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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Every Day

This seminary thing: I'm not just waltzing right into it. I'm afraid. I'm questioning. I'm uncertain. Every day has been some sort of battle. Some kind of battle of 'can I do this,' 'what am I thinking??' This week, I opened my email to find a syllabus with an assignment due in TWO DAYS and a five page paper.. also with three books I had to read. That kind of unexpected stuff makes me want to curl into a ball. But this time, I gathered myself, gathered my things, drove myself to the library, camped out at the library, and did the assignment.

And I loved it.

It was so much fun. Looking for books, researching, being in a library. It was so cool! I'm learning. I'm learning how to turn my hands in the air in surrender. I'm learning HOW TO REMEMBER. How to remember that every thing's okay, to take life one step at a time, that Christ is mighty. What made me think I couldn't handle the assignments? I could! What made me think I wouldn't love it? I did! I want to change my first instinct, my first response, into something bigger, something greater. I want to take all thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ.

Ahh seminary is already turning me upside down and shaking me out!

Every day I am praying to remember that peace. It threatens to take me over, those tidal waves of doubt, and every day when I pray and read Scripture, those waves are calmed. And then the next day or the next thing or the next decision, those waves come roaring back. And I stand on the shore, close my eyes, hold my hands in the air, and shout 'Holy Holy Holy Lord' and His peace is the only defense I need.

Standing on the shore in a posture of surrender is deciding to hold tightly to Christ.

It's an every day kind of discipline. Every day. Every day. Every day. Every day count my blessings. Every day show gratitude. Every day live in joy. Every day be thankful. Every day live in peace.

I'm right where I belong.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Just Some Thoughts

I'm almost 100% sure that Phil Wickham dyes his hair jet black. I knew there was a reason I connected so well to his music.

It's always about people. The people you're serving, impacting, influencing, the ones you're in community with. Something a friend told me once : "'At the end of your life, when you stand before God, make sure you have stood for something that matters. And what matters to God is His people.' If there's anything you have been standing for these past months, I think we can say for sure that it's His people. You've stood and you've kneeled and you've been knocked over.. but I think it all counts as standing."

Jay and Julia Wells are amazing additions to the Advance family.

I can already feel this new seminary journey increasing my dependency on Christ and discipline in all areas of my life. I can already feel myself choosing a different option when I get overwhelmed and stressed. I've been reminding myself of why I am going back to learn : to help kids in trauma and women in prison.

I hold on to things so tightly in my life (resolution, conversations, reconciliation, future) and I have felt lately God loosening my fists. I feel Him steadily reminding me that He is the Great Sustainer, Author, All-Knowing Savior. I can feel myself moving into unknown territories of calm, surrender, and peace and my over working mind is breathing words and thoughts of thanks.

I had to look up how to spell 'steadily.'

My Kindle screen broke the other day and before a true panic set in, I called Amazon and am getting a free warranty replacement. In the meantime, I picked up a real book and not gonna lie, it felt weird.

Phil Wickham's 'Response' has been on repeat. 'Sun and Moon' is really speaking to me right now. "If You are the sun, then I want to be the moon. I want to reflect that light that shines from You" (am I reflecting Him?).

I wish my friends blogged more (you know who you are).

I never want to forget where I've been, where I've come from, and how Christ has given me new life. My story is an example of how God has been so faithful and I want to love Him to the end.

So excited about Advance this fall! I've had some incredible growth the past few months and am ready to not do it my way anymore.

Disciplining myself to rest in the peace of God. All that it entails, all that it gives me, all that it soothes, all that it calms : I want to choose that peace. I can't even begin to describe the transformation I feel in my mind just by letting that truth sink in. Where there were minefields and false steps that would set off bombs of unrest and unease, there is now the picture of Christ.

I still think Pitbull is the worst thing to happen to music, but his song 'Give Me Everything' is so catchy, I can't even take it (okay, I'm embarrassed I admitted that.. delete..).

Learning to live life in the moments of what God gives.

Always so grateful for the people in my life who talk through things with me, who talk me to Christ, and who love.

Christ died while we were still sinners.

I've never been so sure that I am at the right church.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Be Still

Be still and know that I am God.

These words scream at me from the page. I read them and reread them and know that A.W. Tozer was right. God didn't just speak the Bible into being; He is still speaking. He is speaking to me.

But me? Be still? Are you sure God?

I have dramatic thoughts. I think too much. I think too often. I overanalyze the thoughts that pile into more thoughts, into more thoughts, that I can't even wade my way back to that one unassuming first thought. My mind is like a gerbil on a treadmill. My future is like a wide open field. There are fears lurking at every corner. Be still? Me? I wasn't made to be still.

And so I learn. Be still and know. It's becoming a choice. Every time I read the God speak of the 46th Psalm, I hear those four words becoming my breath prayers. I balance a multitude of worries, an army of 'what ifs', a horde of excess thoughts.. until I find the one my heart rests in. Be still, my child, God whispers to me. Be still, my child, God shouts to me. Be still, my child, God sings to me. I hear you! I hear you!

But God, what does it look like to be still and know?

I start with worship. Our response. Our worship is our response. Our response is our worship. My friend Andy told me and a theatre full of others that every thing, every moment is an act of worship. We have a choice to see things, situations, roadblocks as opportunities to live out how we were created to be : worshippers of God.
Every moment is an opportunity.
To be content or to grumble.
To display godliness or ungodliness.
To worship God or ourselves.
To be still and know or to worry and distrust.

As my friend's words wash over me and I reflect on the car ride home, I think about my opportunities. My opportunities to worship, give thanks, whisper humble prayers of gratefulness throughout my days. And I keep coming back to being still. Is that my opportunity? Is that my worship? Is that my response? Am I choosing God, choosing trust, choosing life when I decide to be still and know that He is who He says He is? A great, mighty, powerful, righteous, redeeming, loving, sovereign, good, good, good God.

