On the Road to Anything

I believe the Holy Trinity is one of the most mysterious truths contained in the Bible.  It is difficult as a human to conceptualize a being that is simultaneously three in one.  However, there are moments when I catch glimpses of a whisper of understanding. Or at least purpose in the design of it all.

In John 14, during the discussion Jesus has with his disciples around the Passover table, he explains how he will be leaving them, but He will be sending a helper to all those who believe in Him.  It’s something I’ve known about/heard about since becoming a Christian:  the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity.  This manifestation of the one true God has always been the hardest one for me to wrap my head around; mainly because He’s always been portrayed as the aspect of God I’m supposed to feel.  And if I’m completely honest, most days I don’t FEEL much God around at all.

This week as I was finishing the Bible Study Named by God by Kasey VanNorman she directed us to read a couple of places that spoke about the Holy Spirit.   John 14: 26 (ESV) reads “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to you remembrance all that I have said to you.”  Then, when you see Paul talking in Titus we see this:  “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:4-6 (ESV)).   We are renewed by the Holy Spirit, we remember the teachings of Christ through the Holy Spirit and we are taught things by the Holy Spirit.  These are aspects of the Holy Spirit that Kasey wanted us to see.

But what I saw was a reminder that God is Big and Mysterious and Multi-faceted.  We only have the Holy Spirit in the context of the Trinity, because the God of Abraham is but One Being.  Both of these verses refer to all three aspects of the Trinity.  And while I’m not exactly certain the significance of that yet, I feel that it’s important.

Because to a frazzled, working mom wearing many hats, that seems to be a comfort to me today.  The fact that God, who is all things at all times, has these aspects of himself that are manifested for specific purposes is soothing for a woman trying to juggle multiple roles in her life.  And all of the manifestations of the Trinity are important.  God the Father as pure and holy creator, loving us too much to let us go; Christ as relatable, redeeming Savior; and Holy Spirit as the present helper and teacher.   My different roles don’t make me fractured, and it’s okay to need to set aside one role on occasion to focus on another because that’s more important to the story right at the moment.

But I also see it as challenge.  Because, even when one aspect of God seems to be taking center stage at various times throughout the story, all of the aspects of God always work for one thing, with one goal in mind: For God’s Glory.  What would life look like if all of my personas were to be able to run after that same goal together?  That no matter whether I’m wearing my mom hat, my wife hat, my daughter hat, my sister hat, my employee hat, my co-worker hat, my friend hat, etc. my goal would be to glorify God?  It’s a challenge that Jennie Allen issues in her book Anything.  A challenge to lay down our lives, everything, and be willing to do anything to follow God and fulfill his purposes for our lives, the ultimate purpose of which is to glorify God.

I think at this point in my life I’m more like Jennie’s friend Karen who told her “Jennie, I can’t pray that [anything].  I can’t turn this life over to God.  I am scared of what may happen” (page 54 of the Kindle edition).  Jennie goes on to talk about how, especially in Karen’s situation where she had experienced tragedy, she can understand how her friend was torn.  Following completely abandoned after Jesus is costly.  For some, hugely costly.  To pray anything, to give everything, means God might just take that offering.  She goes on to make several more compelling and honest points and ask us to consider “what are you most afraid of?  What would be the worst thing that God may allow you to suffer?”

And if I’m absolutely honest, I’m still stuck in a huge place of fear.  When I consider those questions, some truly frightening possibilities come up, including ones that are likely (like the death of my parents or emergencies that cost a lot of money (home issues, car issues, health issues, accidents)) and other ones that are totally irrational (did you know that masked murderers come into my house every other Monday night when I’m home alone with Kate?  Or that any night we don’t hear a peep out of Kate the creaking of the crib indicating tossing and turning, she’s got to have stopped breathing?  At least that’s what my fear-riddled brain believes every time the house creaks when we’re home alone or my daughter has an awesome night of sleep!  Seriously, what kind of mother is more comforted by a restless child that is going to wake up cranky and tired than one who is sleeping so deeply she doesn’t move an inch?)

And, again, if I’m truly honest, I’m even scared to pray to God for help with this issue because I’m afraid of the form that “help” may take (after all we’ve all heard the anecdotal stories of those praying for patience only to be placed in stressful situations where they have to practice patience!)

BUT, I’m doing it anyway.  Because I’m to the point where I think I want to see what life would look like if I wasn’t afraid to do everything and anything to Glorify God.  A life where I’m more concerned with what God thinks of me than what people think of me; where I’m more concerned about the eternal lives of those I love than their earthly ones; where I’m more concerned with being considerate rather than correct, compassionate rather than comfortable, joyful rather than jealous, and thankful rather than trendy; where I’m more concerned with relationships than to-do lists and eternity is a constant reality present on my mind rather than a fleeting idea that can wait until tomorrow.

