Weddings, Tree Sap and Transitions

My sister’s wedding ended with a drizzling out of: hype, excitement, energy, and relatives. After the last of our relatives left Monday, I fell asleep at 5pm and slept until 9am the next day with only a few hours awake watching movies in the middle of the night with my mom.

Now that that’s all done and she’s safely secured in Texas, I can continue on with my life: a threatening ogre of decisions about my next steps. What should be a most exciting time in my life, where I have a multitude of possibilities open, is overwhelming. Sometimes it seems a viable option to retreat back into the couch at my parents’ house in the mountains and do nothing but enjoy the peace and quiet. But that can only last for so long. While I seek peace and quiet time during this transition, my heart seeks for action, adventure, and new perspective. My hikes in the forest have proved a valuable time for contemplation and prayer, and I intend to hanker in on that even more so this week. I have a lot of decisions to bring before the Lord, concerning jobs, relationships, where to look for jobs and whether to move or stay where I am.

Sunday I went for a walk and prayed my heart out to the Lord. I wanted him to speak audibly to me, to show me a sign, something. I slowed down to enjoy the scenery and smells of this familiar path. All he showed me was what I had been missing by rushing along this trail, rushing from one thing to the next. I may think I’m on a mission to get something accomplished, but I am impatient, and often miss sign posts and beautiful moments along the way.  Even in my prayer life, I just talk and ask, and don’t wait for a response. I was telling the Lord about this, and this, and this, and what should I do about this, and how about this…but I wasn’t giving him time to respond. I didn’t stop long enough to listen.

I recognized this today in the clear globules  of fresh sap clinging to a pine branch that hung across my path. Rather than duck under it quickly as I normally do, I stopped to examine it. Look what you nearly missed, the Lord told me. Look at the beauty in my design, how simple the droplets of sap are, yet how complex. All of my creation is complex, majestic, and grand, yet I have time for it. I have time to look after each drop of sap from a tree. I would like to show you much, much more if you take the time. I want you to talk to you, to walk with you, to show you things and guide you. I desire to have conversations with you. Let’s work on having meaningful conversations before deciding all of these pressing things. We’ll get there, I promise.  It struck me that the Lord just wants me to slow down so He can talk to me.   He wants to have conversations with me. He wants to hear about everything that I care about, worry about.  Someone once told me the Holy Spirit is a gentleman; he will not force himself into your life if you don’t want him or don’t give him any of your time.

I am so glad God caught my attention today. This truth applies to my relationships with those I love as well. We have to invest time and conversation in any relationship that we want to be intimate or more than casually acquainted with a person.

The rest of this week I’ll be hiking at a slower pace, sitting and resting and listening once in awhile – to give the the Lord time to respond in my conversations with Him. In fact, perhaps I should do more listening than talking.

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Getting Perspective

…just a few more rambling thoughts on:

PERSPECTIVE in the WORKPLACE

This topic was brought up recently in a discussion between a friend and I about delegating tasks or being delegated to. I am more often the latter, and sometimes feel taken advantage of at my workplace. In Exodus 18 Moses was taking all the disputes of the people on himself to solve. Jethro’s advice to him was to delegate tasks to trustworthy men, and bring the disputes before the Lord.

 17Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good.18You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. -Exodus 18:17-18

From that we began to discuss working for bosses and people who may delegate too much or take advantage of us. Even in those circumstances we can work and serve with joy. (Also wisdom to stand up for ourselves.) The point is, we have to look at the bigger picture and get perspective of the circumstances even if they seem overwhelming and stressful. As Christians, we should have a different perspective than our peers, he said. Also, the Lord delights to use us for His usefulness; Spurgeon says, ” It is not a pleasant experience, but I pray make it a profitable one to me.”  If God has laid us low, there are numerous things He is wanting to teach us there:

 “The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.” 1 Sam. 2:7

From personal experience, every time I remember that I have a different motivation for doing a job well than others, it makes a world of difference. It’s the same with “good works”. I have met and heard of so many charitable people who have accomplished great things to relieve suffering in third world countries or disaster areas, donate money, clean water, etc. Take the Peace Corps for example (I thought about joining after school), or the Rotary Club. It amazes me that people can do these “Christian” things for others when so many Christians would rather sit in their couch in their nice comfortable home, in their nice, boring lives. Not that everyone needs to become a missionary or that comfort and enjoying the fruits of our labors is wrong; but we are called to serve in our own communities. Some of the wealthiest people I know are the msot gracious and giving people I know. Perhaps some of us middle-class and students who are going to be privileged middle-class Americans one day need to check ourselves.

