the first, I’m sure twenty, times I heard this. I mean, it’s something you hear a lot of as a Christian.

“Focus on God; He makes all things better.”
“Give God your time.”
“Tithe your time too.”
“Are you doing your devotions? They’re critical you know.”

The thing is, traditional devotions have never done anything more me except make me antsy and feel guilty that I’m not having amazing, huge revelations. And so I’d spend time with God in my own way. Like, journaling when I needed to vent to Him. Or praying in the car on the way to any one of the many places I travel in a week.

But, the thing is, I need to be more intentional than that. I need to sit down, expectant that God is going to meet me in whatever fashion He desires. I need to quiet my mind and just listen. Sure, having a Bible nearby is a good idea, but having my journal near by or my ipod with music is just as important. And I need to be still. I need to remind myself that He really is my first Love. I need to treat Him like that instead of just taking Him for granted.

I need Him to be first, my motivation.

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Here I raise my ebenezer

Ebenezer. I type that most people reading will think of an old, skinny dude with slightly used clothing who is always grumpy and grumbling about the cost of coal (thus, heat) and undigested potatoes. Or you think of a duck counting money.

But today is not about Ebenezer Scrooge, but about his name which, I suspect, Dickens might have given to him on purpose.

See, the word “ebenezer” is an actual thing. It’s a thing that you keep around to help you remember what God has done for you, or in you. So, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the promised land, and God had each of the 12 tribes pick up a stone and build an alter to remember what He did that day – He was asking them to build an ebenezer. He was asking them to remember what He had done for them.

God knows just how easily we humans forget things, especially during times of hardship or pain. And so, having things around to help you remember what God has done in you is incredibly important. Otherwise we begin to doubt God’s goodness.

No bueno.

As you begin this new year, think over last year. Where were you a year ago? How has God helped you grow? And then, figure out something to keep around to help you remember where He has brought you from.

For me, pictures are a big deal. Every year for the last four years (if you count this one too) at the beginning of January, I have gone through all the pictures I took of the year that just ended, and put them together in a memory book. Memories are important. Our journeys are important. The stuff God does in our lives – the big and the small, mundane everyday stuff that we might not even really notice – is important.

This year, take some time out to remember. Figure out an ebenezer – you’ll need it in the coming year. God is good, but sometimes we need reminders of just how good He is.

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Reflections

The last Friday of the year, a great time (and place) to reflect.

Things I’ve learned this year:

– Treasure your friends and never take them for granted. You never know when they will be called elsewhere. And you have no idea how much you are going to miss them.

– Also, sometimes you become friends with people you weren’t expecting, and it’s wonderful.

– You can be still and have a heart at Sabbath even when your world is spinning a million miles a second.

– That being said, times of physical stillness are incredibly necessary.

– Being thankful for what you’ve got, when you’ve got it is crucial to enjoying life.

– Relationships are the most valuable thing you will ever invest in. Don’t give up on them. Keep working.

– God loves you, beyond imagination.

– Priorities, priorities, priorities… and remember that HIS priorities trump yours.

– Be ready for surprise, side trips, and bunny trails.  And enjoy them.

– God restores, redeems, and blesses…though usually none of that looks like what you think

– Pain is not necessarily something to run from, or try to end.

– The Velveteen Rabbit is still my favorite children’s book out there. Read it before the end of the year if you haven’t yet.

– Laugh

– Take care of yourself, and trust your instincts. Often, they’re right.

– Love God and trust Him above all others.

What about you?  What did you learn this year?

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The Good Shepherd who Wrestles

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“Lord you are our shepherd, we will lack for no good thing, for you take us to the pastures that are green, we lay beside still waters, bring refreshing to our souls, as you guide us in the paths that make us free, lead on…”

This song, from the first time I heard it in church, has brought tears to my eyes and a deep longing, of “Oh yes please Lord”.

It’s been an interesting journey this past semester of school.  I have been busier than perhaps I have ever been: a couple of intense classes at school, more youth group involvement than ever previously, friend stuff.  I should be worn out and exhausted (and sure, I look forward to several days of simply luxuriously reading fiction when break starts in a week – George MacDonald, J.K. Rawlings, and Robin McKinley here I come) but I am still able to function and move.  This should not be so.  I should be an emotional basket case.  Weird.

God has been leading.

One of the things that has made this semester intense is the fact that I have been doing a bit of wrestling with God.  Sometime this semester, I wrote about how I think God invites us to wrestle with Him about various weak points or needs in our lives.  Well, I have been wrestling with the idea of God’s goodness, pleading with Him to show me He is good.  I mean, sure, I believe He is good.  But I have seen His work enough, I have been around Christians and the church long enough, to understand that “good” does not translate into God wanting me to be happy, or to have everything I want, or any such silliness as that.  And so, I have clung to the exact opposite.  That God’s goodness means that God will only shape me in misery, pain, and through general hardship.

