Waiting

After two of the busiest weeks of the year, followed by another week that did not slow down, I feel like I should update you on the 12 girls who descended upon our base for Discipleship Training School (they’re amazing), about the vision strategy meeting where God placed the same issues on each of our hearts (Community begins at home.  With relationship.  Who knew?), about the teams that will be going to Israel, Ethiopia, and Asia this year…but in the middle of rehashing all the details of an update, I realize that if I am bored writing it, my readers will be bored reading it.  And I do not want to bore anyone.  So…that’s your update (for now)…

12 girls for the DTS = amazing

Community begins at home, and we’re working on that this year.  Again.  😉

Israel, Ethiopia, Asia, and who knows where else.

As for me and my heart…

…I have come to the conclusion that I am learning to wait on the Lord.  A week and a half ago I got to teach a little girl to dance in the Spirit…which was basically teaching her how to wait and let Him take the lead.

Yesterday I got to play my violin in worship.  Twice.  Both times I got feedback on how incredible it was…actually, people have been saying that a lot recently…how my skills are really improving and what not.  I’m thinking to myself, “What I am doing right now is waaaaaay less technical than what I was doing when I picked it back up months ago.”

What I am doing differently…is waiting.  Sometimes on a single note.  F#.  F# again.  Still playing F#.  Suddenly a run comes out of nowhere (that’s like a lick, for those of you who specialize in more fretted stringed instruments.)  Sometimes I wait without playing…or without the violin in my hands at all.  I don’t “hear” the part, so I don’t play…and I realize that it works best with what everyone else is doing.

Not that learning to listen in ensemble is anything new to me.  Not that learning to wait is anything new, either.  Just seems to be where I am right now.  And I am feeling incredibly impatient…like standing there with my violin in my hands, thinking, “Why don’t I have anything to play? [pause pause pause] Ooooooooooh…because I’m not supposed to play right now.”  Then I set down the violin and a moment later realize it’s almost my cue.  I haven’t played some of these songs in months, and last time I played it differently.  How, then, do I know it’s almost my cue?  Must be Jesus.  I pick up the violin and play a scale and the whole room erupts into movement and color and life.

I remember when I started learning to dance with God.  I would wait, with my hands open, and breathe.  Just breathe.  And wait.  Pretty soon my arms would know which way to move and my feet would follow the gentle motion.  Learning to wait while playing in a band with a bunch of rock-n-roll worshipers is a bit more…raucous…to say the least.  Not all worshipers are rock-n-roll, but these guys are!  Learning ensemble with them may just be a miracle for this often soft spoken ballerina, and I’m loving it.

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The Beauty of Questions

It all began with a rather raw and vulnerable question for God:

Do you want me bad enough to put me back together? Am I worth the time this takes?

Early last year this question, scrawled in my journal, sent me to explore an exercise my friend Tara (of Anam Cara Ministries) had sent to me.  It is fairly simple…

I come up with three questions: one for God, one for my heart, one for God and my heart.   I take three index cards and write one question per card, then turn the cards over and shuffle them.   Without looking at the questions, I tape them down to a scrap of paper or board.  Now comes the fun part: color!  I paint each card with whatever color or texture I feel like.  While the paint is drying I get to go through magazines and tear out pictures…whatever pictures I have a strong emotional reaction to, consonance or dissonance.  Then I arrange the pictures on the cards and glue my little collages together.

I try to forget about the question and focus on only the color and images while I am working.  The idea is to stay in the question instead of looking for answers.  When I finally get to turn the cards over and see which question goes with which picture, I find that I am learning more about myself and God, about my unspoken hopes and desires, and about faith.  Not every picture is an answer per se, but they do correspond.

The above question which started the whole process resulted in another question:

“Well, what if stuff happens again?”

God: Do you want me bad enough to put me back together?

Extracted from an insurance ad, the words positioned over clouds and beach-grass with a running shoe gave me the uneasy sense that this road would get harder before it got better.  I honestly did not know what to make of it.

Here I am, almost a year later, and I can tell you two things:  stuff happened again, and God wanted me enough to put me back together.

I have 20 little sets of these cards.  Questions from raw, hungry, almost desperate, sometimes timid, fearful, playful, hopeful, raw places in my soul…

…did I make the right choice?

…what if I never get this?  Will you still love me?

…did I let you down?

…what am I missing?

…what do you want to bring out in me this week?

…what  am I hoping for?

…am I worthy of you?

…what do I want?

