Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Delicate Balance of Mist

Driving home today I ditched the idea of the gym. By the time I got home I was reconsidering my decision as I didn’t know if I could bring myself to go out into the gray day. I debated over running shoes or biking and opted to bike as I recently got a new jacket for biking. It was great and much needed today. The air was heavy almost as if it was deciding whether to rain or allow the sun to break through. The difference between rain and mist is a delicate balance I don’t fully understand. So I decided to bike an out and back ride to the entrance of the beach deciding if the rain started it wouldn’t be a miserable ride home. Though I didn’t go out onto the beach the beauty and quietness of the ride was overwhelming as it takes me by fields and salt marshes.

In ten miles of biking – I counted 7 cars that drove past me outside of town. As I biked there was quietness as if the mist had calmed the world down. It was peaceful, something I didn’t expect. I wasn’t focused on the miles or speed but amazed at how alone yet peaceful I felt. Just being outside and feeling the road, the views, the ocean marshes, it seemed as if it was all mine. I talked and prayed aloud which didn’t feel at all strange. It was perfect. The turkeys in the road… a total of 7 only made me chuckle. I talked to them as well. Three deer later I was even more thankful of the place I live right now. It’s not a forever living situation. The apartment is too small and it doesn’t line up with some other goals I have… YET… it is an amazing blessing right now. The opportunities outside my door keep me refreshed.

I work in an low-income city as a social worker. This week an email mentioned the knife one of “my kids” has been carrying around. Years ago a middle school girl I worked with needed to work through the fear of violence, a random bullet had lodged itself in her bedroom. Teenagers whose education slips through the cracks and they graduate as the teachers are overworked being teachers and social workers. Yet I do love my job many many days. It is essential though to refresh, renew, re-energize, restore, reflect, relax… all must be done with intention. Working in the city and living in what some might consider the country is the perfect balance right how. It is a delicate balance, like the mist. I don’t always understand it – days I don’t expect it rains just as other days the sun comes shining through. I don’t want to miss out on recognizing the need for balance in my life – sometimes I find it when I’m looking and sometimes it finds me.

 

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Peter denied Christ and so have I

Holy week and I’ve taken it upon myself to identify with Peter… Peter, the disciple that denied Christ three times after he was adamant he never would. Yeah, that guy and I have a lot in common.

In the past year, and maybe longer, I keep getting stuck on a word. It’s a word that is often used yet when I think of God, prayer, change, asking, listening, etc. it’s not a word I want to use. It still creeps in, yet more and more I pause when I hear myself saying it. I pause because it makes me wonder how we, including emphatically me, limit or minimize God. I don’t intend to limit or minimize Him or the lengths he goes to express his love, but I find myself doing it. The word I have been frustrated with is “Just”. Lord, please just bring some comfort in this pain. Please just get me though the next meeting. Lord I just want to have a little clarity, hope, joy, energy, or patience. I am just amazed by your love Lord. It seemed just like a miracle. Let’s just pray for second before we start (Bible study, a meal, a game, talk, etc.).

When I say or hear the world “JUST” in these phrases I wonder how I/we may be limiting how I/we view God or how we anticipate he will respond to me/us. If I “just” want comfort am I disregarding that God can and may bring miraculous healing? What about God intervening in a meeting so that the results are incredibly positive? I don’t want just a little clarity, hope, joy, energy, or patience I want and need a lot of it. I also am not just amazed by His love; I am overwhelmed and at times speechless. Just a miracle… really isn’t that an oxymoron of sorts? “Just” praying…. Isn’t praying foundational to engage our lives to something and someone greater, more powerful, loving, and holy than ourselves? Aren’t we, when we pray, about to engage with a God who is about forgiveness, redemption, and transformation? Emphatically Yes!

