Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Dear friends,

I was on a "short" hiatus to do graduate school. I just wanted to let you know that I am definitely planning on "coming back" soon during the Christmas break!

...and that being said, I plan on catching up on your lives as well.

So very sincerely,

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

this is your spiritual act of worship

We speak of Romans 12 and offering our bodies as living sacrifices. We acknowledge that life is to be our act of worship--that worship should not be shuffled off to one corner of our lives.

But as we go around and share prayer requests, I see that there is deep pain. There are serious concerns here. People are hurting.

The inevitable question is posed: "How can I live a life of worship when I am walking through life in so much pain?"

Does worship equal happiness? Does is always mean the raising of hands and joyous singing and smiles on faces?

I offer up a little something about living with God throughout the dark times and pain--that worship is more than how we conceive it--that maybe it's about walking with God in the every day, acknowledging our pain and grief and knowing that our Father grieves with us.

And then my husband gives better insight: "If Rachel and I didn't go through hard times, how would I ever know that we love each other?"

The light bulb clicks on in my head. The truth of this simple statement echoes into my heart. I know that my disposition tells me to run away from difficult things--to harden my heart or hide or ignore it. I want to run away from difficult conversations with Elliott, but we sit it out. We talk it through. And I always know he loves me, and he always knows I love him.

Isn't it the same with God?

And as we separate our own ideas of worship from the true spiritual act of worship mentioned in Romans 12, I would still encourage us to lift our hands up as a child lifts up her hands to her daddy... as if to say,

"I can't go on any more by myself. Pick me up."

Friday, September 3, 2010

When Plans Change: Victory through Christ

We have a plan. It is a good plan: a dinner date with new city friends. We leave from my class and arrive with time to spare. It is relaxing--fun--enjoyable. It is simple.

But as we turn the corner of yet another street void of available parking spots, I realize our plans must change. We are a half hour late with no parking space in sight. I search our phones for our new friends' phone number. We don't have it.

Finally--an idea: why don't I go upstairs to tell them and hang out until Elliott finds a spot?

It's a simple solution... unless you're a person with a recent history of severe agoraphobia.

Yet I knew it was the only solution, and so I step out of the car onto Rittenhouse Square and start searching for their high-rise, all the time keeping the Caedmon's Call song close to heart:

"This day's been crazy but everything's happened on schedule.
From the rain and the cold to the drink that I spilled on my shirt.
'Cause you knew how you'd save me before I fell dead in the garden.
And you knew this day long before you made me outta dirt."

God knew all of this craziness would happen. He knew I'd have to walk into a nearly-stranger's high-rise by myself. He knew, and so it must turn out okay. I must be okay in the end. I just have to keep going and trust him.

I walk into the cathedral-sized lobby and "announce" myself to the desk clerk. She calls up to their apartment and waits for an answer, and I'm grateful for the delay. I've never been in a place quite like this before. I'm intimidated. I keep praying for Elliott to walk through those doors. I walk slowly. I am overly thankful to everyone who helps me. I start to pace. She sends me upstairs, to floor 14.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

And so I walk, praying for the grace to trust and for the feet to walk in straight paths. I step out of the elevator into a long, ominous hallway a la The Shining. It's at this point that I think I might have a panic attack. As I walk down the hallway looking for their unit, I feel myself begin to shake. Tears swell up in my eyes and I feel the impending doom falling upon me.

And then:  something new.

He said to me:  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness."

I repeat the verse over and over again with each step, and feel the peaceful presence of the HOly Spirit descend upon me.  I stick out my right hand and it feels like the Lord takes it and guides me through the self-imposed dark tunnel.  And so we walk hand in hand to my destination.  And I forget about the anxiety.  I forget about the overwhelming feelings.  I am present.  Here.

I knock on the door.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Simplicity: What do you think?

I really appreciated this blog post on Christianity Today's "Women's Blog."

"Abundant simplicity is more about paying attention — to what we want and need; what we have and buy; what we spend, save, and give; and our relationship with our bank accounts and material objects. When do money and things enhance our life, and when do they tempt us to envy, anxiety, fear, pride, or selfishness?"

I've often struggled with this idea of simplicity and living with less, and the conclusion I've come to is that it's a process between us and the Lord. It's so important to constantly be checking in with our relationship to stuff and our relationship to God. What things are possessing us? Are we mindlessly living in the land of much-too-much? Unfortunately, our lifestyle doesn't allow much for a reality check. We are so far removed from things that will shake us. For me, support-raising for our job has really changed my view on money and possessions, and my world is shaken every time I am faced with real poverty - such as our connections to the Haitian community or my homeless friend John in South Philly.

