You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2008.

well now that i’m back home and have had time to settle in and let the dust of back-to-back trips settle, it’s time to share some of what’s been happening of late.

boston was a great work trip; our conference was especially successful (the biggest and most profitable yet) and i had a blast hanging out with becky and trolling around the city. we didn’t go out once, but it was nice to come home, crawl into a big comfy hotel bed and get a good night’s sleep.

while i was there, i attempted–and completed!–my first fast. mallory and i were doing it simultaneously for 4 days leading up to our Kansas City trip to International House of PRAYER (yep, IHOP). i was surprised at how easy it was to go without food but then again i shouldn’t have been because i know that the fact that it was easy wasn’t me but instead Him. going into the fast, i kept praying that God would make it easy on me so that i could still do a good job with my duties at our conference, that i would be nice and have a blast despite the lack of food. i wanted my coworkers to be surprised at how it went–and see, through that, how good my God is. i didn’t want to fail so that he could get the glory that it was He who did the work, not me. so, like i said, i shouldn’t be surprised that he was with me and answered that prayer. he is a good God.

i never got to that place of “peace” that you’re supposed to get on extended fasts. i wasn’t ever hungry, it’s just that everything sounded so good and i just wanted to taste it: put it on my tongue and let the flavors seep in. i didn’t care about chewing or digesting, just the sensual part of eating. intttterrresting, huh?

my favorite part of fasting, though, was how it freed up time. because i wasn’t running off to fancy restaurants with my coworkers, i found myself with extra time to myself. i walked around the area of our hotel or would just curl up in front of our huge window and pray and read my Bible and stuff. it was so relaxing and a nice change of pace to not be rushed through that.

and that’s been the No. 1 change i’ve noticed and grasped onto of late: digging into God and the Bible. making decisions that allow that. striving for that.

at IHOP, one of their big things and basis is their Prayer Room, which is open and running all around the clock. there’s always a band playing worship music and people praying or reading their bible or singing along or just reflecting. and even though praying and reading my Bible is often a task for me and one that i struggle with, discipline-wise, it wasn’t there: we’d go for 2 or 3 hours at a time, and afterward, it felt like it only been 15 or 20 minutes it was so effortless to spend time with God. our culture is so preoccupied with being busy that we often don’t just sit before God like that. there, the time would fly by and i’d walk away so enlightened and, really, just lightened (as in my “burden”).

and it’s fitting that that would be such an epiphany to me. because, also while we were there, we got prophesied over a few times. the very first prophesy brought me to tears over this fact: the guy started off talking about how my relationship with God has been me running around trying to “do” all these things and hurrying through (he likened it to a date, where you spend all this time running around getting ready and setting the table and stuff), when all God wants is for me to stop and just look him in the eyes. that moment is the one that matters: it’s the whole point of this great big Date that we’re all on.

and i realized, so clearly, that i desperately need to do that. i need to shove off everything else that’s crowding and just stare into God. just spend time with him and getting to know him.

to that end, i’ve decided to fast from reading books about God and instead read what he wrote for myself–focus more on the Bible. i’ve been meditating specifically on Song of Songs, which has been really good for me and for my heart and for me to stop and “stare.” and to enable this renewed sense of reading and reflecting on the Bible, i’ve tried to institute some of that “prayer room” mentality into my everyday practice: cranking up hymns and praise music while i’m reading and praying, and stocking my ipod with christian-infused songs so that i can go to a park and take time out there to dig in. i’m loving it and would encourage anyone who doesn’t already do it, to give it a try. it makes it more of a holistic experience i think, and makes it easier to just rest and sit before God. which is obviously what i need.

Psalm 27:7-9
“Lord hear me when I call; have mercy and answer me. My heart said of you, “Go worship him.” So I come to worship you, Lord. Do not turn away from me.”

i got back from Boston last night around 8 and am leaving in just a few minutes to jetset off to Kansas City. fast-paced to be sure, but thankfully quite beautiful despite.

i am looking forward to some downtime next week, though; that’s for sure!

till then, dream of chowda (tribute to Boston) and pancakes (for our own personal IHOP–though we’ll be at the international house of prayer!).

Philippians 4:6-9

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

 

Jeremiah 29:7
“…Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

 

RE Grand rapids: I’m now back in the safe, sound, snug place of peace with God concerning this. For a week I was all antsy and anxious and worried about how it would pan out. But I spent time praying and following God to especially fitting verses. Then on Sunday at church, the entire sermon was on being fearless and following God (Jesus’ greatest command is “Follow me” while in the Bible it’s “Fear not.”) and that solidified my trust in God: That it’s not my place to worry or try to figure out what will happen because God can/will do that for me and in ways I never could have imagined. I trust that he will do that here with this decision, its provisions and timing.

