This Week's Focus

Investigate my life, O God
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I'm about;
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.

Psalm 139:23-24

Saturday, May 29, 2010

day 29: I remembered

The moment it happened I wanted to run yelling and screaming the reality of it: God melts!!!

It was a big small moment.

Frustration was overtaking me. Trying to take care of something, be responsible, follow through, etc. It wasn't working out and I felt that familiar feeling of overwhelmed, helpless, weak.

But then I remembered.

When I focus on my trial, it is big and God is small; I feel weak, powerless, consumed by it. Instead, focus on God. Who He is. What He has done and is doing and will do. God is big. Bigger than my struggles.

And it was as if God touched His giant laser beam directly on me and instantaneously melted the frustration and weakness. Who He is consumed me, replaced me, overtook me, and His power replaced all my feelings with peace. The battle is His. I am His. He is driving my ship. I trust Him.

My intimacy with God is so intense right now. So real. His presence is my reality. He is a safe, true filter through which to experience this strange, sometimes painful world. I don't have to run, I don't have to hide, I found Him - right here, right inside, beside.

My melted heart sings - Hallelujah!

Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

day 28: sitting

I am just sitting with God today. In a quiet place in my soul. Life is still going on around me. My arms are moving, my legs carry me forward, my voice speaks. But inside I am sitting. Sitting with God. Sitting with His Words. His teaching. His love. Reflecting on how much He has shown me this month. About himself. About myself. About others. I am sitting with a hunger that is deep to continue this connection and intimacy.

Be still...

I read a commentary on Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God." Interestingly, the original Hebrew word used here, "still," has many meanings, one of which in this context actually commands us to "be weak." The commentator said, "This command — “be still” — forces us to think on two things: that we are finite, and that God is infinite. That being the case, we need to drop our hands, go limp, relax, and “chill out.” Christian people ought to “come, behold the works of Jehovah,” (v. 8) that we may enjoy a calm confidence in him who gave us his Son.

He continues: "Spiritual serenity, the psalmist admits, ought to be cultivated in spite of the shaking mountains and agitated waters (vv. 2-3; i.e., figures for the difficulties we face in life). This spiritual calm, that God commands, does not come from a lack of troubles; it derives from a steady, deep reflection on the ways God has intervened in history on behalf of his people (cf. Romans 15:4).

"So as your world crumbles around you, the call from Scripture is: don’t flinch in faith in God. Stand still — not because of a self-made confidence, not because you are the most composed person in the face of disaster, not because “you’ve seen it all.” Be still because of what you know about God.

It is “God’s past” that provides calm for “our future.” Know that he is God! Know it, not merely intellectually, but practically, spiritually, and emotionally. He is your God. He is the ruler of kingdoms of this earth and the all-powerful Creator of the Universe."

This is the beauty of what reading Psalm 139 has done for me. I began this journey thinking God was going to show me how valuable I was by telling me how great I am. Instead, He has shown me how inextricably tied my value is to Him. I am only because of Him. What GLORY to know.

And to sit with.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 26-27: linked

This month has been a reprieve. I've let all other concerns, hurts, problems, challenges diminish and God crescendo. Feels luxurious. I don't want it to end. But God showed me this week that this precious time has been a link from one time to the next in my life. All of what He has been doing and continues to do in me with this Psalm's message is preparing me for the next thing. And old things.

When I focus on my battles, then they are big and God is small. I feel weak,helpless, overwhelmed. What He has shown me over the past few weeks is that I need to focus on Him, who He is, what He does and trust in Him. My God is much bigger than my trials. I want to live in His power, and can.

Shouldn't I despise those who resist you?

In these last verses, it is as if David's battles sneak into his own struggle to remember who God is. He lets us see that he, too, has hurts, battles, conflicts, trials. For immediately after he pours out himself, he asks God to search him and show him where he is off in his heart.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you...

No. No I should not despise those who resist God. What if He despised me every time I resisted!? I surrender in some areas; I resist in others. It's easy to see when someone close to me is resisting God because their actions are hurtful to me. It's always so clear what they should change, what they should do differently. Not so easy to look in the mirror and do the same. But when I resist, God is patient, faithful, wise, loving. May those qualities in Him grow in, and out, of me.