What would that look like?  I’m not sure right now, but I’m kind of excited to find out.  So, while I may not be ready to pray anything, I’ll continue to pray that the Holy Spirit continually reminds me that God gave me a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV) and the words of Christ after he promises to send a helper (John 14:27 (ESV))

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

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Angry Conversations With God

One thing I can say about this chick’s blog?  I always want to read whatever book she’s reviewed.  She has a way of picking out excerpts and reviewing the work that makes me want to read more 🙂 

But when I saw the review of this Susan Issacs’ book?  I knew it was something I HAD to read.   Believing in a “God whom I loved, whom I could not escape, and with whom I was very, very pissed off”?  Wanting to take God to marriage counseling?  Yes Please. 

I doubt I’m going to read the book quickly.  I’m reading the new Tudor Era Phillipa Gregory novel, a Tudor Era non-fiction by Leanda de Lisle and the new Kerrelyn Sparks at the same time and I find too much “God” stuff exhausts me right now.  But I thought I’d blog as I read through it.  I’ve been putting off dealing much with God because it is exhausting right now and I just need to get through life at the moment.  But if Kari’s review is anywhere close to on track (as they normally are), this should have enough humor mixed in. 

So far I’ve only read the introduction, but I loved it.  I’m going to try to pull five things from each section I read, so:

Things I found particularly resonating in the introduction:

  1. Her “Martha.”  Who HASN’T met one of those women in their “church” experience?
  2. Her list of questions she might ask God in a counseling session.  (“So, Lord, is there in fact a ‘purpose-driven life’ a “secret”? A ‘best life now'”  Or are those just your latest marketing campaigns designed to get me to buy books and CDs and to tithe?”; “Did you ever speak to me?  Where you ever involved?”; “Your people love to quote Jeremiah 29:11: ‘I know the plans I have for you,… to prosper you and not to harm you.’  How come I never heard Jeremiah 20:7: ‘O, Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived’?!”)
  3. Her authenticity in questioning a “middle-class religion” that she’s been a part of all of her life.
  4. Her knowledge that those outside her “middle-class religion” would find her insane and most Christian therapists wouldn’t “dare question the Almighty.”
  5. The fact that she’s sharing her story.  Despite the world seeing her as insane or the religious world seeing her as heretical. 

Transcending Causality

I wish when I blogged I could be as eloquent as some writers are.  You know those writers, the ones who can pull you in and write so fluidly about their discovery that by the end, you too have reached an epiphany about life?  I’m not good at that.  Usually, when I blog about what’s actually in my heart and soul it’s as messy as the thoughts going through my head.  I tend to just sit and type and publish, without editing.  This, of course, can get you in trouble.  Filters are good and necessary for the preservation of self and relationships.

This isn’t one of those posts that I worry might cross some line in putting too much of me or my life “out there” for people to see.  This is simply one that I’m finding a hard time tying up in a nice little bow.  I’m wrestling with so many things right now and have had more than my far share of thoughts today to share it all with any coherency. 

I’ve started writing this post several times, not really knowing where to take my inspiration.  I thought about talking about the fact that I watched The Matrix Trilogy for the first time ever this weekend, and since I watched it all together I thought about referencing the beauty of Hope mirrored in its story.  Or the fact that the Frenchman believed in “causality” only, a perfectly human need, despite the fact that he was a computer program.

I thought about referencing this blog post, suggested to me by a friend.  It’s one of those eloquent posts I mentioned earlier, one that lets you into just enough of the author’s life to not compromise her but to really understand her and have your own epiphany.  I thought I would explain that I think in a similar way to her, that I too, find myself defining my life, my questions, and my quests in the negative rather than in the positive. 

But then I stumbled across this blog post that had this verse from John 9:1-3 that so perfectly reconciled for me how God can have soverignty over our creation without having culpability in the flaws of our humanity.  It so clearly answered the questions from the previous post that stumbling across the words could be considered serendipitous if I were one to believe in fate.

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” 

One of the things the blog post mentioned was the human need to recognize causality.  The question to Jesus in John 9 shows that inherent need: to reconcile the suffering (the effect) we need to understand the cause (his sin, his parent’s sin).  That’s what causes such heartache and suffering when bad things happen and we don’t know why.  We understand causality and find comfort in it.  We think we need the whys and the hows.  Jesus tells us that’s a flawed need.  We don’t need the whys and the hows.  We need Him, we need God.