Anyways. Please read the blog post and share your own story.
How have you been challenged by God with regards to possessions?
What shakes you into a reality check?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's Not About Me

Working my way through familiar pages, I sometimes sense the staleness in my reading as I don't pause to think of things in context, to weed through my own assumptions, and to understand what really matters.

I consider myself as I read through verses of Samuel and David, of Psalms and Proverbs, of a Messiah come and a Creation restored. I ask God the question, "Will you give me some inspiration? Something to write about?"

Weeks pass by without a sense of what I've lost, until suddenly, I read yet another familiar passage on denying oneself, and then I remember:

It's not about me.

And I thank God that I've been reminded that spending time with the Word and the Lord isn't about what I can get out of it. It isn't about how things apply directly to my life and my concerns and my situation. It's so much more than just me.

And this reorientation of view suddenly makes sense... because without it, I don't know how to read.

It's communion with the Good Creator of the World.
It's learning and understanding and actually coming to know the God who loves us.
It's about Him, and not about me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Right and Wrong Decisions

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:26-28, NIV

I recently found myself in a familiar conversation with a friend: my friend was concerned about (and possibly second-guessing?) some major choices she had just made. Were they the "right" choices? Would she be okay?

I've had this conversation with myself so many times: how do I know if I am making the "right" decision? Will it all blow up in my face? Will I regret it?

As Christians, we seek God first when making decisions -- hopefully the minor decisions as well as the major ones. We certainly know when something is against His will if it is confirmed in the Scriptures. However, we often find ourselves in a dilemma, for most of our modern-day decisions are not outlined in the Bible. Decisions like, "Should we re-locate?" "Should I take this job?" "Should I start graduate school?" "Should I stop graduate school?" "Should we buy a house?" aren't explicitly outlined in the Bible.

I rejoice when I receive a clear answer from the Lord. God spoke clearly to me in regards to quitting acting graduate school, marriage, and trusting in Him. I have heard His voice with regards to these decisions, among others. But sometimes, the answers aren't so clear. How do we make a "right" decision when we feel we receive no direct guidance from the Lord?

There are the practical ways: speaking to friends, seeking counsel from parents and older friends, checking finances, and evaluating multiple situations. But, in the end, a decision must be made. And then, we are haunted by the ever-looming question...

How do I know this was the "right" or "wrong" decision?

It's hard to know when we're doing the "right" things or making the "right decisions," but the reality is that God uses every situation for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Friends, I have made decisions in my life that weren't exactly the "right" decisions -- some were blatantly the wrong ones and against God's will -- but God is redeeming even my worst decisions. We can rest knowing that no matter what, God is using our decisions as a part of His story, and as a part of our own refining process.

He'll use it, we'll grow, and He will be glorified.

Monday, August 16, 2010

But Jesus Withdrew

Stepping outside, I enter into the familiar humid blanket of summer. There's a yellow sky, promising a storm. I breathe in stagnant air, but it's still refreshing.

Inside, I have left a house full of people. They are all people I love, but I feel crowded. I know that I will eventually go back in - and I will talk, and laugh, and commune. But I also know that I receive energy from being alone. I am an introvert, through and through.

I used to fight against my introverted nature - thinking that perhaps it made me "less" of a Christian. It made me less hospitable, less social, less everything. Now, I embrace it. And sometimes I remind myself to embrace it. And sometimes, I pray for the strength to embrace it. "Help me, help me, help me."

Today, as I removed myself from the crowd, I remembered Jesus...

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."
Luke 5:16, NIV

I found so much comfort in remembering that Jesus needed to remove himself from the crowd as well. It didn't mean he didn't love the people in the crowd, but he needed space to withdraw. To pray. To breathe.

Withdrawing allows me to serve and love more fully, because I am more filled.

So when I withdraw, know that it enables me to love you better.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

An Audience of One

"How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?"
John 5:44, NIV

It's so very easy to live in constant fear of man.
Everywhere we look, we are given a standard to be a certain way, to act a certain way, to want a certain kind of praise from certain kinds of people. It gets confusing. It gets frustrating. Does anyone ever live up to the (multiple/dualistic/superficial/spastic) standards of men?

Why do we get down on ourselves when we don't?

When we look in the Bible, we see a different standard. But how much are we looking to that standard of how to live? Without effort, we are inundated with the standard of man, but it takes effort to understand and digest and yearn for the standard of God. And when you do start to digest God's standard, you realize - "This is impossible. I can't ever live up to this way of living."