In the trial of my life that has resurfaced this week, one thing is different. And it is not the other person involved. It is me. God has brought me one step closer to wholeness by accepting my repentant heart and allowing it then to absorb the truth about how valuable I am because of who He is, and sever the toxic cord of codependency that has bound me to misery and worthlessness.

I am freer in Him, despite the link between my past and my future. It does not bind me captive; He frees me to live healthier in this present moment. But I have to remain connected - linked - to Him.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 24-25: sleeping in

Verses 9 and 18 have been echoing in my head. They each reference morning:

If I ride the wings of the morning... Let me rise in the morning and live always with you!

For the past 4 mornings now, I have been wide awake at exactly 5:50. I'm not, not, not a morning person. I love the beauty and solitude of it when I do get up early, but sleep is much more alluring.

The last time this happened (and I obeyed/got up), the Holy Spirit thrust me into a new level of prayer and experience with God that was incredible and life-altering. I knew it was Him because every day I awoke at exactly the same time. I know exactly when it happened because I journaled it: March 7, 2007. It lasted 3 days.

I feel Him calling me, inviting me to something again, but I have been stubborn and sleeping in.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 23: alive

Friday was a beautiful day.

Reflecting on it later I am able to see, again, how, by clinging to God as a branch desperate for connection to the vine for life-giving sap, I am experiencing fruit growing out of my life, which is His.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Some bicyclists found a terribly injured owl by the side of the road near us. We happened to be at a little neighborhood store and overheard this news and asked if we could go see it. Important note: I am not historically an animal person. At all.

There in a small, mucky ditch lay a magnificent curved brown-and-white spotted head with breath-taking, huge, brown, round eyes looking up at us out of tall, green grass. His sharp yellow beak stood out from his face; his wings were spread sadly and unevenly out from his body which was indistiguishable as it disappeared into the ditch.

When we approached he clicked loudly to let us know he felt threatened so we kept our distance, all of us feeling horribly powerless to help him in his obvious pain and fear.

After several calls, we ended up with the right place where animals are voluntarily rehabilitated. The woman on the phone instructed us to put the owl in a box and she would meet us after she got off work. So we got 3 pairs of gloves and a cardboard box and went to help the poor guy.

I was scared to death. Owls have dangerous claws and strong beaks. As the adult I felt that I should "take charge" because my children might be in danger, but that voice that I am learning to trust pressed upon me that my daughter had a gift with animals. She is gentle, patient and intuitive about what they need and how to be safe. So, I encouraged her, supported her, told her that I knew she had that gift and gave her the gloves.

It was beautiful to watch her. It was the kind of beauty that is what we see when a soul lives as God designed it, called it, purposed it. The owl was scared, but my daughter handled it perfectly. This large, powerful animal allowed my daughter to soothe it with her hand on her head, cradle it's wings in her small hands, pick it up and place it in the box. And then let her caress its beak and let drops of water fall into its open mouth. Exquisite.

She has talked for the past year of wanting to be a vet with a "rehabilitationist" specialty...we met an "animal rehabilitationist" that day. Only God can make those appointments and create those opportunities. And open a mother's eyes to see value in a gift that she normally overlooks, minimizes, scoffs. And trust Him and allow a child to stretch it's wings. To live. Thus God giving living fruit of His Spirit at just the right moment in a child's life.

And in setting her free, I am more alive, too. Fulfilling my own purpose. And hopefully the owl will live as well.

...and the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 22: counting grains of sand

My daughter and I tried to count grains of sand today in order to grasp how many thoughts God has about us.

It was tedious and painful. We measured 1/4 teaspoon sand, spilled it onto a plate, and used a toothpick. We had to employ a magnifying glass to see each grain, and make sure a light was shining on our work. The grains are quite beautiful and we were struck at how different and multi-colored each one is.

Ultimately we had to estimate. We counted a hundred grains which took up 1 square centimeter of space. Spreading out the rest of the grains, we loosely estimated more than 10,000 grains in 1/4 teaspoon of sand! Then imagined the sand on the beach ... utterly mind-blowing.

