Thursday, January 27, 2011

Being the Better Person

I had a friend back in college who blew up at me once - and it was for something pretty silly. He was mad that the costume designer in the play we were both in wouldn't sew a button on his shirt. I was the messenger (I don't remember how or why) so I was the one who felt the brunt of her message. He yelled, threw the shirt back at me, and caused a big scene in the green room. This guy was a good friend, and how he treated me was inexcusable. I let him know that. And he stomped away.

The next day in the cafeteria a mutal friend of ours came up to me and said "I think you should say something to him." So my reply was, "Why? I didn't do anything wrong. He should come to me if anything." Our friend's reply was "Sometimes it's best to be the bigger person, no matter who's right or wrong."
I knew our friend was right, so of course I had no reply. But I was still my stubborn self and did nothing. That evening, I was apologized to for the whole button incident, and I forgave him just like any "good Christian girl" would do. He and I remained friends - it was really no big deal. But I remember it to this day. Why? Because "Sometimes it's best to be the bigger person." Those words are still with me.

Oswald Chambers wrote about the importance justice plays in forgiveness. From Daily Thoughts for Disciples:

It would be an immoral thing to forgive a person who did not say he or she was sorry...I cannot forgive my enemies and remain just unless they cease to be my enemies and give proof of their sorrow, which must be expressed in repentance. I have to remain steadfastly true to God's justice. There are times when it would be easier to say "Oh, well, it does not matter. I forgive you," but Jesus insists that the uttermost farthing must be paid. The love of God is based on justice and holiness, and I must forgive on the same basis.

One of Chamber's biggest faults in this line of thinking is that forgiveness means dismissing the act you are forgiving. I disagree. The very act of forgiving, whether the person asks for it or not, says "It mattered. It hurt me. But I need to move on and not carry that hurt with me anymore." If it didn't matter, it wouldn't hurt.
Where is my justice, as a forgiven sinner? My punishment is served, done, completed. My sin - not in part, but the whole - is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. 

Because I bear it no more, because it's nailed to the cross, - this is my reason to be the better person. This is my reason to forgive. It's always been about what he did for me first, not what I think it right or wrong.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


The 6th post for January Reflections...

Wise: Who is someone currently involved your life that is wise? How do you think they got this way? Send them an email with an attachment to this post to tell them how much you admire them.

The wise of heart is called discerning,
   and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. - Proverbs 16: 21

I have a lot of wise people in my life. But I am only going to tell you about one. Her name is Jennifer and I had the privilege of living and knowing her during the most difficult times of her life. She may not be considered by some as "wise" in the traditional sense. But she is wise where I need her to be wise when it comes to our friendship. 

When most people think of what a wise person is, they think of someone who is great at giving advice, who is gifted at discerning God's word, someone who has great life experience behind them, and/or someone who makes good decisions. I think that up until I met this person, I would have narrowly define wisdom this way, too. But I've come to learn that wisdom is so much more than that.

Jennifer knows who to discern my heart almost better than anyone else can. She can discern what it is I need in the moment, what words I need to hear, what encouragement and what kink-in-the-butt. She knows when to give me space and when to pursue. She is incredibly gifted a discerning because I NEVER give anyone hints about what I want or need. She reads me really well and there are very few people in the world that can do that. Many have tried, many have failed. She's just always understood me. (well, maybe not the first couple of months we knew each other...)

I think this is a gift Jennifer was given by God, though she certainly has lived enough life to have a certain amount of wisdom. But when it comes to discernment, I feel that's an impossible thing to learn. I believe it's simply innate, and part of me thinks God made it that way so we couldn't screw it up so much.

There is something about having someone in your life who just knows you... who gets you. (And who still loves and supports you anyway.) God help me be that person to someone. And thank you so much for sending Jennifer to me.


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Friday, January 21, 2011


I'm a couple of days behind on January Reflections. Here is the fourth post from Jan 17-19th.

Reading: It is said that we are what we eat. Likewise, we are what we read. What are you reading to feed your mind and soul currently? 

