Substrates of Thought

The way I think about the world is different from most of the people I know.

Beneath every discourse are the assumptions which form our world view.  I have engaged cultures across the United States and the world.  Even as I have wrestled with these views to embrace them, I am wrestling now with my roots.  I have returned to the place where I started.  Juxtaposed against the trees, rivers, and skies which witnessed my childhood, I invite you to examine (as best we can) the substrates of our thought.  We will have to acknowledge our assumptions to enter here, to accept them and be comfortable.

Let me say from the start: it’s going to take some time and clarification to work through these ideas.  Exploring our implicit assumptions about the world is a little like trying to describe color without the use of adjectives.  How do you even do that?

I said recently, “I…have beliefs, which I usually keep to myself. At this point in my life, I am no longer afraid to voice some of them. Unfortunately, the way I think is very different from most people I know. That’s part of the reason I’ve decided to start talking about things, but it’s going to take time for people to really hear what I’m saying. That’s okay. I guess I knew it would take some time and clarification before I opened my mouth.”

 

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Heart of My Heart

God Card from 2/9/10

 Not to skip over Groundhog Day or anything, but candy hearts are about to take over the universe.  Valentine’s Day is coming, and I think it is time for my annual post on singleness.  Whilst perusing my old Google Docs, I found a prayer that Kirsten over at Wild Oak Stream shared with me years ago.  I think someone shared it with her years before that, and I wish we knew who to credit.  In any case, this prayer captures the heart of …well, my heart.

 

 

Jesus….

You say that if I delight myself in you, if I enjoy you and seek your pleasure above mine, you will give me the desires of my heart. (Ps. 37:4) Desiring a husband is neither evil nor selfish. Marriage is honorable (Hebrews 13:4).

In the name of Jesus, I ask that you would release the husband- a suitable partner- that you have chosen for me. Because the Covenant of marriage is sacred, I ask for a man of God. Please give me a husband whose love for me is outmatched only by his love for God. A man who will cherish me and build my character (Pr. 31:28). A man who will honor me (1 Pt. 3:7) and our marriage and vows. A man who I will connect and bond with physically, emotionally and spiritually. A man who will love me as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). Restrain me from attaching myself to another man out of desperation. I will not settle for a relationship that is second best. I will not compromise my hope and trust in you, the plans and hopes you have for me or your timing for something that is convenient or that feeds my insecurities.

Guard my purity and give me the patience to wait. And when I meet him, please please please confirm it to me. Release me from baggage of past relationships (and just the past) and prepare me for the man you have chosen to be my husband. Align our hearts and align our callings in life. Free me from any hindrances to a healthy and Godly marriage: insecurities, habitual sins, selfishness, and emotional hurts. Dispel my unrealistic expectations that set me up for disappointment. I place my trust in you, rather than my partner.

In this period of waiting, I look to you still as my companion and leader and closest friend.  You are the one who brought me from death to life. You redeemed my life from the pit, who crowns me with love and compassion, who satisfies my desires with Godly things (Ps. 103:4-5).

I give you my anxiousness as I present my requests to you; flood me with peace that passes all understanding so that my heart and mind are guarded in Christ Jesus (Phip 4:6-7).  In this request I submit myself to you, to trust you and do good, to dwell in your land and feed on your faithfulness. I commit my worry to you and trust that you will bring it to pass (Ps. 37).

With all my heart,

Beth

God’s Timing (MerryChristmasHappyNewYear)

The Undoing Steffany Gretzinger (Frizzell)

This was my playlist over the summer, and I recently rediscovered the album.  Appropriate.  And comforting as I move into another season of…wait for it…waiting.

Even though I’m a couple weeks late, I’d like to share my Christmas message about God’s timing…God chose a man to become a family to become a nation that would be His people and bear Messiah into the world.

400 years of slavery, and still God waited.

40 years in the wilderness, God waited.

400 years claiming the promised land or rather letting it claim them, worshipping false gods and repenting, ruled by judges, still God waited.

400 years of Kings.  God waits.

200 years of exile and return and restoration.

400 years of silence.