…what do you want for me, God?

…how do I live well?

The questions are deeply personal, and although I have shared some very general ones, I can look at them and remember the ache,  sometimes confusion, and longing.  This evening I spent assembling the 20 sets of cards from 2010 into a book, and as I look at each collection of cards, the thing that stands out to me most is hope.

The exercise is a discipline of faith, being willing to trust God enough to let the question sit unanswered while I make pretty pictures.  Even asking the questions has taken a good measure of faith.  I have poured out all my doubt, fear, and misgivings into these questions, and without meaning to I have discovered what it means to live in hopeful expectancy.  I wonder if we realize just how interconnected fear and faith truly are.

Know God

Sometimes you get to know what God is doing.

Sometimes you know that God is moving.

Sometimes you know God.  And that is enough.

I’ve heard this message three times today, from three different women in my life.  I like knowing the details, seeing how God brings together pieces and people all over  the world at just the right moment for something incredible to happen.  I like knowing what God is doing in me, how, and why…having a story to tell and being able to explain all that is going on.  But, I have been reminded thrice, that’s not always how it works…and sometimes it’s better that way.

Okay, it’s probably better that way a lot.

(Don’t you need my help with that God?  I could do this over here, wouldn’t that be good?  How about some minor adjustments to the plan…?)

I think of Ester, and how she did not know what she was getting into, what would happen or how it would go.  Dear Miss Ester…the only book of the Bible where God is not mentioned by name, and yet by the end of the book you can see His hand so clearly.  Sometimes, it seems, you don’t need to know the whole plan…even when your life is on the line.  Even then, you can step out because you know God…know His character and know you can trust Him.

I do like knowing, though.

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…

The Prodigal God

Many weeks ago I was considering the story of the prodigal son.  I identified more with the older brother, and I didn’t really want to be the older brother.  That is because I thought “prodigal” meant “rude, rebellious, selfish, wasteful, and mean”.  Turns out that’s not what it means.  It means… 

prod·i·gal

[prod-i-guhl] 

–adjective

1.     wastefully or recklessly extravagant: prodigal expenditure.
2.     giving or yielding profusely; lavish (usually fol. by of  orwith ): 
              prodigal of smiles; prodigal with money.
3.     lavishly abundant; profuse: nature’s prodigal resources.

This changes everything.

Now, there is a noun definition that probably came from the story of the son in  Luke 15…and Jesus never uses the word prodigal.  He didn’t open by saying, “Let me tell you the story of the Prodigal Son.” The story is not about the son at all.  It is about the Father.  I am not saying anything new.  I stole my post title from Greg Boyd’s sermon of the same name, and he stole it from someone else.  (Now before you start thinking I’m an open theist, it’s a good message.  Just take the message for what it’s worth.)  It is the story of a man who has two sons.  The younger asks for his inheritance early and squanders it on the high life, then ends up feeding pigs for a living.  The older remains.  One day as the younger son is quite literally starving, he decides to come home.  The father sees him, hikes up his garment and comes running to his son.  It’s a good story.  Greg Boyd tells it better (follow the link above).  Jesus tells it better still.

The thing that stood out to me today was Mr. Boyd’s description of the Father’s household.  In verse 17, the son remembers his father’s hired servants…not the household servants, but day hires–homeless fellows who waited around until someone hired them for the day.  The household servants would go into town, find these folks waiting, then hire a few to do the menial tasks in exchange for wages.  Culturally they would provide their own food, be paid in cash at the end of the day, and then be sent on to make the best of what they could.  So the idea that they had food enough seems to imply that the Father provided food for them.  To provide food was to provide a form of acceptance, to say, “You belong here.  You are welcome.”  This would have been scandalous, according to Mr. Boyd.

I got to thinking about the younger son and why he left the farm for the city.  I thought about how embarrassing his father’s generosity might have been to him.  I thought about the kindness that ignores status and how boring that is for someone who longs for a shiny, fast-paced life-style, for recognition and esteem.  I don’t want the same things as the younger son in this story.  That’s why I don’t identify with him.  People always talk about the cultural implications of working with pigs, and how that would have been detestable to him.  I don’t understand that, and I don’t detest the same things my culture detests, so I have a really hard time wrapping my brain around the significance of the pigs.  But what I see is a man who became the thing he hated most.  I am imagining that he hated farming, hated the hired hands–the day workers, and hated that his father treated them with regard.  So I wonder what he must have been thinking as he stood there, smelling like a sewer, with the Father lavishing kisses on him…

“No…you’re not…supposed…to love…me…you’re…supposed…to despise…me…”  I wonder if he was embarrassed for his father’s public display of affection and yet broken by his need for the father’s love.  I wonder if he was embarrassed by his own need, and then in turn embarrassed by his arrogant judgement of all the hired hands, all those years.

