Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Inexplicable

Sometimes,
I just don't know what to say.
Sometimes,
I just get swept away.

I get caught up in You, God.
I felt that today.
I'm questing for You, God.
I hope You see it that way.

I feel the hunger
Need the desire
Crave the filling
I need you near.

I can't explain it.
I feel like a fool.
I'm starving for spiritual food, God.
Please let me be in You.

I feel so tossed, Lord.
So beaten by the waves.
Please pour your love, Lord,
Completely, today.

I'm overwhelmed, Daddy.
I know that I'll be okay.
You'll protect me, Daddy.
No matter what man may say.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Covenant With God

For some time now, I have been longing for a stronger, deeper relationship with God. This isn't a new quest; rather, it is an ever expanding journey. In the last several weeks, God has been calling me to take a giant, flying leap forward in my growth. This leap is something that I have found myself resisting, as I cannot fathom where I will land - as that which goes up must at some point come down. I'm hesitant about the possibility of a bloody and miserable crash landing.

However, God has given me a choice. I can choose to sit and wallow in my present level of belief, or I can take this jump and receive the ability to fly. It is with this decision in mind that I am choosing to jump. With what God is asking of me, I know that I am going to struggle daily to persevere. I'm going forward anyway. He has placed it on my heart to enter into a covenant through the swearing of an oath. On that note, this is the covenant with which I enter (this may be added to as God leads; it will not be removed or modified to suit my personal whims.)

Under the blood of Christ and in the name of God, I speak that in all circumstances I will follow God's will above my own or that of others. In this cause, I believe that God has ordained that I take upon myself the following requirements.

Because I struggle with the need to feel pretty and to put on a mask to hide my true self and therefore hiding God in me, I am going to:
1. Not wear any jewelry or makeup, except for a wedding ring to show that I am married.
2. Not wear any other accessories except for: belts to hold my pants up; hats, gloves, and scarves for cold weather; and scarves and vests as expected by church groups.
3. Not dye my hair, cut, or style it in ways that will draw attention.

Because I find myself becoming easily distracted by the ways of this world, I will:
1. Finish reading the book "Celebration of Discipline" and practice the spiritual disciplines contained within the pages of this book. I have started this book twice as a part of my Lenten study and never finished it.
2. Fast from food weekly, growing from twelve hour to twenty four hour fasts. The times that would otherwise be spent eating will be spent in prayer and reading the Bible.
3. Observe a weekly Sabbath as commanded in the Ten Commandments.

As someone who has struggled with substance abuse and self-harm, especially during periods of spiritual growth, these expectations are to preserve the body that I have.
1. Neither alcohol nor tobacco shall be used.
2. There will be no deliberate damage to skin.
3. No medication of any kind will be taken except when absolutely necessary.

These statements constitute the covenant which I enter into today, September 3rd, 2014. This sworn oath will end on the first Sunday of Advent, which is November 30th, 2014. In the event that this is broken, may the punishment of God be swift and just.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cleaning House

My spiritual year can be divided up like the life cycle of a tree.
Season - Tree - My Year
Spring - New Growth - Preparing for the summer's ministry
Summer - Full Bloom - Enjoying the summer's ministry and growth
Autumn - Changing Colors - Evidence of the summer's growth is pretty
Winter - Hibernation - Spiritual desolation and an emotional wasteland

It feels like for almost half of the year, I am starving for God. In the other half of the year, I am overwhelmed by God. I don't really know how to explain it better than that. But it is in that time, where I feel so far from God, that I find myself doing something that I would guess is actually pretty common. My job becomes an idol.

When a friend asks me what I have been up to lately, my answer isn't usually about something that is going on with me anymore. Most likely, it has to do with working on lesson plans or trying to figure out what I am going to do with a particular student. Once in a while, it has to do with something I'm involved with at church, like the handbell choir, children's ministry, or another event at church. Rarely, I'll actually open up and share what has been on my heart. A lot of the time lately, I have been more than a little bit likely to rant shortly after I tell you that I've been busy working on school things. I'll rant on and on about my niece and nephew. Unfortunately, a lot of things have become idols lately. Just listen to me talking and you'll figure that out pretty quickly.

I don't want them to stay as idols, but I struggle to release them.

A lot of my focus on preparing for school lately is necessary. I am teaching marine biology, Bible, and math levels spread from pre-algebra to pre-calculus. Take a guess... that is a lot of work, and I'm still waiting on some of my materials to come in. I still have movies that I need to watch, trips to the library that I need to make, and notes to type up.

