Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Folow-Up to An Earlier Post

At the risk of being told I "only post others' opinions," I found both of these articles interesting. If I post others' articles it is because I (for the most part) like what they have to say and feel that it is unnecessary to reinvent the wheel by restating what is well-put, even the parts I might not fully agree with. I don't always agree 100% with the authors of my posts, but if I feel there is enough of an agreement to overlook the parts I don't agree with, I will generally post the whole thing.

I thought these were both good. Read at your own risk.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Life According to Hummingbirds

Some of you may or may not know this, but I am a huge bird-watcher. I blame it on my dad. Growing up he was always pointing out one bird or another. Like any good teen, I paid no attention. It seems, though, that some of his influence has rubbed off on my in spite of my best intentions. I too find myself pointing out random birds to friends. I have even been known to go out with binoculars in hand SPECIFICALLY to look for birds. And, the piece de resistance is that I also supply my very own bird feeders once I bought my house.

This year for the first time I decided to put up hummingbird feeders. I had never done this before, but when I saw one hovering like a helicopter over some flowers in my yard I decided to go for it. I have had this feeder up for more than a year with limited activity, but for some reason within the last few weeks, the activity at the one I have has significantly picked up.

What I find really funny about this particular feeder is that there are no less than four hummingbirds all vying for this feeder. I had no idea hummingbirds were this territorial. Seriously. One of them perches on a branch in a tree in my neighbor's yard lying in wait lest another nefarious hummingbird decide to partake of HIS feeder.

The war over this feeder has me a bit fascinated. So, tonight, I decided to watch the drama unfold. I grabbed a lawn chair and parked myself close enough to the feeder to see everything, but far enough away so that I would not be in the way. This was actually closer than you might think. (As a side note, I don't think hummingbirds have that great of eyesight as they either didn't notice me at all, or were to preoccupied to care.)

At any rate, the one particular hummingbird who has decided that this feeder is HIS was perched up in the tree, and I could literally see two other hummingbirds in other trees waiting for his back to be turned to make their move. The dive-bombing and squabbling (yes, hummingbirds squabble) and flying at each other and around the yard commenced. One of the other males was a little more bold than the other and worked really hard to get the other away and for a good half an hour I watched these three males argue over the feeder.

At one point, the "alpha" male after chasing off the other two males perched right next to the feeder singing in the glee of victory. This lasted about ten seconds before another male came back again to try to get a taste in.

It was interesting to watch the tactics of one of the males. He would fly around a tree, and dip down so that the hummingbird in the tree could not see him until he was already at the feeder. Sometimes this tactic would work and the alpha would not notice for a bit, allowing him to get in a few sips.

You may remember at the beginning of this post I mentioned that there were four hummingbirds, yet I have only talked about three. That's because the fourth hummingbird is a female who has a very different tactic for getting some nectar.

She sits up in a branch of a tree and waits for the other three males to be so preoccupied chasing each other around and THEN she makes her move. While the other three are off fighting and flying all over tarnation in an effort to prevent the others from drinking from the feeder, she then moves in and drinks her fill.

I think there's a bigger lesson here....not quite sure what it is yet. :0)


(I realized the other day that a LOT of my blog posts are about things I am struggling with. I realized that I am not very good at posting victories or just general every-day things. A casual reader of my blog, without knowing me in "real life" might get the idea that I am a bit of a whiner. I don't think that that's fully true [though we all have moments of whining], I do know how much easier it is to complain about things that are hard vs. being grateful for things that go well or for victories. So, with this in mind, I am going to post some good revelations I have had regarding friendship stuff in the last month or so, since that has been a little bit of a theme in the last few weeks.)

I have a good friend who went through natural childbirth without any painkillers or drugs. She talks about "transition" labor and how painful it was. This is the final stage of labor leading up to actually pushing. She says that most women who start out wanting to go through natural childbirth but who end up having an epidural change their minds during transition labor. She says that transition labor is the most painful part of childbirth.

I feel like this is a pretty good description of how seasons of life that are transitional feel. I am in a bit of a transition season with friendships for many reasons:

1. I am in a unique place in life that not a lot of people are in: an older, single woman. So, most women my age are married. A lot of women that were my single friends have gotten married, some even have children. This changes friendships, even if that change is just something as simple as not having as much time available.

2. Several of my closest friends have moved away. I have very close friends in Washington DC, LA, San Francisco/Berkley, Honolulu, and South Africa to name a few. While I am still regularly in touch with these women, they are not physically available to spend time with.