HOMELESSNESS and PERSPECTIVE

In my community I know I usually avoid homeless people like the plague. Columbia is a hot spot for them, and yes there is a lot of help for them, and many of them have drug problems that they don’t want to change, but for many they have been dealt a hard blow in life that pushed them that way. I have friends who serve in the homeless ministry in Columbia and know women from my church who like to take food to them on the street corners. Maybe it’s not safe. Maybe they are lying to me, maybe they never want to change – these things roll through my skeptical, judgmental heart when I see them. I usually won’t give them money, maybe food, and I usually will only stop to help women.

 

I’ve had experiences where I felt cheated before when I have reached out to help, and I hardened my heart again. A few months back here in Columbia I listened to one woman’s story and gave her food and tried to find places for her to stay, and she seemed very ungrateful. Then I saw her walking in the Rosewood neighborhoods when I was running one day and she was dressed like a normal person, and smiled a knowing, mischievous smile at me. I’m too judgmental but I hate con artists. After that I’ve been even more skeptical of homeless people, until last month when I was hanging out with my friend Ashley in downtown Albuquerque. A homeless woman with one leg approached Ashley and I asking for money to get back to Indiana. I almost wanted to tell her no, I didn’t have any cash, which was true, but Ashley insisted on giving her what spare change she had, and asking the woman if we could pray for her. She was really open to that. As Lisa (her name) told us her story and we held her hands and prayed for her, her whole countenance changed. She seemed like a different person to me. I saw how human she was, and how similar we really were, both sisters on this earth, only I was more fortunate. And we had so much to give – not just money, but Jesus. We bought her lunch and sat and listened to her. At first she wanted to get her food and go, but because we were willing to listen and treat her like a respectable person, she sat with us. By time she finished she was laughing and making jokes. She told us about her kids (who were our age). She had been in a bad marriage in Albuquerque which put her on the street, and was addicted to drugs too, although she told us she’d been in rehab and clean for 6 months, and was trying to get money to go back to Indiana to stay with one of her sons. She said she had “believed in God” before and that this was a sign from God that He still cared for her. It was moving, but I still held a splinter of skepticism that wondered if she made up the whole story up. Ashley said it didn’t matter. She did what God told her to and the rest was between the woman and God. I was really impressed by my friends’ boldness to share the gospel with everyone she comes in contact with. God is changing my heart to see that it doesn’t always matter if we feel like we might get taken advantage of, so long as we’re doing His work.

 

That was a long spiel, but one of the reasons why I chose to try to help this girl who called me randomly last night needing a place to stay. I don’t know her story and my friend who gave me her number doesn’t know her well either, but from what it sounds like she’s in a bad place right now and desperately needs a place to stay till Tuesday. I can’t help her all week because my roommate and I will be gone, but I can offer her a place tonight. I also remember what it was like to not have a car, and feel reliant on other people for rides anywhere outside of my biking range, so I offered to pick her up tonight. It’s such a small thing really, and so many people in Columbia have helped me selflessly; any number of those people would have done that for me. What really pales it in comparison is what Jesus did for us. Although this girl is just like you and me, maybe this is the beginning of opportunities I asked the Lord to give me to serve after that incident with Lisa. I asked him that, and I know he will do it! I think I have missed opportunities before, but now I am ready to trust that He will send me things to do to serve people that is within my means and safe. Part of maturity and learning to serve as a Christian is listening to the Lord for discernment and when He wants us to help someone.

waiting waiting waiting waiting

I’ve run out of journals, can you tell? I’m also procrastinating studying for my summer school exam. I love James Joyce and Anton Chekhov, but… I’d rather wallow in my own thoughts and wants. Sometimes I wonder why God continues to put up with me – this erratic creature! But then I remember that He made me. I don’t blame God for my faults, because He did not intend me to be broken, or have struggles; he sees me the way He intends me to be, in all my potential – that is such good news to my soul when I have been wandering and struggling. In the midst of a struggle I suddenly remember to check my spiritual radar – and often find it’s out-of-whack. Well, maybe the radar example isn’t such a good one…  It’s more like I’ve been putting soy sauce in my gas tank rather than gasoline (yes, I have gone overboard with the car analogies since I recently got one. yay! that was a horrible by the way, but I’m going to stick to it, because it’s kind of funny).  Even too much soy sauce can be a bad thing..ok, ok, that was horribly NOT funny.