I love, love, love to read. I love the sappy chick book (that eventually becomes a chick flick) I love a great mystery. But I also rarely read fiction. Non-fiction is more my style, and it's usually something really nerdy like "Love in Hard Places" by D.A. Carson, Pia Desideria by Spener or Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James A. Smith. One of my greatest vices is any book about culture. On my "favorites" list of this genre are "Catching Light: Finding God in the Movies" by Roy Anker,  Eyes Wide Open by Romanowski, Culture Making by Andy Crouch, and A Matrix of Meanings (this one will change your perspective permanently!). I got hooked on these when I did an independent study on Twilight and the middle-aged woman's obsession with these books. I worked on that last Fall while in Covenant and actually ended up writing a curriculum specifically for the "Twi-Hard" audience.

Right now, the books feeding my soul are "Gilead" by Marilyn Robinson, "The World is Not My Home" by Michael D. Williams and "Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without HierarchyRonald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, and Gordon D. Fee.

"A room without books is like a body without a soul." -Cicero

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sleep... Rest... Comfort... Safety

The 4th of January Reflections '11

Sleep: What can you do to improve your quality of sleep? Take a short glance around the Bible to see what it has to say about sleep and then share it with us.

I'm weirdly feng shui about my bedroom. I'm a firm believers in the feng shui of arranging your bedroom. Don't  place the bed in front of the door because you will be thinking about what's outside the door: i.e., the many things there are to do, which will not help you rest. It's also important to remove all the work from the room, for the same reason. It's bad to have a computer or desk in your room... it's bad to have unfolded laundry in your room (which I currently do, lying on the chest at the foot of my bed.  Work and rest are the opposite of each other - to have conflicting messages (albeit subconsciously) can contribute to unrest. It's also best to not place the bed under a window.

According to feng shui, the bedroom is to be a place of sanctuary. This is what will help aid in the best sleep possible for you. Let me be clear: I'm not an eastern religion sort of person. But I do believe that environment plays an important part of the way you live your life, the way you learn (that's the educator in me), and more importantly, your attitude about life. When I went through the capstone experience at the end of my master's degree, I learned a significant part of my philosophy of education is the safety of the environment. ... and I read about feng shui 10 years ago. (I believe that means it's part of the way God wired me, right?)

Psalm 4 is a beautiful expression of what is means to be able to rest in safety:

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? 

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
   the LORD hears when I call to him.

 Be angry, and do not sin;ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. 

Offer right sacrifices,
   and put your trust in the LORD.

There are many who say, "Who will show us some good?

    Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!"
You have put more joy in my heart
   than they have when their grain and wine abound.

 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
   for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

I think the word "Selah" might be my favorite word in the Bible. I think it's because I almost never pause and rest. But each time I do the Lord shows me wonderful and gracious thing. He shows me himself. My rest, while I may subscribe to some tenants of feng shui, is completely dependent on God's grace. The quality of my sleep can be improved by resting in the peace and comfort God provides for me each day, rather than trusting in myself.

Much easier said than done.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

The 'Stuff' of My Stuff

The 3rd of January Reflection '11

Stuff: Do you like stuff? What stuff do you have that you could do without? Is your stuff well used? Organized? Burdensome?

I like stuff entirely too much. What I hate is the stuff I can put into a spot, so it lays around until I can figure out where it "belongs". This is usually office 'stuff.' I have a ridiculous weakness for beautiful journals and have far too many empty ones. I love all things paper related, including notepads, notebooks, folder, pretty binders, magazine files and such.

The stuff I could do without is a bizarre compilation of dishes I've acquired over the years. I like too many different kinds, so I had the worst time settling on one type. I resorted to collecting bowls so that I ended up with several that didn't match but that were fun to have around. Alas, they took up too much space in my new kitchen, and I have limited cabinet space in my new home. So most of these bowls and dishes were recently donated. I still, however, have my grandmother's every dishes tucked away in my buffet, along with some random glasses her daughter (my aunt Janice) recently sent me. One day I hope to find the perfect curio cabinet to display them. Any ideas? Someting not too big, modern, black or walnut would be good.

Most of my 'stuff' is well used. This is mainly due to, until recently, always living in a pretty small space on a VERY limited budget. I'm not too much of a pack rat - and my rule (typically) is that if I haven't used it in 3 years, it's time to go.

The stuff in my life I find burdensome is the emotional stuff. The stuff I can't truly throw away. The stuff that stay in the dusty parts of my mind and the corner of my heart. The stuff of sin that weighs me down and all too often keeps me from rejoicing in the perfectly fit yoke Christ has given me. It is not organized stuff, but it most certainly does feel heavy.