Sometime in September I asked God to help me believe that He can use happy times to teach and mold as well.  That God’s goodness CAN encompass laughter, delight, and soul-comfort along with the pain that I already know about and seem to grip so tightly.

I’m not there yet.  I still mostly only look for His goodness in the pain happening in my life.  I’m still deeply longing for the fullest understanding of “good”– because it is true.  Sure, the American church does not teach the hard part of God’s goodness enough, and they are robbing their members of the deeper understanding of God because of this.  However, to only believe God works through the hard stuff, like I do, means I am missing out in who God is as well.

So I’m wrestling.  I’m wrestling to believe the 23rd Psalm.  I long, so deeply, to be led into green pastures.

And yet, as I look at my life, at my craziness, and I notice the peace within me despite everything, I realize He has been doing just that.  If you read Psalms 46, you read a battle song, full of the Lord doing battle, and at the end, He tells us to simply Be Still and abide in Him.  Be Still amidst the chaos of holidays, of family, of drama, of shopping, of church.  God will do battle for you (through you).  He is good – all the painful, wondrous, complicated, intricate implications of that word.

Let Him lead you into the green pastures…just know you have to actually use your feet to walk into said pasture.  And know that often the green pasture is surrounded by Only-God-Knows-What Chaos.  And you will be asked to help Him.  Our God is a God of the peaceful spirit actively participating in the good life God has given us.

 

 

Also – if you haven’t yet – go read the update under the Dressember tab.  I’m wearing dresses again for the month of December.
If you want to support me, but not necessarily wear a dress yourself, feel free to give here, to help people rescue those who are enslaved.

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What Drives You?

Why do you do what you do?

Why did you spend hours cooking in the kitchen yesterday (or why did you not)?
Why are you out buying the Christmas gifts you’re buying?
Why do you get mad when someone trash talks your favorite athlete?
Or when they criticize your music? Or TV show? Or favorite movie?
Why do you work to make the grades you make?
Why do you take it personally when someone rejects something you’ve worked on for them?

What is driving you?

Is it selflessness, or is there something else lurking there?  Some desire to be recognized, appreciated, needed, loved?  Not that those are bad things, but if those things are why you’re doing what you’re doing, there will be more problems in the long run than blessings.

So, this holiday season, take time to analyze your motives.  Why are you buying those particular presents?  Why are you going to yet another Christmas party?  Why are you baking another batch of cookies?

What drives you?

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Sensei God

Hey Guys!  Meagan’s back with her brilliant thoughts! 

While my husband and I were on a backpacking vacation this summer, I poured out my heart to God, sitting in our tent. I have poured out my heart many times over the past two years, as we have faced physical, emotional and spiritual struggles like none I’ve never experienced. While I was in that tent, ferociously scrawling out prayers and thoughts into my tiny travel journal, a word came to me: Abide. It was unmistakably a word from God. Abide. What does that mean anyway? It means stay. To stay within, and partake fully in something. God told me to abide in him.

Specifically, he wanted me not to be looking for anything while I abide. Soley to know him better by staying in his presence. Over the past years I have been constantly seeking answers about my future, my past, how to deal with a lot of pain. I look for purpose, I ask for direction, I pray for all kinds of temporal blessings. All of those aren’t bad things until they become a laundry list of requests as if we are wishing to a Genie. God is not a wish-granting factory. He is a God of relationship.

So, I spent the rest of vacation pondering that word, abide, and how I might proceed to abide when I returned home. I began reading a daily devotional that is specific to experiencing the presence of God and how he sees, guides and nurtures us. Through scripture, the short daily readings have expanded my understanding of his character, and taught me to trust him with my life. That’s a HUGE step for a control freak.

Though, when you think about it, aren’t we all control freaks? We make every decision based on our belief that we can command the outcome of every part our lives. If something goes wrong in our master plan, we look for where we screwed up our system, or blame someone else for screwing it up.

In abiding, I’ve been trying to learn how to let go of that habit, and let God handle my outcomes. But like a classic control freak, I got wrapped up in the habit of “doing my devotional” rather than practicing the Presence of God. I went back to my usual daily treadmill, kind of half-praying to him when I “got the chance”  instead of truly listening to him. I let myself be distracted by every other thing.

This happens when we start feeling confident and good, doesn’t it? We forget to hang out with God. Or we remember, but put it off. Why IS that? Why do we forget to commune? We start relying on our own perceived strength and promptly forget he was the one who picked us up off the floor in the first place. Talk about lack of gratitude. Talk about abandoning and ignoring a friend that has helped, you, or rather, saved your ass.

When my life started getting disorganized and overwhelming again, I realized the auto-pilot habit I got into. I had a one-on-one date with God to just hang out. I need that radio-muted, inner-racket-muted, TV-off, chores-left, quiet, in order to hear him and really communicate — two ways. He doesn’t yell over my own noise. He waits for me to pursue him and gently reminds me that he is pursuing me.