Right now, a lot of my activities at church are on a summer hiatus, but will pick up again just after school starts. I'm excited for that, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep up with all of them with the increased load at school.

I'm also taking several classes online at the moment. Because being busy is my normal, taking one class just isn't enough.

The kids. I love them dearly. But, to be brutally honest, I need a vacation from them. They have been here almost every other week all summer and their dad has been taking summer classes so that he can finish his degree faster. Unfortunately, my presence has made me the go-to babysitter. This leaves me feeling like I'm being taken advantage of and unable to get much else done.

I look at my desk, my closet, my dresser, my nightstand, the floor of my bedroom and I get overwhelmed. I know the steps to cleaning and organizing, but even making it come down into smaller steps is intimidating. I wish that I knew how to make it less so. I organized my desk recently, and with it came a small touch of satisfaction. Except that even in its most organized form, it still looks incredibly cluttered and it feels awkward to work with. I started trying to tackle all of the spaces in my bedroom yesterday, and by the end of the closet, everything else just looked more overwhelming. Today, I should be working on it more, but I don't even feel like I know where to start.

The concept of cleaning for a few minutes every day as a way to keep the messes to a minimum sounds like a crazy idea to me. It was never really modeled for me growing up, because binge cleaning was considered normal. I guess that is what happens when both parents work full time. It is how I learned to do it though. I will admit that I miss cranking up the stereo and singing along with the radio while I worked.

I miss fresh country air now. And sunlight. (Yes, I know that it is August and that there is plenty of sunlight outside even in the suburbs.) I miss opening up the house and airing it out. It always seemed cleaner that way. Plus, it was easier to clean when you weren't getting high on the chemical fumes.

So maybe I'm just overwhelmed and homesick and practicing a lot of procrastination lately. And somehow it is spilling over into my spiritual life.

I suppose that I should go and at least find the floor on my half of the bedroom. Because my husband's half is already clean. He's organized and neat like that.

Understanding John 3:1-21

John 3:1-21 Jesus teaches Nicodemus

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who as come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit."

"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.

"You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven - the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."


One of the first scripture verses that I learned as a child (in the King James version, no less!) was John 3:16. I was much older before I learned that there was a context for this verse. But how many of us learned verses by rote, and can still rattle off that the shortest verse in the Bible is "Jesus wept." or that we know "For the wages of sin is death" and cannot finish the verse but remember well the poster we learned it from because of the designs on it.

I believe that this is one of the major pitfalls of children and youth ministries today. We hand out verses on stickers and buttons and pencils, but never take the time to really delve into why the verse is of value. So why would we remember a verse twenty years later and be able to use it correctly? We won't.

In checking out a book on our bookshelf here at home, along with reading nearby passages in the Bible, this is information that can be gleaned to help give us a broader picture of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. The book I'm using is the Holman Bible Handbook, copyright 1992.

So who wrote this book?

Traditionally, this is attributed to the apostle John, son of Zebedee and brother of James. (HBH, p. 606)

Why was the book of John written?

This is information that is actually written in the Gospel of John. "That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:31

Why is it specified that Nicodemus was a Pharisee?

The Pharisees legalized the purity laws of the Old Testament, focusing on ritual cleanliness. They also were demanding that people follow "the tradition of the elders" - Mark 7:3 (HBH, p. 608) As Jesus was one who broke Pharisaic law, he was not really someone that Nicodemus would want to be seen associating with. It would have threatened his high position to become a known associate of Jesus.




Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Body and It's Gifts

1 Corinthians 12 King James Version (KJV)

12 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. 3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.

21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked. 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.


Think about this. We all have a body. We have ears, eyes, and toes. When was the last time that you heard someone talk with your toes? Have you ever walked on your eyes? As humans, we rather prefer to walk on our feet and hear with our ears. We like to write with our hands and eat with our mouths. So what makes one part of our body more important than the others? I mean, really. Is the toe more important than the eye? There are some people who lose a physical part of themselves, only to be okay with it. But ask them to lose a different part, and they would be devastated. 

While the church, as a body of believers, is the body of God, sometimes it loses a part of itself. Sometimes, it seems as if the heart is missing. Other times, it seems as if the church is walking blindly into oblivion. I feel like that is the way that the secular world views Christianity. It takes an encounter with the individual parts of the body to realize that the parts may not really be missing; the role they play has just been so minimized that the individuals that comprise the parts have become invisible. 

