Friday, January 29, 2010

Smashing the mold

We're unpredictable people, RuthAnn, and I! :) We went to WalMart today, dressed in all our finery, just for the sake of it. We were getting some dresses out of the church attic for a girl's lock-in we're planning tomorrow, and we decided to play dress up. It was crazy fun.

I loved watching people's responses. RuthAnn and I wanted to make people smile, and it worked! Some just laughed and laughed. A few sweet old guys told us we were beautiful. One man asked us where we parked our horses. A little girl's eyes sparkled and she stared at us, making her mommy laugh. And a few just smiled and asked why on earth we were dressed that way. But the ones that amazed me the most were like our cashier. Their expression didn't change. Didn't crack a grin. You could almost read their thoughts. "Yeah, whatever. I see women out of a Dicken's novel shopping in Wal Mart on a regular basis. No biggie." (Good grief... just smile!) :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A light in the darkness

Philipians 2:4b-16a
"...Become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life."

Have you ever felt keenly that your citizenship is in another place; and longed to run there for refuge? Today I felt that; perhaps more than I ever have before. I was at work, on my lunch break, and the room was full of my co-workers. All of them are kind, and we enjoy bantering and laughing together. As I sat after lunch chatting and waiting as the clock relentlessly ticked towards the end of my break, uproarious laughter broke out from the opposite end of the small room. I looked up at the huddled group and giggled a bit myself at their laughter, wondering what on earth had struck them as being so funny. One of them made a comment and immediately it slammed me exactly what they were laughing about and looking at; what they were talking about. For a moment I sat, dumbfounded hardly believing my ears at their blatant lewdness. Then I quietly stood up and walked outside, the crisp air blowing on my hot cheeks. I was furious...and flustered.

I remembered that I had prayed, earlier that day as I drove to work, that Christ would be on the forefront of my mind throughout the entire day. That He would help me to shine brightly as a light to my co-workers who may not know Him and to the lonely residents I would serve. And suddenly, I felt like a little, tiny candle flame flickering futily in a darkness so black you could feel it.

I wonder: will a small light do any good in this world? In a place where righteousness is despised, purity is mocked, and my Lord is treated as some sort of a good luck charm that a person can put in their pocket and rub when life gets tough, then put away again the rest of the time?
And again, I wonder: if my light were shining more brightly, might I have had the courage to boldly take a righteous stand instead of leaving the room in disgust? And did my presence and my spirit in that room in any way convict or impact the lives of the souls there? Jim Elliot wrote, "Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me." It's going to take something other than quiet conviction to rock the world of unbelievers and mediocre Christians alike.

If I'm going to call myself a follower of Jesus, how can I be willing to live the "Normal Christian Life"!? Yeah, maybe I'm slightly "weird" or "naive" to those who don't understand my Lord. Maybe even a quiet sign on the journey to point them to Jesus. But by no means radical. By no means a fork in the road.
In short, I am ashamed that I'm a candle flickering in the wind, when I want to be a 'star shining in the universe'. My heart cries,

"Forgive me for being so ordinary, while claiming to know so extra ordinary a God!" -(Again, Jim E.)

I take comfort in this thought, though: the Holy Spirit within me wouldn't stir the coals if they were dead.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Multigenerational goals

-Hike in a rainforest
-Memorize an entire book of the Bible
-Learn a foreign language fluently
-Meet Elizabeth Elliot
-Swim with dolphins

...All on my to-do-before-I-die list. There are a few things on the list that are paltry (i.e: own a dog), and some that are improbable (backpack Australia), but a few of them fall under the header of miracles. Things that could only be accomplished if God chose to intervene. These are family and friends I long to see reconciled with each other or with Christ. The nationwide revival I long to see take place. Entire people groups that have yet to hear the name of Jesus. As I move into a new year, it's always an evaluation time for me. What was the old year like? What do I want to accomplish in the new? And most importantly, am I closer to my Lord this year than I was this time last year? If not, something's got to change. One change that I feel strongly impressed God wants me to make is a change in my prayer life.

It's one thing to write something on my "to-do-before-I-die" list, and quite another to actively pursue it through prayer. The loved one I long to see surrender to Jesus? I need to stop longing and start making it a daily matter of active prayer. The areas of the world that are unreached? I need to stand before my map and present those countries and people groups to Jesus by name. The singer Bono once said
"I'm tired of dreaming. I'm into doing at the moment. It's like, let's only have goals that we can go after."
I hate to pick on the old chap since I've never even heard him sing, but I couldn't disagree more. I think God is pleased when we have hopes and dreams that are far beyond anything we could accomplish in our own strength. He gives us dreams, in fact. Think Joseph. His dreams saw him through betrayal, a pit, slavery, and a dungeon. And Moses, the plan God gave him seemed so far-out that he almost flatly refused to attempt it.

