Thursday, October 30, 2008

Grrrr.

In Concert

TWO hours away from me and they have to do it during midterms.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Living in Grace

There is nothing that shows me God's grace more that old reformed hymns. "Jesus Lover of My Soul" "Friend of Sinners" "Pensive Doubting Fearful Heart". I love how they shows my need for grace as it reveals the sin in my heart. They reveal my incapability to do any good on my own, and reminds me to whom it is that I belong.

I was part of a group in college that took a spiritual gifts test before we left to travel in a van together for the summer. We learned not only how our gifts manifest themselves, but also the misuses of the gifts. What was so remarkable about doing this study together is that when we saw a misuse of a gift, it allowed us to give more grace to the person. Not that their sin was any less of a sin, but it helped us understand where that person was coming from. This intense study in my Spiritual Ministry Formation class has done the same for me here at Covenant Seminary. In my understanding of how introverts and extroverts work, and how those who perceive versus those who judge think and work, it gives me a glimpse into the person's mind and heart, as well as into the mind and heart of Christ.

And I am seeing that grace return to me ten-fold.

I was in Chicago last weekend for a church planting trip, where I spent hours in my car with three virtual strangers that of course, by the end of the trip, weren't strangers at all. We talked and talked about personality types and ministry and grace, and when I got home Sunday I just marveled at what I am seeing here over and over again: gracious hearts.

I am a perfectionist. And I'm really, really hard on myself. This is where my performance-driven life post comes into play, to give you context for just how overwhelmed I am feeling in this present where I stand. I live in a house with 5 girls, all very different and very much the same as me. I am working at a 2000+ church where the women I serve have very different lives than me. I came from a life where I was expected to performed on a regular basis, and perform flawlessly. The color on the cover of the catalog must be the right shade of grey, the photo of that kitchen must be altered to work just right for the application, the worship set must be so tight that everyone is engaged completely. And all the while I must do it with a freakin' big smile on my face like nothing is wrong.

I was so busy performing, and rarely receiving grace from anyone that I never gave grace to anyone. My heart was so wrapped up in getting it right that when others didn't I had no patience. "If I can do it, why can't they?"

I HATE what I turned into.

And now, God is turning that upside-down. Because to live your life in grace is to live a life free from expectations. And that is what so often traps and imprisons us from not only enjoying life and being happy, but to being the person God created you to be in the first place. I was created to be a child of God, no longer enslaved to sin but set free in Christ, who loves me no matter now many times I don't perform.




Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea

A great High Priest whose name is Love

Who ever lives and pleads for me

My name is graven on His hands

My name is written on His heart

I know that while in Heaven, He stands

No tongue can bid me thence depart


When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within

Upward I look and see Him there,

Who made an end to all my sin

Because the sinless Savior died

my sinful soul is counted free

For God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me

To look on Him and pardon me


Behold Him there, the risen Lamb

My perfect spotless righteousness

The great unchangeable I Am

The King of glory and of grace

One with Himself I cannot die

My soul is purchased with His blood

My life is hid with Christ on high

With Christ my Savior and my God


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Performance

Before I arrived at seminary, I came from a very performance-driven life. Deadlines to meet, worship services to churn out (forgive the crudeness of the term), songs to learn and teach, bible studies to work on, bible studies to lead, projects to finish...

I have no clue where this performance-driven life came from. I'm sure I cultivated it myself in some small way, just as I am sure that others contributed to it as well. As a child, there was a a lot built up in performance for 4-H projects. I caught the bug the first time I received the big, fancy dark purple ribbon. (Light purple was reserve champion... but dark purple was champion.) I got a taste of success around age 8 or 9, and the rest of my 4-H career was delighting purple ribbons, big silver trophies and how many times I could get my picture in the paper because of said ribbons and trophies.

My mom and dad both made sure that projects were done completely, heartily and to the best of my ability. If it wasn't done right, they made me do it over. And over. And over. So maybe this is where some of it comes from? I have no desire to blame this on my parents, but I'm sure all that didn't help in overall scheme of things.

A big part of this, I'm almost positive, stems from my work at the church. For 8 years they paid me to be in charge of the worship services. The pastor's goal was to change the style from traditional to contemporary. As I researched the heck out of it, I knew I had to go slow. But in that eight years, I can count the number of times I didn't plan the service myself on one hand. I never had a break; I just kept going. If I was going to be gone for the weekend, I still planned the service and made sure everyone knew what to do. So I would be kidding myself if I didn't consider that performance-driven.

There are so many situations like that in my past... whether it was making the dean's list, state choir, best actress at the conference one-act competition, making finals at the latest speech meet, never making a proofreading mistake... blah, blah, blah. It's all been about getting it all done and getting it all done right.

What does all this add up to?

We humans put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves. Tangible results are something we choose to measure ourselves by. It puts us in line with everyone else, not so we are are all standing together but so we can see over the heads of others, comparing ourselves to the one next to us. What's ironic about this - is that God made sure the playing field was leveled. He made sure of that when he bent down and drew in the dirt.

There is part 2 to this post. But that is all you need to read for now. The rest of it will be too much for one entry.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How Long?

Psalm 40

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.
Blessed is the man
who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare.
...
Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
may your love and your truth always protect me.
For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
Be pleased, O LORD, to save me;
O LORD, come quickly to help me.
...
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
"The LORD be exalted!"
Yet I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, do not delay.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day

All kingdoms fall, said one of my seminary professors a month ago. "Even the United States."