To quote the song that just popped up on my iPod "There is no good reason I should have to be so alone. I'm smothered by this emptiness. Lord, I wish I was made of stone." (The song is "Am I the Only One [Who's Ever Felt This Way]" by The Dixie Chicks.) 

As many spiritual gifts as I have rather suddenly become aware of (or acknowledged for the first time) recently, I do feel kind of alone. While I know people who have the same giftings, I don't know anyone else who has experienced them quite like this. It's like a gift of the week thing. One day, I'm suddenly writing prophetic things. The next week, I'm praying "differently." Just a couple of weeks later, I'm doing intercessory prayer like there is no tomorrow. I don't even have words or names to explain some of the other "weird" things that are happening. 

I've been christened "Momma Liz" recently, and I'm not sure that I'm ready for that. Ben says that I am. There doesn't seem to be a doubt in his mind about that. He even teases me about being the Pied Piper of children. I walk into a room and nearly every kid in there finds their way to me eventually. It seems that kids look up to me, even when I don't want to deal with them. But then again, just last night, I commented that I feel like I'm with family when I'm in The Asylum, but when I'm cooking in Momma Linda's kitchen, I feel like I'm home. Now explain to me how "home" means feeding hundreds of people in just a few hours, knowing that it is going to happen again later and tomorrow...

Liturgical Season - Searching For More?

In my search for a deeper faith, I have been exploring following the liturgical seasons. This is something new for me, even though I grew up in the church. Yeah, sure, we had Christmas and Easter. I even remember the Advent candles, but I can't tell you what color they are supposed to be. In the last handful of years, I've even began observing Ash Wednesday and Lent. But liturgical seasons? I'd never really heard of such a thing.

As it turns out, we are currently in Ordinary Time. No, it isn't named that because it is ordinary, but because the weeks are counted using ordinal numbers.

I would like to learn how the liturgical calendar dates occur, and overlay it with the way that the Jewish calendar runs. I feel like somewhere in that combining there is a true blending of faith experiences.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Three Little Girls

While in high school and college, I wasn't the person that I am today. In the process of "finding myself," I became pregnant. Three times. By two different guys. All three pregnancies ended in miscarriages. For a long time, I was in denial. I didn't want to accept what had happened or to acknowledge the circumstances that surrounded the events. I had gone so far as to even deny to myself that it mattered that I had lost children. Something in my heart tells me that they are all little girls. A few weeks ago, at the encouragement of my husband, I finally named them. My three little girls, Sarah Elizabeth, Anna Naomi, and Hannah Grace.

Since I like to study names and their meanings, I'm doing a post on my daughters' names. And yes, I intended them to all be Biblical names, or of Biblical reference. 

Sarah - Hebrew. "Princess." In the Old Testament, the wife of the patriarch Abraham. Came into vogue with other Biblical names in the 16th century and was enough of a staple for 400 years to have spawned a variety of nicknames. 

Elizabeth - Hebrew. "Pledged to God." One of the 30 most popular girls' names in the U.S.;  in the top 5 in Australia, Canada, and Great Britain. Used in full, it has a pleasant, old-fashioned ring, though some research attaches a "seductive" connotation to it. It is a source of endless diminutives and nicknames. 

Anna - var. Ann, Anglicization of Hannah. Hebrew. "Grace." One of the most frequently used names for girls until the mid-19th century, when it became less popular. When Elizabeth II of England named her daughter Anne in 1950, it became more prominent, but is still more common as a middle name. Though Ann may seem plain to many, its numerous derivatives offer plenty of variety. (I chose Anna after the prophetess Anna in Scripture.)

Naomi - Hebrew. "Pleasant." Old Testament name; the mother-in-law of Ruth, who, after her sons died, said  "Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me." Naomi came into English-speaking use not with the Puritan revival of Biblical names, but in the 18th century.

Hannah - Hebrew. "Grace." In the Old Testament, Hannah is the mother of the prophet Samuel. The name was steadily popular from around 1600 through the 19th century, peaking around 1800. It is now emerging from disuse, though the European forms of the name -- Ann, Anne, Anna, etc. -- remain far more common.

Grace - Latin. "Grace." Originally had nothing to do with physical grace, but rather with divine favor and mercy. Used in that sense by the Puritans, and taken to America, where it was very fashionable at the turn of the century. Periods of popularity followed in England (in the twenties) and Scotland ( through the fifties). Little used now, but ripe for revival.