We took a few minutes to try to capture our own thoughts and count them. Also quite difficult because we had no definition of a "thought." So we looked up the definition:

thought: that which one thinks; a single act of thinking; idea; notion; consideration; care; regard; contemplation; anticipation; expectation.

Looking at the millions of grains of sand in my hand. Holding the knowledge that the Creator of the Universe has more ideas, considerations, regard, contemplations, anticipations about me. About every one of us. Each thought as beautiful and unique as a single grain of sand. It is utterly incomprehensible, and yet as equally awe-filling and worth-imparting.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 21, cont'd: tuning in

When my daughter is in her horseback riding lesson indoors during rain, there is chaos. A bunch of kids on horses going different directions and doing different things in the arena, rain hitting the metal roof, multiple instructors barking out orders. I watched tonight and struggled to keep my eye on my daughter and my ear tuned to her trainer's voice. And it struck me how amazing it is that each child knows it's instructor's voice and follows the guidance.

My sheep recognize my voice... I know them, and they follow me.

I've read this psalm so many times now I feel an intimate familiarity with the words. They have a certain feel, a particular voice, a consistent message. They offer comfort and soothe the soul. They point a specific direction. Their celebration is certain. Predictable. Knowable.

This intimacy has shed light on another voice. It has made distinguishable to me another message that contradicts the consistency of the psalm. It tries to convince me that I am not valuable. It whispers doubt. It leads me to darkness.

Several friends have stopped me in the past couple of weeks when I have spoken the words of this "voice." The lies that don't get caught in the filter and seep into my being and out my mouth.

My pastor reminded me recently of the movie, A Beautiful Mind, about a Nobel Laureate in economics who had schizophrenia and heard voices. At the end of the movie, and in his real life, he said that the voices never went away, he just learned to distinguish the real ones and ignore the imaginary ones.

By reading this psalm over and over again, and drinking it's meaning and message into my being, I have learned more distinctly my Shepherd's voice. I am growing in my ability to recognize a fake. Because of what God is doing in this journey with Psalm 139, I can now better tune in to His voice and tune out the false ones.

Day 21: who made thee

The Lamb
by William Blake, 1789
from Songs of Innocence

Little Lamb,who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

I wish I could put my (earthly) Father's music on this blog for you to hear as you read this beautiful poem. These lyrics have been dancing around in my head with the words of Psalm 139 - they speak the same thing: rejoice in who made you.

But how? It is easy to declare, but how to live this way? Rejoicing?

Awareness? Remembering to think about Him as many moments as I can? Looking for Him in all things? I can not do this alone. I need His eyes to see, I need a new heart to experience and perceive and be willing. I need every moment for Him to wash away the last and help me to see anew and with the renewed innocence of a child. I can not do this alone.

Abide in me...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 17-20: restoration

I will restore the years the locusts have eaten...

It took 40 years. From the time I was 2 and choosing the destructive path of jealousy until now, at 42. I'm struck at the number which I've only now just realized. 40 years. That is a holy number - for Noah, Moses, the Israelites, Jesus, the Apostles... but I digress!

Mom called this week. She asked me to come to her last concert. It has gotten too painful for her to play and endure hours long practices. I was struck a blow in the heart - I've only just begun to celebrate her gift! She even offered to pay for me to fly, which underscored the importance because my parents have never offered that and really can't afford it.

So I dropped everything. My parents play in several groups in the Loveland, Colorado, area which is rich with talent and culture. My parents have a music studio, my dad focuses on composing and arranging; mom focuses on teaching. This is new for her in "retirement." She put aside her own career for many years to support her husband and kids. Dad was the teacher. Mom did other jobs. But Dad told me this weekend that Mom loves teaching. She has 20 students.

Friday the kids and I made the long, beautiful drive to Colorado.

Mom and Dad also teach private lessons at an Academy and they are good friends with the music instructor. The school hosted it's spring concert Saturday morning, too. The music director chose one of my Dad's compositions to perform. When I was a little girl my Dad wrote music to the poem, The Lamb, by William Blake. It is so beautiful, one of my favorites. And I'd longed for years to hear it live but never have. I got to hear it for the first time being sung by a group of young women with beautiful voices, and the simple instrumental included my mother on violin. The piece sounded truly like a gift from heaven.

