Spring Cleaning

This week the speaker on the DTS, Donna MacGowan, spoke on Fear of the Lord.  Due to me being sick, I didn’t get to spend as much time with her as I would have liked, so maybe some of our amazing students can fill me in on how God moved in their lives this week.

Fear of the Lord is a topic we like to have on every DTS.  It is about honoring God in every area of your life, submitting all things to His loving discipline, and ridding yourself of the impurities, however great or small, that God brings up.  I say the words, but so many of my friends have been so hurt by churches that meant “Fear of Leadership and Our Opinion” rather than “Fear of the Lord”, that I know some of these words land in tender spots.  Many of you know that I have struggled long and hard with some of these battles, and the only freedom from other’s opinions can be found in a healthy reverence for God.  If it helps, I have been thinking of it as spring cleaning.  And God has been doing some spring cleaning in me.

Tom Gaddis, the pastor at Father’s House Church, mentioned last week that “When words are many, there is much sin…”  He himself was feeling convicted of some things, and something in my spirit stood up and took notice of this Proverb.  “Hey…I talk a lot…I ought to keep that in mind.”  I have been finding myself, for the past several weeks, with my proverbial foot in my mouth…and some times are more serious than others.  I have been confronted internally for things I have said to others, and have had others confront me regarding thoughts about myself I have verbalized.

I keep thinking of this kneeadable eraser I have.  It is a grey, sticky, elasticy putty.  It turns black when I use it to erase charcoal or graphite, but as I pull it and fold it and squish it back together, the black marks magically disappear.  Due to it’s stickiness, it also collects carpet fuzz.  And hair.  And sand.  And wood shavings.  And pretty much any other small debris it touches.  So in college, when I was doing more charcoal drawing, I would sit and pick all the little fuzz bits out.  You have to stretch it like bubble gum, then fold it in on itself over and over again to even find them.  That’s how I feel now…like God is stretching and then folding me and picking out all the dirt.

I wish I could say it was wonderful and refreshing, but it’s actually a little awful.  Sometimes I wonder why God and others even trust me, and I could sure use an angel to come burn my mouth with a coal*.  I am painfully aware, after many tries, that I cannot pull myself out of this one.  Repentance (rising above) is going to take an act of God.

Fortunately He has already acted.

Here I am, back at the cross, to be made new.  Forgiveness for sins isn’t just wiping the slate clean…it is changing my very nature, one foolish, careless thought and word at a time.

The people in my life have been so gracious and God has been so faithful to push me back on the path each time I stray.  I am not thrilled about this season, but I am grateful for it.  A thoughtless word and a sharp tongue can do so much damage, and my life is primarily about loving people.  Among other things, I am staffing the DTS this summer.  I know I won’t be “all better” by then, but I know this season is a very timely preparation for leadership.

Pray for me.

 

*From Isaiah 6,  “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. … And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Spring

I am actively jealous of all my cold-weather friends right now.

Spring begins in February.  After enduring bitter winds and snow and ice or the long, dry dead of winter, spring is beginning.  What was once a dismal grey forest is beginning to show hints of red and green in the bark as life returns to the tree.  The earth and the farmers know before the rest of us that the bitter chill is over.  The warming color will lead to buds on the tree that prove life really has returned.  Tiny green leaves and the earliest blossoms will poke through.  Each week a new wave of color and scent will greet the alert observer until summer’s branches unfurl their splendourous boughs.

That is, if I am remembering correctly.  I cannot witness the coming of spring like those of you entrenched in snow right now. And I am jealous.

Spring always finds me in the winters of my life, reminding me of God’s perfect timing, of His faithfulness, of new life.  The only other thing which speaks to me so powerfully of His consistency and patience is being in the ocean, learning the patterns of the waves.

I guess I need to learn to surf.

Does anyone know where I can find a wetsuit?

Valentine’s Day Post

I strongly dislike Valentine’s Day.

I have always viewed it as a day for single people to feel lonely, lonely people to feel more lonely, and people in relationships to feel undue pressure to perform.  Yeah, not my favorite holiday.

But I might be slightly bitter…an issue which I have been wrestling with recently: my bitterness against romance.

It didn’t start that way.  I remember when I first fasted romance movies.  My heart was so pure in intention.  The man I loved had ended our relationship, and I realized I needed God’s view of romance.  So I fasted the movies.  I read a little book called When God Writes Your Love Story and handed the pen over for God to compose.  I remember reading when Leslie Ludy says God is writing a story for each of us and it will happen soon, and thinking to myself, “Soon isn’t a fair word.  This is going to take a long time.”

At first the theory was that it was taking so long because I wasn’t ready.  Then, my contemporaries theorized, perhaps he is not ready (whoever he is).  I was recently running on the beach, lamenting to God how few people understand how pervasive the loneliness can be, when it occurred to me that *I* understand.  I have been given the gift of longsuffering in this area, and so I have an intuitive sense of the loneliness of others, how it dogs your every step.  What if the waiting wasn’t about me, wasn’t about him, but was about learning how to love people in their loneliness.

