Monday, May 20, 2013
Of course, it meant that way before The Message existed, but it cast a fresh light on that fact as I read it this morning. I have had a revelation in the last 6 months; my understanding of who I am and who God is got very warped somehow in the past couple of years. As a result, I have had to accept that I must rediscover God's love (if I ever grasped it to begin with) and His Grace- sufficient for me? Yes. So I began a journey. No, that's not quite accurate. I did nothing of the sort; it was God who beckoned me and I blindly, miraculously followed Him down a road, much like Gandalf gave Bilbo a nudge out of the door on his first great adventure. I love that about God! He delights in me, and even uses things I delight in- silly things- to draw me close to Him.
As I read, here's what I heard: you're blessed. "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You're blessed when you're content with just who you are- no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.... You're blessed when you get your inside world- your mind and heart- put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.... You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom. Not only that- count yourselves blessed every time People put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens- give a cheer, even!- for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble." That's Matthew 5, the first chunk to be specific. ;)
Is there anything boring or "religious" about that? No! Jesus speaks and the words pierce your soul. And yet, it's simultaneously as though the words wrap you up in love, in real love. That's the most striking part of this moment for me; it's what inspired me to write anything here today. God, the unconfinable, confining Himself to flesh, stepping into the realm of broken, dysfunctional, self-serving, untrusting humanity speaking in the most accessible words that cut through the fog of this world with piercing clarity. How can we not be filled with joy? How can we not hunger for more? All you other Christ-followers out there, are you with me? The Word of God really is piercing as a double-edged sword. If we aren't filling up with His Word, His Love, His Truth, then something else is filling us. Or leaving us empty.
We behave like orphans, wandering through wilderness after wilderness, lashing out and hiding away, going nowhere, but longing for home. Home. "Let me tell you why you are here," Jesus says in verse 13. We all perk up- could it be true? There is a reason? Remember your thirst, orphans. Become children of God again. For we have received a "spirit of sonship" so we are adopted, shedding the skin of betrayal and distrust. Father gives us new robes, wraps us in His love. "You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?" Jesus says. I am honored. I want people to taste the God-flavors of this world because of the work of His love in my life. Basking in this foretaste of glory, of seeing Love face to face (1 Corinthians 13) is where I am this morning.
Something flickers in the back of my mind- what about God's almighty power, His sovereign rule? We can't forget to think of that. Yes we receive boundless grace, but we also submit to His boundless power. (It's kind of a fear thing. But a good fear I guess.) A voice says, "These warm fuzzies are great and all, but you should remember you are basically a worm and should humble yourself before the Awesome God." Yes, this is true. But I think I need to learn this love-lesson before I move on to that aspect of God, because recently I've been using my faulty human lens to understand how small I am before God, and I've been listening to the wrong voice in this matter. So that's another part of my heart the God is working on, but for now, I believe He's thrilled that I am running into His arms of love.
Think of it this way. Parents treat their infants and toddlers very differently than they treat their junior highers. I feel like I'm a toddler again, so God is making me laugh with simple things and comforting me in His arms first, and then I can grow into a healthy understanding of His Power and Might. Because He is both! Loving Friend, Magnificent King, Adoring Father, Almighty God. And His ways are not mine.
So I choose to dwell in this shelter of His wings today, counting myself blessed. I hope you will too.
Friday, March 8, 2013
So many challenges. Yet- didn't I pray for them? Didn't I ask God to make me into a stronger person? With real faith? Yes, I think I did. I chose Robert Frost's road less traveled. "AND IT HURT MAN!" as Kid President says. (Look him up on youtube.) But it has all been worth it! And will be even more worth it as hindsight grows.