Finally, at the fullness of time, Messiah came.

God’s timing is perfect.  And sometimes perfectly confusing because as far away as the stars, that’s how much smarter He is than us.

Recently we have been studying Pentecost, and I am again touched by God’s people in the waiting.

Jesus spent 30 years growing up.  3 years in ministry. 3 days in the grave.

40 days the resurrected Jesus walked with his friends, ate with them, helped them to see, believe, and understand the resurrection.  And then he went into the sky.

He left them with lots of instructions, but one directive for the moment.

Wait.

Wait here for the promise of God.  Wait for the comforter.  Wait for the power.  This is going to be better than ME.

What must have those 10 days been like for them, staring at the sky?  Could they have known what He meant when He said they would do everything He did and more?  Could their aching hearts be comforted in the waiting when the gift of the Holy Spirit was not yet manifest on the earth?  Could their clay hearts endure all the emotions of six week’s time: the confusion and dark hope of the Passover that year, the deep pain of the crucifixion and it’s waiting, the 40 days with their resurrected Lord and his exhortation to go to the ends of the earth, but first, wait.

10 days they waited, and then at the festival of the harvest, Holy Spirit came.  We have never been the same.  The same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead now dwells in every believer.  Roughly 1840 years waiting on the promised Messiah.  10 days waiting on another promise, and the entire world changed.

Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him. Psalm 37:7

Wait: wə·hiṯ·ḥō·w·lêl

It’s my favorite word in any language ever.  “Chuwl“…to bear.  To whirl, to dance, to writhe in pain; to be in anguish, in anxious longing; to travail, birth, bring forth; to be brought forth, to be born; to be tormented; to wait; to hope.

Rest: dō·wm

It means to fall.  Fall into God.

It’s the only way to survive the waiting.

It literally means to die, faint, go completely limp.  It has the connotation of a trust fall.  You have to let go of everything, fall without looking, and trust that He will catch you.

I don’t always.  I have to talk myself into it…into trusting Him.  I have to remember and declare His faithfulness.  Only then can I let go of my presuppositions and control and truly fall into Him.

We can trust Him.

דֹּ֤ום ׀ לַיהוָה֮ וְהִתְחֹ֪ולֵ֫ל

An Artful New Year

From time to time I make three cards. This is a spiritual discipline involving laying down control and allowing yourself  to stay in the question. 
First you write three questions, one on each card. One question is for God; one question is for your heart; one question is for God and your heart.

Then you shuffle the cards, question side down, and tape them to your tray.

Next is the color which you add to each card. 

  While the paint dries, you choose magazine pictures, words, and other clippings. You’re looking for things that draw a strong emotional response.

Finally you create a collage on each card. When you are finished, you may look at the questions. It never ceases to amaze me how insightful this time could be for me and how God speaks through this activity.

  
I’m thinking I may do this the next few weeks to start out the new year. Other people are fasting, and this just seems to be the direction that God is taking me for the first three weeks of 2016.

 Thank you Tara at Anam Cara for introducing me to this discipline many years ago!

    
 

Wait for the Mystery

Mystery – Sara Groves

I keep hearing this line: My body’s tired from trying to bring you here.

You see, I love the presence of God.  Some people feel goosebumps.  I feel like I’m standing in the ocean and waves are crashing over me.  Some people feel a deep sense of peace or joy.  I like that.  I like how encountering Jesus in this way changes me: my mind and ways of thinking, my heart and my emotions, my will and my obedience to God.  I’m not saying that I’m looking for an emotional experience.  I am saying that when I get before God and worship Him, no matter my emotions, my emotions change and I like that.  In fact, sometimes when I worship (almost every time these days) I can feel it in every pore in my being: something other than me, something Holy, transforming my life.

In my circles, we have all kinds of silly ways we talk about this.  We say God came to the meeting, when we know He was already there before us.  We say Heaven Opened, which seems a little more accurate.  We say we experienced His presence, which is probably the truest way of saying it.  We were walking about, doing our thing, putting together music and chairs and lights and Bibles and kleenex boxes and people and loving God and God became evident in a way we were not previously aware of.  I don’t know what happened, or why sometimes it is thicker or stronger than others, or why some people go all jelly kneed and others feel nothing.  I just don’t know.