But why do we get down on ourselves when we don't?
We have already been told that we can't.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Romans 3:23, ESV

It doesn't end there, though. For although we fall short of God, we do not have to live in fear of falling short.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Romans 8:1, ESV

With this Good News in mind, please be freed of the standard of man.
Live and breathe for an Audience of One.

"This Journey is My Own" - Sara Groves

When I stand before the Lord, I'll be standing alone.
This journey is my own.
Still I want man's advice, and I need man's approval,
but this journey is my own.

Why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price?
What would it mean to gain the whole world, only to lose my life?

So much of what I do is to make a good impression.
This journey is my own.
So much of what I say is to make myself look better.
This journey is my own.
'Cause trying to please the world, it was breaking me down,
It was breaking me down.

Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one,
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one.
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one,
'cause I know this journey is my own.

Why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price?
What would it mean to gain the whole world, only to lose my life?

You can live for someone else, and it will only bring you pain.
I can't even judge myself.
Only the Lord can say, "Well done."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Out of that Shell

Our God is so relational.
I love learning this truth about Him - because for so long, I avoided relationships.
I would scamper along the street, keeping my eyes down, making minimal human contact. I'd stay packed away in my shell.
I can't really do that any more.

It starts with a question.
"So what do you do for a living?"
It's sort of how we're defined in today's culture - "What do you do?" I've had many simply-phrased answers in the past: "I'm an actress," "I work in a hospital," "I choreograph," "Retail," "Sales," "Customer Service," "Barista," "Student," and now...

"Campus Ministry."

THAT answer takes some explaining.
Because people don't know what that means, or maybe they think they know what that means and I don't quite fit their perception of it, or maybe I've possibly known them for a while and they still don't really know what I do.

Whatever the case, the answer opens up the possibility for conversation.
Conversation leads to relationship - at least, a lot more of a relationship than I've allowed for in the past. Overall, it's really a fantastic thing - especially since most of my job is about cultivating relationships.

And while I struggle to overcome my own narrow view of life, I have to laugh because God has placed me in this position in the first place.
And I smile because I can sort of hear God saying,

"Go on, Rachel, get out of that shell."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Word, and a Simple Prayer

"The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert
by someone who has never been there."
-Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

I praise You, Father, for the struggle.
Use it to Your glory.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Finding Redemption in the Midst of a Panic Attack

It’s in the inching forward of time—the constant checking, the imminent gauging, the impending lump growing larger in your stomach. You think in terms of “how-much-longer-do-I-have-until-“ and nothing else. The world becomes hot and burns you. Your body rebels against you. You feel sick but unable to become sick. Becoming “actual” sick would make the excuses easier.

It’s a waging war between self and mind and body and crazy. You think about harming yourself, and you don’t know why. You curl up as tight as possible to escape the bigness and smallness of the room. If you close in far enough, maybe time and space will evaporate and you will just be surrounded by peace.

When you open your eyes, you realize things are still closing in. Everything in the room seems out of order and disgusting. Immediately, you know you have to clean everything. And so you start, frantically cleaning and clearing away and de-cluttering. But you don’t finish – no, you never finish – because the task is still just too big for you. It’s too overwhelming. So you’ll stop midway, making room for inadequacy to re-settle.

And then you see your husband, and you feel shame. Shame because you can’t be everything you want to be for him. Shame because the harsh reality is that you let him down again. You made him angry; you deserted him. Shame cloaks you and you try to make it up for him, feeling like a fool because you know you just can’t. And so you clean, and you cook, and you dote, hoping that maybe he will see all that you are doing and maybe think you’re somewhat of an okay-wife.

Irrational fears haunt you—trying to convince you that you’ll never really be a full woman. Maybe your house won’t ever be perfect. Maybe you won’t ever have the energy to care for everyone and everything. Maybe you won’t ever be perfect.

And that’s the point.

You won’t.

But you know what? HE won’t either.

No one will.

And you were made for wholeness, but sin has fragmented that wholeness, and that’s why you accepted Christ.

Because you can’t. And it’s not up to you to do.

And so you thankfully give in to this reality – this truth – and let go of the lies,

and praise God for the freedom

to walk and live and breathe in Truth.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Imago Dei

When did the messages of culture become more powerful than the messages of God?

I would really like to figure this out, because somewhere along the line, I forgot that I was made in the image of the living God.

Imago Dei...

