Monthly Archives: September 2010

Journeywoman

I have had a rough couple of days, a roller coaster of ups and downs, but last Sunday evening I had a glimpse of inspiration and encouragement during my prayer time that has kept me going.

It was not easy, but definitely illuminating to stumble across the notion that the security that I have been craving is a luxury and even a bit of distraction when I consider that it is God, not things or circumstances, who is my security. In other words, I am the type who often worries over the destination, forgetting to enjoy the journey.

But if we believe God really gives us all the tools to meet all of life’s challenges, it is the journey, not the destination, which we are meant to enjoy.

On a particular day recently when I was struggling with being faithful and enjoying the journey, God brought another young Christian Anthropologist into my life who shared her own struggles with me, and I was able to put aside my worries, listening to her struggle, which was oddly cathartic. Ruminating on it, though, I don’t think it’s so odd, really, that God provides us with companions upon the journey, and when we receive their humanity, abiding with one another in this otherwise restless world, we feel the intimacy and the closeness of God’s peace in a tangible way.

That moment was a helpful reminder to me of the intimacy I desire which is paramount and perhaps countercultural, but only in the sense that the pace of the world often doesn’t halt for healing, wholeness, and human connection.

At the same time, what is good and true about culture, much as what is good and true about our God, is the richness of human relationships in all their beauty and brokenness. I guess what I’m getting at it is when I make God and intimacy with other human beings my destination, which is truly returning to my life purpose as a pastor and an anthropologist, I can only revel in what joy there is on the journey and chuckle at my own blindness and anxiety.

Those humbling moments bring tears to my eyes, deep breaths to my chest, and great awe at the goodness and carefulness of all God’s plans which I had doubted.

I pray that I might continue to grow into this type of security, this rootedness in God that brings peace and joy no matter how bumpy the road.  Amen.

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Recalling God’s goodness

“I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you…
In your presence there is fullness of joy.” -Psalm 16

The last couple entries in my devotional have been meant for the valleys, in which we live, as opposed to the mountaintops, toward which we aspire, and the messages have been timely and rich. A recurring daily message has been to recall the moments in which we felt the strength of God’s presence- how did God keep God’s promises and what did it feel like? My own reticence to participate in such a simple activity was shocking and caused me to consider what I was holding back.

Am I afraid to ponder God’s goodness to me over the years for fear my faith will falter? Do I live a life so focused on the present that turning toward the past seems antithetical to my Protestant work ethic? My husband recently pointed me toward a fascinating ten-minute talk in which sociologist, Phillip Zimbardo talks about the impact of different cultural perceptions of time. Turns out our Protestant ethic doesn’t just creep into, but often controls, our daily lives, propelling us to work harder, to indicate that even if we had an eighth day of the week, we’d all spend it working!

At the time that I watched Zimbardo’s talk that last statistic stung in my gut like a bitter pill. I wouldn’t be one of those who would choose an eighth day of work…or would I? I recently stumbled upon a friend’s facebook status reading something like, “I should not answer work emails before bed,” and I proceeded to scrawl a list of emphatic statements in agreement. The truth is, those statements were left to continue to convince and discipline myself into keeping evenings and weekends for rest, keeping them sacred, for me to receive the much-needed grace God has given.

So, as I closed my eyes in silent prayer last night and allowed myself to reflect on God’s goodness, apart from which I have none, I was overwhelmed with the wave of images that flashed across my mind: from the dusty U.S.-Mexico border, to my college experience at Davidson, to my dynamic relationship with my husband, to anti-poverty work in our nation’s capital, and right down to the last summer trip to China in which God demonstrated God’s provision every step of the way, the faithfulness of God’s presence, the emphatic goodness of God brought tears to my eyes.

We Americans may be forward-thinking and hardworking, but I recommend taking a few moments today to sit quietly and stare back into your past with God, contemplating God’s goodness. It is the wonderful truth that “in God’s presence there is fullness of joy.”

Be radical and take a break-choose to use your free moments to experience God’s presence today: you won’t regret it.

Ye of little faith…

Lately due to some really frustrating circumstances, I’ve been experiencing a profound lack of control–no small challenge for a control freak like me. But although I know I need to let go, the letting go is quite another thing.

In Centering prayer, J. David Muyskens writes that we become “keenly perceptive in the rest of life, more deeply conscious of the Creator and all creation. We become aware of God in every moment.” But we do not become aware because of our own doing, of course, our own attention and abilities, but because of God’s faithfulness. Next, Muyskens describes something called an active or breath prayer, a short prayer which expresses a desire to be close to God to be used in moments of utter inattention (jogging, washing dishes, etc.) to the stuff of life. Muyskens’ own prayer is quite simple, but full of intention: “Lord, keep me aware of your presence.”

During my time of silent prayer the other evening, I was filled with the image of a hand guiding me along in the darkness. I so often say it is a luxury for us to see the fruits of our ministry–we don’t always get to, we’re not always meant to. But I, the control freak, have never thought of the luxury it is to experience God’s vision: we don’t always get to, we’re not always meant to, and I found the phrase “Ye of little faith” echoing in my mind.

This phrase comes from Matthew 16 and registers the disciples profound disbelief even after Jesus’s feeding of the four thousand. So does this statement represent God’s disappointment with us? Maybe. Christ’s deep exasperation with our inability to let go? Probably. But I think it also rather plainly represents God’s great vision, God’s faithfulness, and God’s ability to lead.

In the simplicity of the phrase, “God, keep me aware of your presence,” I am invited to wonder what my life might be like if I kept aware, in moments of trouble, and adopted a profound openness to God. When I met with my spiritual director during my time in Princeton she would often remind me of what it would be like to become aware of God’s presence in times of insecurity or doubt, to be fully open and focused on God, not my own worries. It is a simple, but vital step and one that shows me how misplaced my worries really are. Being open to God reminds us that we do not rely on ourselves for faith, but on who God is and will be, to guide us. What little faith God really requires of us, and yet, God continues to provide.