Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I'm restless. I suppose I always have been. 4 years here, 4 years there. One summer doing this, one summer doing that. I figure it's just a matter of growing up on the move. England, Colorado, California and different places inbetween and during. Sometimes I wonder though, am I running from something, running from myself? At times it is clear to me, that I am avoiding something that God is trying to place in my life, at other times I feel like God is trying to move me somewhere. Often I am so confused that I simply stay put for fear of mishearing God's voice in my life.

Last night I went to a prayer and worship evening. As I was discussing with a friend from work, earlier this morning, I was hesitant in going because I had an idea of what it was going to be like. Alas, I gave up bitterness, and all that comes with it, for Lent, so I decided this would be a good thing for me to go to. If nothing else, it would prove that I am making an effort to experience the "diversity in which people express their relationship with God" (was that the exact phrase I used last post?). I felt a little out of place, surrounded by young adults (half my age, half teens) croweded in the medium sized front room of a closed coffee shop. It felt like a high school God experience all over again, not necessarily a bad thing, just slight dejavu.

Later that evening after worship and a talk, Gary, the speaker, looked at me and asked point blank "Can I pray with you?" Now you have to understand, I can be pretty sensitive about how people ask if they can pray for one another. I've been approached by people who want to pray for me because they don't agree with something I've done or believe, they usually say, "I'll pray for you." In a pseudo-concerned pitying way. I have often found myself biting my tongue before I say something snide, or potentially hurtful. In this case I didn't get defensive, and he wasn't the man to say something like "No sir, I would not like you to pray for me." So I smiled and laughed a little nervously while responding, "How could I say no?" After briefly asking me what church I attended, if I lived in The City and if I knew about the Holy Spirit, he prayed for me.

I can't remember exactly how he started or exactly what he said through out the prayer. What I do remember is key words. Missions, Travel, Teaching, Made equal, Compassion, Unfullfilled, More, something to do with Relationship and Go. I've never been prayed over prophetically, so it was a new experience. I didn't fall to the ground, pass out, laugh or cry uncontrolably, but I did feel peace. He brought up a lot of things that I had just stopped questioning about, or had on hold because of where I was at right now.

I suppose the word Go stood out to me because it's what I have been struggling with for about a year and a half now. Go, or perhaps follow might be the best way to describe it. Just Go. Get up and go, and all through it I've asked where and how? I've admired the way in which people such as Peter, Andrew, James and John, just stopped what they were doing to follow Jesus. Yet still there were men who couldn't do that like the rich young man in Mark 10. As an indecive person who bounces back and forth from spontaninaity to strictly planned, I find myself bound somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Stepping out in faith to follow someone I don't know and to who knows where is something I want to do, but I struggle with leaving behind what I have (which has less to do with material attachment and more to do with commitments and responsibilities). I would love to just Go or follow or something, but I don't know where or when or how. So "go" is what stood out.

As I am still processing the evening and there are many words I feel the need to disect I feel it would be unwise to leave out the scripture that God had me mulling over for most of the evening. Jeremiah 1, it's a passage I've led Bible Study on, and something that I found so itimate and empowering, how the Lord could touch the mouth of a young man to speak out in boldness and love. I thought it was something I should have read out to the group, but I held back, and while I still think I should have read it outloud, I'm starting to think God is trying to bring this scripture to me, for me.

So far this Lenten season has brought me to places much more spiritually mature than I think I am capable of handling. Yet I am trying my best to listen carefully and focus on what it's really about... not what I'm giving up but what I'm striving towards.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lent struggles

Last Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, a time of self-denial that symbolically parallels the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent in the wilderness. The Lenton season ends Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the resurection of Jesus.
But back to the personal meaning of Lent and all this self denial talk. This year I didn't want to do what I have done in the past. One year I gave up TV, another I gave up MySapce and sugar, and I think I did all three last year, but I can't really remember. These habits I gave up for 40 days (actually more if your counting Sunday's) were good for me. However the purpose of denying myself these things was supposed to draw me nearer to God - in essence, force myself to focus on God and call on him for strength. Instead of spending time reading the Bible or praying during the times that I would be participating in the activities I denied myself, I spent my time doing other unproductive things or eating other unhealthy snacks (enter salty/savory goodness). Clearly Lent wasn't working the way in which it was intended (like many other religious practices and me).This year, I hope will be different.