God created us to be whole persons. Culture teaches us (especially women) to be fragmented selves.

Kim Gaines Eckert, in her book Stronger Than you Think, writes, "Women's bodies [are] selling everything [in culture]... Women's bodies are not women's whole selves. When women are valued for their beauty and sexual appeal to the neglect of their many other capacities and gifts, it fragments them" (19, emphasis mine). If we do not guard ourselves against the education offered by culture, we will live under the self-condemning cloud of "never-good-enough."

But in the guarding, where do we turn? How do we live in celebration of the fact that we are image-bearers of our very Creator?

"Instead of focusing on what you look like (or don't look like), begin to focus on what you can do" (125).

God created you with specific abilities to do different things -- from riding a bike to crafting sentences to running and walking to creatively expressing yourself through vintage clothing or Etsy to climbing trees to cooking to eating to digesting -- seriously, people, we are absolutely intricate, fascinating, created beings! Affirm what you can do, affirm what others can do, and when awe hits you, revel in that awe.

We are His miracles.

"When you begin reciting body-hating messages, remind yourself that you were created as an embodied person in God's image" (126).

I recently discovered my struggle with brutal, negative self-talk. Now that I am aware of the messages I am constantly streaming into my head, when one pops up, I immediately repeat, "Imago Dei," to myself until I can rest in the knowledge that God has created me to be an image-bearer. Sometimes my negative self-talk turns into private bouts of worship. I was made in the image of God. Wow.

"We will grow in our search for wholeness when we stop breaking our bodies into pieces that we like and don't like... You have a whole body. Start trying to think of and appreciate your body that way" (129-130).

As stewards of God's creation, I believe we have a mandate to work towards self wholeness. When we disparage ourselves in any way, we are telling God, "Your work wasn't good enough. Your creation wasn't complete. I'm going to take control from here." When we fall into this line of thinking, we are forgetting that God saw what he created and it was very good.

(Thanks to Kim Gaines Eckert for an excellent book.)

Re-posted in Ruby-Eyed Okapi,
"Promoting Modesty and Purity to an Overly-Sexed Generation."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Talk Endlessly About Jesus

We let long pigtails and ponytails fall dancing behind us as we race against the wind on our bikes. We revel in the glory of it all, and reminisce about childhood times of endless summer days.

Photo by lilsuzy_09

It's the summer, and this is what summer is made for...

- for biking long into warm, humid nights - for running harder and farther than we think our bodies will carry us - for welcomed adventures, and some unwelcomed ones - for discovery and uncovery - for honesty - for new goals and looking ahead - for remaining in the present moment - for laughing and grieving and carrying - for talking endlessly about Jesus -

And that's where we stop, and pause, and wonder:

Why aren't we always talking endlessly about Jesus?

So I invite you today-tonight-tomorrow-- to talk endlessly about Jesus.
Share how time after time Jesus has awed you.
Tell of how He has saved you.
And ask to hear a story in return.

We can never cease to be in awe of the mighty things God has and continues to do.
We are His wondrous work. Tell of the work happening in you!

(Hint: you can start in the comment box below.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dirty Feet

Like Eve, I cover myself and hide away.
Because every day, I am more and more aware of my unworthiness.
My guilt and shame consumes me.

I look down and see my dirty feet, cracked and soiled and unpresentable.

Photo by joeyjoe000

I hide them. Then I hide my hands. Then my thighs. Then my face. My hair. My eyes. My soul. Everything.

"He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet.
"No," said Peter. "You shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
"Then Lord," Simon Peter replied. "Not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well!'"

We speak of repentance, and I feel my soul crushed by my need for repentance. I want to repent every day of every thing, but I feel that my efforts are never good enough. My prayers are never enough. I am still crushed. Like Peter, I cry out to my Father, "Clean all of me, Lord!"

"Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet;
his whole body is clean."

Jesus has already cleansed me.
I have already been forgiven.

But I still have dirty feet.

Repentance is good news.
It is recognizing where we have dirty feet,
and recognizing the horror if we keep those feet dirty.

Thank me.
Call out.
And I will save you.

(Thanks to Rev. John McElwain for his inspiration and teaching on this topic.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Perspective: Consider My Servant Job

Have you ever considered Job?

To give a brief summary, this book in the Bible tells of Job - "a blameless and righteous man." Satan insists that Job is only blameless and righteous because God has blessed him. So God says, "Alright, Satan. Do your worst, and see how Job reacts. Only spare his life."

So Satan gives Job a heavy dose of suffering. And let me tell you, it's a lot.