Afterward, my mother was greeted again and again by students who obviously had deep love for her and she for them. Over and over, they'd hug and then look eye to eye with sincere care. Valuing her drew them to her. Valuing each other drew them into relationship. There it was before me: the message from Day 3 God gave me - the cure for jealousy. I was so moved - not jealous, not bitter - but overwhelmed with pride and love for her and sadness that I had missed out on the joy of celebrating her for so many years. Missed out on drawing close to her. Their love for her helped me to see her with new eyes. God helped my heart get to a place to finally celebrate and value my Mom, so that I could grow close to her.

Sunday my brother's family joined us in Golden, Colorado to hear what turns out to be both parent's final concert with the Loveland Orchestra. They were accompanying the Golden Chorale performing Mozart's Requiem. My dad plays, well, everything, but in this one various trombones. The theme of the concert was, "Classic Farewells." Appropos for my parent's farewell, too.

Sitting on the front row right in front of my Mom, I could see her face, her fingers, every movement of her arms and expression on her face. I could even hear so well that I could distinguish her particular violin and almost feel it's vibration in my body. I drank in every moment of her playing like never before. I remembered being 2 like it was yesterday and I celebrated being 42 and sitting in the audience of my Mother's playing and thanked God. (See posts from Day 2 and 3)

Our relationship has been difficult for many years. Not just because of the jealousy that God revealed to me from early on, but because of my own selfish, destructive relational choices that are rooted entirely in my utter insecurity. My mother saw my vacuumous need and she could not meet it. I know it broke her heart that whatever she gave me of herself was never enough. That I so often rejected her because she wasn't what I wanted her to be. This trip, this weekend, this action on both our parts - her reaching out to ask me, my dropping everything to go - feels like God reaching down and turning us both toward each other.


He is healing me to be able to be in relationship with her, with others, and ultimately with Him.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 16: blossoms

...the flower before the fruit?

I'm not ready to say this journey is bearing fruit. But there may be some blossoms indicative of fruit to come. At the beginning of this month-long journey I wrote that I had realized how my feeling worthless was affecting all my relationships. It is in relationship that I am seeing these blooms:

Conversation. A fresh growth of confidence rooted in being God's, not my own creation, coupled with my increased belief of other's value, seemed to flourish a conversation I had with my husband where I was talking about difficult things but with great respect for him. The evidence of it was that he said he felt encouraged, not lectured.

Jealousy. That ugliness tried to break through the soil of my heart again (see Day 2 and 3) but I was awake, aware and chose the new path God lighted for me! It was a silly, silly thing and I'm going to share it so I continue to live in the light - but it will reveal the total, ugly desperation of my ailing-but-healing heart. The dog. Ok. My husband constantly praises her, tells her how pretty she is, how good she is. I feel jealous because I long to hear him say those things to me. Ah. But this time, I decided to share in his joy of how great she is and draw close to them, to him, instead of pull away in a pout. ! I felt so much better! Even more valuable - maybe because I didn't listen to the stupid lie.

Reaching Out. I am kind of shocked at myself these past few days. It's been sort of out-of-body experiential because I do things - really out of the trueness of who I am when I feel utterly free to be myself - and yet don't recognize this person. Oh have I really drifted so far from who God created me to be? This new solid place that has replaced the black hole in my soul ... it's a reservoir, but solid, it's a wellspring, it's set me free. I've connected with people instead of fearing them. Encouraged naturally instead of holding back in doubt. Embraced and included instead of turning or freezing. The beauty of it is ... alluring. I want to stay this way. In Him I live and move and have my being.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 15: immersion

Just trying to immerse myself in the message that God reverently, with awe made me. And because he is reverent, awe-filled, and wonderful, then I am. I can not express the resistance in my soul to this. A lifetime of lies must be shed ... so I just have to be quiet for awhile and let God do his thing in me. I am longing for his presence to overcome me and squeeze out all the lies.

A few months ago when I was driving, I heard a song on the radio that I'd never heard before. It was one of those that leapt at me and the words that caught me were, "Don't you know that you're beautiful?" No. No. No. I don't.