God cares a lot about the lonely.  The widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, the poor.  These are the four populations He mentions over and over in the Bible as those to whom we should show care.  The lonely, the lonely, the lonely, the poor.  “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt,”  Exodus 22:21.

Remember the lonely, Beth, because you too have known loneliness.

These days God has been confronting the bitterness that cropped up over the last nine years since I “handed Him the pen,” which includes bringing that book across my path again.  It’s been sitting around the student’s house for weeks now, haunting me.  I finally picked it up and reread Leslie’s introduction.  Soon.  So unfair of her to use that word…but I knew.  Nine years ago, I knew this wasn’t going to be my version of soon.  I’m pretty sure I’ve taken back the pen on more than one occasion.  God has not been silent for the last nine years, either, but working with me through every trial, holding my heart through every loss, teaching me to hope again…and again…and again.  Still I’ve become bitter.

Today God has helped me keep the taste of bile out of my mouth.  I got to play violin with the Santa Maria Mission’s Base Prayer Room.  I got to deliver valentines to women at the strip club.  I got to have friends in my home and got to know them better.  Out of no where, my friend began encouraging me that this part of my life is not on back burner, that God cares and is working on my behalf.

It is good to lead such a full, rich life.  I still have my moments of loneliness, but I am surrounded by community.  Here I am, at the end of another day, with a debt of gratitude to everyone who has walked with me through the lonely days, who has loved me back to life through brokenness and pain, who has fought for me instead of with me, and who has welcomed me home.

How are you?

I think I’ve been asked this question a million times in the last three days.

How are you…

Okay, maybe that’s hyperbole.  I haven’t been asked a million times.  But more than a handful, and each time I want to give an honest answer.  Each time I am asked in the context of community, and I try to hear the subtext, “I care about you and want to know you more.”

I thought about posting about how much I like community, how complex, rich, and frightening it is; I thought about posting about how much I hate Valentine’s Day but am trying not to; I thought about posting more about God’s timing and how it’s not about me…but I have settled on the simple three word question:

How are you?

The question overwhelms me.  It always has, for it’s complexity and depth asked so often in brief encounters.  But I always want to know, when I ask, and I want to be known.  So I try to find short answers to a long question.

I am busy.  I am richly blessed.  I am seeing God move.  But mostly, I am desperate for God.

I am desperate for God to come and teach me His “unforced rhythm of grace”.  I am desperate for His presence to comfort me.  I need for Him to come in all my relationships and teach me how to live.  I need Him to interpret for me this list of personal failings my heart will not let go.  I am desperate to see God move in the lives of my friends, everywhere I look. I feel the ebb and flow of joy and sorrow among the people I love…financial, physical, spiritual, emotional, relational needs…some are met, some are waiting.    Some are big, some seem small, but all of them, every single one, is held by Heaven.  I am desperate for Him to find us here.  I am desperate for Him to pull me out of the bitterness I am wrestling with, for Him to speak somehow into the questions and the silences I keep, for Him to interrupt and…well…interrupt.  I just…want…Him.

And so I end each day grateful.  Grateful for the longing, grateful for His presence which is so near, grateful for His faithfulness, grateful that in the longing there is hope.

And that is how I am.

There was a little girl, who had a little curl

We interrupt this stream of pithy and somewhat vulnerable posts reflecting on Bible week to bring you news of a wee miracle I discovered this morning.

For those of you who don’t know, I have alopecia.  I lose hair in patches, have since I was a little girl.  I was bald in fifth grade.  All of my hair on my head had grown back by high school, but to this day I do not have to shave my legs.  This was an answer to a prayer I prayed when I was only 11.  I told God I was willing to be bald as long as He needed me to be, to accomplish what He wanted to accomplish through it, but I didn’t ever want prickly legs!  My church family also prayed for my healing for years.

I still get small bald patches, usually due to stress, usually around the sides and back of my hairline.  I have had two appear since being in California.  (Oh, stress…)  Months ago one appeared in my hairline along my bangs, and it made me very very sad.  So I asked my church family to pray, and only two days later I thought I saw fuzz (the new hair comes in so soft) in the center of the spot.  That’s quicker than a prednizone injection!

I wasn’t sure, though, and I determined not to worry about it.

A few days ago I was wondering about that bald spot, and this morning I saw a tiny curl, about an inch long, right where the patch had been!  See?

Okay, that picture doesn’t show it so well.

I just thought it was cuter than the one that does.

Maybe this one is better…

Still no?  There was a longer piece with the little miracle curl.

This picture shows the curl best, but my hand was over the flash.   It’s kind of a terrible picture.  Don’t be alarmed or distracted.

I’m so happy!  I feel so loved…by God and by the people who have prayed for me over the years!

Thank you!!!!!!!!

Reflection and Repentance (Bible Week…Day 8)

Turning 30 was hard for me this year.

This was not my plan for my life.

Now before you start lecturing me, I knew six years ago that I wasn’t going to be living my plans for my life.   It was then, in my first apartment after college, that God said I had good dreams, but it was time for me to live His dreams instead of mine.  So I’m good with that.