Job experiences the gamut of reactions: lament, anger, despair, confusion, desperation, praise-- you get the point. His friends attempt to give him advice, but it's all the wrong advice. In the end, God answers Job: "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations?" -- basically: Listen, Job. You don't know the Lord's plans. How can you even attempt to claim that God is unjust? He has a purpose that you can't even begin to see. Job finally acknowledges, "Therefore I uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me," and he repents.

In the end, God restores his riches, health, and family in abundance - more so than before.

You really ought to read it for yourself.

Anyways, that's not the point of this post.
The point is that I want you to
Really. Consider. Job.

People can have trouble with this book. And I get that. It's tough for us to understand how we Christians can claim God is good, and then read about an entire book where God allows Job to endure massive suffering. How can God actually love Job so much, when so much of Job's life is a test of sorts - an ongoing suffering?

I started thinking about this idea last night while leading Bible study on James 4-5.
Here's my question:
What if God hadn't tested Job?

The reality of life is that there will be suffering. Sometimes it's of a lesser degree, and sometimes it's really - almost-unbearably - painful. We just want it to be over, and a lot of the time, we don't understand why God would put us through so much pain.

But consider again our friend, Job. Yes, his suffering was great. No, he didn't understand it, and yes, he wanted release. But had he not gone through it, where would we turn during our suffering? How much perspective have we gained through Job's story? Job had no idea that for centuries after his life, we would be understanding our own place in the Biblical narrative through his experiences.

In the same way, when we are suffering, we have no idea how God will use it to effect others in the Biblical story. If you've gone through a painful experience, you may realize that your story - through the Lord's redemptive nature - has the power to impact, encourage, comfort, and teach another. If you don't know this, allow yourself to be open to the way God can use that time of pain to give hope to another. You may also have been able to step back and look at how that painful experience allowed you to grow. You have a better perspective five - ten - twenty- years down the road.

God redeemed and restored Job - likewise, He will redeem and restore us. He will use our sufferings for good - for ourselves, for others, and ultimately, for His Kingdom.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Choice to Remain at Home

I will rest in You today.
I will remember that I am always at home in You.
Today, I choose to remain at home.
I choose to put my trust in You.

Help me.

Update: Today was a very trying day for me, anxiety-wise. I had to leave training at least once today to spend some time receiving from the Lord, and I battled my way through an important meeting and the morning session.

Things God taught me today:
  • He loves me. Fully. The way He made me to be - extra-sensitive, artsy, and all.
  • He wants me to be free of the ways I tell myself He doesn't love me - the ways I haven't loved myself; I'm too self-critical of my body, my studying/attention in meetings, and my issues with anxiety.
  • I need to let things go.
  • And I received a special word from Him tonight when I was lying down, listening to the worship band singing, "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus." He distinctly said, "Rachel. Stop fighting me."
I'm done fighting, Lord. I'm yours, and I will wait for you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You Who Are Weary

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest in your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 28-30

That's a true comfort, isn't it?

I was drawn into this passage today because the truth is that I've been very weary and burdened. I like this promise.

It's an interesting passage though, isn't it? Jesus tells us to take his yoke upon ourselves. He tells us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

How can he give us such a promise, when so much of life is full of suffering, and we are called to persevere through the many trials we will inevitably face?

The answer is found in Him. Read this selection from Ann Voskamp:

"Just wait, weary worker, weary wanderer. All your travels, all your relentless journeys, all your endless seeking, it is over. You are at your destination. You have arrived. You are in Me. Rest here, in Me, wait here, in Me. I will endlessly revive you. I will endlessly carry you. Live here."

Is it always easy? No. Is it always obvious? No. Resting in Him--grasping the easy yoke and light burden--takes some practice because His Rest is contrary to our world.

So how? - you may ask. How do I practice this rest?
I would highly recommend reading 3 Ways to Really Enter into His Rest Right Now.

(And yes, I just linked to the same post twice! -- It's really that important that you read it!!)

A final question to you, dear readers: How do you find rest in the Lord-- especially in the midst of great pain and non-restful circumstances? What do you think Jesus meant when he said his yoke is easy and his burden is light?

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Thorn

Okay, so I've actually been avoiding writing this post--partly because I'm not exactly sure what to write or how to write it, and partly because I'm just so tired of thinking about it.


I've realized that this blog, although it may be uplifting, might just showcase my spiritual journey as too polished. And although the Holy Spirit has certainly been pouring into me over the last few weeks and months, I also want to share the struggle.