Now, I look to the future. 2013! It's great to be here. God has already used this year powerfully- He's used Mary Kay like Miracle Gro for me. Or more like Skele-Gro. Uncomfortable, unnatural, and downright painful at times. These are simply the grit and mortar of a strong foundation, one of joy, strength, grace, love. This is what I long for! All this is really about seeking the kingdom of God! All of it. And if being faithful in these moments of new movement, that leave me sore from muscles newly reawakened, is what it takes to step into my greatness, this calling of great boldness and greater humility, then I will do it. I don't know how. God doesn't often tell us the how, but the what. He will complete the work He has started in me.
We're marching on.
Monday, January 10, 2011
I love that it is the new year. There is always so much possibility for a new year. And saying that one year ends and another begins makes me feel like time is quantified, and that somehow because the year is "over" I get a break. I get a moment to sigh with relief, maybe sleep in a little, and then ride out to meet the new year feeling new myself! (Even though really time keeps going and going and- well, let's not think about it! It's January after all!) It's like in The Hobbit when they stop at Rivendell, "The Last Homely House", and rest awhile before really fully setting out on their adventure... Well, it's sort of like that anyway.
And here we are at the New Year buffet and there are already so many opportunities on my plate. Like my girls at church.
I am (as soon as I get it together) going to lead a girls' small group, and while that excites me for sure, I am also intimidated to an extent. Me? Attempt to articulate how beautiful and loved they are in the sight of God? How He has an incredible and abundant life awaiting each of them if they choose it? Well, of course I will love that! But I have two kinds of feelings- 1. that is a big responsibility- what if I communicate poorly?? What if I say the wrong thing??? What if---???? and 2. God is so much bigger than me; I will totally depend on Him for help with setting an example for these young women. That's item one.
Item two: I need to embrace a spirit of joy at work- I mean at the coffee shop. Having had a good break from it, I feel that will certainly help me at the beginning to come back refreshed, my attitude included. But I don't want whether I've had a sufficient break or not to be what defines how I view working there! It's such a blessing of a job! In fact, I don't think I could ask for anything better right now. Shouldn't the resulting behavior include being joyful at work? Yes, but it's hard. So, that's something I have to ask the Lord's help on.
Item three: May I just be the first to postulate the understatement of the year? Here goes: I am learning how to be a worship minister. Woohoo!! Now we've officially brought in the new year! I have so many hopes and prayers for the worship team this year. But what I most desperately want is for God's vision for our team- and for our church- to be my vision, and for the strength to cast it. It is so easy to get caught up in some idea you have that you think will just be perfect that you can miss what is really going on, or what's most important. And speaking of most important...
Item four: What I most desperately want is the Holy Spirit. The Lord has made it clear to me that I must cast myself utterly upon Him, must delight in Him. I can't live like the old self- I must throw that away like an old garment that doesn't fit any more. I must live in a new way- rejoicing in God's victory over my battles that He's already won, God's grace which I enjoy, and God's glory which I long to- as David Platt says- extend. And I want to do this in every place. Not just church, but at the Coffee Company, at home with my husband, with my family, friends, and when I'm all by myself. Filled with the Holy Spirit, this is possible.
It is a new year after all!
Monday, November 29, 2010
There is something about twinkle lights. They are like very small bits of happiness- or maybe they just remind you of happiness. Each little lamp seems confident in its own bit of light, assured of all that is hopeful. One light does not compare itself to its neighbors, but does its own shining and twinkling in a bold though silent sort of celebration. That's how I feel about twinkle lights. Perhaps my feelings partially depend upon the fact that when I was a child, I pretended they were fairies hiding in my Christmas tree (what little girl does not delight in the idea of lovely small ladies with sparkly wings and gowns?). Squinting a little bit, it was as though I could see a vague outline of them, winking mysteriously at me from across the room. (This effect was especially good when the lights were different colors- which made it rather like Fantasia.)
Maybe it is a little unorthodox to perceive so much depth in something common like twinkle lights. After all, they are plastic and in actual fact, quite faulty. But even though abstract ideas about the simple and the tangible can stretch the truth, I think they often help reach toward the truth as well. In this case, at least, I feel this way.
