Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fruit of the Spirit + Thoughts on Convent

I probably joke more about nunnery than I should be allowed to.  And the response I get from people don't surprise me as much as they sadden me.  They are usually bursts of "NO" and "I WON'T LET YOU" or "YOU'RE CRAZY."  I am not surprised by the degree reaction.  But what saddens me is how our society has deemed THIS as a radical life.  Nunnery: the surrender of your life to holy service from wake til rest and every dream in between.  Nunnery!? Radical?  To think: at one point the appalling, extreme choices of any young generation are now legal and normal.  I need not give examples.

The reality is, I could do it.  In case curiosity piques you, it has nothing to do with singleness, as most people associate the terms.  Honestly, a family would be nice.  But simply put, I would love nothing more than to devote my life to solitude, prayer, worship, mercy, simplicity, and gardening.  But here is why I will not do it: my faith would suffer.  Servitude is radical to those who do not understand; it is not radical under the light of what God would really intend for my life purposes.  There are no easy solutions in life, but this, for me, would be the easiest.  For me, to live the life of a Desert Mother would make my spirit a desert in itself, disillusioned that a life of righteousness is a life of holiness.  The Fruit of the Spirit would have little space to grow.

I cannot learn true love when those around me have learned to love deeply too, when those around me love me back with a God-based love.
I learn to love when I am surrounded by those who have no regard or care for me.  I learn to love when people hate me because I choose to be different in the midst of a changing society.  I learn to love when I come across people who live spiritually lukewarm lives.

I cannot learn true joy when I spend countless hours in devotional happiness and meaningful worship.
I learn joy when I feel the loss of relationships and the losses within relationships.  I learn joy when sorrow and loneliness are promised like the changing seasons, when uncontrollable and unfortunate circumstances befall me.  When I have no control.

I cannot learn true peace when I am in constant quiet and stillness.
I learn peace when the demands of the day, and finances, and work, and health, and human interaction all compete with my sanity.  I learn peace when I attempt multi-tasking and stress taunts me.  I learn peace when I have too many things to think about.

I cannot learn true patience when I have a predictable schedule and no demands, except to pray.
I learn patience when I make concrete plans - even God-given plans - and I do not know my next steps, I do not know where to go.  I learn patience when He makes me wait for His direction, but chronos time breathes down my neck.  I learn patience when I do not yet see His promises fulfilled, and I battle with waiting.

I cannot learn true kindness when giving to the poor and extending mercy to the needy prompts a natural response of compassion.
I learn kindness when my pride wants to rise against the prides of others, when I feel an urge to resist humility, when I feel revenge and retaliation, or when I feel that a person does not deserve my good graces.  I learn kindness after I consider the individual circumstances that others must face, and the weights that they too must bear.

I cannot learn true goodness and righteousness when holiness and the Sermon on the Mount is the utmost rule.
I learn that I must be good regardless if I am tired of upholding the Standard.  I learn to be righteous when the Law seems impractical and outdated, and I want so desperately to compromise and be accepted- but I know I must not give in.  I learn to be holy in a world that is unholy and mundane and profane.  I learn goodness when I must be Light and Salt in a dark and tasteless world.

I cannot learn true gentleness when a passive atmosphere has already been created for me.
I learn gentleness when I deal with an unpredictable family, with unpredictable strangers, with unpredictable circumstances.  I learn gentleness when anger and rage and frustration volunteer to be the launching pad of my words and imaginations.  I learn gentleness when others treat me rudely.

I cannot learn true faithfulness when I have already made a lifetime commitment to stay within a Godly community.
I learn faithfulness when it's easy to slip into the predictability of my loneliness, having no accountability, staying hidden and uninvolved.  I learn faithfulness good intentions turn into false motives and idolatry, when I am more concerned about the methods of worship rather than worship itself.  I learn faithfulness when I am fooled by infidelity.  

I cannot truly learn self-control when I have been depleted of all life's pleasures.
I learn self-control when I am plagued by indulgences that my flesh desires, and the compromise of "just one" or "once in a while" haunts my willpower.  I learn self-control when I need to restrain myself for any reason, and every easy reason has presented itself to me.  I learn self-control when I relinquish control; when I must depend on One who I cannot see, and I want to act upon what I can see.

The droughts of the world are what forces me to stretch my roots deep into the soil to find the Water of Life; they persuade me to stand firm, immoveable.  These hardships and difficulties urge me to increase my faith, and lean upon the hope of His promises.  For these reasons, I cannot live in a convent.  I would have less reason to fight for love, to fight for holiness.  I would have less opportunity to be a minister of the Word.  I would have less chance to spend myself like an offering on the streets of a broken city.  I would have less desire to be a living sacrifice, dying to my flesh so that the Truth of Christ can resurrect through me.

People are right.  I cannot be a nun.  It's not radical enough.
I cannot be cloistered in.  I must live outside.  I must Love aloud.

I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith..
Philippians 1.23-25


currently listening: Seryn. "Beach Song," This is Where We Are.
currently reading: Richard Foster, Celebration of Disciplines.
currently drinking: Stumptown Ethiopia Nano Challa, pourover

Monday, January 21, 2013

on worship // the burn out.

