Tag Archives: God

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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Fanta and Mirrors

In the last week, there have been a couple moments of simple beauty that struck me.

The first, I was stopped at a traffic light, waiting for the infernal red light to turn green, when three boys around the age of 12 come out of the corner gas station.  They all wore t-shirts and long, baggy, teenage boy shorts, and were each carrying a bottle of orange Fanta. They walked across the street and into the neighborhood of houses, and I no longer could see them.  I don’t know what it was about that sight, except that it felt precious, innocent, and rare to me.  Three boys just hanging out.  Friendship.  No technology in sight.  It was almost like a moment from the past reached into the present.  I wish more of my youth kids had moments like those – moments of pure friendship.  Moments of walking to the corner store to buy a soda after school.  Moments of hanging out and having conversation without technology somehow infringing on their bond.  And sure, these kids were probably headed to some basement where they would blow bad guys up for a couple hours.  But even that walk, to the store to get a Fanta, that was moment enough to actually build friendship.

It left me smiling for the rest of the day.

The second I again was in my car (I spend quite a lot of my time in my car these days).  I was driving by a small lake (pond in any other part of the country) and noticed how absolutely still the water was.  When I say it was a mirror, that there wasn’t a single ripple on the water, I’m not being metaphorical; I’m being quite literal.  I have never seen such still water.  I could see the reflection of every single tree and bush that graced the edge of the lake.  I could see every single cloud in the sky perfectly reflected in the water.  It was as if some giant had carefully placed a mirror on the ground.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  And I was reminded that I was made to reflect my savior as this lake was reflecting its surroundings.  I wondered how well I’ve been doing that recently.  Am I such a reflection as this pond?  Or am I a more stormy or muddy pond that is too anxious or contaminated to reflect His beauty well?

It was a pretty sight, and one that has challenged me.

I love when I notice the little moments; they are usually the ones that dig into me most, the ones I remember and stick with me.

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Come Thou Fount

A couple weeks ago I talked briefly about “ebenezer”s, and how we all need things (physical things) in our lives to remember what God has done.

Well, I think maybe “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” might be a theme for a while in my life. I’ll post the lyrics at the end, just in case you didn’t grow up in a liturgical church and have never heard this particular hymn.

Anyway, I say that because it has been an interesting week. It’s the week before I start back to school. There have been some absolutely fantastic and fun moments in it. There have also been several honest moments. And more than a few that left me emotionally drained and just finished.

But as I was driving home from work last night, briefly headed toward the mountains, the last glow of the sun leaving the mountains a pointy silhouette on the horizon, I saw a shooting star. You don’t see shooting stars much in city bounds, but I saw one last night.

And it reminded me that no matter what, no matter what was going on in my week, good or bad, memorable or simply ordinary, God is good; God loves me, and that is enough.

So, as I go into school and my already full schedule flexes to take on more reading and class attendance and paper writing, I need to remember that God is good.

He is to be our focus and motivation for everything. And as long as that is true, all might not be easy or comfortable or make others happy, but it can be good.

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

2.            Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

3.            O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

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Fog

I’ve had to drive in the fog a couple times in the last week. Which, in Colorado, is weird. I usually drive in the fog MAYBE once every six months; to have driven in the fog several times in the last months is completely weird and slightly global-warming-end-of-the-world-the-dinosaurs-are-going-to-return ish. Weird.

The point of me saying that though is that about the fourth trip into the mountains with fog clouding my view I began to wonder if God was trying to tell or teach me something. Rule of three – if three times something is mentioned, out of the blue, in some sort of weird circumstance, God’s probably trying to communicate something. I’m just not used to the rule of three applying to nature as well. Probably why it took me more than three…and someone mentioning fog in conversation completely separate from my driving experiences for me to take notice.

Anyway, as much as I love fog during the day, it can be rather intimidating at night. Fog during the day you can’t see stuff. Fog at night…well, you really can’t see trees looming at the side of the road or the occasional deer on the road or even the car one hundred feet a head of you.

And lately, this is how my life has felt. I have seen maybe a half step ahead of me, and while I take that step, it is kinda scary, and makes absolutely no sense and a tad bit unsettling.

But, as much as I might complain about my life being in the fog, I think I prefer it to being able to see everything. For instance, sometimes if we see how far we have to walk, if we see how far we have to go, we become paralyzed with how much we have to overcome before we reach our goal. Like climbing a tall mountain. We can see the summit, and it feels so far away and like we’ll never reach it.

And honestly, God works both ways. Sometimes we see the end, but not often. Sometimes we’re in the fog and have to trust Him about the next step on the road ahead of us.

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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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Christmas Sabbath

I’m done.   Every paper is turned in, every test taken.  It’s good. I felt such a crazy amount of freedom yesterday as I drove away from campus knowing I probably won’t be there again for a good six weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I love seminary and my classes, but breaks are needed and necessary!

Which is probably why God modeled Sabbath for us, and then decreed that we should do the same. Something I found interesting in my New Testament class this past semester is that often, Jewish holidays were treated as extra Sabbaths in their week. I love that idea. I love the idea of holidays being Sabbath.

Which is so foreign of an idea in Western Culture. We have presents to wrap, places to be, meals to prepare (or run to the store and buy and then arrange nicely), family to enjoy (or attempt to please), and church to attend (at the very least). It’s all very hectic.

But what if it wasn’t? What if, for Christmas this year, we took some time out and just enjoyed the tree, the people, the food, the presents. What if we just took time to be still? Or, since abiding and Sabbath are NOT just about being still, what in, in the midst of the chaos, we focused on God being our source of peace. He is supposed to be, after all.

It is possible, in the middle of garnishing the ham, to take a second and quietly give thanks (and I do mean a second), or in the middle of the presents, to simply soak in the joyous expression of a loved one. Sabbath and abiding, I have discovered over this semester, are usually found in the half-seconds, in reminding ourselves Who really Is the reason for all of this.

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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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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.

Displaying Pai_Mei_teaching_Bride_Punch.jpg

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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Being Human

I am really beginning to the hate the Christian phrase, “Well, we’re human.”
There is this idea out there that it is our humanity that causes, or maybe better said, allows, us to do horrible things, or to not achieve what we’re supposed to.
We’re humans, so we murder.

We’re humans, so we wreck our environment.

We’re humans, so we use each other.

We’re humans, so we gossip.

We’re humans, so we sleep around.

We’re humans, so we bully each other.

We’re humans, so…

You get the idea.

And I hate it, because it’s not true.  We DON’T do those things because we’re humans.  There is nothing bad about being human.  In fact, when God made Adam and Eve, in the garden, He said that “It was very good.”  God wouldn’t say that about something that inherently did horrible things.
Being human is good.
But, living in a world that is broken, (thanks to a little fruit eating, and then years and millennia and who knows how long of rebellion against God) we seem to think that this is natural.  That our fallen state is natural.  And that this is just the way it is.

And it IS just the way it is…but it wasn’t supposed to be so.

Stop blaming stuff on being human, and own up to being broken.  It might actually help.

Broken can be fixed.  Broken can be restored and redeemed.  Broken can be repurposed.  Broken is not the end of the world.

Own up to being simply broken, to living in a broken world (it will help you remember this isn’t how it’s supposed to be and there is better coming); allow God to fix your brokenness.  Let’s see where that gets us.

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