On Sunday, Paul preached about Christmas. Sort of. His theme for this series on advent is "Not what we expect but everything we need." He built the message on the text in Isaiah 9:1-7 in which the author says, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Lights make up such a huge part of the Christmas season, whether they decorate a house or a window display or a tree. Yet Christians remember the light of Christ, a light which is the centerpiece of our lives, not merely an ornament or decoration.
Though I have learned that before, Paul articulated a truth about Christmas which I have never quite formed in my mind, but which resonated deeply in me. First, he talked about how the first part of advent is focusing on the waiting, the anticipation, of a Savior. We have all waited our whole lives to be completed, to be made whole, and Jesus is God's plan to bring wholeness to our brokenness, light to our darkness. Yet we don't like to wait. During the Christmas season, though we wait until Christmas day to open presents, we "gorge ourselves on the holiday". That is so true. Ryan pointed out a couple weeks ago that Christmas decorations were out in our Walmart the DAY after Halloween!!! That's ridiculous! And who really remembers Thanksgiving when all their energies are channeled into waiting desperately outside a store the for hours on Black Friday, rushing around attempting to find the best deals first.
It's a frenzy, and some times the whole month of December is like that. What about the mystery? What about the wonder of God? Where is the hush that falls over a groaning creation when it is reminded of good news- tidings of comfort and joy? Paul compared the frenzy, the gorging, to driving on the road when the sun is so bright you can see almost nothing else. That is what Christmas becomes- not the real Christmas- but the frenzy, the desperation, the eating of sweets and the guilt that follows, the plastic, the office parties, the tense family get-togethers, the shopping, the debt, and then... the let-down. Who feels comforted when they are in the midst of such pouring out and filling up? No wonder people are depressed after the holidays.
And if the only lights you see are the baubles, the bargains, and the bright gaudy acoutrements of a season gone berserk, then of course you will miss the small light in the stable- you will miss Bethlehem, and you will miss the comfort and the joy. "If you expect merely what you've always had, you'll get it; if you expect the Christmas you've always known, that is what will come." This different kind of Christmas that Paul reminded us of, is what we need. We are the "Christmas people"; we are the bringers (or at least the spreaders) of Good News. I pray that this will fill you up this season, that you will feast on hope and joy- on the gifts of the Lord, and that you will remember what you are really waiting for.
"For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." (Luke 2:30-32 NIV)
Saturday, November 13, 2010
[Though I'm just now posting this, it's actually from last month.]
Music. Lots of music. Okay some music. A handful really... That's what's been occupying my mind for the past--- couple of weeks? I think so, yes. Firstly, I finally sought out and purchased the live version of Imogen Heap's "Just for Now" on iTunes, which just makes me happy and makes me think of "The Holiday" (which I also love). So that's first...
Secondly, I have recently (aka in the last month) been introduced to Mumford and Sons. They are well known in the UK and apparently everyone over here is just now getting into them. Or at least, now it is possible to not be cool if you haven't heard of them. Well, I have, and now I am not only cool but I own their "Sigh No More" album. I haven't even listened to it all yet- mostly "The Cave" and "Winterwinds" because I heard them first and they are wonderful. They are very ballad-ish sorts who play melancholy and bittersweet, hopeful and hindsightful- and they play all of them boldly.
Thirdly, I just bought the newest Brooke Fraser album, "Flags", on iTunes. Fraser consistently leaves me speechless and yearning- or she reminds me that I was yearning to begin with. Yearning to write songs that say as much as hers do. And the yearning for that reminds me of the yearning I have for so much that is silly, so much that is selfish, knowing that if I got those things, I would be yearning for something else. It's because I'm really yearning for the wholeness of the Lord- for His plan to come to fruition. But I still want to write some good songs if possible.