Sort of.

I expected to be married and have kids by 30.  Call me crazy, it was just a thought I had.  I expected to be walking or even running in whatever career or ministry God had for me…not one year in, still trying to find my balance.  I expected to be using this degree that cost me six years of my life, which I have not seen fully utilized yet.

It hurt.

I hurt.

So having spent this last week witnessing God’s faithfulness and impeccable timing in the Bible, I am trying to let the trust in Him soak into my soul.

His faithfulness stands tall against my litany of mistrust and the tears pour slowly down.

This must be what repentance feels like.

Sabbath (Bible Week…Day 7)

“In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”

…But you were not willing.

Isaiah 30:15

All through the Old Testament, God talks about keeping the Sabbath.  Before the Israelites go into exile, and especially when they return, He talks about the importance of the Sabbath.  In fact, upon their return it seems almost synonymous in keeping the law in the promises that go with it.

It is not surprising, then that when Jesus arrives, the Jewish people have gone a little…extreme…in keeping the law, especially the Sabbath.  But still they missed the point, and actually crucified Jesus over working on the Sabbath.  Especially in the gospel of John I noticed over and over that Jesus kept healing people on the Sabbath, and the religious leaders got their panties all bunched up every time.

So it seems that understanding Sabbath is crucial to understanding the character and nature of God and His hope for us.

I prayed about this as we listened to the book of Matthew.  I feel like God answered with Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Sabbath is about working with God.

Sabbath is about trust.

Oh the Humanity (Bible Week…Day 5)

Isaiah.  Ezekiel.  Daniel.

Today we read a lot of the prophetic works.

Oh the humanity.

The Bible speaks not only of what will happen, but of what is happening to the Hebrew people at the time the book is written.  And the people who surrounded Israel were e-vil.  Evil.

The Jewish people practically sold themselves to them.  They did the same things they did.  They worshiped their gods.  This is not like going to R rated movies.  This is like…wicked.  Purely wicked things.  Think Nazi.  Think worse.

If you know me at all, you know I know of injustice that would make your blood run cold.  Still, as I’m listening to these things recounted…and as I’m thinking, “This really happened.  It’s not figurative.”…and as I’m realizing how absolutely unjust the injustice was when Isaiah was written…I’m realizing that there really has been change in the world.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. Isaiah 9:2

Like, I’ve always thought the world was going to hell in a handbasket (literally) but God’s grace through the cross, the blessing for the world that is promised to come through the Jewish people, really did work.  The kingdom of God, here and now, in human hearts throughout history, really has made a difference.

And I started to weep.

In my heart I saw the earth, filled with light and life.  So I drew it.

I finished my drawing somewhere around Habakkuk 2:14…

For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.

For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.

And some more blurry pictures for ya…

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(To stop the slideshow and view one picture, hover the mouse over the slideshow.  Three buttons appear.  The middle one, a square, stops the slide show.  Left and right arrows allow you to progress at your own pace.)

Wind and Fire (Bible Week…Day 4)

They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.

Jeremiah 8:11

The words caught my ear quickly as they passed.  I have trouble following along in the text, so I had no idea where we actually were in the book.  I only knew that it was Jeremiah.  I scribbled the words in my notebook.  Again at the end, a similar statement caught my ear, and so I scribbled 48:10.

Cursed be the one who does the LORD’S work negligently…

Words like “superficial” and “negligence” carry such a heavy weight as I consider my life’s purpose to come from Isaiah 61: “to heal the brokenhearted.”  Jeremiah’s life exemplifies my desire for this purpose to come from within.  His famous quote…

But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it. (20:9)

…contrasts starkly against the religious activity of the day, illustrating his continuous cry that God is more concerned with the heart issues.  As we are fond of saying around here, dealing with the root instead of the fruit.

Colors of the Temple: blue, purple, and scarlet

A bit of context for you: Jeremiah is written well after the “glory days” of the Jewish people, after things have been going very badly for hundreds of years, there is a brief season of restoration followed by devastating moral deterioration which lands the people in exile.  Jeremiah has the joyless task of warning the king and the people that the path they have chosen leads to destruction, begging them to choose God.

As we are listening to the books being read, and most of the other students are following along in their Bibles, I have my art supplies spread out on the floor in front of me.  My doodles began with fire and quickly changed to page after page of windblown trees.  I could almost hear wind rushing past my ears.

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Later in the day as we watched the Jeremiah movie, I noticed that they also used images of wind and fire over and over again in the film.  Even as I drew each tree, the lines reflected the story I was hearing.  I started the art to keep my hands busy so I could concentrate, but I the process of creating is helping me to engage the reading on a whole different level.

Reflecting on the experience as a whole, I know it is affecting me on so many different levels.  At one point in the afternoon, I felt this shift in my thinking…nothing specific I could describe…just a growing confidence in God, in His faithfulness and His ways.  It’s been really powerful, and I honestly believe it will change…is changing…my life.

I missed 1 & 2 Chronicles this evening, but hope to rest well and start on Proverbs and Isaiah tomorrow.  Two of my favorites.  I’m excited.