And that’s where I keep hearing Sara’s song about “trying to bring you here.”  We have all sorts of wacky theories about how we can invite the presence of God.  Actually, they are nice sounding religious ideas.  I call them wacky because the truth is: God is God.  He goes where He pleases.  He does things how He likes.  He is bigger, stronger, wiser, and completely other than we are.  That is what Holy means: other.  He’s not like us.  He is a mystery.

There is nothing we can do to bring God here.

When we were dead in our misdeeds and sins, He decided to come.  He decided to sacrifice His life so that we could be with Him.  So that we could be like Him.

The same way we came into the Kingdom is the same way we live in the Kingdom.

We see His goodness.  We confess our lack.  We admit that there is no other way to be like him; no way but the cross.  We ask Him to come, forgive, transform, renew, and empower.  We fall into Him, knowing He will catch us.

And that’s just it.

In order to fall, we have to let go.

We don’t get to decide what it will look like when He catches us.  We only know that He will.  We wait.  We hope.  We let go.

There is no other way.

Sleep, glorious sleep!

It is in vain (pointless) that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil (stress);
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.  Psalm 127:2 (parentheses added)

The importance of sleep is a perennial theme for me.  Now that I’m working at a cognitive tutor (programs based on neuroscience), this theme is more important than ever.  We need sleep for our brains to reorganize and absorb all that we have challenged them with throughout the day.  Your brain is part of your body, and to function properly it needs adequate water, calories, nutrients, oxygen, and SLEEP!  Three things I am doing to help me get my beauty rest:

  • Getting proper nutrition and hydration in the morning and throughout the day, so that I’m not famished when night comes around.
  • Exercise.  Even a light walk every day.  Gym membership coming soon!
  • Cutting caffeine 12 hours before I want to be in bed.
  • Turning off the screens one hour before I want to be asleep.  I’ve heard upwards of three hours, but I’m starting with one and I’ll let you know how that goes.  The blue light from our electronic devices tricks our brains into thinking it’s daytime.  So, no more Pinterest right before bed.   The computer, iPad, and phone must go to rest before I do.  It’s back to paper books for me.
  • Some evenings, even when I’m alone in my house, I need to pull the curtain and effectively close the door to the world.

Finally, a note: there are many things that interrupt our sleep and our ability to sleep.  Many of them are out of our control, or take a long time to resolve.  I know how utterly helpless it can feel when you are doing everything right, and it still doesn’t work!  I suppose this is another area where we do the possible and trust God to do the rest.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

Here

Maybe it’s the rain in California.

Maybe it’s the peace Ms. Grace saw washing over me.

Although I was born in November, I have felt more like Janus, looking forward and looking back.  This year is different: I just want to dwell here, to tarry a little longer in my 34th year.  No looking back.  No need to know what’s next.  Just to be here.

Here is where the people are: the unusual, unexpected, and sometimes unruly people.  They live in the present, doing unusual, unexpected, and sometimes unruly things.  I want to be with them.  I want to be surprised.  You cannot laugh if you are not willing to be surprised.  You cannot live in the present if you are not willing to be surprised.

I want to be surprised.

In my circles, we like to hear from God.  Sometimes someone will get an insight into your life that only God could have shown them, and then they will share deeper insights He would want you to know.  We call them “words”, because there is a Bible verse that says, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God.”  I like to get words.  Of course I do.  I wanted to understand the past.  I wanted to know the future.  Words are a beautiful and helpful gift.  Lately I’ve been thinking: what if instead of revealing something about me in a word, God revealed some mystery about Himself?  What if a minister stood in front of me and said, “Beth, God loves you, and He wanted you to know that…” and then proceeded to unveil the mysteries of the stars and the universe.  Or the human mind.  Or the nature of love.  Or why He made giraffes so tall.  Or what he was thinking when He created eyes.  Nothing about me, all just about Him, because I wanted to know.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

Happy November.

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