Um yes – Waiting.  Waiting is not something I do well. I always have to be doing something, which does not mean I always use my time well, don’t be fooled – but isn’t it part of our culture to expect instant rewards, instant gratification, instant mashed potatoes, instant wireless internet and instant communication? This mentality strives against the “anything worth waiting for is a good thing” proverb of yesteryears.  Problems arise especially for my age group wanting big salaried jobs right out of college (need I mention the work ethic?!), and in relationships.  As a Christian waiting for marriage is one of the hardest things! Not that it’s been any easier for past generations, but those of us holding to the purity standard before marriage are seen as rather Conservative and backwards. That’s not what was on my mind tonight though…

It was waiting in general for a good thing. Don’t go messing up God’s plans because you were being impatient, REBECCA! I have to say it to myself a lot. I also have to remind myself that “the world does not revolve around you” and “Stop making your problems/desires/wants/needs bigger than God”.  After all, He knows everything and everything means everything about me; He knows everything about everyone else in this world too. Crazy. But not to go down another rabbit trail…this thing I’m waiting for, whatever it is at the moment, I have to give it to the Lord and trust He will work it out in time. Letting it run circles around my head does not make it happen any sooner. If it requires my attention, then I do my part, and leave it be. If it’s something that would potentially create a mess if I stuck my fingers in it and stirred it around right now, then I have to relinquish control, as hard as it is. God has a good plan. In time what I’m waiting for will come to fruition if it’s in His plan.

I can’t get away from this topic: I typed “waiting” into Google images and up popped some pretty hilarious, but also very disgusting images of female skeletons in bridal dresses, etc, obviously waiting for “Mr. Right”. As I mentioned in a previously vulnerable blog post (perhaps I should begin censoring my posts), I am waiting for that too, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I just don’t want people to think that’s all that occupies my mind. I am waiting for numerous other things that I find myself impatient in as well, like having money one day!  But the point is, our society tells young women to go after their desires and “make your dreams come true”. There’s something to be said for being a go-getter and not falling into the passive trap, but in the case of relationships, this seems to be an adulteration of the standard God calls us to as young people to prepare ourselves, respect our brothers and sisters, wait patiently, and act shrewdly and wisely in all, not only dating relationships. I tend to learn the hard way. I needn’t elaborate. I know this is something all other people my age (except you bastards who found your sweetheart and got married early. Forgive my abruptness. good for you.) are going through Sometimes the desire and anguish can be so extenuating if we let it… we must turn our attentions and energies to other things that are productive.

Sometimes re-directing my attention only comes with yes, fierce will-power, but that often fails. I have to consider what the Lord has in store for me, and what would be the best use of my attention/energy right now for the expectant future. Usually that is enough to spur me on.  Right now this means stop writing meandering blog posts and get back to studying for my exam tomorrow! Because, it would be a mature and responsible thing to do to finish this degree strong to get a better job to support myself for the foreseen future. 😛 Thank God I don’t get graded on the organization of my thoughts in blog posts like I do my English papers! … and thank God He can sort out my fragmented prayers!

Again, waiting for Mr/Mrs. Right, yes, but in life in general, waiting is one of the hardest things. I don’t think I could wait without God’s help.

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Posthumously, I couldn’t resit posting this grisly photo:

It speaks the sardonic voice of our society telling young women to take the reins in relationships. Even in Christian circles, this is often looked upon as normal. But… in His word God gives men the charge to be initiators and women to respond, which can be tough for post-feminism and post-modern Christian women to accept. It does not mean that men and women are not created equal. Conversely, waiting doesn’t have to mean being passive and wasting away. Both men and women have to wait, but we women find it more difficult because of our impatient nature, I think. I’m biased. I still hate the antiquated idea of being a “lady in waiting” though. ugh. thoughts?