I hadn't heard it again until today. I caught more of the words, came home and found it on YouTube. Funny. This is the picture of the band. Immersed. Singing the message I need to hear. It's about a girl whose parents are getting divorced, which mine are not, that isn't my struggle. But the words really all speak to me. It sort of seemed like God singing to me, immersing me in the message:

Don't you know don't you know that you're beautiful?
Don't you know don't you know that you're beautiful?
Can't you see what you mean to me?
Can't you see what you mean to me?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 14: wrestle, cont'd

"... I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

My father-in-law is an accomplished cabinetmaker. A craftsman of utmost excellence. I have had the privilege of working by his side on some projects he's done for our home. His concentration, attention to detail, commitment to quality, high standards are all woven into each step of his pieces. I've watched his worn, beaten hands create smooth finishes on rich walnut. Watched them measure and remeasure, saw and re-saw until he gets a fit just right. And I've gotten to hold those warm, strong hands in moments of tenderness between us.

When people think of him making something and describe it as "skillfully made," they are really describing him, the maker, not the thing he made. The object is not "skillful" but because the one who made it was, that quality becomes inherent in the created thing.

So in this verse where "fearfully" and "wonderfully" are adverbs that describe the verb "made," is it also possible that these words are not describing the author of the psalm, they are describing how the Creator made him?

Fearful, in this context, means "reverent," "having awe."

If so, then God made us reverently! With reverence. With awe! As he thought through every detail of our DNA, and planned out each day of our lives, as his hands smoothed out the design for our being, he had reverence and awe. God has reverence and awe for us?

And so I think because those qualities were present in how he made us, they become inherent in us. We are reverently and wonderfully made by a reverent, awe-filled, wonderful Creator.


Day 14: wrestle

I have been reluctant, avoiding, not really wanting to focus on these next several verses, 13-16.

Possibly because they are the most common, often associated with the prolife v. prochoice debate.

I think more because it is easy to focus on God and how great he is. This hits to the core of me. What I do not believe about myself.

Today I find a prodding, doubtful voice saying, "How can what David wrote apply to you?" Of course David is wonderfully made. But am I really?

I have more questions than answers. What does it mean to be "fearfully made?" What does it mean to be woven together in the depth of the earth? What does it mean you wrote all my days before I've lived them? Mostly, how can David's words apply to me?

This morning we printed out many translations and read them several times. I tried to research more about David, and about when we need historical context and when we can read God's Word personally. No answers yet.

Uncomfortableness. Resistance. Difficulty. Tangled. Confused. Wrestling.

Day 12 and 13: Ripples

Saturday I sat with about 8 women and shared my life-long struggle with feeling worthless, and what God is doing in me with this Psalm. It broke my heart to hear nearly all of them open up about feeling worthless, too. How I long for them to know and feel and live valued by God; how much more He must have that longing for all of us. How many more people feel this way?

Sunday we read the Psalm together as a family, each one sharing what stood out to them. The glimpse of a person's heart that is given in this kind of sharing touches my own so much. I watched my 13-year-old daughter read what I'd written on a day and I felt so thankful that she is learning this early in her life. And my 9-year-old son wrote a card for me that expressed how much I am loved, showing me that he understands. I asked him how he knew what to write and he replied, "I think God gave me a message for you, Mom."

I woke up Sunday morning with a new feeling. All I can ever remember is a sense of a dark hole in my soul that nothing could fill. The image of standing next to a stream but never drinking from it. Being aware of God but never turning him to quench the thirst for affirmation and worth that is so deep in me. But this morning I woke with a completely different picture, sense. I could almost literally hear the stream running. I am standing in it. I am bending over with my mouth wide open, drinking in. Every pocket and crevice I have is open to be filled with His living water. I don't see the dark hole in me anymore; only the sound of water filling me up; only the color of blue, clear and fresh water.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

I just realized ... it is pouring down rain as I write this...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 11

I have spent the past week and a half immersed in Psalm 139. I had no plan, am just walking through this as open as I can be. The first week I concentrated on the first stanza (verse 1-6), this second week have concentrated on the second (verse 7-12)

As I look back over the time I've spent so far, I do see one overarching pattern -- and it is a surprise:

I have begun to have a real sense of being valued, being valuable, by focusing on God, not on myself.