Speaking of singing, last weekend I got to perform at the coffee shop where I work! I have never performed my own songs in public (I don't count college as public). Unfortunately, I was on the clock, which meant I was running around waiting on table after table because the entire state visited the shop that day! There were other performers as well, including my friend, Erin Aubrey, whose CD art I did- she did a great job. Also, my boss's sister's group performed, which was lovely. It was a blessing that I got the chance to sing because my in-laws were in town, as well as a handful of my good friends from college who were back in town. (Both the in-laws and the friends were in town for Milligan's homecoming...) So they got to hear, but sadly, I think I inconvenienced all of my coworkers because no one had time to pick up my slack while I performed. No lasting damage was done- oh! wait. I take it back. When I had finished singing, I naturally went back to work, and picked up a dirty plate to take to the dish pile. Well, dish piles- we were so busy that it was overflowing! So, I set the plate ever so carefully on top of one such pile, only to watch it teeter- totter- then decide to topple over, hit the stove, and then shatter into a million pieces all over the floor! In front of my boss, coworkers, and 30 customers at the counter!! I was already exhausted from a crazy week that I just wanted to sit on the floor and cry. But- miraculously- I kept it together. We cleaned up the mess, but MAN that was a crazy day.
Even though Ryan and I both were exhausted and rather drained emotionally, we loved having our in-laws- who in fact decreased our stress!- stay at our apartment. I also enjoyed seeing my girls from out-of-town a lot.
And other things have happened, but all I can think about is now...
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I know for a fact that they will be adventuresome, because there is a big change- a big decision- that Ryan and I recently made. I can't elaborate yet, (not that there is too much danger if I did- this blog isn't exactly nationwide or anything) but I will say that I am as ready for this as I am for the leaves to paint themselves gold and red and fiery orange! The Lord is blessing us; we feel it every day. I am so blessed just to be married to Ryan! He's incredible!
For example, last week the owners of Coffee Company- John and Lisa Bunn- went on vacation for a week. This meant that everyone worked a LOT and Beth, who acts as a sort of second-in-command, was quite occupied. Though I really have enjoyed work there so far, I have to say that it was a very tiring week. It was so tiring that I felt that the only logical response, as sometimes happens when I'm very tired and miscommunication and other vexations have had their way, was to curl up on our bed with the Kleenexes and cry my eyes out into Ryan's shoulder. (A milder version of this can happen when I just have not cried for a while... or when I just need some sleep.)
Interesting as my emotional trajectory is, we shall soldier on to other- very possibly- more interesting, and certainly more important, topics. Ryan read me a section out of Deuteronomy the other day, and it was awesome. I know- Deuteronomy? Are you sure it wasn't Romans or something? No, really. Moses is speaking to Israel, and the words are so relevant that I felt speechless after Ryan finished reading them. We found ourselves wishing a lot of people would read it, too; sometimes people would greatly benefit from realizing that life and goodness are a choice- as is death and destruction. So, here is that passage, and may you be wowed by its awesomeness and astounding truth:
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
Sometimes we forget that heaven and earth are witnesses to our choices. People are always watching us. Did you know that you are a leader? I don't care who you are or what you do, you are a leader. That means you have a responsibility- to set an example for the believers, just as Paul tells Timothy. What you choose determines what life you live. Choose the Lord, that you might live- really live. Choose Him, not so that you will merely receive good things, but because to be in community with the Father, with Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, can only be blessing.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Sadly, what should have been easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy became an event, because I was in concentration mode. Let me explain. My friend, E, is recording a CD (I could probably say her name, but just in case you know...) of original songs and she asked me to do the album art for it! So, yes I am SUPER excited to be working on it. However, when the time came (a.k.a. late o'clock) to start making the aforementioned would-be easy food items for the movie night, I had been honed in on the album-art-creating for about 2 hours. I think I maybe did not quite disengage my brain from that. Thus, with the frantic scrambling to get things ready along with my growing anticipation of the festivities, Just-Add-This-n-That Dip became a very complicated and high maintenance entree to my overly-focused brain. Poor brain.
