Thursday, April 24, 2008

Encouraging Blog Posts

I'm not going to write much right now, but I want to link to some blog posts I've read the last few days that have really touched me.

The first is actually from my stepmom's blog, where she writes about life, family, love and spirituality. (And she has given precious gem names as psuedonyms for all us kids. "Emerald" is my little sister.)

The Perceptiveness of Emerald

God is cultivating such a tender heart in "Emerald," I'm so excited to watch her grow up, though it is bittersweet. Sometimes I wish she would stay my "little sister" forever. She's almost as tall as I am though, so I know that won't happen.

This next one just kinda hit close to home....I won't make anymore comments on it; it just made me think.

Some Pig!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Information Gatekeepers

"People are able to sidestep the gatekeepers in the quest to be informed."

I've been feeling uncommonly in a writing mood the last few days, something I haven't felt in a long time. I can't really put a finger on why this change has happened, and that being the case I can't guarantee this mood is here to stay either. But I have found that something besides my own urge to write can influence and encourage my desire to blog. Reading the blogs of others, especially through the help of my newly discovered-now-favorite internet tool - Bloglines, somehow creates a "blogger" mood in me. I have a problem with self-image and confidence, and being completely honest is something that is hard for me. Also the dream and desire to be a good, maybe even great writer, induces of a lot of self-pressure to write something good every time I post. I know that this is conceit on my part, but it doesn't diminish the dream I have to be a writer - as in a published writer - and I do truly believe that God can use me through my writing.

Being able to read the honest confessions and thoughts of others is helping me to realize that I can be honest to myself when I write, and to realize that it's ok if I write something that someone else might not agree with. When I'm talking one-on-one with someone, disagreement is relatively easy for me to handle, and it's not often that differences in opinion with a friend lead into arguments. However it's different in the blogosphere; tone and intent are a lot harder to discern, and I am much more of a "people-pleaser" than I'd like to admit. The fact that my blog deals primarily with spiritual issues magnifies this, as I so much want to encourage others by what I write. Something came to my attention a few days ago however that surprised me. I wrote this post during a night of extreme discouragement and self-loathing, and found myself unable to be anything except extremely honest.

Honestly, if I could have put a finger on any post on my blog likely to encourage someone else, I wouldn't have even considered this one. But Father works in amazing ways, and He used this post to show me just how true it is that He can use absolutely anything from any of His children. A few days ago a friend pointed out to me that Mitch Berg over at Shot in the Dark had written a post about my blog. I was very surprised, as I only read his blog occaisionally, not really being into politics all that much myself, and I had no idea that he read mine. What he wrote though was very encouraging, and very humbling, (though in a good way.) Thank you Mitch for the kind words, Father used you and your post to show me yet another way of how much He loves me and how He is sufficient to provide for my needs - which I'm learning include my need to write.(And I've been reading your blog a lot more often now, I'm developing a taste for politics I think.....ok, at least a taste for READING about it.)

Now, I realize that I went on a tangent as far as the relavance of the quote at the top of this post is concerned. It does have a point though, I promise. Another thing reading the blogs of others has impressed upon me is the ease at which information is available to those willing to do a little digging. I have learned so many random facts - such as the one from the link in the quote - and found so many encouraging blogs just in the past 24 hours, that it has shown me just how easy it is for people I don't know to find my blog. This is a good motivator, because I want there to be fresh, honest, and encouraging information here for them to find when they do stumble across it. This isn't for my own fame or glory, simply an acknowledgment of how I believe God wants me to take advantage of the opportunities this technology age gives the writer, and has encouraged me to continue writing and sharing the song He gives me day by day. I can't promise to be as consistent as I am hoping to be, but I'm going to try. Writing is now very much near the top of my priority list, and I have a feeling God is preparing me for something through it. God is providing ways and opportunities for so many writers to sidestep the "information gatekeepers," as any that will simply search for the truth will find themselves on an incredibly journey toward, and hopefully with, the Father, Son and Spirit.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ecclesiastical Orphism

While reading the most recent update at the Lifestream Blog, I followed a link Wayne posted and found a very interesting article. I'm going to link to it as well, and I hope it at least makes people think.

Ecclesiastical Orphism

Think of the incredible amount of trust those musicians must have in one another. If a single person falters, the whole performance suffers. If a single person even fails to communicate - fails to cue the others when beginning a new phrase, fails to hear or see what another part of the ensemble is doing, fails in any way to either understand the other musicians, or to make him or herself understood in turn - what was a glorious piece of music a moment before is suddenly a cacophany of mere noise.

In the same way, believers should be able to trust one another. If we all have the same goal in common - the joy of a life lived with Christ - I should trust that my fellow travellers on this journey are living that life as best they know how, and I should expect them to trust me the same way. None of us should be due any individual credit for any “kingdom” successes - the reward belongs to the body of Christ. The tapestry that is created when the body of Christ lives and works as an organic entity - all parts in relationship with one another and working in their unique and separate ways toward the common goal of seeking to know God - is truly a work of art . . . one even more stunning than that created when 40 musicians trust each other enough to get out on stage and create something beautiful together.