One thing I don’t think I expressed well in my last post was the fact that I don’t think I am the only one who ever has these questions.  I am not alone in my suffering or in my questioning, today or any day in the story of humanity, as so many stories from the gospels show.  Passages such as this simply reaffirm my belief that God really knew what He was doing with Jesus’ part in the story. 

And such passages make my heart ache when people can’t understand how very relevant the words of Jesus are to every single person today.  Because Jesus didn’t speak to a certain person or group of people in a certain culture at a certain time.  Jesus spoke to humanity, the thread that binds us all together; the condition that transcends time, culture and individuals. 

And that human condition, THAT is what is, in-and-of-itself, imperfect and flawed.  Not the blind man, not me, and not you.  And it’s not by His doing, but by ours.  Again, transcending time, culture, and individuals; bigger than my sin; bigger than one sin by many or many sins by few; a condition impossible for humans to escape because it is the humanity itself that is flawed.

Yet, despite how intrinsically flawed we are, we are so blessed, and undeservingly so, to have a God who CAN overcome our humanity, who suffered humanity himself to do so.  And we are even more undeservingly blessed by a God who offers to us the ability to Know Him, who can turn our mourning to dancing and our suffering to joy, who offers us the chance to reconcile our imperfect humanity with His perfect holiness.

And truly, isn’t that the bigger mystery?  Look at the world today.  Look at the greed and the selfishness and the anger and the lust and the gluttony and the hard-heartedness; the obstinance and the self-glorifying and the impatience; look at the negligence and the self-righteousness and the arrogance and the self-importance.  If you look for these qualities, you won’t have any trouble finding them.  All you have to do is look at me. 

I’m human.  I understand causality so I should understand suffering in this imperfect world and this imperfect human condition…

But Grace?  What an idiot I am to question suffering and not stand in complete and total awe of Grace.

God, You continue to prove to me just how big you are, how You’ve anticipated the needs of your children, though we are undeserving of such consideration.  And yet I continue to act like a petulant child, expecting and demanding that you give that proof, that you make good things happen, that you be my private geni to make all things good.   I sit and expect Grace rather than being brought to my knees because of it.  Please forgive me. 

I’ve been asking the wrong questions.  I’ve been wrestling with you over the wrong things, over things beyond my control, but fully in Yours.  Suffering?  How can I not understand suffering?  Even if I can’t see direct causality, I can understand suffering, imperfection and crumminess.  It is all more than deserved.  How self-centered, how imperfect, how HUMAN of me to simply expect Your Grace without a hint of awe or wonder and question your soverignty over my suffering.  Father, forgive me.

I Believe, But…

Oh what I’d give for a hundred years!
But the physical interferes
Every day more–O my Creator!
What is the good of the strongest heart
In a body that’s falling apart?
A serious flaw–I hope You know that
-Eva “Waltz for Eva and Che”- Evita, Andrew Lloyd Webber

Sometimes I wish I weren’t a thinking, rational human being.  Sometimes I wish I could just happily and simply take everthing told to me on faith as truth and not have to struggle with them or over analyze them or face the disappointment of questions unanswered.

Thankfully, that’s only sometimes.  Most of the time I realize that that line of thinking will just get me in trouble because there are too many bad influences and bad people out there just to simply trust everything.  So generally I’m glad to be able to think for myself.

But it doesn’t lessen my frustrations with questions.

My current struggle is God’s presence or culpabilty in bad situations.  I thought I was pretty good with the whole idea that God is good, so God is never the cause of bad things but He does allow consequences which means that sometimes bad things happen and He’s there to help us find the good in the bad situations.  I was just getting to the point where I was okay with that and trusting that again.

So why the heck and hades do things happen that would bring me back down from that place again?  I’m so frustrated.  I’m okay with faith being purified in fire, I’m just not sure I have the strength for it at the moment.  I know some will say all this is simply a consequence of doing things out of God’s time and God’s order, but I’m not really questioning the loss of my little one.  I”m absolutely heartbroken and it’s going to take time to get over and move on.  But I know I’ll be able to do that. 

I question where things go from here.  I question a God that’s all good and all powerful could mess me up so badly.   I hurt so badly because just when I think I’m getitng back to a place where I feel I can trust God again, that trust appears to be broken again…Because timing and order doesn’t change the fact that I’m seriously flawed, and I didn’t make any choices or decisions to become that way.  I was MADE that way.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Psalm 139:13 NLT

For years I believed that my sexual shortcomings , both emotional and physical, had to do with the abuse I suffered at the hands of male family members when I was younger.  And it hurt so bad getting over that and moving on.  And I know I haven’t don’t that fully, or even close to fully, but I have forgiven and worked on moving forward. 