God enjoys dreamers! But not the fluffy Disney "if you believe it you can achieve it" type of nonsense. As we concentrate all our efforts on delighting in the Lord, He gives us wild dreams that can only be fulfilled through His power and in His time. Because if we delight in Him, His desires and our desires will meld. No? Read Psalm 37:4-
"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."
Or what about Jeremiah 33:3?
"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."
For this reason, the goals of a Christian should be goals that transcend a lifetime; goals that are passed on to my children and to their children. Goals that as a mother, I will try to ingrain into my children at every opportunity so that generations can accomplish what my lifetime alone can not. I'll be the first to admit it: Some of my to-do's can be classified as pure fluff. (Attend a ball.) But the ones that really matter are the ones I'm going to start praying about and striving towards today. Maybe I won't get 'er done, but my kids just might. (Yeah.... technically I guess I can't call it a "do-do-before-I-die" list anymore can I?)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I've been reading an incredible book lately: "Prayer" by Philip Yancey. It's a book I recommend even though I haven't finished it. I told someone recently that I was reading it, and she asked "So the real question... are you praying more?" And I could honestly answer, "yes!" Maybe because for the first time, reading this book has made it truly sink in to me that God really isn't interested in my well planned words and coiffed phrases. He wants to hear the gut of who I am, and in praying to Him, I find myself discovering that deepest part of me which I don't even know is there sometimes. Brutal honesty isn't "brutal" with God. He already knows it all. But it is only when I take the effort to truly unearth the deepest part of me for Him, and put it into words, and trust that He will not be horrified or baffled by what He hears, that I grow to love and trust Him more. Recently I've begun to recognize the sly way I spiritualize my prayer speech, using phrases like

"Lord, I really struggle with your will in this matter"

to replace the honest truth:

"Lord, I am rebelling against your will in this matter."

When I put it that way, I am horrified. Truly, I cringe! Expecting some stab of condemnation from the Almighty, I am instead suddenly conscious of His smile. He already knew it was rebellion. He's not surprised. He's relieved just like I am.

All that to say, a few days ago I was struggling through one of our newfound brutally-honest conversations. It started off with the pious
"Lord, I'm struggling..."

...and ended up with a more honest

"God, I just don't want to obey You."

I didn't say it in a disrespectful way. I just honestly (and kinda guiltily) told Him what I was really feeling.

There's an area of my life that I've been obeying Him because I feel like I have no other choice, and I'm sick of it. Sick of doing what's expected of me when I long for something else. Sometimes His will leads me in places I delight in; living with my sister to help her family; working with the elderly; traveling; writing a song. But sometimes, I feel trapped because I don't want to obey Him, but I know that to disobey would bring disaster. So I obey. But I'm not happy about it. And I always hate it because I want to obey from love and joy, not a feeling of guilt and compulsion. So I guess that finally for the first time in this matter, I told it like it is and then waited, half pouting and half hopeful, for His response.

It came as a series of thoughts:

"You feel trapped, don't you?"
"You feel like a hypocrite becuase you're doing one thing but longing for something else?"
"You're sick of offering me a sacrifice that you are compelled to give; not of your own free will?"
"Those are valid feelings."
"Yet, this is my will. And whether you like it or not, it is a blessing that you are forced into it. Left to your own will without a conscience, without counsel, and without my intervention you'd choose the wrong direction and you know it.

But what about the areas of your life that no one else but you or I see, and no one can compel you to surrender? Your thoughts; your free time; the things you delight in? You will never be applauded for sacrificing these secret parts of who you are on the alter of love, But I will see it. And I will delight in you. And you will have sacrificed something that cost you everything."

How did He DO that!? How did He take the frustration inside of me and turn it around so completely that my thoughts became full of hope, and joy, and excitement? How did He help me to surrender my will, and find new ways to delight in Him? I don't know, but I do know that it could not happen until He had heard from my own lips the confession of my deepest heart; unedited, un-cut, un-polished.

Perhaps these things inside of me are things that only I can understand. I tend not to write a lot about the inner workings of my heart because I don't think the whole blogosphere needs to hear it. But I wanted to try and express it, somehow. Because I'm catching a glimpse of how personal God is, and I want to share it with you in the hopes that you'll try to discover it for yourself. Go ahead and tell him the things that you are too ashamed to admit to yourself. You will find that your Judge is your Savior.

(And go buy Yancey's book. I'll make it easy for you: click here!)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

"The morning of her departure dawned clear and bright..."

Nome gave us a beautiful send off, with vivid clouds broiling in the eastern sky over the Bering Sea.

It feels peculiar to be back in Ohio. ("Peculiar", by the way, is a word I never use in speech, but I write it. Go figure.) Nome had very much started to feel like home, and I miss it.
I realized that even with my month home in August, I've been in Alaska six months out of the past year! Settling back into life here feels strange. No matter how different I feel from who I was when I left, how many changes have occurred in my life since my absence, how many things I've learned and places I've seen and people I've met and come to love, home will probably always be here with the same familiarity. Home, and Grandma's house. :)

Random thoughts in my mind since I came home:
  • Wadsworth feels really, really big. You have to drive for quite a while, comparatively, to get anywhere.
  • I cooked with beef for the first time in months today. It smells very different from moose or musk ox. A lot more grease, too.
  • I only saw one 4-wheeler in town, and no snow machines!
  • Where does mom keep the sugar again? And the salt? And the mugs?
  • It's really, really quiet around here.
  • I have a veracious appetite for Indian food.
  • I'm SO glad there's snow here too. :) (And sick of Ohioans complaining about it. You guys are sissies!)