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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

There’s been a lot going on lately.  In the midst of the roller coaster I’ve been living, I’ve been slowly working my way through Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love.  Last night I was brought to tears as I read and re-read “Let Jesus Transform You.”  This is good stuff folks, a window into my soul in the words of Henri Nouwen:

You are looking for ways to meet Jesus.  You are trying to meet him not only in your mind but also in your body.  You seek his affection, and you know that this affection involves his body as well as yours.  He became flesh for you so that you could encounter him in the flesh and receive his love in the flesh.

But something remains in you that prevents this meeting.  There is still a lot of shame and guilt stuck away in your body, blocking the presence of Jesus. You do not fully feel at home in your body; you look down on it as if it were not a good enough, beautiful enough, or pure enough place to meet Jesus.

When you look attentively at your life, you will see how filled it has been with fears, especially fears of people in authority: your parents, your teachers, your bishops, your spiritual guides, even your friends.  You never felt equal to them and kept putting yourself down in front of them.  For most of your life, you have felt as if you needed their permission to be yourself.

Think about Jesus.  He was totally free before the authorities of his time.  He told people not to be guided by the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees.  Jesus came among us as an equal, a brother.  He broke down the pyramidal structures of relationship between God and people as well as those among people and offered a new model: the circle, where God lives in full solidarity with the people and the people with one another.

You will not be able to meet Jesus in your body while your body remains full of doubts and fears. Jesus came to free you from these bonds and to create in you a space where you can be with him.  He wants you to live the freedom of the children of God.

Do not despair, thinking that you cannot change yourself after so many years.  Simply enter into the presence of Jesus as you are and ask him to give you a fearless heart where he can be with you.  You cannot make yourself different. Jesus came to give you a new heart, a new spirit, a new mind, and a new body.  Let him transform you by his love and so enable you to receive his affection in your whole being.

I’ve been walking lately through some of the refining fires of the process of transformation by Jesus’ love.  How is Jesus working to transform you?

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There is an older gentleman in my church who was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer a while back.  At the time it was estimated that he would probably have less than a year to live.  As I observe this man in church it is clear to me that he is a firm believer in the power of God, the power of prayer, and in the importance of fellowship with other believers.  I’m pretty sure that since beginning his treatments for the cancer he has only missed maybe one or two Sundays.

Back in November our church held a benefit dinner for he and his wife to help cover medical expenses that raised upwards of $20,000.  That money helped to cover enormous medical bills that had been piling up while he and his wife were both out of work.

Tonight as we opened our last Lenten soup supper in prayer, we were able to rejoice with the saints in heaven at a miraculous victory.  The tumor which had previously been present in his pancreas is gone.  The tumor in his liver has shrunk to half its size, and appears to be continuing in its disappearance.  The doctors are calling it nothing short of a miracle.

The doctor’s advice: keep doing whatever it is you’re doing.

His response: “All I do is go home and pray.”

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This Lenten season has already given me plenty of opportunities to [Re](insert verb here).  It’s amazing what can happen when you begin to break the habits and cycles that have come to define your lifestyle, and whatever those habits may be (watching too much TV, investing too much money in expensive coffee beverages, over-indulging in sweets, or developing a pattern of disconnected-connectedness) Lent is a time that the “traditional” Church sets aside specifically for the purpose of breaking those habits.  Throughout this journey I hope to periodically write about some of the [Re]sults of that breaking.

One of the joys I have experienced already is a sense of [Re]connection, which has actually been a pleasant surprise considering I was half-expecting to experience loneliness and isolation to result from “cutting myself off” from the outside world through an internet communications fast.  In the past week I have had the opportunity to visit with several friends who I haven’t seen or spent time with in quite a while, and I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to [re]connect with those people.  I’ve had authentic conversations that have been worth more than any amount of time spent checking facebook statuses or browsing through pictures and profiles.

I’ve found that in the midst of this journey, I have become so aware of and appreciative of face-to-face interaction with people.  It seems like it’s somewhat of a lost art in our fast-paced, “I’m too busy for that” culture, to just sit down and enjoy the company of another human being, and yet it is a form of connection that cannot be replaced by anything a machine can do.  There is something about looking into the eyes of another person, seeing their joy, excitement, grief and sincerity, that is simply unmatchable.

So, with that I challenge you.  How are you [Re]Connecting this Lenten season – with family, with friends, with God?

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I love watching people who I care about do the things that they are passionate about.  And more than watching, I love involving myself.

Perhaps that explains my recent fascination with high school basketball.  It’s strange.  When I was in high school, I never attended a single basketball game, and I had no desire to do so.  This past December, I attended my first high school girls’ basketball game to cheer on a girl from our youth group (and a friend of hers who is a frequent visitor) who play on the varsity girls basketball team.  Since then, I’ve made it to four additional games and become almost compulsive about checking scores for not only their team, but other teams in the district and conference, and even my own high school (which I graduated from over 5 years ago!).  I don’t even particularly care for the sport, but since I have a connection through a person I’m invested in, I have become involved.

I love watching people who I care about do the things that they are passionate about.  And more than watching, I love involving myself.

While in college I used to sneak up into the balcony of the chapel during the times when the worship dance ministry practiced.  I would sit up there reading, or journaling, or just watching.  It was almost as though through watching the movement of others in worship I was able to participate in that which they were so passionate about.  I’m not a dancer, and probably will never have the poise or grace to lead others in worship through dance, but since I had a connection through people I was invested in, I became involved.

I love watching people who I care about do the things that they are passionate about.  And more than watching, I love involving myself.

What is it that draws us into things?  What is it that involves us?  For me it is the passion of a person in whom I have a vested interest.  It kind of makes me wonder.  What is it that I do with such passion that others are drawn into involvement?  Is there anything that I do with such passion?

I’d like to think that I am passionate about following Christ.  But do I really follow Christ with such passion that others are drawn into a relationship with Him?  I sure hope so.

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This year marks the first in quite a number that I have not been able to attend an Ash Wednesday service (mainly because all of the churches I would attend for a service only have one at 7pm which falls right in the middle of my night class).  While I miss the symbolic act of the imposition of ashes as the start to the Lenten season, I have had the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time today in reflection over the beginning of this journey (especially with all of the newfound spare time I have without the old ball and chain of internet communication tying me to the computer for every waking hour).

In particular I’ve been reflecting on a passage from the Old Testament book of Joel that is typically read during the observance of Ash Wednesday:

Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
(Joel 2:13)

Rend your hearts and not your garments. This season and journey is not primarily about giving up facebook, instant messenger, twitter, or any other form of internet communication (or whatever else you may choose to abstain from).  Rather, it is about “rending one’s heart” and “returning to the Lord.”  And it’s about doing whatever is necessary to make that happen.

Obviously I’ve made some sort of judgment call as to what is necessary for me.  For you it may be something different – it may mean adding a discipline, intentionally engaging in additional service to others, or eliminating something else from your life in order to make more room for Christ.

Whatever it be, I pray that you are blessed as you walk this journey.

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I feel like my life has really become quite the mess lately.  I’m disorganized, behind on work, grieving, unmotivated, and running on “fumes” spiritually.  I have really had trouble focusing in classes this quarter.  I constantly feel like I’m a half-step behind everyone.  I honestly need some time to pursue my identity in Christ and to be refreshed in my relationship with Him.

I’m really challenged by Los and his blogatical.

Are there too many distractions in my life?

Am I not protecting myself and my time with the proper boundaries?

Have I lost sight of my true priorities?

I’m wrestling through a lot of issues right now.  I hope you’ll all hold me in your prayers as I pray about what God is leading me to in this season of life.

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As I was on my way to class tonight, Steven Curtis Chapman’s song The Change came on the radio.  It’s funny, because every time I hear that song, I realize more and more how cliche of a song it is.  But, no matter how cliche it is, it never fails to bring back memories of a certain loooong ride in the car on a family vacation the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school.  We were on our way to Pentwater, Michigan.  I was ticked off at everyone in the car – mom, dad, Kristen, and probably the dog too.  In my fury I had done what any typical teenager does – I popped a CD (it may have  been a mix CD, I don’t remember) into my walkman CD player (iPods hadn’t been invented yet), cranked up the music really loud, and looked out the window for the remainder of the trip.  I was the perfect picture of teenage angst and drama.

And then, something happened.  This song started ringing through my earphones and into my ear drums.  And, despite the cheese of them now, the lyrics did something… they penetrated my teenage angst and fury and reached in and grabbed my soul:

Well I’ve got this way of thinking that comes so naturally
Where I believe the whole world is revolving around me
And I got this way of living that I have to die to every single day
cause if God’s spirit lives inside of me, yeah
I’m gonna live life differently

I’m gonna have the change
I’m gonna have the difference
I’m gonna have the grace
I’m gonna have forgiveness
I’m gonna live a life thats showing
I’m undergoing the change

What about the change
What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
I want to live a life thats showing
I’m undergoing the change

There was something about those lyrics that grabbed my heart, pulled it out of my chest, kicked it around a little, and then put it back in, waiting to be rebuilt by God.  I was convicted.

I spent the rest of that week wrestling, exploring and questioning.  What was the meaning of this whole Christianity thing that I had been associating myself with?  Did being a Christian really mean more than having t-shirts and WWJD bracelets and listening to (mostly crappy at the time) Christian music?  What was this change that was being sung about?

I read my Bible.  I journaled.  I prayed.  I lay in bed awake for hours most nights of that vacation.  I really struggled through what it meant to be a follower of Christ and not “just” a Christian.

So, basically, this cheesy song that I just heard on the radio tonight, was the catalyst for what I often refer to as the “turning point” or “conversion” in my faith story.  Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of those times.

Lately (and by lately I mean for approximately a year and a half to two years) I’ve been kind of trudging along in my faith journey.  I’ve been going through a looooong period of what I have learned to name steadfast faith (ty Aaron Wardle and an entire year of preaching Passionate and Steadfast).  As I continue to struggle through this season it’s a huge blessing to be reminded of those seasons in which I have been so passionate about my faith.

And so, despite the cheese of the song, I’m thankful it came on the radio tonight.

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