Friday, July 28, 2006

2 kind of related things: feasts and counting

1. Tomorrow we leave on vacation for a week. As I write this, the last of the laundry is drying, clothes are laid out on the bed (as are the cats), the air mattress has been patched and packed, the list of supplies is ready and waiting for me to go shopping, and directions and reservations have been made and confirmed and communicated. Oh, and 8 other people are joining us on this road trip to the East Coast to participate in the National Gathering of the Vineyard church.

There are times to rest and enjoy solitude, there are times to rejuvenate ties with ones spouse/family, and there are times to celebrate and refresh your spirit and soul with feasting and partying and communing within the context of a large group of people who are similar in their love for God but very different in their expression of it. You read a lot about these types of feasts in the Old Testament and personally, I think we could use more of them in our community of faith. We tend to be too preoccupied with getting things done in our Western society and the pattern God originally laid out for his people was to stop often in the day and the week and the calendar year to celebrate and remember his goodness and faithfulness - alone and together with others.

2. Two days ago a friend of mine asked me, "How often does God speak to you in a day?" I had never been asked this question before and somewhat at a loss, I was not quick with an answer. She continued, "Between 2 and 10 times, on average, would you say?" Arghh...I really had no idea. I finally came back with, "As often as I stop and listen, yeah between 2 and 10 sounds right." I don't feel it was an adequate response.

First of all, it seemed strange to be trying to quantify communication with someone, especially the creator of the universe, but I understood where she was coming from; she just wanted to know what this communion with God looked like in someone else's life. If you asked me how often I talked to one of my friends, I could answer that quite easily, because one can count phone calls, emails, and msn conversations. But if you ask me how often I talk to Dean in one day...well, how do you define that when you live together? Your lives are intricately intertwined and there is no definite stopping and starting to your communication and togetherness. Some days are more silent than others, but that does not mean your thoughts are not on them or you are not actively seeking to make their life better or encourage them in some way or just let them know you like them. I hope that my communion with God is much like that - we live together so he is always present and affecting my world, whether it is an 'out loud' moment or not, whether it is visible or invisible.

Secondly, I do believe that it is my responsibility to take the time to listen, to do my share of communicating, to sit down and initiate the conversation, and to be available. Some more pertinent questions might be...How often do I talk to God? How often do I listen for him? And how often do I wait for his response instead of moving ahead with my plans?

Pray without ceasing.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Legit or not?

My computer died this week. Let us take a moment of silence to remember its overall faithful and productive service, and even though its last month was fraught with difficulties and illness, I speak no curse words against it. It was simply finished. Sigh.

Today I have been wondering what the difference is between an excuse and a legitimate reason or cause. Is anything that stands in the way of accomplishing something good and honourable an excuse? Should you always find a way to overcome whatever obstacles there are? My computer was ill and I spent days trying to nurse it back to health all to no avail, but really, I could have made time last week to write something on this blog - we have a work computer I can access (and I am doing so right now) so was the computer acting up an excuse for not writing, or a legitimate reason? As I have been mulling this over today, this is what I have come up with. Feel free to add your insights if you like.

1. Priorities: I guess it comes down to this in many ways. Today I have an upcoming trip to organise, laundry to do, cleaning to finish, emails to answer, plants to water, yardwork waiting for me, some office admin stuff, cats that need a nail trim BADLY, and preparations to complete for guests coming tonight. But I decided that I would start the day by doing my workout (it keeps me healthy and gives me stamina), reading my Bible (I always need God's perspective on things), taking a walk to get the mail (this is also my 'talk to God' time), and writing something here before I tackled all those other "must get to" tasks. I am trying to develop habits that over the long term will produce good things in my life. Some days I get it right...other times I don't and perhaps feel that I need to respond to a certain pressure to look like I have accomplished something short-term or made some tangible or monetary difference. Things tangible and monetary should be the by-products of a fruitful life, but in my opinion, are not worth putting in my immediate priority list.

2. Comfort: This is in direct opposition to faith, I think, and I have a lot to learn in this area. Too often I am passive and do not exert concerted and extravagant effort into overcoming obstacles. I am a whiz at being able to take circumstances and make do with whatever comes my way without much frustration whatever, and that is a good quality trait - being extremely adaptable and quick to use whatever is at hand. But I lack the drive and ambition that entrepreneurs and great leaders have. Am I making an excuse by saying...I am just not built that way? Or do I lack discipline and drive to see something through to the end no matter what comes my way? In reality, I think I lack the ability to know the difference between what is worth pursuing with that type of intensity and what is not. Plus, I will admit I do not have certain confidence to believe that my goals are worth pursuing with that kind of energy.