Years ago I also found out that that my body was physical imperfect as well as emotionally imperfect.  And this week I found out it’s even more messed up than we realized, to the point of being practically unfunctional.

How does that work?  I know I’m not the only one like this.  I know there are parents out there who have special needs children and adults out there who have hearts that aren’t right and kidneys that need machines to work and so forth.  And I know that some of these things are caused by others actions, such as mother’s drug use during pregnancy, etc.  But I know other things are uncontrolable, such as with my condition.  Simply chromosomes that are messed up at the point of conception, at the point of being “knit together.”  How can God NOT have a part in that if it’s true that He’s the one doing the building and creating?  If He’s the master architect or the primary potter who else is to blame when there are design flaws?  How is it possible to reconcile a diety of pure goodness who creates such flawed creatures?

Because, let me tell you, it’s hard for me to keep towing the party line, to keep repeating the “God is in control” mantra… to trust that his plan really is the best… because I really can’t figure out how my flawed body is “best” for anyone…

that “blind faith” part of me is seriously flawed as well… 

Jesus, I do know there is a reason.  I do know you are in control.  I do know that you are big enough even when I am fallen down so small.  “I believe; but help my unbelief”

Finally slowing down enough to write

Well, I’ve been super busy since coming home from Colorado so I haven’t had much time to write.  I have a busy week the rest of the week at work, but not so much in the evenings… I may go visit with some friends in Chicago this weekend, we’ll see… but other than that… and small group on Thursday, my evenings (starting tonight) are pretty much my own right now. 

 

Barnes and Noble remains ever fun.  I really do love working there… If they paid more than minimum wage I might have even considered doing that as a career, although it’s not nearly as challenging as my job at ISPFCU is, and I do like having a challenging job…

 

On a totally different note, I keep getting creeped out as I write this.  I killed a rather large spidar (spider??) earlier tonight in the basement when I was doing laundry and know I keep thinking I’m seeing things move out of the corner of my eye!  Yikes…

 

In other news… I’m moving at the end of the month.  Hopefully to Monroe Gardens on Dirken.  We turned in our applications today so now we need to be approved and then they need to have space for us.  We’re also looking at possibly buying a livingroom set (if the lady from Chambana would ever call me back).  I’m not sure why she ONLY wants $150 for the set, but that’s better than anything we’ve come across so far…

 

Let’s see… I had a pretty rough day on Sunday… I think I keep things entirely too bottled up… I had a really hard time hearing that God is a Soverign God and knows best and has everything under control… I also was entirely too antsy to sit through church… I left towards the end of the sermon… But Beth, bless her, gout me out of my stupor later that day… she and Bethany and the Joshes and I ended up watching The Ghost and Mr. Chicken later that night and that was super fun…

 

other than that, my life has been pretty boring.  I don’t even have any fun andecdotes or articles to share with you as I’ve not had time to be surfing the net (for anything of any substance or interest to anyone but me… (I’m sure no one really cares about Bank Bribery Act or Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act)…  I did get a couple of magazines for writers that I’ve been eating up.  I’ll share some information if I find any of interest 🙂

 

Until later…

God works in mysterious ways?

I’m pretty sure that God works in mysterious ways, but really really amazes me is the obvious ways He works.  At least obvious if you take the time to open your eyes.

My family is getting ready to enter a “winter,” more particularly my twin sister.  We are all pretty sad and worried, and “leaking” alot (my sister calls it liquid prayer).

But what’s amazing me is that we can really and truly see God working in this winter.  We can see how God’s been preparing our hearts, and in particular Jo’s heart. 

Case and Points:

  • A few months ago she was either pretty ambivilent towards God (as a defence mechanism) or angry.  There was definately some reconciliation that needed to take place and God has been really working on her heart to spur on that reconciliation between Him and her.  If we had gotten the correct diagnosis earlier, who knows how Jo’s relationship with God would be right now.
  • Jo’s short term disability did not kick in until April 1st… if we had gotten the correct diagnosis earlier, she wouldn’t be able to draw her disability.
  • My mom got laid off at the end of February… and has been unable to obtain employement since then.  Her unemployment just got approved however, and she’s been able to be available for Jo’s appointments and as a nursemaid.
  • Our church is doing a series right now entitled Recycled: Beyond Broken.  SOOOO applicable
  • The last Grow we did… and the first one Jo ever went to… talked about the seasons of our lives and the possitive things that can come out of our “winters.”  How cool is that?

It’s going to be a difficult next few months.  But I’m looking forward to seeing God triumph in the midst of tragedy (and He can do that regardless of outcomes) and I’m looking forward to this time of growth for my family.

