Archives for February 2012

Journey to Simplicity with 7

Today I begin an online journey with about 100 women from just about every state and a few foreign lands.  We’re reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and pondering the “excess” in our lives.

Honestly, I’m scared to truly reflect on the excess in my life – maybe because I secretly know how much is there.   [Insert big ‘ole sigh here.]

Our first assignment is to reflect on one of these questions:

  • What would move me closer to God’s agenda and further from mine?
  • How could this be meaningful, not just narcissistic and futile?
  • What areas need the most renovation?
  • How am I blind and why?
  • Where have I substituted the American Dream for God’s kingdom?
  • What in my life is just too stinking much?

I considered all of these questions.  However, one jumped out at me: How am I blind and why?  In fact, I feel as if this question underlies all the other questions.  If I ask God where and how and why I am blind to certain excesses or sins or thought patterns in my life, I will (hopefully) move closer to God’s agenda, renovate my life and views, and reduce my excess.

I don’t think the process of discovering my blind spots will be easy or fun.  I don’t like being told I am wrong, so I am pretty sure when God begins revealing my blindness I will kick and scream and justify for a few days – at the least.

But, I am willing to take this journey because I am tired.  Tired of living in a cultural whirlwind of Facebook statuses, tweets, bills, expectations, and keeping up with those proverbial Jones.  After all, what has the American Dream done for any of us lately besides cause us to feel as if we can’t measure up?

I see broken people, broken families, broken organizations all around me.  I don’t want to join them, but I have a feeling if I don’t keep in stride with God’s agenda and sprint from my own, I will end up caving to a culture that has little true joy to give.

Why would I cave?  Because I have an addictive personality.  I easily jump on bandwagons.  When I have a new idea, project, or membership, I jump in head first and rarely come up for air.  Whatever I do, I overdo.  If I commit, I begin to live and breathe the commitment and expect everyone else around me to get as excited and “all-in” as I am.

Luckily, I have some amazing friends who aren’t afraid to say, “Ah-hem.  Slow down.  Think.  Stay close to God.  Don’t decide without Him.  Remember, He’s in control.”

That’s another issue I have that I hope the 7 journey will help me with:  Control.  I like to be in control.  Right now I am in the midst of some situations in which I have no control – zip, zero, zilch.  And, it’s driving me nuts, so I am praying God reveals my blindness (or stubbornness) in this area and helps me pass control of all things over to Him.

Our group is also considering these quotes from Jen’s book:

  • “I became a girl who loved the marginalized. I couldn’t get enough of them in my personal space.” (2)
  • “Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer.” (3)
  • “The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change.” (3)
  • “7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.” (4)
  • “My children are young… It is not too late to untether them from the lie of ‘more.’” (5)

Again, as I perused these quotes, most of them spoke to me, but one jumped off the page:  “7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal:  to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.”

That’s what I desire most – for God to reveal His kingdom to me in new ways.  To have space in my life and my family’s lives to steep in His love; to learn more about Him, His word, and His ways; and to grow closer to one another and those in our community as an outpouring of His love for us.

I’m done with complicated and keeping up.

I’m ready for simple and slowing down.

The journey won’t be easy – more of a roller coaster or tilt-a-whirl than a merry-go-round.  But, I am buckling down excitedly and expectantly as I anticipate how God will reveal himself and his ways over the next few weeks.

If you’d like to join us or follow along, visit Marla Taviano’s blog; she’s leading us.

Beautiful Things

I am a writer. I write daily about everything.  Writing is how I process life.  Just ask those who text me on a regular basis; my texts often turn to novels:)  However, when I am writing about things that aren’t beautiful, pure, lovely, or excellent (Philippians 4:8), then I (mostly) don’t publish them on my blog.  While I want my blog to be transparent, authentic, and real- about real life, real people, and real struggles – there’s only so much dirty laundry one can or should air (in my opinion:).

A few weeks ago I gave up and quit publishing to my blog.  I regret it.  I wish I’d kept going, sharing what I could for His glory.  I wish I hadn’t allowed busyness, stress, and insecurity to creep in and stop me from publishing and sometimes writing.

But, I did.

The amazing thing about life and our Savior is that we get second chances.  We fail.  We stumble.  We break down. We pray. We lean into God and friends.  They pick us up.  They carry us.  We regain our footing.  (We often repeat these steps…again and again.)

And, second chances are for ALL of us – the sinner and the sinned against.

Still, do you ever have those moments when you ask God, “why, why, why?”  Why did this happen?  Why is he/she so successful?  Why is everyone’s life so neat and wonderful and mine’s a mess? Why is she so skinny?  (Ok, that’s mine.)  If someone has wronged you, you want that person to pay, to suffer, to feel remorseful.  You ask God, “How could you let this happen?  To me? To him? To her?”

I have been asking some of these questions to my friend, Angie, and as we’ve processed and journeyed together, here’s what she shared with me…It all began with God taking me on a journey to realize that he could use a broken person like me; that he created me; and that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.  Then leading me on to see that in people around me.  It is quite easy to see beauty in people close to me, people I love.  However, to see the world through God’s eyes I have to see the beauty in each person I come into contact with here on earth – even when the beauty is yet to be displayed from them.  I have to look at those who have wronged me or hurt the people I love and ask God to show me the hearts he designed in them.  I have to look through their brokenness just as Christ looked through mine.

It’s so hard  “to see the beauty in people …to see the world through God’s eyes…even when the beauty is yet to be displayed in them.”  So, I want to share Angie’s prayer with you – a prayer from her heart as she strives to be His hands and feet.

 

This is Angie’s prayer:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for taking my hand in this journey – for having an outstretched arm ready for me to grab a hold of.  While I long for the day in which you return, I continue to pray that I seek your knowledge and guidance daily to be your hands and feet here on earth.

Life here on earth is full of chaos – broken people in a broken world.  At times I get so entangled by the sin surrounding me and in me that I can’t see beyond it.  In those times I have to remind myself that I am simply looking through my own stained lenses.  I call out to you, Lord, and ask to get a glimpse of how you see us. 

Recently you led me to the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor, in which the following words impacted my soul:

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

I know anything that is seen as beautiful in me Lord comes directly from you.  Psalm 103:14 says, “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” 

You know that we struggle, that we fail you, that in the times when we need you we often hide in shame.  You know when we falsely judge others or seek our own selfish desires.  You know every intimate detail about me, every thought, every motive, every hair on my head. 

Yet, you remain. 

You remain beside me, waiting for me to learn not to hide from you but instead to run to you.  You remember I am but dust.  Let my broken offering be an example of your unconditional love and unending grace.

You created us in your image – every one of us.  So when you look at us, you see what you desired to create in each one of us. 

Isaiah 61:3 – “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”

Thank you for loving me past my pile of ashes, for opening my heart and soul to your truth in the Bible.  Thank you for giving me a glimpse of the garden you see growing here on earth.  A garden whose vine is you, whose roots come from your word.  Thank you for planting amazing examples of a Christ-like character all around me.  Oaks of righteousness – may we each desire to be oaks of righteousness. 

You make me new; you are making me new…

 

New.  God is making each of us new every day if we allow Him to.  Our world is broken, but we don’t have to sit and simmer in the brokenness.  We can read his Word, pray, seek Godly wisdom, and choose to view the brokenness as God views it.

May each of you see others today as the image bearers of a loving, sovereign God who reigns in the brokenness.