3. Pride: I hate to be wrong and thought of as stupid and a failure and not likeable and I hate being disappointed and waiting for something that never happens and making promises that I don't know if I can keep and I don't like something that requires all of me - I like to keep a little for myself; I like to be secure and safe and successful and warm and certain that I will have enough to eat today and I hate feeling hungry and empty and tired and sick and unimportant and unnecessary and I hate being ignored more than anything else because I like attention and being loved.

Those are my excuses and today I will try to live by faith instead of these weak props. As I have said to others before and my friend reminded me again today...we are responsible for our own maturity and growth. What is keeping me from progressing today? I must cut it out of my life without mercy.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

inside my head and heart

It has been way too long since I wrote something. Trips and visitors and feeling like I had nothing to say have kept me away from this blog. Actually, I did sit down one night, attempted to write something, came up with a few paragraphs of absolute drivel, turned off the computer and walked away. Probably just as well - I have not been in a stellar state of mind.

These past few weeks have been an interesting period for me - while a lot of cool things were happening on the surface, beneath the skin of everyday life there was a cold-blooded sickness trying to make a home in my soul. I have never battled with depression or mental illness, but in the last little while, I felt like I could better understand how someone could fall prey to an unruly mind. My thoughts were barraged by scenario after scenario of every insecurity of mine being played out to its logical and disastrous conclusion. Before I could get a grip on my thoughts and say...wait a minute, this is ridiculous...they were off and running again and had written another chapter in the book of how my world was turning against me.

One of my insecurities is being alone and unloved and unwanted. Aside from the odd pang of discomfort or loneliness, it does not bother me much because I know the truth is that I am loved and I am ultimately not alone. However, those facts were hard to remember a few weeks ago when a tornado of negative and disturbing thoughts unexpectedly started whipping through my mind and I was caught unprepared for the onslaught. It was amazing how one look from a friend or the silence of the phone could be turned into a betrayal of epic proportions dramatized scene by painful scene in my always active but usually well-behaved imagination. The truth was somewhere in an internal cranial crevice, but I had a difficult time accessing it and day after day became a muddle of just trying to get through my tasks without descending into despair. I yelled at my brain, "Stop it!" I hit myself on the head hoping to jar it out of its delinquent behaviour (lightly, never fear), I prayed a sentence and tried to pray more but even found that difficult to do as my mind would not focus on anything but this hopeless inward dramatic tragedy for any length of time. And it was beginning to show on the outside.

Somewhere in my innermost being I knew this was a test, a battle I must win, a lesson to learn, a strength to develop - controlling my mind - but how does one do that? In the end, two friends prayed for me, infused loads and loads of hope and truth into my soul and over the course of an evening, the majority of the mind games left. The next few days, I still felt an uneasiness lurking around the edges of my thoughts and I knew I would have to take care of this last bit myself - that was my part, to keep the tornado from coming back through the swath it had already cleared. It is said that once your mind begins to think in a certain way, new neural pathways are forged and then it becomes a habit and a way of life that is incredibly difficult to break. There was no way I was allowing that to happen, so I made an effort to deal with these tendencies and weaknesses at the root.

1. I am lonely because I centre my world around people instead of around God. This sets me up for disappointment because people will always fail me at some point - they cannot be with me 24 hours a day and they cannot fill my insatiable desire for love and attention. My well-being must ultimately depend on God's faithfulness and presence, not those of others, and in order for my mind to accept this and operate from that standpoint, I must know it and believe it totally at the core of my being. I must give myself to this truth, sit down on it as if it were a solid chair, float on its liquid purity and trust that it will buoy me up, sleep with it wrapped around me knowing that nothing can harm me while I let my guard down.

2. I have dampened these cravings for closeness and intimate friendship because to do otherwise is too scary and after all, one must adhere to society's acceptable levels of affection, it is only wise. One need only read some stories about Jesus and King David to see examples of society's mores being smashed in the arena of seemingly inappropriate affection. In fact, I believe this whole episode I have gone through has been a sort of awakening of a long-asleep passion, a strong desire to give myself totally in an intimate way and in turn, to be wholly taken. A few days ago I listened to someone talk about God's heart for us as graphically described in Song of Solomon. Yes, it rings very true to me now. This strong sense of longing to be with someone is God asking me to allow him to be the friend that I have always wanted, the lover who never leaves, the intimate companion who never tires of my company, who knows all about me but waits for me to reveal more of myself to him, who never ceases to give himself to me, who sometimes waits to be pursued, but will always be found by those who search. The desire has been awakened, I cannot go back now.

I am my beloved's. I belong to him. I am not alone.