Then the Dow went down. And down. And even further down.

We are not a nation in poverty. We are a nation of gluttons - high on credit, Dolce and Gabanna shoes, Kate Spade bags, iPhones, bluetooths and SUVs that are bigger than my living room.

We are not in poverty. We spend what we don't have, and that credit was given to us carelessly. We think we need a new car, a new home, and new furnishings at age 23. Whatever happened to saving before you buy? Those days are gone in lieu of inflated prices where the man with deep pockets keeps getting more and more.

We are, however, a nation that is poor in heart.

A nation that often turns a blind eye to real poverty, sickness, and despair. And nation that all too often refuses to cry out to the man with deep pockets and demand that he help the woman in Darfur who lost her family in a recent surge, the orphaned child in Kenya who sells recycled computer monitors to feed his sister and cousin, and the young man in South Africa who rapes a virgin thinking it will cure his AIDS . We are a nation in poverty. Our hearts are drained of feeling compassion and are now full of selfishness.

We are a nation that suffers from poverty of the heart. And it has to stop.

God, please help us.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tagged

This one is fun.

Answer these questions using ONLY ONE WORD: (not as easy as you might think)

1. Where is your cell phone? dresser

2. Your significant other? unfound

3. Your hair?disaster

4. Your mother? lovely

5. Your favorite thing? love

6. Your dream last night? forgotten

7. Your favorite drink? coffee

8. Your dream/goal? obedience

9. What Room you are in? cold

10. Your fear?darkness

11. Where do you want to be in 6 years? happy

12. Where were you last night? friends

13. Something that you aren't? unloved

14. Muffins? memory

15. Wish list item? books

17. Last thing you did? read

18. What are you wearing? sweatshirt

19. Your TV? storage

20. Your pets? none

21. Friends? missed

22. Your life? changing

23. Your mood? effervescent

24. Missing someone? always

25. Your car? worn

26. Something you're not wearing? shoes

27. Your favorite store? container

28. Your favorite color? red

29. When is the last time you laughed? evening

30. Last time you cried? heartache

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Path Laid Out Before Me

One of the best things about Covenant Theological Seminary is the Spiritual Ministry Formation class. It is here where students in the MDiv and MAEM programs are subjected to personality test after personality test, then a serious amount of personal reflection in order to figure out and understand how God made you.

Wednesday was the culmination of a 10-page paper with the results of all those tests and self-reflection in a 1-hour meeting with the professor. He meets with each student in his class for 1 hour to go over the paper and to give you ideas for your future ministry and resources as you develop your gifts.

Here are some interesting results about my testing:

My highest scoring spiritual gifts are teaching, shepherding and wisdom. I did not expect that.

My Meyers-Briggs is INTJ, but I am only one point into the T. (Introverted-Intuitive-Thinker-Judge.) Being only one point into the Thinker side means I have just as much Feeling in me than I do a Thinker. I poured over and over both personality types, and almost all of the descriptions fit with how I work.

My DEAA Personality Test is an Analytical (Score: 24)/Amiable (Score: 23) mixed with much less Expressive (Score: 18) and Driver (Score: 16). After reading these scores my professor said, "You are remarkable consistent in your testing." Analytical has a lot of the same characteristics as a Thinker, just as an Amiable has many of the same characteristics as a Feeler and an Intuitive

Some of the interesting things that came of out my professor's mouth as he met with me today:

"Your personality type is only 1% of the population. You are the rarest of types."

"You are a classic educator type."

"Everything I'm reading here says you need to considering doing to MA in Counseling in addition to your MA in Educational Ministries."

"No one understands you and they never will. This is a burden you will live with the rest of your life."

Dr. Douglass read through my analysis of the Meyers-Briggs test, where I went through my results to make sure that I tested properly. Then he had us apply my personality type to how I behave in everyday life. He actually had to stop, shake his head and say to me, "You are wonderfully mysterious. And absolutely fascinating case."

Dr. Douglass is an INFJ, so he had an insight to how I've felt all my life - that no one understood me and that somehow that was my fault. He urged me to be confident in my gifting, that it wasn't my fault that I was misunderstood, and that it's important for me to stand my ground when others are against me, because my intuition is right most of the time.

I have never in my life felt such a relief. I have always felt like a freak, and even beyond that, a freak that was to blame for everything. And it just feels good to know that it isn't all my fault; that I was, in fact, wired this way and that it didn't grow out of awful, sinful choices I have made. I knew that the way people treat me felt unfair, but I didn't know why. Dr. Douglass assured me that it's because the people I come into contact with have never known anyone like me and they just didn't know what to do.

*Sigh*

Even more than all of that, though, was the incredible feeling of knowing that I had heard my call properly, that I was in the right program in the right place, and doing the right internship. (And that I was spending all this money for the right reason.)

So in essence, God made me who I am and who I am fits the call I've been given. And it was all intentional.

Do you hear that *boom*? It's my mind. Blowing.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Flow Chart

I didn't get a chance to watch the VP debate because I was listening to a lecture on St. Patrick and Anselm. Most of the people I talk to think their candidate won, so that tells me nothing. I did, however, find this little gem courtesy of Steve over at razzle dazzle rose.