Yet the word seeped out of my mouth, much to my dismay. I had had a good meeting with a young adult and his parents. They were all positive after the meeting and were feeling heard. It was a small win. The father commented on my ring at the end of the meeting asking what it was. I wear a simple silver ring with a cross on the ring finger of my right hand. My response, “It’s just a cross.” No sooner the words came out and I thought, “Just a cross, really is that all I think of this symbol I intentionally wear?” The cross is foundational to who I am, what I believe and how I aim to live my life. I was afraid to engage in conversation with this parent, I wanted to evade a discussion. I did evade a discussion. I know this man’s values and lifestyle are drastically different than my own. He embraces a lifestyle that Christian’s are often known to judge, and even fight against. Yet he felt heard in our meeting and asked me a straightforward question. It was a Peter moment for me. No sooner the words “just a cross” came out and I thought, “I denied Christ.” In that moment the words I had read in Mark 14 in the morning had tremendous meaning and conviction.

I’m working it through… like Peter there is a conversation that I have been having with Jesus about this. I am overwhelmed that God sent his son Jesus to live, die on a cross, and overcome death and sin for me. My hope is to honor him with my whole life and I don’t consider often how I deny Christ. Like Peter though, when asked about something and someone foundational to who I am, I denied the cross, abandoned Christ and the relationship I have. This time I recognized the denial but I don’t want to miss the other times I don’t acknowledge my relationship with Jesus and who God is.

I did not just deny Christ… I did deny him. He did not just forgive my sins he is continually forgiving them and redeeming them for His purposes and glory.

Palm Sunday

My Palm Sunday Worship today was comprised (after a meeting after church) of –  a run, driving along the coast, pausing for beauty, reflecting, praying, and listening. 

 
 
 

Writing Gini

My neighbor and more importantly close friend and mentor is 95. Generally she has been in good health, but she’s 95! She’s an amazing woman who has a depth to her relationships, both with others and God, that is remarkable. I visited with her in the hospital yesterday as there has been concern with her blood pressure. When I arrived she was watching 60 Minutes and had books surrounding her to pass the time. Her well-worn Bible was on her bed tucked next to a book by Henri Nouwen on reflections of Life and Death. I should add there was a fiction book on Cleopatra as well which happens to be the name of her cat. Gini makes me smile. She emails, googles, writes, reads, studies, listens, asks great questions, and prays. I know she prays a great deal for me which is humbling. We have talked about death, her death, and how she is ready to spend eternity with Christ. She said to me one day that she would prefer not to live to 100. She’s ready for the next step in eternity, to have new surroundings.

Gini is a woman of incredible depth whose life has not been easy yet she has allowed it to deepen her understanding of God and how to reach out to others. Gini was an only child, and had a brief marriage but did not have any children. However her life is full of people and there is a loosely jointed group of friends who look after some of her needs. She’s had a full life living many places on the East Coast, then heading to Colorado, Switzerland, and London. When she visited Egypt I believe she was 92. There were 90 people at her 90th party and it was an honor to be invited. Each of us has had deep rich powerful conversations with Gini as she is thinks deeply about her faith and how to encourage others on their journeys. Though she didn’t have children she plays the role of mother, grandmother, and cherished friend to so many.

Yesterday before I left we prayed together as we often do. Tears come to my eyes even thinking of how tender it is each time we pray. From her hospital bed she prayed for me about the anxieties, joys, and hopes of my heart. We hadn’t talked about them last night yet she knows them from the years of our friendship. I can’t quite imagine living in this house without her. Our friendship has evolved to the point where I let myself in a couple of times a week to check on her and do my laundry. Yet it is her checking on my heart with care and concern and directing us both back to Christ. On my 40 for 40 list is writing a letter to Gini – I don’t want to miss writing that letter.

One last note… Gini asked me once how I came to live in this house, in the apartment above hers. I reminded her of what she had said to me previously. “I prayed for a single Christian woman to move in.” Your prayer was answered Gini and so was mine as I have consistently prayed to have amazing mentors in my life. How God weaves lives together is beyond comprehension.