This year I spent almost a week mulling over the possible things I could give up. As I am trying to be healthy (ok, maybe it's because I'm paying for a personal trainer and I'm sick of looking at more of me than there should be), I thought about giving up unhealthy foods... namely chocolate or other sugary goodness. However, this shouldn't be something that I give up for lent to be spiritual, but rather something I should give up to be healthy and not simply for 40 days. So sugar/chocolate was a no go. Then there was internet related habits... facebook, podcasts, email, blogs, google (ok I only just thought of that... yikes that would be scary), but surprisingly I don't feel too addicted (ok that might be a small lie), but lately they have been tools that I have been using in deepening my relationship with God rather than sucking it dry, so I chose not give those up. My next thought was to add a discipline, you know the normal, reading the Bible, praying daily, meditating... all that good stuff. As I have tried making those disciplines happen for new years resolutions or other such "commitment" days, I decided those were yet another thing that I couldn't just add for the sake of needing something to give up or do. By Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) I was at a loss. I really wanted to do something meaningful.

I jokingly thought I should give up bitterness, but then I thought about it. Bitterness tends to get in the way of my relationship with anyone, especially God. I tend to use it as a defense mechanism, and a reason for not being open to different forms of worship or praise. I've noticed in the past few years I have built this wall that has stopped me from really enjoying the diversity in which people express their relationship with God. Ok wow, that sentence is way too spiritual for any earthly good. Let me unpack that, as I will mostlikely forget what I was trying to say.

Enjoying the diversity in which people express their relationship with God... Let me try and put it into an unchristianese format (as it is not necessary to understand Christianese to be a good Christian... sounds like a good future blog post). Every person has a different way they like to interact with God. Like how people pray... some pray with large words and intensity, others with a specific voice, some call God different names like Daddy (I have a hard time with this, but that's my issue, not theirs), some even pray in tongues (a different, spiritual, language that some parts of the church don't believe is a modern spiritual gift and others do). Those different ways of prayer show diversity in how people communicate to God through prayer. Worship is the same way, you've got hymnal books, "contemporary worship music," brass bands, acapella, gospel, dancing, flags, the list goes on. Again, another example of diversity in how we express our relationship with God.

I get frustrated when people put their relationship with God in a box - when they feel that there is only one way to have a relationship with God. Then again, I tend to have my relationship with God in a similar box. I want to interact with God in a particular way, and if someone else says I'm doing it wrong, or I should do it differently, or with more or less of whatever I get frustrated - no, bitter. This bitterness starts out small, then grows into an ugly beast that pretty much strangles any hope of a good relationship with both people and God. I was getting so offended by people who made me feel that my relationship with God was inadequate I just became bitter about the whole situation and stopped being open to they ways that they experienced God. So my hasty half serious thought about giving up bitterness took root, and grew into my serious Lent commitment. I will deny myself the ability to become bitter.

Well it's been less than a week, and I have had to take some very big steps to start cutting bitterness out of my life. I've had to endure Women's camp (which wasn't bad at all), work on a relationship with someone who hurt me (I again was reminded that grace is freely given to God, and that I should be willing to at least entertain the idea of viewing people from that perspective), and I am going to try out a different way of worshiping and praying tomorrow evening. I can't say I haven't slipped along the way. I have had moments of bitterness and frustration, but I have sincerely tried to put those aside and simply allow God to put me in the right place at the right time, and keep my mind open to how He wants me to respond.

