Trucks are prohibited...but you are always welcome

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tea with Lemon

Maybe it's the mood of the moment framed perfectly by the quietness of the hour, soft tones of Blind Pilot playing, and a good cup of tea... but I sure am feeling nostalgic. I've been looking back at my time here, all the ups and downs and I feel gratitude in a whelming tide. To be so rescued from myself, to watch dumbfounded as my Lord worked tirelessly while I sat in the ashes and scratched at my sores with broken pieces of pottery. Like Job, I had to have the excess stripped before I could really receive all the good things prepared for me. I believe that sometimes God will let us feel His absence (not to be confused with Him actually being absent) to encourage us to rely less on feelings and more on faith. I was guilty of chasing the feelings, the spiritual highs, making the emotions an idol. For the past several months, a spiritual numbness was my constant companion. Yet every time I prayed, asking God to draw near and return the passion for Him to me to ease my doubts, the answer was always the same. "Choose me. Choose faith." So I prayed, feeling I was having a one-sided conversation. I read my bible with no fire or desire. I struggled, blind, deaf, and dumb.
Lately though, He has returned full-force and it's a sweet homecoming. I feel His presence and His peace and I appreciate it so much more. The contrast is overwhelming. It's so profound I find myself sneaking away during the day to be alone with Him. It is just such a joy to practice the presence of God and enjoying full and absolute acceptance that comes, and to be fully understood, fully known, and fully loved.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi...

I've never taken compliments about my appearance well. When I was younger (and occasionally nowadays) it was because the words felt like a pair of too-small pants; they didn't fit. I just didn't accept them because I didn't believe it to be true.
Now that I've grown into my skin a bit and made peace with the mirror, I can accept compliments like a piece of gum right after I've just brushed my teeth. I don't need it, but I appreciate the gesture. But lately (most specifically in relationships) constant comments on my appearance tend to bristle. I do appreciate the comments, and who doesn't like to be told they are lovely... but only being complimented for my outside makes me feel as if the inside is not important or even worse, not appreciated. A Lana Del Rey song croons, "will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful?" It's the cry of every woman's heart. Tell me that I'm loved for more than my exterior... I am more than decor and accessory. It has taken me years and lots of time weeping in the arms of my Savior to learn that I am worthy beyond my sexuality and femininity and the last thing I need is to have my progress reversed by verbal classical conditioning from my brothers in Christ. I still struggle everyday in this looks-driven society. The Bible talks of the Proverbs 31 woman who is made lovely by her hard work, her good deeds, and her love rather than any outward adornment. This beauty will never fade. I had a patient tell me about his wife of 60 years and how she "used to be a real beautiful girl."  "Used to be? You don't still find her beautiful ?" He then proceeded to ask me to dinner.
Physical attraction is important, but I believe love needs to be based on seeing something unique at the very core... the strings and fibers that make up the heart-of-hearts of your beloved... and knowing you can't live without that heart tied to yours. Admire her courage. Compliment her generosity. Notice her perseverance. These will last when figures fall, faces show lines, and gray knits its way through brunette/blonde/red tresses. To my brothers, encourage your sisters not to over-emphasize appearance. Compliment our godly behaviors, use that classical conditioning for the greater good. And search not for the most beautiful, but the most godly woman in your circle. Because when all of us have grown old and ugly, you will still have the godliest woman... and in that, she will be the most beautiful woman. You win.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

You don't know me from Adam

I'm re-reading from Genesis, and also working my way through Donald Miller's amazing book, "Searching for God Knows What." Both seem to land coincidentally on a man by the name of Adam. Miller talks about Adam in the garden, a huge expanse of virgin land where man and God walk together as friends without sin yet marring the communion. There is no division, no strife, no need for airs and tuxedos. Just air and breath and sun, Creator and creation. But yet, Adam feels something that he has no name for, and God sees it: Adam is lonely. Not unhappy, unfulfilled or any other un-words... but lonely. After the creation age of "it is good" God says, as if to Himself, "it is not good for man to be alone." He goes to Adam (the frameworks and blueprints of the coming helpmate already spinning through His head), and tells him to name the animals. Name them all. Adam becomes the very first naturalist, studying every one of his companions in that great Wilderness. Wandering through mountain and valley, a hundred years of study and work; and all the while he was lonely.
But oh, the rapture of that morning when he had laid down to rest and opened his eyes to find Eve... the helpmate he had been searching for and longing for all these years. The gratitude, respect, and adoration felt for her was multiplied tenfold by every year he walked the garden without her. Oh, but the timing was perfect. All he can utter in this moment are few but weighty words: "Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh."
When I pray about my future lately, especially regarding love, I have a few specific prayers. I pray that the man I will meet is like Adam, working hard at the tasks put before him by God. And I pray that someday I will feel the way Eve must have felt on that morning. To be so cherished by a man who had needed her for so long before her arrival, to be met with such gratitude. Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Love is a Battlefield