Making Sabbath Happen

I have the ability to say no. Really I do, but I don’t always use it. I am a busy and active person. My weeks are full with work, spending time with high school students and young adults, going to church “stuff” including a Bible Study or meetings, getting together with friends, exercising, and I even occasionally clean my apartment and do my own errands. Yet everyone is busy these days…. and quite honestly when I’m not busy or when I see that others are not busy I wonder almost what is wrong. YET I know busyness is not always good. Here’s the thing though… I love everything I do. Today though I said no to something I really wanted to do. I wanted to walk with my friend in the Multiple Sclerosis Walk. A good friend has been living with MS for many years and I wanted to support her. Yet as I looked at my schedule over the last weeks and the coming week I realized that today is the only day that I don’t have something planned. There are things I want to do – get outside and enjoy the sun and buy the book I have been meaning to get the past few weeks yet these are not obligations. So as I thought of this weekend I realized how much I need to take this day as a Sabbath. I need to allow myself to reflect, rest, and prepare to re-engage.

Tomorrow is Sunday and it is not a Sabbath for me, there is high school ministry, time mentoring a great student in the afternoon, and a dinner meeting to discuss a possible trip. So this week I didn’t want to miss taking a Sabbath. I made a difficult decision to say no to something that I think is wonderful but would not allow me to reflect, rest, and prepare to re-engage for the long-term. It was difficult telling this friend I wouldn’t be coming because I care about her and want to support her. However I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to manage the days and weeks ahead without resting. I don’t want to miss the importance of taking Sabbath or because of how I look at my own schedule and plans… I need to Make Sabbath Happen…. It’s a bit oxymoronic but I’m going to make rest happen today.

Investing in myself

Recently I made a sign to make me smile. On my 40 for 40 list is “going to a great conference.” There are many trainings that are offered through my agency, sometimes they are interesting, help me develop new skills, and develop professionally. Yet I’ve been looking to be pushed and challenged in some different ways personally. I’ve been thinking more of my skills and responsibilities as a leader and how to grow in this area. Trainings offered through my work don’t particularly lend itself to this. So I’ve decided to invest in myself and my own growth and pick a conference to attend. Quite honestly it feels a bit indulgent. Whenever I buy new sports equipment, take a fun trip, get a new fun unnecessary piece of clothing, go to the movies…. I’m essentially treating myself. Sometimes the treats have long term gains such as new hiking shoes, if I use them for actually hiking. Other times they feel indulgent and I think occasionally about what else I could have done with the money – give it away or save it. I’m single and much of my spending is on myself. It feels that I am constantly treating or indulging. Let me give you my most indulgent example… every bit of grocery shopping I do is about what I want… every item I pick out is because I like it and each meal can be justified as a little personal treat. Reading this it may seem ridiculous but I’ve needed to be intentional about this trip and how I view it.

This conference is not about treating or indulging. Rather it is an investment in myself. An investment – in very specific growth – personal and spiritual growth. I want to learn from others… how they are leading, doing ministry, living out their faith, and what they have learned in the process. I’m excited to be around others who are leading, love Christ, want to grow, and are the next generation of leaders. I’m excited to worship with so many others! When I use my hiking shoes mile after mile they become an investment in my health and even my spiritual and emotional well-being. I could read the books by the authors that will be at the conference, listen to the interviews and talks but I know myself full well… the conference will do my heart good. It is an investment as important as my most newest piece of sports equipment – my new bike seat. The seat is simple but it will allow me to go further and become stronger and a better cyclist. That is what I am hoping for Catalyst Dallas. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to go to a great conference and invest in myself.

The following is the sign I was working on… to remind me (as work is good but exhausting lately) that something good is just around the corner and not to lose focus.  (please note I am not an artist… but I like gluing and cutting like a kindergarten kid)

I haven’t glued it together yet so it may change….. but thought I would share where I am off to….

www.catalystdallas.com