My roommate left a prayer in my purse last Tuesday night (the day before Lent began). She didn't intend for it to be something that I would focus on during this season, rather for encouragement after she heard about the day I had. Looking back on this past week, I am tempted to believe that God very purposely planned out this Lent season for me. I hope I am hearing him correctly.

Prayer for Peace
Lord, preserve me from fighting your battle in my own strength. May I never pull up the precious wheat with the tares. May I triumph, not by frantic striving with the forces of evil, but by keeping my eyes securely fastened on You.
I ask that you make of me an expert peacemaker. Help me, in the power of the Spirit, to clear the path of obstacles to making Your peace - real peace - in Your Body here on earth.
-Leanne Payne

Monday, February 4, 2008

troubleshooting life

My friend Chris is amazing with computers. Much like a doctor with a disease, he looks at the symptoms and searches for the underlying cause. There are very few issues that he can't seem to fix. Granted there are the occasional miraculous computer recoveries that he can't take credit for. For example, my old ipod was pretty much dead, and I had come to accept this unfortunate event. However, I really wanted to try and recover all the music I had on it, as I used my ipod as my music storage so as not to overwhelm my laptop's hard drive space. Meaning, most of the information on my ipod was not backed up elsewhere. He did his normal Chris thing, and researched the product (he's not a fan of apple, so he sought out other people's opinions). After he found out common issues and troubleshooting computer stuff and what not (I am not a computer person, and I'm sure there are technical words for stuff and what not). Needless to say, after all that work, the ipod was unresponsive. We closed it up and called it quits, but then the miracle. we plugged it into the computer one last time, and there it was all of the information, all of my music waiting to be copied and saved. Neither of us could explain what happened, it was merely a technological miricle. We quickly copied the info, went out and bought a new ipod and transfered all of the music back to my new ipod.

Unfortunatly not all computer's Chris has attempted to fix had happy or miraculous endings. A friend of ours, AnnE, has a computer that never ceases to remind Chris that he is not God, even when it comes to maters of computing. He can merely treat the symptom and hope that it lasts long enough for AnnE to do what she needs before something goes wonkey again. I believe he also had to retire a few of his sister's computers and his.

Another thing that should be noted - computers come with servicing manuals, specific to the brand, and design in of the computer. In my last computer befuddlement, my laptop had to be opened up and taken apart, piece by piece, to get to the fan, which seemed to be working below optimal standards (in normal speak, my computer was being noisy and overheating). Chris, being the wise person that he is, and probably by previous experience, took apart the computer with pen and paper, and manual at hand - labeling each area and screw to ensure that they made it safely back in their correct place. When he got to the fan, we found the source of the noise and overheating - a large amount of dust and grime had made it's home there. After we cleaned out the dust, Chris went to work putting my laptop back together, following the manual, specific to my laptop, that he had downloaded in the beginning of the process. The end result - cool, quiet laptop that stopped complaining (for the most part).

I wish it was that easy, rather logical, in regards to troubleshooting life. It doesn't come with a brand name, model specific manual, nor does it have a user-friendly customer service hotline. Now the response to that, which I would hear some Christian say, would be, "Oh the Bible is our life manual, and God is the "user-friendly customer service hotline." Well, I believe there are lots of encouraging words and guidelines in the Bible that life can be lived by, and God is always there, but let's be honest (or at least this is how I feel), The Bible can be cryptic, and God can be just as hard to understand. Today I don't want the "you just have to be more in touch with Jesus" response or the everpresent "dig deeper." Have you ever been there? Life just doesn't seem to lend itself to logical means or explaination. Like my ipod that had the unexplainable "healing" or AnnE's computer that can't be diagnosed beyond it's symptoms, life doesn't follow the manual.

This past week I felt and continue to feel like AnnE's computer. I see the symptoms, but I can't quite figure out what exactly is going on. I make steps to diagnose and treat, yet it doesn't seem to get the right results.

This I will leave unfinished for the time being...