So let me tell you about the thorn in my flesh.
His name is anxiety, and he's probably not a stranger to you.

(Just a heads up: this post may be a bit lengthy. I'll try to include some pictures to break it up a bit. Be mindful, dear reader, that it's possible that you may have already received a version of it via e-mail. Also, please click the links to be re-directed to related Scripture.)

Off and on throughout life, I have struggled with a slight anxiety disorder. By slight, I mean: avoiding crowds (malls at Christmas or on weekends, the grocery store on weekends or holidays, traffic, amusement parks, etc.). After getting married, I could sense that my anxiety was steadily increasing. For the past year, driving a car or going to the grocery store (EVER) became nearly impossible for me without my husband. Instead of merely picking up some groceries, I am constantly battling with myself and my fears--repeating over and over again that I will NOT die and I WILL get out alive and someday this [grocery shopping] will all be over. I usually come back exhausted and irritable.

I knew this was an issue, but I sure as heck didn't know how to deal with it. So onward we go.

And onward we went. Until --
BOOM! -- Sunday: Major. Panic. Attack.
In the city. On July Fourth. In the midst of thousands of people.

Since then, I have steadily been going downhill this week-- just fighting myself to stay functional in front of people. Behind closed doors, I was constantly crying. Or shaking in fear. Or dreading the next time I would have to leave. Or thinking about how the walls were closing in and I was suffocating.

(Please bear with me. There is hope at the end of this post.)

It was a rough battle today. Right now I currently feel at peace. But worn down. I definitely feel like I had a spiritual attack today. At one point, in my sobbing mess, I hear an enemy voice try to defeat me by twisting words and thoughts: "You fall short. You are forever falling short. You should only fear God, but instead you fear man. You should find your refuge in God, but instead you escape. You are falling short. There is no way out." It was a downward, scary spiral and I realized I had the potential to sink into that despair that has won me over in times past.


God is victorious!
Satan does not win.

My sense is that God is answering a prayer that I asked for, but the process of that prayer is painful for me because it is requiring change -- a breaking of myself in order to rely fully on the Lord. The past week, I asked two people to start praying that God will prepare me to be a good mother someday, and I am also in training to be a CCO campus leader, and I do think this affliction is related.

Elliott thinks (and I agree) that my source of anxiety is coming from my need for escape. I panic when I think there is no way out. For most of my life, having an escape has been my crutch. God wants to be my refuge, no matter the situation. I am thankful that this is being brought to light and that he is answering prayer, but I am confused as to how to handle it. I pray, but every day I am still waking up gripped by uncontrollable fear -- a fear that makes my whole body shake. It's interfering with my studies and fellowship here at training.

Today it hits me: I have not trusted God. For years.

I tell myself I trust Him, and I try so-so-so hard. But I don't.
(Although there is an identifiable reason behind my distrust, it's rather sensitive (and involves people other than myself), so I must refrain from those details. Instead, I will focus on the current work happening in the present.)

I was thinking about how timely all this started happening: God is using this trial to mold me into a more complete person. At the same time, the Holy Spirit has been pouring into me abundantly over the last couple of weeks.

No WONDER Satan flipped out.

All the work that Satan had been doing in my life the last ten years or so have slowly faded away. The addictions to vanity, partying, guys, etc. -- all of these things have slipped from his grip and instead are being tossed away into the fire by the Father. It just dawned on me this afternoon that certain sins -- like partying and guys -- are but faded memories now. I do not struggle with those temptations any more at all. This gives me so much hope, because the things I am currently struggling with will someday also be vague memories. God will continue to root stuff out of me until He finally restores me on the Last Beautiful Day. He is doing His work and even though I may not understand it, I will let Him. He is so, so Good.

I also need to add that this season of suffering is unlike any other I have ever experienced. When I wrestled with deep depression throughout high school and most of college, and suffered through my weird, Rachel-specific eating disorder (lots of non-eating in the guise of "spiritual fasting," as well as lots and lots and lots of laxatives), I always felt despairing. I just wanted to die. I never saw the hope. This time, the Lord has sustained me with abundant hope. I know He is working in me. I know this season will end, and afterwards, I will be more complete than when I started.

It will be very good.
I look forward with anticipation to that time.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
James 1:2-4

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Here's to Hoping my Job Becomes Obsolete

My job ought to be obsolete.