3. The church I attend has a big youth focus. I love this about us, but it offers a different kind of fellowship opportunity when the women are significantly younger than me. There are both good and bad things about this.

In addition to all of this, I have my own areas of growth that contribute to this season of friendship I am in. One area in particular is not initiating enough. I also especially feel that I have an idea in my head about who and what friendship looks like. So, I need to break out of the box, so to speak. I am starting to initiate with women who are not necessarily at the same stage or place in life as I am.

While transition seasons are painful as things shift and change, I just have to keep in mind that from transition labor comes a birth of something new. And that gives me hope.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Can't Get Enough of Paul Washer

Seriously. He's amazing.

Split Personality?

There lives within me two people. Many times they are at war with each other.

On the one hand there is the person who is screaming at this normal, mundane life and longing for a change. This person longs to make a difference in this world. This person longs to have the life-changing, supernatural impact on people's lives like Amy Carmichael, Aimee Semple McPherson, or Elisabeth Elliott. I do not seek the fame that they had, but I admire the single-minded focus that these women had to give their lives away in a radical way. I am sure there are other men and women like this whom we have never heard of, but who are earning crowns in heaven and will be celebrated there perhaps more than any of the people I just mentioned.

I have this radical, sold-out, restorer, deliverer, teacher, healer, crazy for Jesus woman living in me clawing and rattling inside of me desperate to get out. She is dying for a change. She is dying to just huck it all and move away to some far off place and just go for it.

Yet, I am not doing any of that. The reason I am not is because also living inside of me is this woman who is afraid. She is afraid of the cost. She is afraid of what it would mean to be this other person. She is the one who wants to have the house with 2.6 kids, a dog and a white picket fence. She is the one who is afraid of the friends and things she would (and has already) lose to be that sold-out. Right now, she is the one winning.

Yet, I cannot seem to put a lid on this other woman. No matter how hard I try to squash her, she is like a volcano bubbling away inside of me. I suspect the dormancy can only last for so long before it must bust forth and consume everything in its path.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dear Friend

Dear Person I Bumped Into At the Wedding This Weekend,

It was so good to see you after so long. I really and truly mean that. I hope you know that I meant it when I said it. It didn't seem as though you believed me, but it was true.

I am not really sure why you gave me such the brush-off. As far as I know, I have not done anything to deserve that kind of treatment from you. If I *have* done something to offend you personally, to make you mad or have mis-treated you in any way, please accept my sincerest apologies. I don't know what that could be, but please, for give me!

I have not seen you since you left and I would have loved to catch up. You have de-friended me from facebook, which is totally your choice. I don't know what I have done to make you so angry at me that you would treat me the way you did. I am sorry we could not even have a civil conversation, it would have been nice as it has been so long.

I do want you to know that I sincerely hope you are well. I sincerely hope life is blessed. I would have loved to let you know all of that, but really, it's your loss that you didn't want to talk to me at all. It could not have been more clear how you felt about me. If you ever do decide that you'd like to talk about whatever it is that I have done to you, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Grapes vs. Raisins

As I was eating my oatmeal with raisins this morning something about the raisins occurred to me. At one point, in their 'youth,' these raisins were just off the vine, ripe, juicy and plump grapes. They were in their prime, as far as grapes go. Add a little heat and give them some time and pretty soon these grapes get dried up, shriveled and become raisins instead.

I sometimes think that the world and church sees us women past a certain age who are unmarried like a grape that never got picked in its prime and instead has become a shriveled old raisin. Partially, I can't blame people for thinking that way. I have seen with my own eyes the physical toll that disappointment after disappointment leaves on the faces of people. Their faces literally seem to shrivel up and become pinched and closed.

I have seen from my many travels in ministering to women across the world what older single women, by and large, become. Disappointment after disappointment often leads to women who were once full of life and joy becoming shriveled like a raisin. I don't mean this just in a physical sense, though sometimes that does happen. I have seen this even more in an emotional and spiritual sense. I have seen woman after woman shut down, relegated to the kitchen or nursery (NOT that there's anything inherently wrong with those places, please don't mis-read) and live lives of shelved dreams. These women are often called "spinsters" or "old maids."