Project: Dancing the Psalms

Over Christmas break I listened to a lot of classical, instrumental and folk music to find some pieces of music to choreograph to. It has been on my heart to choreograph for a while now, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to showcase and stage  my choreography while I am still in the university setting.  For years people who know me and my passion for dancing and my heart for God have suggested that I choreograph “worship dance” . My Dad always gives me ideas and worship music, but I have been reluctant because my heart has not been at the place where I could worship God un-abandoned and not care what other people thought (and I am still in the process of coming to it) and then the idea of “interpretive dance” in worship services or dances to 90’s contemporary Christian music just made me cringe. As a classically trained dancer, I have a lot of pride in my work and don’t want to be included in the mediocre Christian artists scene. God forgive me for being judgmental of them; I am by no means the best in my field either, but I aim to only perform and give my best. So here I am at the turn of the year and I realized that I can combine my desire to choreograph and dance for myself more with my desire to worship God and praise Him with my gifts. It doesn’t need to be in church yet – maybe God will bring me to that place, or on stage; I will simply begin in the dark, in the secret place, in the studio alone, with my music, notebook, and Bible… My inspiration came from reading the Psalms and the Sons of Korah…I discovered them online in my search for music of the Psalms. I would love to meet them one day. Their music is so uplifting and just what I needed to get started on this project.

The idea to make dances to the Psalms suddenly hit me just the other day as I was going to bed and reached for my Bible. Unfortunately I often leave God till last in my day, something I am ready to change. Instead of it being open to Habukkuk where I thought I had left it, it was open to the Psalms. Psalm  34 stared back up at me, and as I read it the words began to take flight in my heart and come to live in my mind. I could imagine movement, dance to these words…I could imagine them to music…and expressive movement at that, not jsut sign language. I could pray these words back to God through my movemnt – because that is the purest, most natural thing for me to do. That is how he made me, and I can’t explain it, but where my words fail, I can express through dancing, and God who made me must understand my language of movement better than I. It is the least I can do to praise Him and express my gratitude, my joy, my sorrow, my desires, my hurts – and give them to Him. Like the Psalmist, when I start singing or dancing my prayers turn to praise and soon I am filled with joy.

Here is my favorite Sons of Korah song so far and probably will be my first piece because the music is awesome and the words few:

Psalm 117 (English Standard Version)

The LORD’s Faithfulness Endures Forever

1Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
2For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD!

This project has been a long time coming, and may be a long process yet. I am looking forward to it growing and seeing what God will do with it. While my choreography is of a personal nature at this point, I will share some of my journey through thoughts and words and links to the songs I use. Maybe one day soon I will have a camera to record and post dances on here, or a video of my choreography on other dancers…until then, pray for me and expect great things from our Lord Jesus Christ. Be encouraged to worship God in your own way as well – it is between you and Him, and who knows what He may do with that in the future! Be blessed my friends.

Becca

Walk in the Snow

snowy Sandia Mts from the Albuquerque side

I was taking a walk in the snow, well, rather a hike, on the mountain “mud trail” near our house to get alone with my thoughts and practice hearing from God. To get into prayer, I have to dump all my “stuff” out to the Lord first, then I can be quiet and silent before Him in order to listen for His voice or see with my spiritual eyes. I am much better at the dumping part. Be reassured that God does care about all the details of our lives and He does want to hear about them. (Matt 6:31-32) But we were called to worship Him and give Him adoration and praise. That is what He wants from us, and our hearts and lives.

 

Praising God turns a monologue into dialogue, as Pastor Chuck said this morning at my parents’ church in Albuquerque. When I began to release all my burdens and worries to Him as I have to do often, in fact I need to do daily, I began to praise Him for the things He has done for me and for who He is. It’s often easier to see what he has done for me and not praise Him for who He is. God loves us for who we are, and He wants our love in return. I asked Jesus to show me His beauty. One thing I am asking of Him this year is to romance me, make me fall in love with the King of this world so all else dims in comparison. I know that only He can satisfy me, and I although I know that I often think that all I need is a man to fulfill and satisfy me. Well, as good as that person may be that God has for me to marry one day, he is not going to be able to satisfy all my needs because he is human. If I can fall in love with Jesus more and more each day, I can better fall in love with the man I am going to marry and love him with a gracious love all our lives. So that said, I still struggle to understand just how Jesus is going to romance me. It certainly is not going to be the way I expect men to do. That would just be too weird. But think about it, Jesus is our example of the bride groom to the bride – his church metaphorically speaking, as in Ephesians 5:25-33. More on this later. I need to study and learn what this passage teaches me.