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Saturday, January 08, 2011


So.. the second set of choices went up for the January '11 Reflections 'challenge'. 

Homemade: Tell us why you like store-bought or homemade things more? Share with us anything that was homemade by you this year?

Singleness: Everyone has periods of singleness in his or her lifetime. Did you enjoy those days? Who do you have involved in your life who is single?

Disappointment: What things were left undone this year? What were you too afraid or indifferent to do? What are you going to plan differently for 2011?

Fashion: What is one current fashion you love and one you hate? Share a photo of a fashion blunder you have made. 

Scripture: What is the last Scripture verse you heard or read? What was God saying to you?

I read this and went "oof-dah". Then I ignored it. Then I went back and decided to do Disappointment. (Then cried just at the thought of delving down that road...) Then I decided to do Homemade, 'cause that's an easy one for me. But anyone who knows me knows I don't do easy and remain happy with my choice.

The reason I went "oof-dah" is because I knew that I would eventually do Disappointment. I just didn't want to. And part of me learning and understand who I am recognizes that the reason I don't do easy goes back a long way... and makes my heart go places it doesn't want to go, but know it needs to go. (Darn you, stupid seminary counseling! Why are you still with me!?! I graduated already!)

What I feel is left undone from 2010 is seminary. I remember crying and crying when I was first called to Arizona, because I knew I was called to go and yet I also just didn't feel done with St. Louis. I didn't feel done with seminary, I didn't feel done with learning what I needed to learn before moving on. I now no of these kinds of things are ever really undone. But it hit me hard once faced a true realization that I was leaving.

I also know that once again, a certain relationship was left undone. This is not the first year it's felt this way and somehow I doubt it will be the last. I will never feel "done" with this person, yet I know it's highly unlikely our paths will cross again. We will forever be phone friends, I don't doubt that. But this is one friendship I didn't want to move to that place. For some reason I always pictured us in the same town, perhaps even in living in the same apartment building like we used to, closing out our days together in my living room with a glass of wine. We know both own home and each live in a different state than the one where we met. I miss this friend almost every day and that feels undone. I realize in understanding this disappointment that I am missing those days with this friend. Things were easier in my life than they are now.

Fear is a tragic thing. And self-protection can be the biggest obstacle to fulfilling our calling. Because in that self-protection lives of fear of facing our mess and letting the world see our mess. But God most often uses our mess in our calling. I was afraid to move to Arizona. But I did it. I was afraid to leave St. Louis where I found a wonderful support system, a wonderful church and pastor, and amazing friends. How often does one get to lead worship with their pastor by their side, and be dear friends with his wife? Not often. God gave me a community in St. Louis and I remember being so afraid that wouldn't happen. 

But I was too afraid to talk to my cousin about his drinking (not confront, just talk to). I was too afraid to confront a friend about her selfishness. I was afraid to say goodbye to people very important to me.

I was indifferent to this year's Christmas program I somehow ended up being in charge of. I was indifferent to the feelings of a volunteer that I was sick of babying. I was indifferent ... well, lots of times.

In 2011 I will recognize my indifference and find a person who isn't indifferent to be part of it. So far my selfish friend has been very unselfish with me since I left St. Louis, so that's an interesting development there. As for my cousin... I don't know. I really don't. I will also not avoid this kind of stuff - admitting my failures and indifference. Recognizing my disappointments and working through them will be part of my growth this year.






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Monday, January 03, 2011

A 2010 Moment

As I walked into Foundation Grounds coffee house in in Maplewood, MO, I would be lying if I said my heart was beating fast with nervous anticipation. I stood just inside the door, coming out of the cold February wind, and scanned to room for him.

My eyes settled on Christopher, whose head was buried in his Macbook. I braced myself, said a silent prayer, and sat down across from him. He looked up, smiled, shut his laptop screen and said "Thanks for coming."

He got up to get me a cup of coffee and as he returned to his seat, I saw him sigh. It was a big sigh... and I knew some big stuff was coming.

Christopher and I met three months previous through some friends of mine from church. I went to his booth at the John Burroughs School Unique Boutique art show and was in awe of his textiles. His scarves were beautiful and 100% green. I loved them and loved his philosophy of reusing things such as tires to make thread to weave stunning patterns. We talked about the Food Network and his husband of 12 years. We hit it off and my friends from church (little did I know) kind of had an ulterior motive in introducing us.
Bill and Julie loved Christopher and knew he was a searcher. They also knew he was a bit sour on Christianity. For some reason, they thought if he met me I would be a person able to answer Christopher's questions. Fast forward three months, where I found myself in a coffee house answering said questions.