And does anyone know how to make a 1/2 cup from 8 oz. of a block of cream cheese? I guessed 4 oz. at first, but that only made for a paltry amount of dip, so I just put it all in. With this sort of thing, I think it does not matter much how much of the other ingredients you put in- I mean, whoever heard of more cream cheese being a bad thing?
Anyway, dip and cookies turned out fine, to the joy of my fried brain cells, and the movie night was a smash! We watched 2 movies: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Fantastic Mr. Fox, the latter of which was filmed entirely in stop motion (AMAZING). I must say, I think Cloudy is funniest film I've seen recently! Loved Mr. T! "You a tom fool!" baaaahhh.... good times.
As I said earlier, we had a guest with us for the majority of this week. My dear friend Brookie came to visit! It all happened rather quickly, and it's a wonderful story. Apparently, in the last month or so, she has had a Waking Up of sorts in regard to life and the fact that one usually does something with it. The initial part of this was that she realized church had always been comfortable- but that had basically been the extent of it. Comfort. Something that was a consistent part of life that her parents took her to. But recently, she realized it ought to be more than that. Shouldn't being a Christ-follower actually mean one is- well- following? It involves movement, which no one can do for you. Thus, she was filled with a desire to make her faith her own, to ask big questions, and she came to understand that one huge key in loving the Lord and being His follower is faith- being okay with not knowing all of the answers.
Then, Brooke found that every minute of every day was occupied over and over by three words: Johnson Bible College. She had no idea why. She didn't even know were it was. (Although, she told me she thought it was in Michigan... it's funny if you're a PK and know about places like Johnson to hear such a remark.) Anyway, she had a couple of run-ins with people from Johnson- really awesome people who loved it there and really encouraged her. And she thought maybe God was tapping her on the shoulder. I thought He was probably dancing around her banging a pan with a spoon shouting it... :) Just kidding. (Though He's probably doing that with me about something and I have no clue. If someone does- let me know.)
SO, long story fractionally shorter, we told Brookie we'd LOVE to have her come stay with us and we'd drive her over to JBC one day since it's close-ish to us. She flew in on Sunday afternoon, and stayed until Thursday afternoon. First of all, my voice is actually tired from laughing so much and talking! Secondly, we visited JBC on Monday. It was a spontaneous sort of thing, no appointment. So, it was an interesting visit... You should ask her about it, someday. But it was good, in spite of the awkward-college-visit-ness of it, and Ryan and I are both hoping greatly that God holds the door open for her to come this semester!!! It's amazing how He has been working in her life, and I'm SO excited that we got to help a little.
While she was here, we did crucial things, too, like watching a lot of Scrubs, singing/playing songs on the piano, almost singing/playing songs on the guitar (we're both learning), and watching youtubes of new indie artists whose lyrics we don't quite understand but think the way they play the banjo with a violin bow so it sounds like fairy bagpipes- is cool. Also, we have the song "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry stuck in our heads (Ryan was even whistling it the other day). :) It was so delightfully fun I'm pretty sure she NEEDS to live closer...
Oh, and Brooke LOVES mountains. And outside. I mean, REALLY loves them. So, on Wednesday, Ryan drove the three of us up the mountain and we went on a hike. That was after we went to our fav coffee shop- which of course meant that I was "cute" and not exactly dressed for hiking... but it was fun! And I could tell Brooke was totally in her element... when I could see her, that is. More than once I had to choke out the words "Brooooke.... waaaait..." If Brooke made her way through the woods like a gazelle, Ryan and I were more like rolly-pollies... But it was beautiful. :)
Anyway, I think I speak for both us Allcotts when I say it's been an eventful week! But loverly. Ryan is such a wonderful man. I can't even tell you. Thank you Lord! And hopefully I'll be able to play G, C, D, and Emin better on the guitar the next time I write...