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.

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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!!!!!!!!

New Year’s Eve Post

It doesn’t feel like New Year’s Eve.  Maybe that’s because the tree outside my window has all it’s leaves, and I live in a perpetual early spring climate.  Early spring was a lot more fun when it followed winter.  I comfort myself with the ocean, it’s ebb and flow to remind me that there is indeed a rhythm to all life and change.

Holidays mark the passing of our lives, give shape to the seasons, and remind us to take an inventory.  I like to take this time between Christmas and New Years (and the first few weeks of the year) to make sense of where I’ve been and where I’m going.   It is a perfect time for this, following my birthday and last year my advent into full time ministry.

Words to describe 2010, my 29th year: preparation, cocooning, foundations, Charismania and the Spirit filled church.  Forgiveness, peace, and rest.  Sense-making, denial-untangling, truth-speaking love.  Community.  Relationship.  Art, music, violin, voice.  Season’s changing.  Chewl.

What words describe your year?

Wreck

Months ago, my friend Stephanie was washing my car.  I went down to check on her and she turned to me and said, “I feel like God is saying that when something happens to your car, don’t worry; He already knows and has something planned for you.  He has something better in mind.”

Weeks ago when I had trouble with my clutch, God reminded me of this.  I got help with the clutch situation, and through the prayers of other and the ways God provided in that situation, my faith grew that He would take care of me.

See, my little blue Saturn was not the car I wanted at the time I got it, and though I often had a bad attitude about it, God was so faithful to take care of me.  From the time I bought it, I would have it break down (as in not even start on one occasion), and all I had to do was change the oil and pray and it would be back in good working order.  One friend was driving it five years ago and saw a mental image of the speedometer turning to 200,000 miles.  He said he felt it would keep working that long, that I would get a lot of miles out of that car without any trouble.  On a mountain top between Pismo and Portland, my car DID turn from 199,999 to 200,000 at exactly midnight.  It was cool.

I’ve logged a lot of miles in that car, in every way.

And last Friday, as I was turning left from a main road to a sidestreet, I got in a wreck.  I don’t really want to post the story until it’s all resolved, but it involves an unmarked curb, one hit and run, and one SUV…all at night.  My engine is cracked (as in torn all the way through) but I am completely okay.

From the first impact, I remembered all that God has done for me so far, and I knew I would be okay.  That faith that has been building up in me became a shield for me, and instead of tensing up, I relaxed and tried to figure out how to get out of the flow of traffic.  My car did it’s job in protecting me…but I don’t even have sore muscles or burns from my seatbelt or airbag.

My car is totaled and my insurance does not cover that.  I am thanking God for my health, my life, and waiting to see how He provides.

And for the time being, I am enjoying my bicycle and sharing rides.  😉

Well, friends, I am back from my trip to Texas, which included a road trip across the midwest, and packing for two weeks in Mexico.  We leave tomorrow morning.  The three day turn around makes me feel like a flight attendant again: unpacking, laundry, repacking. 

The road trip from Texas was a success.  As I mentioned in my last entry, my friend needed to tie up some loose ends from an interstate move last year.  It was really incredible to walk with her as she handled the challenges of this process. 

I think the thing that impacted me most is how the things we do can have as much a spiritual influence as the prayers we say.  Letting go of a keepsake from a painful time; closing a door in peace instead of fear; walking away from a battle that is not yours to fight; going back to a dark place and remembering how Jesus found you there; all these acts of freedom were somehow a prayer for her, a declaration to everyone around that she is not controlled by things which once controlled her.  I don’t know how it is that I get to be the woman who witnesses her beautiful life, but I never walk away the same.  Never. 

It is my priviledge to lay down my life for my friends. 

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

http://www.youtube.com/v/PrcATg9OWOo?fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0&border=1

Goings On

End of summer, and I feel like it’s time for a report.  Just the facts ma’am.


We welcomed a new family, Mike, Aleesha, and their two children, on staff this week.  They were students in the last school, and we are so excited to have them here.

More new staff are coming in October.

I am facilitating a series of workshops for the Staff Development department based on the acronym S.H.A.P.E.  (Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experience).  The workshops flow directly from the things I have been learning in this last season.  We each bring something different to the table…our perspective, skills, gifting, experiences, mistakes, passions, dreams…all these things make us who we are.  As we discover these things in one another, we grow stronger as a team and develop a sense of purpose from our unique identity.  So…these workshops are to grow deeper in our understanding of how God made us, and to engage one another in the process.  I am really excited to share with my team from the things God has been teaching me.

The entire staff is going on outreach together.  We do this every other year, with “family vacation” in the off years, to grow as a team.  This year we are going to Mexico, hopefully to work with a school for the deaf.  Exciting stuff.  I don’t know if the students speak American Sign Language or another language, but I love any chance I get to sign.  