Why I volunteer with Jr. High Ministry

Today I had lunch with Chris and Latif to discuss summer plans for West Side’s Jr. High Ministry.  In passing, CHris mentioned that he’d like to discuss what drew Latif and I to Jr. High Ministry.  My easy, first-come-to-mind-answer is always “VBS” (I’ll get to that in a minute).  As I contemplate that a little more, I think it’s probably deeper than that (most things are with contemplation).

When I first started volunteering with anything at West Side it was in the Children’t Ministry.  Erin, the Children’s Minister at the time, was one of the only people I knew, and at that time I was working as a pre-school teacher and had realized I really like kids and can relate to them.  I had done VBS the year before (with 1st graders) as a way to connect with Sarah Jumber (now Admire)(a friend and co-worker of mine from the Puppy who had just gotten baptized that summer).  It was something we could do together that was God-related and kid-related, a place where we could connect on multiple levels.

So that next year (2004 I think it was) we decided to do so again.  She was going to a small country church with her family, but it was doing the same VBS curriculum as West Side, only the week after.  We decided to do both VBSs (THAT was a crazy 2 weeks, let me tell you 🙂 ).  That year West Side needed help with the 5th graders.  I generally prefer (or so I had thought) to work with younger kids, but I’m also pretty laid back and like to help out where I’m needed, so we took the 5th graders.

And, boy, were they a challenge.  I don’t think I’ve ever been as frustrated with kids (or had as much fun) as I was/did with Evan and Shane that week!

But amazingly, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love with a group of kids as quickly either (and this coming from someone who really does enjoy being with kids).  While they were challenging, they were also soooo much fun!  And I could see so much potential in them.  They were right there on the verge of something and it was so fun to be there with them.  So I went to Chris to find out how I could continue to be a part of their lives at West Side when they moved to 6th grade.

That could be where the story stops… I followed a great group of kids into the ministry.

But I realized today that those kids are almost done with their freshman year of high school! (and are still some really great kids).  But I didn’t follow them to High School… So it had to be more than just that group of kids.

So why do I STILL do Jr. High ministry?

My mom says it’s because you should never say never… when I was contemplating teaching as a career I always knew I could handle any age… any age, that is, except Jr. High.  I could NEVER handle Jr. High kids… and now look at me 🙂  maybe she’s right 🙂

But I think it probably has more to do with the fact that I remember being in Jr. High (yes it might have been awhile ago, but not THAT long ago).  I remember how lost and alone I felt and how much I would have loved having adults who weren’t my parents to hang out with, to accept me for who I was and to offer guidance and… presence… in a loving way.  I remember feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere, that I was in some kind of “lost” stage or “limbo” between childhood and being a young adult.

And I remember tht you probably would have NEVER known that about me.  I was friendly and outgoing.  I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t the least popular kid in school.  I could meld well in several different social groups; I as totally boy-crazy and had several boyfriends; I got along well with teachers and, though I was only a C-student in Jr. High, was smart enough to get by without notice.

I didn’t have anyone close enough to me or willing enough to delve behind the mask, to see the girl who wrote morbid, dark poetry; who cried herself to sleep most nights; who was boy-crazy because she wanted the attention, not that she really liked the guy; who spent hours upon hours in her head making up a different life for herself to take herself away from actual life.

And that’s sad.

 

Most of the time Jr. High Ministry is a high energy, high fun, oft-times silly and/or gross experiment in living life.  But underneath that energy and the silliness and the craziness that is an adolescent; I know and understand the feeling of being in “limbo” or “lost” stage of life.  And I know that those same feelings can occur in any life stage, but I know that if I had a better view of myself, a better view of my value as a child of God (heck, knowing Jesus AT ALL would have helped), and a feeling that I was not alone when I was younger, the times as an adult when I feel like that would be fewer and further between.

I wouldn’t say my giftedness lies in being able to counsel anyone through that (far from it, it’s one of the biggest reasons I know that I couldn’t have pursued a psych. degree).  But I LOVE being present and available.  And I really love investing in others to help them learn to be present and available (yay for being able to invest a little bit more in other leaders as well as kids this year).

So I continue to do Jr. High ministry because I want them to know that God cares about them, and by extension, so do other people.  I want to be present and available.  Whther that be as a person to giggle about boys with, the person to referee a dodgeball game, the person to throw toilet paper at, or the person to talk to because things aren’t going great right now.  Because sometimes there just aren’t answers.  Most of the time life just happnes, and sometimes you just need someone there to help you know that you’re not alone, that you’re loved and valued for who you are, raging hormones, pungent BO, rebellious independece, goofy silliness and lingering childhood innocence included.