Okay. Allow me to explain.
But first, let's read 2 Timothy 2:2 together:

"And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

In this passage, Paul is writing to Timothy. Note the following things: Timothy heard straight from Paul--not from others, but he was with Paul. Timothy learned directly from this teacher. Paul's charge to our friend Tim here is to "entrust [this message] to faithful men," so that they, in turn, may teach others.

Here we see four generations of discipleship:

Paul à Timothy à Faithful people à Others

This is what we here at the CCO call the "3, 12, 70" model. Disciple to a few (3) and equip them so that they may disciple a few more (12) to teach others (70). And so on and so forth. I mean, if you really stop and think about it, you are reading this blog only because of the first twelve who took the Great Commission seriously and went out and made "disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19).

No, seriously. Think about that for one moment. What if they hadn't taken this charge? What if, instead, they dwindled away their time apathetically, thinking that their lives would speak the gospel? What if they bought completely into the whole, "Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words" and nothing else? Yes, friends, our lives do need to reflect the Kingdom of God, but for Pete's sake: use your words.

Now, returning to my first statement: my job ought to be obsolete because I shouldn't have to sit in training for my career, listening to someone tell me to make disciples. I should have been doing this my whole life! The church should be doing this the whole time. We should make disciples regardless of job, location, temperament, vocation, or giftedness.

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Matthew 28:19-20, NIV

Monday, July 5, 2010

And It Was Very Good

I slip my feet snug into my running shoes. I don't know where I am going-- I just know I need to get out.

"You should come play ultimate with us," my husband says. "It would be a good break for you."

We've just spent the last six(+) hours support-raising. I feel discouraged, confused, and (most of all) guilty--because I know I shouldn't feel this way.

I shake my head. I am sensing a Holy-Spirit tug. "I think I just need to get out alone."

"Jesus went out to a solitary place." - Lk 4:42

I usually run. This time I walk. Walking seems more appropriate tonight. It's a thick humidity and I talk my steps slower than normal. I wind myself in and out of forgotten paths, until I am led into an evergreen forest deepened by twilight.

That's when the lightening bugs started worshiping.

lightning bugs Pictures, Images and Photos

All at once, I am stricken by awe. In wonder, I try to take it all in, but it's too much for me. I want to drink in the beauty. I want to join the twinkling bugs in flight. I long for the restoration of God's creation--for the day when I can fully understand how to comprehend and join in such beauty.

I think it's all I can handle, when three deer prance behind me. I turn around just in time to see them jump effortlessly over a fence and into the forest deep.

That's when I start to cry.
God's glory is too magnificent for me. His Creation cannot help but worship Him. I cannot help but be awed by Him. I moved too deeply that I cannot handle it.

I weep.

I mourn for those who do not know the Father's love like this--who go by day by day without acknowledging these moments. I mourn for the person I allowed myself to be for so long--a person who would have rushed right by such a moment.

And I weep tears of joy because of where God has brought me--
to this place--
to experience this moment
with Him
and the Creation which He declared, "Good."

"God saw all that he had made,
and it was very good."
Genesis 1:31

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Put the "To-Do List" Aside

"Time in prayer makes you even more dependent on God because you don't have as much time to get things done. Every minute spent in prayer is one less minute where you can be doing something 'productive.' So the act of praying means that you have to rely more on God."

-Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life
Please see my previous post on this book here.

Does anyone else battle between task-orientation and God-orientation?

Like everyone else in this Westernized, fast-paced world, I have a long list of things to do. It's constantly in my head, and I worry about fitting it in.

Spending time in prayer and Bible study has to be more important. If I make the choice to put tasks above God, then I am not trusting the Lord. I am saying that I can do this life on my own.

And I can't do it on my own.

Put the to-do list aside, read scripture, and pray.
(Here's a helpful hint: when you start praying, tell God about your to-do list, and ask him to help you get things done today! Just see what happens!)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fighting against a Fluffy Gospel

I am concerned for the American church.
I am concerned about what we are teaching, and what we are being taught.
I am concerned with how easily we accept and digest fluff.
We are consuming empty calories, friends.

This morning, we attended a Presbyterian church down the road from where we are staying this summer. The sermon preached was lacking, to say the least. To sum up, the basic gist of the Reverend’s message was as follows:

Don’t be a slave to the law. Christianity is not a list of “dos” and “don’ts.”
Rather, we must listen to the Spirit of God inside of us. He will guide us.
St. Augustine said, “Love God, and do what you will.”
Notice Augustine said, “Love God” first, and then do what you will.
So love God.

I’m pretty sure my eyes were visibly squinty and my head crocked to the side. He gave the congregation short, yummy bites of good things, but no meal.