Just like the Orpheus process, participation in the body of Christ should be, and is, an empowering process. It does require an incredible amount of investment. In a traditional church setting, I could sit back and let some pastor tell me what to think. Outside of the traditional church framework, I cannot do that. I am responsible, any and every day, to truly “give a reason for the hope that is within me.”

I can’t just regurgitate some talking points or a list of scripture verses. In the same way each member of Orpheus has to know what they think of the piece being played, I have to know what I believe about the God I walk with.

The article is from The Unedited Life, written by Mike Daniels. I have a feeling I'll be visiting this blog more often.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Letter to Wayne Jacobsen

I think it's about time I posted something again. :-)

About a week ago I was listening to The God Journey Podcast, intending to catch up on several episodes as I hadn't been listening regularly since around Christmas. However one podcast title jumped out at me and I decided to listen to that one first, despite the fact that it was one of the newest ones. It was titled "The Doctrine Police." After listening to that one, and another entitled "To Stay or Not to Stay," I had a ton of thoughts bouncing around in my head. They were both incredibly encouraging to me, and gave me a ton to think about. So often when something gives me a lot to think about, I just think about it, digest it for a few days, and then eventually it manifests itself somewhere when I least expect it and in the most unlikely place.

Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings are the hosts of the God Journey, "just two real brothers talking about life" as they call it. Wayne Jacobsen is the author of "So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore," and he and Brad are the founders of the publishing company that published "The Shack" when they couldn't find anyone else to do it. (Secular companies said it had "too much Jesus," Christian companies deemed it "too edgy.")

Anyway, I was in a coffee shop with my computer last Friday, eating a hummus wrap and drinking a TON of coffee, and I felt the urge to send Wayne an email. I've written to him before, and he's always responded as a brother. He is very down to earth and focused on the Body Life between any brothers and sisters God brings him into contact with. I was just really thankful for the real way he and Brad present themselves, no apologies, but completely acknowledging the fact that they are brothers on a journey. (When you're on a journey, it's just common sense that you'll be at a different place on the road in 5 years than you were five years before, and you'll understand and know and believe differently about certain things as well in all probability.)

But now I should get to my point. While what I wrote is a letter, and some of the things I wrote I have written here before, going back and reading what I wrote to Wayne has touched me as I see something developing in my understanding about God, something I hadn't seen before. More of a 'connecting of the dots' if you will. Wayne wrote back to me today, to say what I had written was encouraging, and I am so thankful for that. I know that God has given me my writing for a reason, but I'm very very critical of myself, and I have a hard time sharing what it is that I write a lot of the time. My dad and stepmom have also read the letter I sent however, and despite the fact that it's in the form of a letter, they have encouraged me to share it here.

So here it is, a small picture of a space in time where God was teaching me something, and I was fortunate enough to be in the writing mode in that moment. From other things I've written in the past, I know in the future I'll be able to look back and read this and relive what it is that God taught me that afternoon at Jitters, as I wrote a letter to a brother who does the same: chronicles his journey with Father as he can, then shares it with others - proclaiming the love and glory of God as he grows and learns and loves through God's power. If that's not Body Life, I don't know what is.

Hi Wayne,

Happy Spring! The season has been rather unpredictable and frustrating so far here in Minnesota, but today the weather has been BEAUTIFUL...I'm just trying to block out the knowledge that snow has been forecasted for tonight. *sigh* I bet the weather is much nicer in California.

Our family has really been enjoying your books along with The Shack. He Loves Me especially really shook my dad up, and it's his favorite of the three. I'm reading it right now in bits and pieces, and the last few weeks have been amazing for me, as daily I become more and more secure in the knowledge of how much Father loves me! It's so weird for me to say things like that, as I was brought up to believe that 'experiences' of the non-physical nature can never be real, and that emotions are wrong, but I don't know any other way to express it! Even though the feeling itself is amazing, and I'm learning that feelings aren't wrong, I do know that emotions can be fleeting, and that no matter what I'm feeling, I know that Father's love for me changes in neither degree, amount nor magnitude. And I guess that's what is so totally overwhelming! I'd just like to thank you for sharing your journey with so many people, and proclaiming the freedom that Father so desperately wants His children to have! Gaining that knowledge, and actually 'living in the reality' of it, has completely changed me and the way I view the Christian Life. I now know that the Christian Life is not a scale where the times while "in fellowship" are balanced against the times while "out of fellowship," that my actions do not create spirituality or bring relationship. It is actually quite the opposite! Having a relationship with Father, looking toward Jesus, and letting the Holy Spirit breathe truth through me is what creates peace and rest within me, and what brings about spiritual fruit! I've been writing on my blog a lot about this new "relationship revelation" I've been living in, and stressing how relationship is a BEING and not a DOING. I've been getting a lot of interesting responses to that, and most of them quizzical at best. I think God just wants me to answer in love though, and not give in to my desire to "prove" myself spiritual to others. He knows where I'm at spiritually, I know I am secure in Him; He will always accept me unconditionally no matter what! When I'm at rest in Him, I know that nothing else really matters.