These first 12 verses are all about God. How important that he began by turning my eyes toward him before he ever makes mention of me. These opening verses tell me what he does, who he is, where he is. That I would be on his radar at all is amazing to me. That makes me feel especially valued. Not by having him tell me how great I am, but having him show me who he is.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 10: Even there

Today's words that God kept whispering over and over again to me ... "even there...even there...even there." (verse 10.)

I walked through the winter woods on a solitude retreat year ago. I remember this distinctly because I was so scared of walking alone in the woods but felt God calling me to overcome my fear of being lost by going on this walk alone with him. I had a fear of being lost literally, as well as spiritually.

All my senses were on high alert as this spider-loathing-non-girl-scout-type ventured out into the vast, dense unknown. The crisp, cold air pricked my nerve endings, helping along the state of alertness. My ears perked at every crackle and snap, most of which came from my own feet.

Unsure of which way to go, I opened my heart to listen to God and let Him guide my steps through the woods. As panic waned, my eyes sharpened to beauties previously unbeknownst to me! Spiderwebs seemed to emerge from nowhere, sprinkled with glistening dew like glitter on string. What was always there before but invisible to my eyes became known to me now as my eyes adjusted and my fear was allayed by awe.

I met marvel after marvel. An "arrow" tree pointing the way; tinkling bells of clinking broken ice at the shore of a pond; tree branches lifting their arms to the sky in seeming praise to their Creator; beds of brown leaves resting on the carpet that softened my path and made a great bed.

My heart and mind filled with the magnificence of God's creation - what He made. I knew I was in a sacred place.

And then I spotted a beer can in this place of beauty.

My emotions fell like a jet plane suddenly losing altitude. In my head played a fast-fowarding movie of all the bad things that could have happened in that place: drugs, alcohol, sex, worse. The place was spoiled.

"It is still a sacred place."

A voice inside but apart from myself.

"Even there."

Just because man defiles something, does not change the fact that God created it. God is love, beauty, goodness and what he makes is so, too. God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way.

Moses met God deep in the wilderness, too. God appeared as a blazing fire in a bush. He told Moses to take off his shoes, that he was on holy ground. Moses did because as an act of reverence, conveying his own unworthiness before God.

If we now know that God is everywhere, then we are on holy ground everywhere. And if he is in us, then we are holy. Not because of what we do good, but because of God's presence in us. Because of his creation of us. We are surrounded by sacred spaces. We are a sacred space. I am sacred.

This is so difficult for me to believe, embrace, live. Sunday morning, despite all the progress I've made, again I listened to a different voice that kept telling me that some things are not redeemable. I am just damaged. Beyond repair.

Lies! Here is the truth before me! Even as I have defiled myself, allowed others to defile me. I am still sacred. In all those ugly places I have been - physically and mentally - He was there. In all the dark places I will probably still go, He is there. Even there. All I have to do is open the eyes of my heart and, like those spider webs that I didn't see before the sunlight and dew worked together to reveal them to me, he will show himself. Even there.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 9: No escape

Today the words that stood out to me were "I can never escape you."

Maybe because that is exactly what I tried to do Sunday morning at church. I have never not wanted to take communion, but that morning the words of the pastor were stirring painful stuff in me and I didn't feel that I could draw that close to God as you do in communion. He was talking about intimacy, and identity, and value. I tried to stay in my seat but I couldn't stop crying and I could barely restrain myself from bolting. Finally, I did bolt to the back. It was a bad hair day so I was wearing a hat which made "hiding" seem more possible. I kept my eyes on the floor and was nearly running and almost to the door when I heard a familiar voice calling, "Kendra. Kendra." (no it wasn't God...or was it? :))

I never looked up but I did surrender. My wise friend took my arm and guided me to the prayer circle and just prayed. All I heard was her warm, loving voice comforting me somewhere deep as she talked to God for me.

I've always been a runner. An escape artist. I have avoided pain my whole life. But I know that this time I have to stay. No more escape. I have to lean in to whatever God is stirring up.