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a group of gals about my age. We were all in our early 30s or late 20s and single. The conversation, lead by our pastor and his wife, was all about how women who were still single while others were married could battle against the bitterness that seems to plague women in the church at large who are still single after a certain age. I remember coming away from the conversation encouraged that finally, here were people willing to talk about this issue and acknowledge the fear in each of us in that room as the years creep by. We each had a desire to be married, but rather than become a crotchety old women, we so longed to retain the bubbly joy and vitality of youth. Shattered dreams do not have to equal shut down women.

Sometimes, I get to thinking about the many amazing women who served the Lord in more modern times such as Lottie Moon, Mary Slessor, Betsey Stockton, Amy Carmichael, or Mother Theresa, and I wonder if they struggled with disappointment as much as me. It's easy to read their biographies and forget that these women were human beings. We read about their exploits and all the things they have done and we forget that they too were human beings in need of fellowship and relationships.

I wonder, did any of them long to be married? If so, how did they proceed with all the Lord called them to and not blame the Lord for their disappointments? How did they overcome enough to recognize that no matter what the Lord asked of them, His plan was good, His plan was right, His plan was better than any they could have come up with? How did they fight the temptation to fall into blame and bitterness and shut down? These women were able to press through and not only serve the Lord, they served Him effectively!

We read their biographies and they can seem so super-human. In some ways they were super-human because they were supernaturally equipped to do what they were called to. Yet, they WERE human. I am sure they had their moments of loneliness as well. Sometimes I think we do a bit of a disservice by not talking about HOW those who have gone before us have pressed through so as to remain a grape and not shrivel up like a raisin.

I do not want to box myself into anyone's idea where unmarried women are able to serve or what they can do, even in an environment that elevates and celebrates married teams over singles. In spite of my circumstances and because I am determined to believe in the goodness, kindness, lovingness, faithfulness of Christ I want to be a grape, and not a raisin.



There seems to be a recurring battle that I am fighting. This battle is over my identity. While I am fully pleasing to the Lord, He is also in the process of sanctifying me to be more like Him. I am uncertain how to live with both of these truths in place simultaneously.

I know for me, it is easier to fall more into the "something needs to be fixed" camp. There is ample evidence for it, in my mind. Most of this evidence comes from my continual struggle with relationships.

There is a line from a the movie Shall We Dance that I love, "We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.'"

This quote resonates with me in so many ways. On days, weeks, or months when I feel I am forgettable, it would just be nice to have someone around to say, "You are not forgettable. I see you, I notice you, and not only are you so unforgettable, I chose to bind my life to you so that I won't miss a single part of it. Yes it will be a fight sometimes and there will be days I won't want to be there, but you are worth it." A witness, any witness, to my life would do just fine, thank you very much.

I don't have that, though. I don't have that with a husband, and there are few friends that fall into this category either. Immediately my mind goes to the figuring out why. My rational, scientific brain kicks in and I think: "There must be a reason." The nit-picking and self-analyzing begins and I begin collecting my evidence:

1. I am the common denominator in all my relationships.

2. Yes, everyone has their "issues" and the Lord is sanctifying all of us, but others can build and maintain relationships in spite of their own baggage. My baggage must be pretty bad if no one can see beyond it to the person inside and determine that I am worth fighting for.

3. Most of the time I am not outright rejected, but I am still unintentionally overlooked or forgotten (If I had a $1 for every time someone said to me after my Europe trip 'Oh, you're back!' even though I had been back for weeks or months, I would have a good chunk of change.). I am not deliberately rejected, but I am also not memorable or important enough to remember either.

It is so easy for me to conclude that there is still so much wrong with me. I mean, that seems to be the only "logical" conclusion. Yet I also know that I AM fully pleasing to the Lord and He loves me right where I am. I just cannot seem to wrap my head around that truth.

I hate this naval-gazing. I just so desperately long for a full breakthrough in this and I am not sure how to get it. It's certainly not more revelation of the issues. Perhaps an application of truth?

Maybe, just maybe the answer is that I need a miracle.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Why Can't We be Friends?

I just got back this weekend from a wedding in which there were probably a dozen women either as bridesmaids or aisle attendants. It was interesting listening to the maid of honor talk about the bride and describe her ability to be a friend to many and the depth of her friendship. This woman had so many women in her wedding and I know she's also been in a ton too.

There are other women like this. In fact, several of the women in the wedding would be what I would describe as 'professional' bridesmaids.