It's a choice to be still. I am worshipping God when I am still and trust fall back into His goodness.

But what does it look like?

Living with arms wide open. Trusting when that path is oh so dark. Disciplining myself in making every moment an opportunity to give thanks and know God. Whispering prayers. Swimming in the transcending peace of God. Closing my eyes in the midst of chaos, disaster, swirling whirling distracting thoughts and hearing the thundering voice of God : BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

Satan, you don't stand a chance when I rest still in the knowledge of who God is. I rest still, think still, be still and count each moment as goodness, as a moment for God to be exalted, as a moment to choose to worship Him, a moment to honor the work of the Son on the cross.. and then I step forward into His light.

I hear Him. He's still speaking to me..

Rest still. Be still. Know still. That I am good. And I am God.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Weight of What We Lose

There's been some hard weeks.

My grandfather passed away almost two weeks ago after living 91 years. We drove to New York and spent time with the people that we love. In the background was death, a loss, and we each grieved as a unit and in our own separate ways. In death, the past reemerges and shows its ugly beautiful face and you find yourself dealing with it all over again. It sits at your table without your permission and you feed it, talk to it, laugh with it, confront it.

For the ones (people) we lose, it's comforting to think they're somewhere else, dancing in the Throne Room. I envy them. But as you think on a life, you remember. Remember events, details, incidents and the small picture starts to build to the big and you piece together your memories. And while they may all be good, doesn't it still leave a little twinge? A 'remember that?' A 'remember when we were younger and we ran free and he told us jokes and she made us laugh?' 'Remember when?' The passings and the comings and the goings and the goodbyes conjure up the memories.

And then my dog died. My dog! Flashbacks of My Dog Skip, Old Yeller, and Homeward Bound come coursing through my mind. We had Shelby 17 years : she lived through a million softball seasons, two houses, three kids to college. As life moved on and transitions kicked in and we were no longer children, she learned to live life a little more independently. Oh but she was faithful. (and for those who are wondering, no I do not like your dog (minus 2 Bellas, a Bentley, and a Quincy).. but I sure did love mine).

And as I've been thinking through this week, I've been thinking on the progression of life. The weight of what we lose. The pace of life doesn't stop and ask us how we're doing, slow down so we can get a better grasp of where time is going. It just.. happens, I guess, for lack of a better word. And we're stuck with what to do in the aftermath.

The big picture is that we lose. There is loss. We don't live life without some sense of loss. Come on people, it's inevitable. But the inevitability of it doesn't take away from the harshness of the reality of it : the weight of what we lose. And so we cling to the belief and hope in the temporariness of loss and we cling to the knowledge of how good our God is. Because He is better than we ever dared imagine.

JJ Heller has told me, 'don't let your eyes get used to darkness. The light is coming soon. Don't let your heart get used to sadness. Put your hope in what is true.'

That's a refreshing taste to a hard week.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Words from Ann Voskamp

An excerpt from 'One Thousand Gifts : A Dare to Live Life Fully Right where You Are" :

Every dark woods has words. And every moment is a message from The Word-God who can't stop writing His heart.

But who can read His messages?
To read His message in moments, I'll need to read His passion on the page; wear the lens of the Word, to read His writing in the world. Only the Word is the answer to rightly reading the world, because The Word has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, "I know. I know." The passion on the page is a Person, and the lens I wear of the Word is not abstract idea but the eyes of the God-Man who came and knows the pain.
"See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal" (Deuteronomy 32:39). I nod. I know. I know. And these truth words reconfigure the battlefield under my feet.

I know all our days are struggle and warfare and that the spirit-to-spirit combat I endlessly wage with Satan is this ferocious thrash for joy. He sneers at all the things that seem to have gone hideously mad in this sin-drunk world, and I gasp to say that God is good. The liar defiantly scrawls his graffiti across God's glory, and I heave to enjoy God.. and Satan strangles, and I whiten knuckles to grasp real Truth and fix that beast to the floor.

It's just that the eyes are bad - my perspective. "Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body," Jesus said. "When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!" (Matthew 6:22-23). If Satan can keep my eyes from the Word, my eyesight is too poor to read light - to fill with light. Bad eyes fill with darkness so heavy the soul aches because empty is never truly empty; empty is only a fully, deepening darkness. So this is what is to be. Eve in the Garden, Satan's hiss tickling the ear, "Did God actually say ... ?" (Genesis 3:1).

No Scripture glasses to read what God is trying to write through a prodigal child? Scrawl my own quick editing on the half-finished story : failure. Satan's tongue darts.
Not wearing a biblical lens to decipher the meaning of a doctor's ominous diagnosis? Just read Satan's slippery interpretation : cheated.
Not using anything to bend the light of this world so I can read my own messy days? Spray on another layer of graffiti : worthless.

So I have been ambushed.

Without God's Word as a lens, the world warps.
I listen and I live fully on what comes straight from His mouth. That serpent, he's slithered with the lie that God doesn't give good but gives rocks in the mouth, leaves us to starve empty in wilderness and we'll just have to take the stones of the careless God and make them into bread to feed our own hungry souls. And I hear it.. the Son of God saying there is only one way to live full and it is "by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

It is all that Jesus used to survive in the desert, in His wrangle with silver-tongued Lucifer, only this : "It is written." And it's the Word of God that turns the rocks in the mouth to loaves on the tongue. That fills our emptiness with the true and real good, that makes the eyes see, the body full of light.
I wear my lenses and I pray to see.

Ann Voskamp.