Also one of the messages from church was how God uses—and wants to use—ordinary folks. We looked at the life of Gideon (judges 6) who didn’t think he was worth it to do God’s work, but God saw something in him (and, extrapolated, sees something in me) that we don’t see in ourselves and that He can and will use. We can’t hold ourselves back! I think that was another part of the situation that I was experiencing—I felt like I was too spiritually immature to take this big of leap of faith, that I’m fooling myself and trying to do something that’s bigger than my spiritual footing. Like I’m trying to force it. But the point of that is that it’s not about me at all; God loves using the ordinary and the weak to accomplish great things because then he gets all the glory, which is what it’s all about in the first place. So I just need to remember to do that—to give Him the glory rather than wish to take it for myself and all “my” hard work. It is only by his strength and insight and special positioning that all of this has come to be. I am grateful.

Hebrews 13:5-6
God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?”


Psalm 92
A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.
1 It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,

2 to proclaim your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,

3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD;
I sing for joy at the works of your hands.

5 How great are your works, O LORD,
how profound your thoughts!

6 The senseless man does not know,
fools do not understand,

last night I went over to my parents and we spent a good portion of the night outside, scouting out different plants around the yard and clipping flowers and putting them into vases. I took a big bunch of lilacs home with me, which sat on my nightstand and woke me up every once and awhile when I’d catch a waft, which was soothing and seemed to remind me: breathe in, all is good.

and it’s true. all is good, because i feel like i’m breathing deeper these last few weeks.

i think there are two parts to this newfound feeling:

part one
the whole grand rapids thing, where i have so much peace that it makes me wonder if maybe it’s too good to be true? but aside from praying that if this isn’t what God wants that he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure to tell me/stop it from happening, then i’m trusting in God’s nature as a peace-giver and as unchanging. even if this did seemingly come out of nowhere, i don’t want to sit on my hands if i feel it’s a good thing. and i do.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don’t be terrified. Don’t be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

I’ve been going through bouts of feeling scared about whatever the future might hold, because it’s so far-off and so indeterminable. The fact that it would mean leaving many good things behind (church, friends, work, youth group, family) in exchange for…i’m not yet sure what. That makes me scared, so I keep praying that God will be with me and to “not hide your face from me,” that I will know his will and be strengthened to forge ahead with it. i woke up the other day and one verse from a Hedley song was rolling around in my head, “If you don’t believe me, watch and I will make it happen.” i really felt like that was God reassuring me, that he will make it happen. he won’t pull me this far and then drop the ball and walk away. another song lyric that spells the same thing to me: “you are safe, child, you are safe.

Isaiah 43:5-7
5
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.

6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth-

7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.

plus i’m reminding myself that if this is what God wants, he’s not going to purposefully make it hard or arduous; He WANTS it to happen and so He will help me do that. He did that for me when it came to breaking up with Paul (I was prepared to do it, but Paul ended up coming over and finishing things); when I moved to Alabama I had 2 weeks to relocate and find a place to stay for 5 months and God provided that along with an awesome roommate; then with Cincinnati He totally set me up with a great church and great friends and a great job. So I have to keep reminding myself of those blessings past, and that because God’s unchanging, that He won’t stop doing that—he’ll continue to guide me and provide for me along that pathway.

Psalm 25:4-10
4 Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths

5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.

7 Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.

8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.

10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of his covenant

* * * * * * * * * * * *

part deux
which brings me to my second point which is the book i’ve been reading of late: Breathe. it’s pretty phenomenal and one that I barely convinced myself was worth buying; I only did so because it was half-price. it was well worth it.

the book is very grounding and encourages us to put our purpose and focus on God and to do so with our time and resources. it encourages us to simplify and say “yes” to the things that draw us to Him and to say “no” to those which don’t. while i know that my priorities aren’t nearly as tangled as a parent’s who has multiple other people to keep in mind with decision-making (the book is intended for mothers), i want to become aware of these struggles now. because if i can be aware and intentional and deliberate now, then it will become a practice/discipline which will serve me well as i move forward–and on into those next stages of life.

i like that the book gives you permission to say “no” to people, causes or activities that draw you away from God. this has been revolutionary to me and quite liberating. i’ve decided to let go of my TV-watching because i can see how it not only wastes time but also wastes words–when i spend time recapping tv shows with my friends and coworkers. it prevents me from digging deep into conversation. so i’ve started abandoning that need to “fill” my time with things like TV. now i just let my friends recap the shows for me, which cuts my investment time down to 5 minutes or less and frees up at least 15, a pretty good exchange if you ask me. (although I do foresee making room and allowing for “Heroes.” no matter how great a storyteller you may be, I don’t think anyone could recap that show with justice!)

one challenge they give in the book is about looking for opportunities to shave down your obligations, and then not fill them. Today I did that on my lunch break by breaking free from my desk and rushing to a nearby park to sit quietly and read more from the book. Being quiet isn’t an easy task or discipline for me, so this book is especially fitting. I need to invest in this ideal more and more, because I know I always complain about not being able to easily “hear God” but I think that’s because I’m not patient enough with the quiet to listen. I’m also hoping that our upcoming trip to IHOP in Kansas City will be enlightening and insightful for that, too!

i’m also hoping that in this decision to follow God to somewhere new, that hopefully that’ll draw me nearer and keep teaching me to connect with him and get to that point where i can hear and where i can really find my purpose and place.

TOPICS OF CONVERSATION