This season, where I’m waiting and kind of wrestling with him to stop trying to run after some life that I find “meaningful,” is the abiding season. In a desert, there’s nothing else to do but talk to God. And drink lots of water.

The purpose is not to do anything but know him. Not to halfway know and then ask for something, but to really KNOW. Not to try to get answers, but just be still and know. Know his character, know what he expects from me, let him teach me His ways (which are so far from my ways, it’s laughable) and take those ways as my own. Sort of like a Sensei and his student.

There’s a scene in the movie Kill Bill, where Kung Fu Master Pai Mei teaches his student, Beatrix Kiddo, to punch a hole through a 4-inch thick wall. He says to her, “Now that your arm belongs to me, I want it strong.” She spends the next several months with a broken, swollen hand, learning to master the wall.

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In the same way, our body, mind and soul belong to God. Like any good teacher, God shows us our weaknesses, through our own flailing attempts control our lives. When we end up in a puddle on the floor, he uses our utter dependence upon his mercy to rebuild us with divine strength. Strength that actually lasts. Strength that can beat any foe.

This process is going to take a LOOOOONG time for me. God has a lot to teach me, and is very patient. Meanwhile, I’m very flawed, very undisciplined, and incredibly impatient. I am going to have to hit a wall with my fist until I break my hand.

I  challenge you to learn what it means to abide in God and learn his ways as your Sensei.

I challenge you to discipline your mind so that you can give your full attention to the ultimate teacher.

More than anything, I challenge you to fully trust him. Every morning, choose to let go of your little dominion of control, and let him handle your worries, fears, and doubts. Let him show you the better way, through his eternal view.

I’ve been practicing these three moves, and I can tell you from experience, it’s been the most rewarding learning in my life. If God can redeem a disaster case like mine, he’ll do it for you, too. He’s made that promise in his infallible Word — Check out Genesis 28:15, Hebrews 11:6-7 and Psalm 37:4-7.

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The Exception

DSCN8247                So I’m half way through my semester, and one of the main things I can tell you that I can take away from my Brief Therapy class is “the exception”.  When nothing else is working in your life, think back to a time when something was working, preferably something that was working that is similar to whatever “everything” isn’t working right now, or a time when the “everything” was working.  Generally something was different.  That one different thing was what was helping it work.  That different is called the exception.   Once you figure out what the exception was – do more of it.  It’ll help fix whatever “everything” is going wrong.
One of the ways I remind myself to slow down is to always carry a camera with me.  It’s a reminder for me to take time to listen to God, or to be aware of God’s love for me.  I have found, in taking pictures, that often my favorites are ones with “exceptions”; ones with the one scarlet leaf or even a cluster of crimson flakes clinging to a towering pillar of golden coins.  Pictures with a single white rose amidst a garden of red, or the sunflower that has its held titled just so, allowing the sun to illuminate it, while the rest are pointed in just enough of a different angle so as to not be lit-up.

The exceptions.  They’re the ones that make us stop and take notice.   They’re the ones that help make things better.

The exception – this is what Christians are called too.

The thing is, it’s hard to be an exception.  There is something inside humanity that seems to desire to fit in.  And yet, while we want to fit in, we want to stand out.  We seem to innately understand that the unique ones are the ones that are noticed, and we want to be noticed and not blend in with the crowd.  We want to be recognized for who we are, for the person God crafted us to be, and we recognize that God only crafts unique individuals.  We want our individuality to be known, and we want to be loved despite (or even better – because of) it.

And yet – being the exception is scary and potentially painful, and so we also have the instinct to simply be blend in with the crowd.  I think we want to fit in because we’re insecure and need the safety of a group.

We’re confused, basically.  We want to be wall flowers and the life of the party all at the same time.

Beauty is always unique.  The minute it becomes commonplace, it is no longer as easily recognized as beautiful.  It no longer makes us stop and stare.  We no longer appreciate it.

But being willing to be the one that stands out, the one that everyone stops to notice, is hard.  In our currently messed-up world, it means being willing to be ridiculed or worse, celebrated.  It is painful.

And yet, this is exactly how God created us – each with our own unique thing that can make others stop and take notice.  And as Christians, our lives are supposed to be the exception to the world around us.

There is pain, sure, in being the exception, but there is beauty too.  And this is what Christians are called to – being the exception.  Being the ones who can fully embrace the being God originally created them to be.  Being the ones who accept better than anything else.   Being the ones who can see pain and need and joy better than anyone else.  Being the ones who can see the exception in others and celebrating it.  Being the ones who can enter into others’ pain better than anyone else.  Being the ones who love all types – the easy and the hard, the confusing and the understandable, the painful and the happy – better than anyone else.

Be the exception.

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