When he and I first planned the time to meet for coffee that afternoon, I told a few close friends that I needed to be bathed in prayer. Christopher has a genius IQ and got his master's degree as a teenager. (He had a doctorate, too. In Math or something far beyond me...) Who was I to respond to what I knew would be great and really tough questions? So people prayed. Thank goodness.

For the next three and half hours, I listened to his story of why he hated Christians and why, after getting to know Bill, Julie and me he no longer did. He asked question after question... and all the right ones. He said stuff that gave me goose bumps. "I've read every word Jesus said over and over. I can't find a contradiction. He was so kind and loving. That's a dude I aspire to be." And then the heart stopper: "When I realized I wasn't bitter when Julie used the word "church" around me... and when I found out you were a seminary student and I liked you, I knew something was up. The bitterness that used to hit me whenever Christianity was mentioned didn't hit me anymore. I didn't actively pursue that healing. I knew it was outside myself and I knew I couldn't ignore it." Seriously.... goosebumps.

That afternoon at that coffee shop was beautiful and surreal. I was honest. I helped him understand a lot of misconceptions he had about what Christians believe. I have very little memory of the specifics of what I said, because it was very clear that it wasn't me saying it. I just remembering feeling guided and protected... and that God was pursuing Christopher. All I needed to do was get out of the way and try not to mess up God's plans. I still tear up when I remember that afternoon. I will never forget it.

The Meaning of Emptiness

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,  
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
-Isaiah 55: 10-12 (ESV)

Emptiness takes on many forms for me. I remember being asked by the search committee that called me to Arizona "How do you think you will handle moving to a place where you don't know anyone and leave many family and friends behind?" I also remember thinking "They have no idea how much of an introvert I really am."

Being alone is not much of a problem for me. I've often wondered if there was something wrong with me because of this. But much of my strength comes from knowing that no matter where I am in life (with or without the intimacy of family and friends geographically nearby) that if I'm in the center of God's will, he will sustain me. I know this because I've lived it.

But I also think emptiness can take the form of dashed expectations, or a time of spiritual dryness, or even a hardened heart. There certainly can be an overlap with these things and people, but I've also found myself empty of joy. Empty of compassion. Even empty of devotion to something I once found myself completely devoted.

I learned these times are not to be ignored. Sometimes it takes a while for me to even realize I'm in the emptiness, but once I do, if I don't ask myself why and delve deep with my heart and mind to find out why I'm there I run the risk of a significant, prolonged drought. And I what I often find so fascinating about the way I function in these times of emptiness is how it almost always takes a person to show me my emptiness.

There isn't much rain here in the desert. And I only experienced a tiny bit of snow when I was back in Nebraska for the holidays. It even rained in Phoenix that night my flight left. Just as Isaiah says - the snow and rain cause something to happen. (We just don't always get to see it or may see the results months later, in the Spring.) It brings fourth and makes the earth sprout. Can I learn to trust that God does the same to me? That the times of dreary rain and cold snow actually mean something... and have a purpose?

 "For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, o give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." -Jeremiah 29:10-14

What I adore about this oft-used passage is the context. God promised prosperity for his people... but after 70 years in exile. We often use this passage to sooth someone's pain or to inspire then to move forward... but God didn't actually restore their fortunes until many, many years after (so many that the generations that heard the prophecy from Jeremiah wouldn't live to see it come true.) So it probably seems weird that I love the hard part, but I do because I've been there. I've been in the hard places. I am there now. And understanding that God's promises to his people may not come true in my lifetime is not fun for me to hear. But it does help me grow into a deeper trust with him. There are peaks and valleys when you are a child of God. I prefer the peaks, yes. But the valleys show me deep and wonderful and mysterious things. They show me God's providence and love for his people. They show me the effects of the Fall, which in order to fully understand God's grace we must be aware of such sin and brokenness. This is part of my emptiness. This is part of the world's emptiness.

But his promises are never empty. I don't always understand why he chooses to fulfill the the way he does sometimes. But they are never void, because he is never void.

That's something to rejoice about.

... in fact, that's something to clap your hands and break forth into singing about. I think I'll go join the trees. :)