His speech…his famous interrupted speech.  He was all ready to say, “I have sinned against you and against God.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Treat me as one of your hired servants,” when the Father interrupts him and throws the most lavish party ever, dresses him in his own robes, puts the signant ring on his finger.  This is where I identify with the younger son.  The God of the Universe seems to be hopelessly, extravagantly in love with me.  I stand here, wanting to studder, “But I don’t…derserve…” as He interrupts with joy and love.  The paradox of God’s love is that, no matter how “underserving” we are of His love, the love itself makes us worthy. 

Blessings and peace,
Beth

Unveiled Faces

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.


2 Corinthians 3:17-18


Today I have finished reading Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis.  This book, unlike any other he has written…unlike any I have read by any other author, may just be his masterpiece.  It is a “Myth Retold”, the ancient myth of Cupid or Psyche, set in Greek times in a barbaric kingdom outside Greece.  Orual, an ugly princess made queen, is making her complaint against the Gods for injustice suffered at their hands during her youth.  She wears a veil to cover her ugliness throughout her entire queenship, and then at the end of her life is given the opportunity to read her complaint.  She appears before a the council without her veil, without any barrier to hide her from them.  When she goes to read, she finds that her long, drawn out story has been replaced by a short, older complaint, which she reads over and over until interrupted by the judge.  After a long silence, the judge speaks again:


“Are you answered?” he said.
“Yes,” said I.


And in the next chapter, she explains:


The Complaint was the answer.  To have heard myself making it was to be answered.  Lightly men talk of saying what they mean.  Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.”  A glib saying.  When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words.  I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer.  Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean?  How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?


Of course I have done a great injustice to the book by extracting the thesis statement from the end of the book and posting it here.  I am not sure if I have ruined the book for you…you will have to read it and let me know.  The bit, though, brings a certain amount of light to 2 Corinthians, which I have been studying this week.  To be unveiled means honesty, and that can be frightening, especially when we have been keeping one thing hidden for so long that we didn’t even know it was there.  We move in 2 Corinthians from the veil and unveiled faces to the treasure which we have in jars of clay…more about honesty and the juxtaposition between the Glory of God and our incompleteness.  It is not by pretending to be a diamond vial that I will show best His glory, but if I am honest with myself about my clay-ness.  And even, proceeding to chapter 5, we see that all this honesty is not for some sort of emotional burlesque show, but for transformation from glory to glory as was mentioned in chapter 3.


For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 


2 Corinthians 5:4

New Things

Happy Resurrection Sunday!  (Even if it is a week late.)

After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to begin a search for new church home.  I did not spend time doing this when I first arrived, and I look at this as an opportunity to get a better view of the Body of Christ in this area.  Please pray for wisdom and insight as I meet people and make connections, that I will learn more about this area and myself in the process.

We had our first staff in-service this Thursday!  Life time YWAMer and long time friend of the base, Troy Sherman spoke to us his perspective on YWAM’s 50th year and the Jubilee celebration.  Jubilee is a tradition from the Old Testament, where every 50th year all debts are forgiven, slaves are set free, and the land rests fallow for a year.  With forgiveness comes the responsibility to learn and grow from our mistakes, and Troy urged us to consider how we can mature as individuals and an organization.  One of the things that really stood out to me is how we steward our treasures…first how we invest the resources God has provided for us, and most importantly how we steward God’s most important treasure: the people He has entrusted to us.

The discipleship training school left for their two month outreach this morning.  I am excited for them, as I have gotten to know them and invest in them through my involvement with the school in the first couple months of this year.  Even though I myself had been planning to leave for Africa with the team today, I know that I am where I am supposed to be.  Just as I myself am in a season of personal transformation, the base is also in a season of transformation.  We don’t know yet what the end will be, but I feel that I am to be an integral part of what is unfolding.

Bless you this week!  Please pray for:

  • Personal growth in this season of seeking intimacy with God
  • Clarity on the direction for my ministry in YWAM Pismo Beach
  • Clarity for the base as we go deeper in God’s call for us
  • Provision as I seek to expand my monthly financial support
Beth

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