After our outreach, we will attend the Jubilee celebration for YWAM’s 50th year.  I really like opportunities like this because it helps me understand YWAM better.

And in my personal life, I am flying to Texas this Wednesday (18th) to help a friend tie up some lose ends from her interstate move.  

Planes, trains, and automobiles…after staying in the same place for almost eight months, I will be covering lots of ground in August!

East Wind

Jesus did not come into the world to make bad men good. He came into the world to make dead men live!” ~Leonard Ravenhill

I’ve been battling discouragement the past few weeks.  It has been a good experience.  I think doubts and questions are healthy, and I have been aware of God working even in my discouragement.  One question that has been on my heart is why I am called to full time ministry.  One way Jesus answered this question is through a sermon I listened to on Sunday afternoon: “Turning Back to the Mouth of Freedom.”  Unfortunately Church of the Open Door only lists it’s five most recent sermons, and this one was delivered on June 6, so I can’t link to it for you.  Allow me to explain some of what the pastor discussed and how it has impacted me.

The story Steve Weins was speaking on comes from Exodus 14.  We join the Israelites in the wilderness, having just fled slavery in Egypt.  Their Southern journey has taken a Northward turn, due to the Red Sea in their path, but God tells them “Go back and camp at Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the Red Sea.”  Now I know you are saying, “Pi-hihawhat?” but if you look at a map you will see that He said, “Go back to that peninsula and camp between the mountains and the water on every side.”  aka “Trapped.” 
I know my mom, who has a cat-like affection for water, is really identifying with the Israelites who turned to Moses and said, “Are you CRAZY???  We gonna die out here.” 
Directions have symbolic meaning in Hebrew culture, and the North symbolizes Deception.  Fear and slavery have driven them into the land of deception, and it is here that God tells them to turn back, to go to the mouth of the water and wait for Him.
Steve calls this the Mouth of Freedom. 
He says it is a sign of being on the edge of freedom that you think you are about to die.  The Egyptians didn’t want to kill them.  They wanted to take them captive, take them back to Egypt as free labor to build more pyramids.  The Israelites felt like they were going to die.  They wanted to go back to Egypt.  They wished they had never left.
I identify with the Israelites wanting to go back, feeling trapped between the known and the unknown, and fearing the unknown enough to wish I had never left.  A friend said to me recently that she thinks when we get to Heaven, we will be amazed by the amount of fear we each experienced here on Earth…each and every one of us driven by fear right into the arms of deception.  But God calls us to turn back, like the people of Israel, surrounded on every side, and wait for Him.   
What comes next for the Israelites is one of the most famous scenes of the Old Testament.  Moses raises his staff and a wind from the East, symbolizing New Beginnings, blows across the water all night until two walls of water line a path of dry land to the other side of the sea.  At God’s command, Moses lowers his staff and the water returns to it’s normal course, burying their captors in watery graves. 

http://www.youtube.com/v/R1hvnMm91PU&hl=en_US&fs=1?rel=0
Over a thousand years later a man stands in a river shouting, “Turn back!  The Kingdom of God is at hand.”  John baptises people in the River Jordan as they repent, which literally means to turn back, from slavery to sin, fear, and deception.  But John’s baptism is only half the story.  John is preparing the way for Jesus, who brings with Him the east wind of New Beginnings.  Jesus is baptised by John, then spends three years proclaiming a new way to live.  Through His death and resurrection, He makes that new way available to us who are joined in his death and therefore joined in His resurrection.  The Holy Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives in us.  This is the transformation which is called salvation. 

Baptism is an outward sign of this salvation, a way of saying, “I die to my sins, I live by the resurrection power of Jesus.”  Or as Steve put it, “Baptism is a place to stand and say that I am a part of a community of people that is called to…stand at the mouth of freedom for the terrified ones who don’t know what to do. To stand at that mouth of freedom and say there is a way through.” 

Oh.

Yeah.

That is why I do what I do. 

I stand at the mouth of freedom for the terrified ones and say there is a way through. 

Because evil doesn’t get the last word, and the resurrection power of Jesus is at work, right now, making a way for so many people who are trapped by slavery, fear, and deception.    Because there are all kinds of slaves in the world today…slaves to human trafficking, slaves to terror, slaves to selfishness, addiction, and sin, slaves to memories and a history they cannot escape.  Because we are, so many of us, driven by fear. Because there is something in this world that is stronger than fear:

Love.

I think it is fair, also, to say that I am camped at my own Pi-hahiroth (Mouth of Freedom).  I am battling discouragement, but I haven’t given in.  I feel an East Wind coming over the water.  Here’s to New Beginnings…

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