It got me thinking about my own friendships and struggles with them. What is it about certain people that they have those kind of friendships? What is it about them that others are missing? Is there a level of freedom that they experience that I just haven't gotten to? What is it about certain other women, like me, who seem to struggle with friendships? Is it my past history of rejection? Is that rejection so deeply embedded in me that I cannot seem to break free from it? I know others have experienced rejection too....why are they healed of it, while I still seem to be affected by events from years and years ago? What areas of my own life do I need the Lord to restore me in so that I can have those deeper, intimate friendships?

I guess I am asking: What's wrong with me? Why am I so easily overlooked and forgotten about? ....Why can I not develop and maintain friendships the way others can?

Any thoughts?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Choose Your Own Adventure

A little over four years ago I took my very first missions trip. I had traveled before but this was my first trip overseas where the sole purpose of it was for a mission and purpose other than being a tourist. I flew to London England to be a part of a soccer (aka football) camp for teens in London. The goal was to have a football tournament in one of the fields and then invite the teens who came to church at night to hear a gospel presentation.

I came back after the trip and I remember lying in bed at night my first night back, exhausted but more fulfilled and excited then I could remember ever being.

I whispered to the Lord that night, "If You and I can have adventures like that, if You can promise me a life that exciting, I will do whatever You want. I'll stay single. I'll sell everything I have. I'll quit my job. I'll do whatever it takes, just give me that kind of adventure."

I know I am not the only one out there who has read "Captivating" or "Wild at Heart." Both of these books speak to some of the irreducible basics of a human being's original design. While each of us has been uniquely knit in our mother's womb and there are things about us that God has put together in a way that are unlike anyone else on our planet; there are also some things about us that are in all of us. God has put them there because we were made in His image and we are like Him in some ways.

One of the things that these books talk about is a person's need for adventure. We long for some grand wild enterprise....our own story, so to speak. I know I can relate to this a lot.

In my own life I can begin feeling the monotony of things and I almost feel claustrophobic in my own life. I start to feel like the walls of life are closing in around me and I might scream if there isn't a change or a feat to undertake soon.

When I was a little girl I was fascinated by the "Little House on the Prairie" books and I used to dream about living during those days. Life was certainly not boring....every day was an adventure and exciting because if the crops weren't in the family might die! If the crops weren't harvested, the family might die! If the food wasn't canned, the family might die! Everyday life was exciting simply from the sheer knowledge that things had to be done or the consequences could be life or death.

I am certainly not complaining about all of the modern conveniences we have now. I enjoy and appreciate the privilege of being able to go to the grocery store for my food, or tossing my laundry into a machine that washes it for me, or even something as simple as having electricity to read by at night instead of a lantern. However, I also sometimes wonder if all of these modern conveniences have dulled life to an extent now that we are now left to invent all sorts of new ways to fulfill this part of us. Our daily life is no longer an urgent sense of life or death, so how do we feed this part of ourselves?

For some, this need for adventure is now for all intents and purposes virtual instead of real and we live our adventures through TV or movies. Some people do wild things like jump out of airplanes or bungee jump. Some people just create their own drama-filled lives.

When I was little I used to read a series of books called "Choose Your Own Adventure." In these books the reader would get to the end of a chapter and would have to put themselves in the shoes of the main character. The chapters always ended with a decision that the main character had to make. As the reader, you got to chose for the character. If you chose one way, you flipped to a certain page and continued reading. If you made a different decision, you flipped to a different page to continue reading. I always cheated with these books and skipped to the end so that I could be sure to chose the path that lead to the ending that was most adventurous.

In my "Choose Your Own Adventure" life, I cannot flip to the end to see what my life becomes (other than the truly final chapter). I don't really want to chose my own adventure either. My ability to create my own adventure thus far has landed me mostly a lot of heartache and trouble.

I also know this, I do have a choice... to have as much obedience to the Lord as possible. I am praying that the God who created me with a need for my own adventure is the God who fulfills this desire within me. I DO want my *own* adventures. I want a life full of them. I want to live a life filled with my own stories and plot-lines, not someone else's. So, I say "yes" to the choice to obey what is in front of me right now, and trust that the grandest exploits await me!


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

God: Judge or Pardoner?

Once upon a time, a man was brought to trial. He was charged with the crime of theft and murder for breaking into a house months before, killing the mother and her two children inside while they slept so that he could rob them. The only surviving member of the family was the father, who happened to be working late the night this happened.