I've been listening to the God Journey podcast quite a bit as well, and I'd like to thank both you and Brad for continuing it and giving me and so many others so much encouragement. Thank you for being honest - nothing more and nothing less. Oh the freedom we have to be honest with each other once we are secure in Him and we no longer feel the need to please others! Ever since leaving the institution I grew up in, for the simple reason that the discouragement I received every time I went was preventing me from enjoying a relationship with Father, a lot of my relationships with people I grew up with have drastically changed. It was hard at first, because I miss a lot of people, but Father has been so faithful and keeps on bringing just the right kind of encouragement into my life at moments when I need it most. Sometimes it's in the form of a new friend through a sudden mutual realization that we are on similar journeys with Father, sometimes it's an old acquaintance who pops back into my life and surprises me with the fellowship we are able to share, and sometimes it's simply sweet, gentle moments with Him that come and go almost before I realize that it's happened. Those are the best; how can I not know that God loves me? I've been finding though how refreshing it is to be honest about myself and to others, despite the fact that it is usually painful as well. Relationships are finally then able to truly reflect the level at which two people know each other. I think that only once that happens, once both people can stop trying to make something out of what just isn't there, only then can a true relationship have a chance to develop. Only then can real fellowship based solely on our identities in Christ have a chance to blossom.

I think that's how God wants to reach us as well. He wants to reveal to us our real selves, strip us bare of our misconceptions and many blind spots. Is this painful? Most definately, but it is then countered with what we see when beholding ourselves in God's mirror; He knows our sins and failings and blind spots better than anyone, but our reflection in His mirror is nothing less than the image of His Son! That concept was something that was finally hit home for me when I read The Shack. I had read the verses about the believer being "in Christ" and a "new creation" and how we are in the image of God's Son so many times over the years, many of them I had committed to memory. But all the time they were little more than memorized literature, practically speaking. I'm so thankful that Father was able to bring me along, none-to-gently, to the place where I finally felt like I had nothing. I was stuck in a dank, muddy mire a mile deep, and then finally I realized I had no way to look but up, and He was there! That moment happened about a year ago, and I never could have guessed the journey I was about to embark on. I have experienced the most intense pain I could imagine when I lost a friend to suicide; I have bounced between the two halves of my family as it re-balances itself in the wake of a divorce; I have watched my family shunned and attacked as they left the institution, then experienced the same myself when I finally couldn't stand it anymore and left myself. I have also come to know - because and through these life-circumstances - what it means to be filled with supernatural, unexplainable joy at the same time as overwhelming grief; I have begun restoring real relationships with my family members, as I am learning to not judge them for things in the past and things I can't control; I am learning to not put stock in the favors and approval of men as Father takes away some relationships and gives me others that don't drain me of His love and truth. I am truly on a journey, and it is the most wonderful thing! It reminds me of the story you shared on the podcast around Christmas about a day in the life of the cat in comparison to a day in the life of a dog. It may sound corny, but I don't care, this Life truly is "my favorite thing!" I so want to share this with others, and I just wish I could show everyone I know how simple it really is! Maybe that's what's so hard about it, the same way the message of salvation is so hard for some people to grasp. The unbeliever wants to add works to salvation, the religious believer can't help but add works to walking with the Lord. But how can we add anything when He's supporting us the whole way? Through HIS power and love, He has done it all. Jesus Christ's death accomplished so much more than just salvation, (though there is nothing little about that.) We cannot afford to forget or ignore the whole story however; He has brought us the Father, and we have no need to reach for something we already have!!!!!!!! Once we realize that we have Him, He will bring about the works necessary to accomplish His will, thereby fulfilling us as He interacts with us and develops our relationship!

How can words adequately express this? They can't, but let's keep on trying, writing it and saying it and singing it over and over and over, and the Lord will use it for His will and purpose and pleasure. I'm just glad I can add my own little chorus to creation's continuous song. Thank you for adding yours. :)

And thank you to those who read and comment here, and write about God's teaching in your own lives and share it with others, for adding your own verses and choruses. We might not always agree, but you are all my precious brothers and sisters. I value you and what you have to say immensely; thank you for sharing with me when you have concerns, and rejoicing with me around our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I hope God can use me to channel love toward you all, and that nothing I say causes anyone to stumble. May all the glory go to God, who has and is dealing so bountifully with me. I am completely and totally overwhelmed.