Intimacy is somehow importantly, essentially, connected to value.

I don't get it. Yet.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 8: "Love is a verb"

verb (vûrb)
1. Abbr. V or vb.
a. The part of speech that expresses existence, action, or occurrence

Nowhere in this psalm does God say outright, "I love you."

I am a word person. I LOVE words, love to study them, love to understand their meaning and try to choose just the perfect one, love how they can be used to paint pictures and convey feelings. And, words are my love language -- when someone tells me something good or encouraging or affirming, I feel loved.

So how is it after being with this Psalm now for 8 days I feel God's love eventhough those specific words aren't there?

Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth...

My friend Jennifer created a necklace that simply says, "Love is a verb." I have admired it for a long time, and bought one from her recently so I've been thinking about it a lot.

As another way to drink it into my heart, I began collecting Psalm 139 songs (posted some in the sidebar). In Rebecca St. James' song version of Psalm 139, she does sing, "eventhough you know [everything about me], you will always love me." It hit me today that she is saying directly what the Psalm does not. Psalm 139 describes all the ways in which love is a verb. I realized the Psalm doesn't have to say literally that God loves me because it is inherent in his actions.

(Jennifer sells the necklace pictured above in her Etsy store when she's not all out. Go to her blog to find out more

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day 6 and 7: A psalm (song-prayer) for ...

"Psalms are songs of praise to God as our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. Praise is recognizing, appreciating and expressing God's greatness." "Many psalms are intense prayers..."

Saturday morning I participated in our women's solitude retreat. My role there was to pray for the women as they spent time with God.

A little background. This role has been uncomfortable for me. I don't feel "trained." Many times I feel like I "should be" doing things that seem formulaic to me, but which seem to be what is "done." I thought I should get up early and go walk around the gardens and "pray a hedge of protection."

But when I woke up Saturday morning early to get ready to go at 6 a.m., I started by talking to God. Freshly absorbed in his words about being everywhere, I realized I could pray for that protection from right there in my bed, and I did, and then I believe He gave me a whole different picture of how to pray:

I ended up continuing this journey in that role, in that place at Powell Gardens... :) I took Psalm 139, a 3-ring binder, and enough notebook paper for 1 page per woman. I sat under a trellis on the edge of the water garden. While the rain fell gently all around me, and the women spent time alone with God, I wrote/prayed/sang a psalm/prayer/song for each one of them. At the top of each page I wrote, "A Psalm For ____," writing Psalm 139 with their names in it and expanding and altering it as the Holy Spirit guided me. My own sense of their value was increased and deepened so much. My belief in the reality of the words of the psalm expanded in my praying it for my sisters. I know the words are true for them; they must also be true for me. It was exhausting.

And the song of my own life continues to unfold and be written...this journey with Psalm 139 took me by surprise this morming at church when the Holy Spirit unstripped another layer off of my soul in the pastor's sermon. In God's graciousness, he had woven my heart with the words of the psalm for the past week, so that when this layer came off, hurt though it may, I didn't fall apart. And as the Psalm says, he went before me and placed three loving people there to be his arms and mouth at just the right time. He was there with me, in and through them.

It occurred to me recently that my journaling this past week has not reflected any struggle. The struggles have come in the months and years leading up to this. What I am sharing in this blog is the beginning of a surrender; an openness to God after much resistance. This is me just spreading my arms wide and crying out to God to show me, teach me, heal me a little more, give me a new heart...

The pain of this morning is the pain of that process. Some parts of my heart are dead and hard like rock. God's holy excavation of them heals, but it also hurts. The change is my reaction: instead of running, I am staying in it. Instead of numbing, I am experiencing it. I celebrate my Lord's continuing work in my soul. I know he is composing a beautiful song.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day 5: a sprout

This is how I feel today. A sprout of joy deep down in my heart, it felt like a tickle that bubbled up to my lips and curved the ends of my mouth up. I've been praying for months for joy in spite of my circumstances. It seems God has given me that gift. As I focused on him next to me, looking at me, I felt that joy! That is when the smile bubbled up! Because GOD was looking at me and I wanted him to know I knew. So I smiled at him.

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence...