Crouching at the Door

Today’s been long, but good, I think. First day back to work after our week-long break, and even though getting up at this morning at 5:30 was pretty much impossible, I managed to get to work at 7:01(ish) and didn’t sleep through a single minute of the day. Thank God. Meeting with Renee to plan for group was a joy (and not at all a burden), too, and now that I’ve finally finished my Life Journal reading, I feel like I can go to bed having accomplished good things.

Well. I did have cereal for dinner. Probably could have done better on that.

Today’s reading assignment was Genesis 3, 4, and 5, along with Luke 2. We’ve got the fall of man (watch out for that serpent), Cain killed Able (and a lot of begats afterward that I’ll admit to skimming through)…all the way through Jesus ditching his parents to hang out in His Father’s house. Woot!

Crouching at the Door (sort of spooky and suspenseful, don’t you think?)

Selected Scripture:

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

-Genesis 4:7

Observation and Application:

I love the very visceral image the Lord presents here: sin is like a living thing (perhaps is a living thing: Satan himself) waiting to catch us unaware, hiding where we can’t see behind the door or on the other side of the wall, unbeknownst to us. He/it/sin is lying in wait and means to capture us before we even leave the house. Seeing as it’s next to impossible for me to manage being sinless much beyond opening my eyes in the morning, this isn’t a comforting thought.

There are two things in this passage that I want to note and remember; the first being that sin is, primarily and foremost, of concern pertaining to God’s acceptance of us—whether He will or won’t. His warning to Cain serves also as a warning and promise: do what’s right and God will always accept you; give in to sin and you will(must be) rejected. Cain knew this before he killed his brother, so no one can say God was unfair in His judgement. Likewise, we know what is good, and must live by it lest we risk the consequences.

(Note: the Father isn’t promising that we will always be accepted by men for doing right—contrarily, it is right to expect opposition when we make a stand for what is good. Also, the fact that Cain makes a choice whether or not to do what is right clearly suggests premeditated sin in his case. I suspect this is a big deal to God.)

Next, I cannot hope to escape sin’s clutches if I am reactive rather than proactive. Sin lies in wait for me, and succumbing to it is the easiest, most natural thing in the world. I’ve got to know it’s there, waiting, and I’ve got to know what it is so I’m not surprised by it—its existence in my heart, its strength, and ultimate purpose: to distance me from God and make me an ineffective witness. I need to understand my weaknesses and fortify those places that accept sin too easily.

Prayer:

Father, show me my weaknesses and help me to grow beyond them. Give me the power to overrule the things that distance me from you. Thank you for your promise—that you will accept me when I do right, and that when I fail, your Son himself will make up the difference.

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Now Hark This!: Owning 2012. LIKE A BOSS.

I rebel against New Year’s resolutions.

If my only reason for making change in my life is a somewhat arbitrary day on the calendar, I will likely fail. Then I will feel like a flake. Then I will be mad at myself. Then I will resist change, because trying and failing is exhausting and embarrassing. Then I will become a stereotype of myself, feeling awkward and acting in bizarre ways to maintain what I think is/should be “me,” instead of continuing to grow into truer and truer versions of myself…

My friend, Krisann, nailed this. Go read more of it.

New Year’s Stuff.

Happy New Year!

How was 2011? Good? Bad? Meh?

Mine was…well, better than 2010, and that’s good enough for me.

We’ve seen the beginning of God’s amazing work in healing PRCC after the passing of our beloved founding pastor, Greg Ellis, into glory. New life is blooming under the pastoral care of our new shepherd, Shawn Penn, and it’s wonderful to see our sanctuary filling up again. I love my church family—every single member—and I look forward to walking with all of you into His will.

I’m almost fully recovered from a long stretch of debilitating depression that lasted nearly two years, and I think my marriage is beginning to recover from that, too.

I’m a different person than I was; it’s amazing how protracted grief can change who you are. I’m no longer as loud and boisterous and outgoing as I used to be, and while some of you might wonder how that’s even remotely possible, those who have known me for awhile see the truth in that. I enjoy solitude and long for peace and quiet in my free time, and I’m beginning to learn how to be a gentle and quiet spirit. I’m still a long way from that, mind you, but I’m closer than ever I was before.

I’m worse at keeping in touch with people than I used to be, though, and I see how this is a serious problem I’ll need to face in 2012. I can’t be a good daughter/sister/friend/group leader if I never return phone calls and texts. What started out as “just wanting to be left alone to my own devices/misery” has become a negligence I can’t justify. So, if you’ve been on the receiving end of this, I want you to know: I’m trying hard to be better. Habits caused (and reinforced) by emotional distress are really, really hard to break, and I’ve never been good at intentionally changing anything about myself. Well, unless you count my hair color or the number of holes in my face.

All in all, I’m looking forward to who I’ll become this year: a better wife, friend, employee, group leader, and christian. Tall order.

I’m hoping to finally beat menometrorrhagia, or at the last resort, have my freaking uterus cut out. Six plus years of almost constant bleeding and countless trips to numerous doctors has me begging for a solution—just about any solution. Hemorrhaging, missed work, and trips to the ER are so last year. I’d rather forget all of that in 2012. I think I can honestly say I’d be okay with not having biological children as long as this mystery bleeding stops, and conversations with my husband about adoption are happening more frequently than ever. Bring it on.

Joel and I officially became God parents to some of the most amazing kids on the planet in 2011, and while the prospect of losing our best friends and suddenly  becoming parents to four grieving kids is absolutely terrifying, we are both humbled and pleased to have the honor. Dave? Krissy? You’re not allowed to die, okay?

From left to right: Bethany(4), Joel, Keri(me!), my nephew Joe(5), Elaina (10), Aaron(13), Sara(7), Dave, and Krissy.

These people, and so many more, are dear to Joel and I. They truly are family, and I can’t wait to see what the new year will do for all of us.

It’s gonna be so great.

Trust in the Unfailing

I discovered a nifty little trick with BibleGateway, today. Wanna see?

That link, there, will take you to today’s LifeJournal reading. Not only so, but it’ll show you the day’s reading in three parallel translations: the English Standard Version, the New International Version, and the New American Standard. You can choose whatever translations you like to compare side by side, and it’s really pretty interesting. I tried out the Contemporary English Version, too. Interesting, but a little weird.

Anywhoo. Allons-y!

Trust in the Unfailing.

Selected Scripture:

“For no word from God will ever fail.”

-Luke 1:37

Observation:

Zechariah and Mary have similar, yet fundamentally different responses to the angel’s birth announcement. Upon hearing that his wife, Elizabeth, is to bear a son in her old age, Zechariah disbelievingly responds, “Why should I believe you?” He is so focused on his apparent reality that he is unable to see that God is bigger than circumstances or “common sense.” Mary, however, responds simply by saying, “How will God do what He promises?” From the angel’s positive response, we can infer that it wasn’t disbelief prompting Mary’s curiosity, but rather faithful acceptance and wonder. Gabriel explains some of God’s plan and reiterates what Mary already knows:

“…no word from God will ever fail.”

Application:

For the believer, for me, this verse is so loaded with implication. It implies that God is sovereign, that His plans are final, and that He is eternal in victory. It means, quite frankly, that God’s will is absolute and that my life is what He intends it to be in all my joy, my suffering, my wealth, and poverty. I don’t know this is what I’m meant to take from this lesson, but I do know that the angel is telling Mary—and all of us—that God is powerful enough to keep His promises whatever our circumstances. Can I be satisfied with that when I’m at my lowest? Can I believe in this aspect of God’s nature even when the Enemy uses my outward circumstances to suggest the Father has abandoned me?

Prayer:

You asked me once if I would love You…even if You never healed by body, never healed my family, never allowed me to finish school or do what I love for a living. With all my heart, God, I want my answer to be, “Yes,” always. Help me to trust in Your unfailing nature, to remember that You’ve promised to redeem my suffering, and that You are always good, whatever I experience.

He is worthy

I know! Two posts in one day! I can’t say this will be a regular thing, but I am on vacation, and I’ve got more time than I know what to do with.

Here’s my Life Journal for today.

(I was gonna write out how the LJ works, but it turned out really boring and really, I don’t need any help in that regard.)

He is Worthy.

Selected scripture:

“I wept and wept because no one was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

-Revelation 5:4-5

Observation:

I love John’s grief here—he grieves over our inability to see/hear God’s proclamation and purpose. The elder comforts and reassures Him that there is one who is worthy to be God’s mouthpiece, to speak for Him and with His authority. That all the beings in heaven (aside from Christ) were unworthy to do so despite their sinless state is astounding to me. How great Christ must be! I can’t even fathom it.

Application:

I want to be the kind of believer who grieves when I’m not hearing God. I want to be continually aware of His word and my need for it. I want to know what the multitudes of heaven know—that He, Christ, is eminent. He is worthy.

Practically, this entails a renewed commitment to daily reading and especially prayer.

Prayer:

God, You know me—how I’m lazy and selfish. You know how I fill my time, and how I use reading (among other things) as a mechanism to cope with stuff I don’t want to face instead of buckling down and depending on You. I haven’t been reading Your word, and I’ve neglected prayer. Help me to be diligent in seeking You, and let my spirit be grieved by the distance between You and I. I know you want that, Father, and I want it, too.

Good morning! / Morning is a relative term

It’s not quite morning any more, but it’s my day(week) off and I got out of bed late. Anything that happens before breakfast is “morning.” So there.

I haven’t gone anywhere today; in fact, I’m still wearing my pajamas (more or less). My hair doesn’t look too aberrant, though I’ll admit I haven’t brushed it. I’m sure I’ve got nasty breath and I’m still wearing the socks I had on yesterday. The point is, I haven’t done much more than get out of bed and there hasn’t been much opportunity for sin. I’ve somehow managed to muck things up already, though, so here it is:

I am hideously selfish with my time.

Every now and then, I’ll receive a text from a friend or family member (like I did this morning) who wants to drop by or hang out. To be completely honest, I don’t want to go anywhere or hang out with anyone a majority of the time, particularly if I’ve managed to have the house to myself. It’s certainly an introverted way to be, and those of you that have known me for the better part of a decade or more will be surprised at the hermit tendencies I’ve developed in recent years.

(Incidentally, I’d be interested to hear what any of you think about permanent personality change in the wake of extreme emotion over prolonged periods of time, like severe depression or even joy.)

Anyway, what happens more often than not is that I hurt the people I deeply care about by acting like I haven’t the time for them. I am busy, it’s true, but not so busy that there aren’t spare moments for the people I love. I’ve never been good with balance—knowing how to give only as much as I receive so I’m not feeling wasted(dessicated,decimated) at the end of the day. I end up feeling like I couldn’t possibly give more, even if my offering has been a pittance compared to another’s. Time, energy, ministry—it all requires something of a person to give these things, and I suppose it’s been a long time since I felt I possessed the reserve and courage necessary to pour myself out for anyone but myself and my husband.

Not to mention I’m a lazy bastard.

So, how to fix it?

The answer is so obvious to the believer—cookie cutter perhaps, even if it’s totally contrary to how the rest of the world works. I’ve got to be filled before I can give, and that will require time and commitment on my part, not more free time and rest. It’s gonna take just…fellowshipping with Him(mind the capital h) so that I can receive the fulness of what I need.

It’s not always easy for me to wrap my mind around the idea that the Father’s economy isn’t always intuitive, however absolutely true it is. A day has got to come when I realize I am the least important person there is.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:1-8, Contemporary English Version

Not sure if I’m brave enough/ HONESTY.

So, I’m talking with my brother just now…telling him about this blog and what I want it to be.

My intentions started out simply enough; my friend Kim asked if I journaled about my experience with “infertility” (I only put it in quotes because it’s an ugly thing to name for real). She suggested that I need an outlet. I don’t know that it ever really occurred to me that I should—journal, that is. All my rage and confusion and hurt exists whether or not I let it outside of me, and the way that I bleed isn’t something most are comfortable with hearing about. Never mind the fact that I tend to hide the extent of my suffering (I hate defining it as such) from my husband because I know he hurts, too. I don’t want to add to his burden.

It occurs to me that we’re honest to varying degrees with the various people we encounter. I tell the ladies in my group things about my struggles that I may not tell my husband or other close friends. I abstain from sharing certain preferences or aspects of my personality with members of my church family because I fear their judgement where I am completely open with non-believers or believers I know to be more accepting. Does that make me a hypocrite? Two-faced?

I don’t really know.

I’ve never seen it as dishonesty; the fact of the matter is that some people’s ability to love a person is based on what they are willing or unwilling to accept, and if you want to have a relationship with some individuals, you must (to some extent) be what they expect you to be. Some souls, braver than I, are unwilling to compromise. Is that truly possible, though, when you want to live at peace with all people? I’m not talking about major sin here—I’m talking about dyeing your hair or saying “shit” instead of “shoot” or having a tattoo.

I love tattoos. This is a subject at the center of a great deal of controversy in the church and most believers in generations older than mine insist emphatically that it’s a sin to mark your skin in such a permanent way. I won’t go into why I disagree with this belief because it’s an age old debate, and theologians more brilliant than myself have defended my preference in ways better than I ever could.

Artists in all cultures on all continents for millennia have used their God given talent to give expression to faith, identity, and fidelity to one’s people. Those who wear this art on their skin are brave enough to say, “This is who I am. My identity will never be (can never be) hidden.” The assurance that requires! The absolute commitment to truth and honesty regarding the self is astounding and admirable, particularly if you’re religious and belong to a religious congregation of some kind, where not all your peers are of like mind.

…which brings me back to Blackfield.

The truth is that there are things I believe or have to say that members or my church family won’t agree with or appreciate, opinions that will be unpopular. I’m a group leader, and to be honest—I’m afraid of looking like the kid who doesn’t have it all together. What if they don’t want me to lead any more? Sometimes I use profanity; sometimes I’m too afraid to trust God; sometimes I indulge in things I know aren’t right. Those are things many believers do.

Most of us hide that, though.

So, here’s what I want Blackfield to be. I don’t know if I’m brave to wear my inside on the outside, but a blog won’t do anyone any good if it isn’t real—least of all me. I’m going to post my bible study snippets, I’m gonna wrestle with my life experience, and I’m just going to write my life.

It isn’t going to be pretty…but I’d like to think it’ll be real.

Audeamus.

 

Let’s get this started right.

To be honest, I’m pretty awful at journaling regularly.

I used to be pretty fantastic at it—writing at length about my day’s experience, my feelings on various things (read: complaints and lengthy diatribes concerning the tragedy of my young life), and my hopes and prayers for the future. The best way to do it is find a journal with pretty paper and a pen that’s just a little more expensive than you might normally be willing to humor…because it feels good to have (and to use) nice things. Just a little incentive to keep at it.

That was before the internet, and being married.

It’s difficult to imagine a time before either of those things, really, but that’s really neither here, nor there. The point is, life has distracted me from doing the things I ought to be doing. I ought to be studying God’s word and writing down the things I learn from interacting with Him. It would help my faith—and yours, some say.

My life is different than it was back then, back when I was a high-schooler going through the motions of normal teenaged life. I’m able to recognize the significance of my daily experiences now, the weight they possess, how important they are. There’s potential in everything for my good if I can only make use of it.

So…there’s no fancy pen with comfort grip, nor exquisitely lined paper, leather bound.

It’s just me and a keyboard and my life.

Let’s see what happens, shall we?