If I've learned one thing about the Christian walk, it's that it is a daily activity rather than a one-and-done conversion. Every day I have to make the conscious decision to keep walking, growing, loving, etc. It's kayaking in a class 3 rapid; if you stop paddling, you will go backwards. There is no standing still when it comes to chasing after the heart of God. Yes, he is always pursuing, but we are also a very frivolous, forgetful people.
The point I am dancing around here is an issue I'm dealing with from people I'm close to.
Many Christian dating relationships focus on a very important aspect: purity. Christian couples will fight hard to have a Godly relationship with bible studies, prayer, accountability and restraint to keep kosher. Yes, purity is important... especially when God has brought you someone you want to respect, but also want to make open-mouthed kisses with. (Ha.) But what comes of it once the rings are on and the fight is over? You win! Go forth and multiply. But where is the motivation to pursue righteousness in light of the freedom you both now enjoy?
Lust is not the ultimate threat to Godly relationships.
Maybe more so in dating, but in marriage a new enemy rears its ugly head. This threat is much more delicate and crafty, and is a destroyer of worlds; selfishness and pride. They can creep in quietly and nestle in between the thrift-store furniture you've both recently purchased and there they grow and fester. Unless they are continuously being hunted and rooted out, they will grow and taint every bit of the old, new, borrowed, and blue. Like a mold. There may be symptoms that masquerade as unpleasant character flaws or personality quirks, but the putrescence below rages on. Don't be fooled, the struggles of selfishness in marriage are very much just as spiritual in nature as the lust you battled against in dating and should be approached the same way. Bible studies, prayer, accountability, and restraint. Both situations call for you to put the good of the other as top priority, and hope (but not expect) that the same grace will be granted you.
And above all, God heals all. No disease of the spirit can ever be conquered if God is not the center and the focus of both lives.
But what do I know? I've never been married. So maybe I'll stop talking now :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Russian Roulette With a Flare Gun

And..... wait.
The Lord has blessed me with a restless heart and a passion for adventure. I know I have never felt more myself than when exploring new places and having new experiences, either in this country or another. Every country I've been to, I rarely got homesick and always wanted just a few more days to wander. Many desires float around in my tiny body. I want to backpack in mountains of Cambodia, I want to ride my bike around the Italian canals, I want to drink strong coffee and strum guitars with the Spaniards and I want to sort through fistfuls of fresh-picked coffee cherries with Rwandan farmers. I take a "bloom where planted" approach to my life here and always hold my world with loose hands, ready to have it taken away (or at least shaken up a bit). I work hard at the tasks put before me because they, too, are for God's glory and are a gift. But in my desperate prayers for direction, I get the same message. "Stay. Pray. Wait. Trust." For what, I don't know. But I'm getting restless and eager for whatever the next step of my life is.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Walden Van

I want to spend a year living out of a van.
Everyone I have expressed this to have all responded similarly: "Why? That's dumb and dangerous".
Maybe I will, maybe I won't, but let me tell you why I want to.
For one thing, I am a bit of a rolling stone. Always have, and always likely will be. I don't like to stay in one place for long and seem to have an addiction to change. Therefore, my home being wherever I feel like it hits me in a deep place. But the most attractive thing about living a minimalist, stripped-down existence is the freedom. A life stripped of distractions, excess, and worrying about dumb stuff like plasma screen TVs and if my decor is outdated or not. I would spend the whole day doing nothing but being in nature and enjoying my Creator and His creations, hunkering down in coffee shops to read, or fellowshipping with brothers and sisters because there is literally nothing else. I need very little to be content and feel the best quality time with God is spent doing the aforementioned activities. At best, it would be a spiritual revolution, a 'Walden 
Pond' kind of year. At worst, it would be a challenging social experiment I can tell the grandkiddies about someday when trying to explain why they should shut off the 3D Mariokart and go outside. I will know a kindred soul when they hear my van dream and say, "can I come?"

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Problem of Pain, The Purpose of Pain

I read months ago C.S Lewis' chronicle of his experiences after the death of his beloved wife, 'The Problem of Pain'. In true Lewis form, he pulled the pins from his heart, placed there by mortality, and named each one. He cut apart and catalogued every iota of his broken heart, giving purpose to the pain. After the hurt and anger of my own loss of love (whether it was storge, philia, or eros, I can't presently tell) subsided, I began to do the same. I dissected the whole business like a surgeon until the pieces began to fit once again together. Not every unsuccessful relationship is a failure, not if it was dedicated to the glory of God. Were mistakes made by each party involved? Of course... but the salvation and grace of one was extended to the other. Two children of God, growing and falling together. I see now the effects. My dear boy, previously self-relient and unfocused, remedial and inflexible in the search for the meat of Him. Now, well connected in the fellowship and now with a full knowledge of the weakness of self and the need for utter dependence on the grace of God. And me...before I was a bitter, self-involved shrew of a woman who sneered at the role of a biblical woman and cynical to the core. Now I find myself changed to one who's heart is scarred but softened, hands that are weary but open, and eyes that search only for the Savior, both in Heaven and in the hearts of the Brothers around me. Yes, I still find myself wistful and longing for the friend that I had and lost, and I am eager for the day I have that friend back. But until then I will pray for both of us, that God would continue the work he started with our clumsy, baby deer relationship. Praise the Lord for His goodness to His servants, and praise Him for the purpose of pain.