The evidence was clear to all in the courtroom that the man on trial was guilty. There was the DNA found at the crime scene and on the man's clothes that could not be explained away. There was the surveillance video from the security camera the home-owner had set up. There was the stolen items that were found in the man's own house. There was even testimony from the man's friends about his boasting of all that he had done. As if all of that wasn't enough, there was this man's extensive criminal record. There seemed to be no doubt as to what the outcome of this trial would be.

It only took the jury about half an hour to come back with the verdict that all had been expecting: guilty on all counts. Many shook the hand or hugged the grief-stricken father. Cries of relief sprang up all over the courtroom. Sentencing was to be just a few days later.

When the trial reconvened for the judge to pass his sentence down to this man, the courtroom was shocked into silence as the judge began to speak.

"I, as judge in this trial, hereby set aside the verdict and declare that this man is free to go," declared the judge, pounding his gavel as sobs and screams rang out. The father had to be visibly restrained from charging the front of the courtroom.

As spectators streamed out of the room, many were visibly shaken and in interviews accused the judge of being bribed by the defense, of being corrupt, incompetent, senile and most called for his resignation. The only ones who seemed to be happy at the outcome were the defendant, his lawyers and family members, who jubilantly danced around the room after the sentence was read.

What comes to mind when you read this story? Do you put yourself in the victim's shoes, or the defendant's shoes? What do you think of the judge in this story? Wouldn't you agree with the victim and his family at the incompetency of this judge?

Day after day in our society people violate God's laws and get outraged when anyone dares to suggest that the wages of sin are clear. When it comes to our own sin, we put ourselves in the place of the thief and murderer, calling for God to overturn His own law on our behalf and set us free. Most of the time we cite things like being a good citizen or prior good behavior. Or, we declare that our crimes don't have victims or really aren't "that bad."

Our God *is* a just God, unlike the one in the fake "trial" described above. He has set a moral law in place and the consequences of breaking this law are clear. The evidence is all there, the witnesses are all around us, and the victims of our crimes are littered throughout our lives (there is no such thing as sinning in a vacuum). When we sit in the defendant's chair, it is clear that we are guilty. And, when we are the ones sitting there, we like to think that our crimes don't deserve what God, the best judge ever, might sentence us to.

Yet, if we place ourselves in the victim's roll, we *want* God to be a fair and unbiased judge, meting out justice on our behalf (and usually we want justice to be in our lifetime so we can delight in our enemy's punishment). We would, in the case of my fake trial, cry out in outrage over the injustice and travesty of a judge who would pardon someone so clearly guilty. Yet, we ask it of Him when the tables are turned.

God's justice is not like ours, though. The punishment for all of our crimes is the same: eternity apart from Him. Period. Apart from God Himself intervening, an unredeemed man cannot spend eternity in the presence of the holiness of God. It would be an utter abomination.

So, there has to be a way. There has to be a way for men and women who are clearly guilty to be made righteous. It is absurd to think that the God of the universe would take the time to create us, give us free will to do both good and evil and not have a plan in place (even before He created us) to allow us to come to Him.

Let me take you back to the courtroom...

"I, as judge in this trial, hereby set aside the verdict and declare that this man is free to go," declared the judge in our first trial. But, what if that was not the end of the story?.....

"The law is clear, there must be punishment for this crime," said the judge standing up and taking off his robes. "So, instead, I will take the punishment for the crime that this man has committed, and serve the sentence on his behalf so that he can go free."

Turning to the defendant the judge lays out his conditions for his new sentence, "If you chose to accept this gift you must commit yourself to following me with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.

And I will know you have committed yourself, you cannot lie, I will know. I will know because your life will be changed. You will walk out of here and be a different man from now on. Yes, you will stumble, but your heart and your life will reflect a desire to change and be like me. This isn't a one-time thing. This isn't a one part of your life thing. This is for the rest of your life. This is everything given over to me. In fact, I will require regular meetings with you, I will require others around you to help you out, and I will require you to read up on a few things so that you know what I expect. I may even require you to leave some things, people, or ideas behind that might cause you to go back to your life of crime.

If you agree to this, the gift I give you today will never be taken away. In fact, I will see to it that you never serve a day of your sentence here, and should you ever be accused of a crime again, I will see to it that you never wind up in anyone's courtroom but mine. What do you say?"

A wise man would say, "YES I will do it!"

Let us all remember just what it is we have been saved from and our lives be found worthy of the sacrifice that the judge over all gave so that we could be set free. For God is fully Judge, but He is also fully Grace and Mercy.