All of a sudden Cessna my dog perked up and sat on the path in the snow, looking, listening attentively around her. I tried to prod her to go on, but she just would not move. Well, I thought, she may know something I don’t know. Instinctively, I thought of the mountain lions and bears on this mountain I have been warned against since I was a little girl. We just stood there, silent, listening and watching. I asked for His continued protection. Maybe here God would answer some of my questions. He did, but it wasn’t what I thought. I am alone, I said out loud to the trees and hills covered in snow. “I am here with you,” he said back. It came into my mind and passed, like a clear, definite thought, not my own fumblings and blubberings. I looked around. All I could see was snow. white snow. It covered everything that was tangled or dirty or ugly. It made the entire forest beautiful. This is Your beauty, I thought. You have shown me your exquisite beauty, just as I asked, Lord Jesus. I have to quiet myself and look in order to see it. This is how He romances me. With the beauty of His exquisite creation. How often do we take the time to look, and appreciate the beauty of the untouched universe around us? It truly is lovely.

I walked back with Cessna, some questions still unanswered, but feeling light and full of peace. We made first footprints in waves of snow that wind had blown back across the field. I noticed the beauty of my dog’s fur coat – I think it’s called tortoise-shell. I felt romanced by my beautiful Savior and assured of his protection. As for hearing from God, I think I need to practice, like anything, quieting myself, retreating and just being with Him.

Revelations of a Ba-humbugger

Three things I think God was trying to tell me yesterday:

  • “My grace is enough for you.”

God’s grace is enough to cover where I fall short, and to accept me the way I am, and He gives it freely. He is not waiting for me to become the person I want to measure up to my standards or His in order to love me.

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded in all the more.” ~Romans 5:20

  • True beauty is in the soul of a person.

Try seeing others’ beauty in the deepest part of the person, see past their beauty or lack thereof.  A woman’s or a man’s soul is truly beautiful if it is a heart after God’s.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” ~Proverbs 31:30

  • Again, wait.

Like my ceaseless striving, trying to make something happen the way I want it isn’t the best idea. I need to wait on God’s timing and trust that He will let things fall into place the way they’re supposed to and happen at the right time.  Sometimes I need to respond to the situation at hand first rather than try to take things into my own hands to make something I think I want happen.

“I waited patiently for the Lord, and he heard my cry.”

Musings of a Ba-humbugger

What is it that is disturbing my peace now, swirling around in my head and bubbling to the surface when I have a moment to sit and think? I often use writing to help me sort out my thoughts, but this I think needs prayer more than anything…

During Christmastime while I am at home with my family there are many happy, festive things going on, a little stress to get gifts together, but mostly I have a lot of time to myself, and during this time my mind is flooded with the typical worrying about trying to stay fit over the holidays, not forgetting anyone to call or send cards or gifts to, and various other superficial things.  Something that happened made me consider why I think so highly of myself and sometimes look down on others. When I feel on top of the world, like after I finished teaching Pilates class today, or when I am all dressed up and did my hair and makeup, I feel so beautiful and proud… then there are times when my hair is a mess and I have been scrounging around the house muttering to myself all day and I see myself,  and I grumble at my reflection in the mirror.  It’s not just my physical appearance that sets me off into this state of reflection – when things don’t go my way and I use angry words or think them,  when I use a disrespectful tone with my mother, when I have fallen back into a bad habit that I despise, I despise myself and think, “you’re such a mess!”  Then I wonder why I wait for better things, thinking I deserve better… am I waiting until I “get myself together”? Bad news: I am never going to be perfect. Then I kick myself for giving up striving to be perfect. what a horrible circle to get caught up in! Only when I remember the grace of Jesus Christ does my striving heart relax and I realize He loves me the way I am, here, now. He is not waiting to love the person I want to become, although He has good plans for that too.

If I can expect and receive such grace and love from Christ to accept myself the way I am now, perhaps I need to give others that same grace. how about in relationships and friendships? What kind of standards should I set for people in those? I set pretty high standards for myself and constantly fail them. Is it right for me to expect other people to live up to my standards too? Probably not. This is all an internal dialogue that is going on within me while I size people up. What a judgmental creature I am! Also, I tend to give others more grace than myself, as if they need it, and I don’t! Even my grace is hypocritical.  So how will I ever learn to love, and be loved in return? Will I ever be able to have satisfying relationships with people? with someone?

About more personal details, I need to go on a long prayer walk and ask the Lord about them. If I have any general revelations, I will try to post them in a format beneficial for public eyes.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”  ~Phil. 4:6