Now let’s just say I’m an average congregant. I attend church on Sunday, which is where I receive most of my Biblical teaching for the week. What does this message say to me? How does it become incarnated in my life?

Christianity is not a list of laws.
That’s great! So what IS it? What’s this Christian life all about?
We must listen to the Spirit.
How do I know it’s the Spirit, or merely myself?
St. Augustine said, “Love God, and do what you will.”
What does that mean? Does that mean I can do whatever I want? That doesn’t sound right. What’s the context of this quote?
Love God.
Um. Ok. I think I love God. I FEEL like I love God. But what does love actually MEAN? How does true love for God manifest in my life?

I wonder how many people today were asking these questions. I sincerely hope they were, because they are legitimate questions to ask.

One of our teachers for New Staff Training, Jerry, told us a story about his encounter with a Starbucks barista. The barista asked Jerry what he was reading, and Jerry (a pastor) answered that he was preparing for his sermon next Sunday. The barista said something like, “Oh, the Bible. I can’t really get into an ancient book that tells me what I can and can’t do.” Jerry replied, “The Bible isn’t about what we can and can’t do. It’s God’s revelation to us about who He is.”

I’m there with the Reverend about how Christianity is MORE than “the law.” We’ve been taught that again and again. But if we are to live a life of freedom in the Spirit, we need to know what the Lord wants. We need to have a clear understanding of the revelation of the scriptures, and how we fit into the Biblical narrative. We need to spend time truly seeking the Lord with our whole hearts, asking God how we might be transformed to see his Kingdom on earth.

Yes!, the Christian life is a free life. But as we learn more about God through our study of the Bible, our prayer is that our desires will line up with those of Christ Jesus. And how do we know when we are in line with the Spirit? Our actions and desires must reflect the teaching of the Bible and our Lord.

And as we read the Bible, friends, I would caution us all against the habit of reading to “get something out” of scripture for ourselves. Let’s remember that the scripture is God’s story to the world, and we are currently a part of that story. As we read, let us keep in mind that our charge is to bring glimpses of the glorious restoration of ALL in His Kingdom to a fallen world. What has been started will be completed in the coming of Christ.

“Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God's Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.”

2 Corinthians 1:20-22, The Message

Monday, June 21, 2010

Even One Sparrow

The other day, I was out for my morning run when a pair of flapping black wings caught me off guard.

A medium-sized black sparrow furiously tossed about--urging my attention--and I noticed he was caught in twine. I ran back to the apartment to retrieve Elliott, feeling very helpless on my own. I thought for sure there was nothing we could really do, besides maybe call someone to help us. After a half hour, Elliott set the little guy free. He flew off into the sky.

That's the short, fact-based, mini-story. But there was a lesson for me to learn.

At first, it was tempting to ignore the bird's frantic movements. It would have been easy for me to forget about him and excuse myself. "I'm sure he'll find a way out somehow. After all, it's just a sparrow."

...just a sparrow...

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
And yet, not even one sparrow will fall to the ground without your heavenly Father knowing it.
But the very hairs on your head are numbered.
So do not fear; you are worth far more than many sparrows."
Matthew 10:29-31

I couldn't ignore the small sparrow because I knew he was my Father's creation. God loved that little sparrow, and He knew every single sparrow that flies through the air. I had to get help for this bird because it was my responsibility-- nevermind the fact that I simply take joy in the Lord's creation.

But beyond that, the Lord reminded me very vividly of the above passage. I had to love the sparrow because I knew that God was loving that sparrow. God knew that he had fallen, and I had to find help for him.

But, you see, my journey didn't end there. My mind flashed to another verse about birds. I think you might be familiar with it:

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"
Matthew 6:26

The passage flashed through my mind as I attempted to comprehend the fact that even then, God knew where that tiny black bird had flown away to. And I thought about myself, about how I worry about our finances and support raising, and getting through each day. I found myself once again wrapped in fear and anxiety, and I prayed the simple prayer I pray every day--

Give us this day our daily bread.

And God answered back:
When have I ever not given you your daily bread?

I have to say, that nearly knocked the wind right out of me.

He was right.

I have never gone hungry.
I have never been in want.
Each and every day, he has more than provided for our needs.

And the motive behind this prayer I was praying daily-- while it was a good prayer to pray-- my motive was fear and not trust.

Later that day, our support-raising leader said something that God directed right towards me:
"If you fear God, you don't have to fear money."
Because I cannot serve two masters.

And right there - right then - I let it all go.

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