"We were created to worship."  
This is an often-repeated statement that carries heavy weights of purpose and identity - and yet, has lost its context over time.  In fact, it has been so far removed from context, that it caused many of us to adopt a false view of ourselves, as well as a skewed understanding of God.  Because we were "created to worship," we have taken times of worship not just for exaltation, but as a time of intense seeking, pursuing, and finding God.  So at the point that we cannot find Him or He has not spoken, we are left distraught, defeated, and empty.  It feeds an idea that we are failing in our life purpose.  Was I not created to worship?  Then why, in all my pouring out, do I feel unfulfilled?

It is at this point that the common excuse is laid on the table: I feel burnt out.

But the Biblical truth about worship is that it should not burn you out.  Worship ought to leave you refreshed, fulfilled, and restored.  There is no reason why Jesus would contradict Himself, when He beckons us to come to Him to find rest; when "He satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed…" (Ps 103).  So why does worship sometimes feel like a losing battle for some fairy-tale victory?

Innately, every human being is wound up with needing a sense of purpose and destiny.  It is borne into our spirits to discover why we exist and how we can feel fulfilled.  So when we hear it drilled into our Christian sermon cache: "We were created to worship," it turns into the food of our identity.  This is why I was born.  My life should revolve around this.  Unfortunately, the statement does not often come with the Truths that need to pad it.  Here is what I mean:

If you were created to worship, then what does it mean to worship?  Without the Word, the individual can spend a restless time figuring out and defining what worship is.  It can turn downright obsessive, trying to find the right techniques or following the correct formula to usher in the presence of God.  They observe other worship teams, other leaders, try to sing the right songs or pray a certain passionate prayer.  But then, when one cannot find the right methods, or if the presence does not come the way they expect it to - this is what makes the person feel burnt out.  It's what makes the person feel like a failure.  I was born to worship, and I cannot find God.  I am exhausted.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not Love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
I Corinthians 13.1

Above being created to worship, we were created to love.

Being created to worship does not infer that He is an insecure God that needs multitudes to boost His ego. It does not mean that God would not exist without us feeding Him our praises.   Therefore, being created to worship does not mean that we need to figure out all the right ways to keep Him alive and happy, lest He kills us.  I know that sounds extreme, but they are underlying lies worded in different forms that hinder us from truly worshipping.  We do not worship because of the ungodly fear of the unknown.  We worship foremost because we love.  We were created to worship, because we were created to love.

A person who worships from a heart of love will always out-run a person who worships because of duty.  Worship becomes a natural response from a heart of love, not a contrived and forced act out of fear.  And that is when worship is born - when we realize that He loves us first.  God created us for fellowship.  He created us for Love.  And we love because HE first loved us.  True worship comes from a place of willingness; out of a response to being loved by God.  If we fully understood that He is constantly chasing after our hearts and yearning for our nearness, drawing closer to us as we draw closer to Him, we would not feel so alone and empty in our worship.

Worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father.
- Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

up next: Being Sought by God.

Blessed Be Your Name
None But Jesus
At the Cross

The Presence of God

notes on worship

I promise I will update this particular post to explain why I have a specific section dedicated solely to worship.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

the 2012

I did not particularly like 2012, and for that reason I am upset with myself for not carrying joy in higher regard.

In the first three months, God dug deep into my heart and redeemed an area that for a long time had been so secretly destructive.  But following my breakthrough, that is to say, the remainder nine months of this year, it was a fight, a struggle, a desert, a sickness.  My responses have teetered between waves of weeping and apathy, the latter occurring when I run out of tears.  It must have been over five years that I have been consumed by sorrow to this degree.

Surely I am not without blame; a portion of this season is circumstantial consequence.  I could have pushed further.  I could have ignored compromise.  I could have exercised more faith, more trust, more peace in the waiting.  But the restlessness of uncertainty consumed my thoughts, and I would forget to "be still and know that He is God."

But despite my reigning sorrow, I must fall back onto grace.  I cannot let regret be the pride that keeps me from freedom.  Every moment is a new chance to start over, and I will let this moment, this entrance into the new year, be my chance to start over.  To re-commit, to challenge myself, to fight complacency.
I have wandered long enough in 2012's desert.  I must ignore the naysayers that declare the cliche of heart-changing at midnight, and let these moments be the crossing of the Jordan.

It's never been more difficult to believe that God has great plans for my future, but the truth is that He does.  And maybe it's not going to look like any dream I've held onto all my life, maybe it's not going to involve any skill I've learned to hone in on over the years.  Everything I have, know, and love are gifts that He can choose to give and take away.  And through it all, I must lean on the promises of His Word, everything about His faithfulness, goodness, and love.

This year, I want to let go.  Let it all go.  My fears, my anxieties, my sorrows - they are all rooted in my inability to trust God.  And I must trust Him.  Only He can make all things new.

I will remain confident in this - I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD.  Be strong and take heart, and wait for the LORD.
- Psalm 27.13-14


currently reading: One Hundred Years of Solitude