Tuesday, December 8, 2009
In light of that, I have taken a hiatus from this blog and I started another blog to focus on the wedding and things related to love, life and the upcoming marriage - One Girl's Journey to the Altar.
But honestly, I can't really stick to that topic. So it is a little bit of everything...don't let the wedding title mislead you. Certainly, lessons, planning, adventures, and all things over-emotional are posted - but there are other topics explored for your viewing pleasure.
It is a blog in process and the evolution is ongoing...so come on over to that leg of the journey!
Monday, October 26, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
A lot of rich, good stuff, but the one thing I'm left with is what Doug Janssen spoke about - God is our Treasure, not our Treasurer.
That is such a bottom line truth that answers a lot of questions. So many challenges in our lives come from what God did or didn't do for us. We get mad because He didn't watch over our 'stuff' (i.e. relationships, dreams, plans, possessions, loved ones, etc) the way we thought He should.
Not that He isn't sympathetic to our feelings, but somewhere in all that emotion (I'm totally guilty of it myself), could it be that maybe those things became our treasure, instead of God?
We sing the songs so easily - 'You're all I want, You're all I need, You're everything...everything' ... 'There is no one else for me, none but Jesus...now I live to bring you praise...'
I think at some time or another, God will take us at our word. 'Really? Am I? Everything? ... Really? No one else? Live to bring Me praise?'
Not that He is being mean or arrogant. At all. It only hurts us when we put that much faith in anyone or anything but Him. Maybe He allows us to lose those things to show us what we truly have treasured?
But I loved the bottom line of it... if we can grasp that truth - God is our Treasure, not our Treasurer. He is what is most precious. Even if He's not in our actuality, He is in reality. He truly is what is most valuable. Not because He is prideful, but because He actually is.
We can get a lot of mileage out of that simple truth.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
In the meantime, our church started this Wednesday night class on 'Jesus and the Feasts of the Lord.' We both were drawn to it individually, and with lots of enthusiasm, we have been going. So, the week before we went on the cruise, we actually learned about the Feast of Trumpets (which is Rosh Ha Shanah, what the Jews celebrate as their new year). So, it was really special to be able to know the significance of what we were celebrating.
Now, tomorrow evening starts Yom Kippur, and we just learned all about it last Wednesday. It's the Day of Atonement- the holiest and most solemn and sacred day of their year. This week, we will learn about the Feast of Tabernacles, and then we will get to celebrate it over the weekend.
And we have been so astounded by what we are learning. For example, these are the LORD's feasts, his holy days. They are not the man-made holidays that we celebrate now. They were instituted by God himself, so recognizing them has taken on a lot more meaning than I think I felt in celebrating 'Christian' holidays. Somehow, it means more knowing that God himself has initiated this holiday, that it must mean something to him that we recognize it and participate in it. It's like He sent us an invitation for this special occasion with Him and He wants us to show up.
So, we have left each class sort of with our jaws hanging down, just in wonder and awe at God's brilliance and attention to detail. And all of them, pointing to Christ.
On top of that, I listen to Beth Moore online each Monday. The study she is doing right now? The priesthood. And even in devotions at school, we are studying Leviticus. True, I do set the devotion schedule and I did pick Leviticus myself, but the fact that I am even remotely interested in that is a miracle in itself. To me, Leviticus always seemed so tedious, but now - I find myself very intrigued by the hidden mystery in it.
So, it seems like all around us, we have these opportunities to learn about our Jewish roots. And actually, now that I think about it...I did a Bible study about a year and a half ago on the Tabernacle. So, maybe even then, God has been priming the pump.
So far, this has been a most interesting journey...I feel like my eyes are being unveiled to so much I never knew was even there. And, in some ways, I see how far Christianity has strayed. Not that we necessarily need to be Jewish, but the roots of Christianity is Judaism. It's where we come from - it's not cut off and separate, but the roots of our faith. And it ALL FORESHADOWS the coming of Jesus. All the celebrations, all the rituals, all the offerings...everything God instituted was a proclamation of His Son to come.
And that is what I have been most astounded by...the intricasy of God's plan. Whoa...every detail, every prophecy, every event in history, every image, symbol and motif - the utter consistency in all of the layers of Scripture. His weaving in every minute detail...it is all a thread in the same tapestry. In one way or another, God was saying the same thing. He was announcing the same thing...and those who had ears to hear...got it.
For the first time, I think, I am appreciating the rich heritage of my salvation. The coming of Jesus and His sacrifice is huge, it's central, it's everything - don't get me wrong. But I feel like we miss so much, the enormity of God's plan if we miss all the prepartion leading up to it...the painstaking attention to every detail, spanning centuries - for the purpose of rescuing humanity. Rescuing me.
Everything prior to His coming was all preparation for His coming. Everything.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
So I spent a good part of the morning sorting through them...what to file, what to delete. But the cool surprise in this tedious chore was realizing that a lot of what I kept in my inbox to go through at another time (which never happens) was worth saving. There was a reason I didn't just delete it. Some were articles, others were quotations, others were devotionals, others were emails I needed to answer (oops on that one). But it sort of was like a stroll down memory lane, looking at the dates and trying to remember where I was at in my life when that email meant something to me, enough so that I didn't just hit 'delete.'
I'm a huge fan of throwing things out and I hate clutter. But in this case, I decided to file alot of those emails instead of deleting them. True, I may never look at those folders again, but what's the harm? It's not like it is taking up space. And maybe in a chance moment, I'll stumble across those treasures among the junk, and maybe they'll speak to me once more.
Here's a few bits of wisdom I stumbled upon for the second time:
"Relationships are difficult, time-consuming, baffling, and sometimes heartbreaking. They're also what make life worth living." --Martha Beck
"Even when love isn't enough...somehow it is." -- Stephen King
"Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be...but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now." -- Anne Morrow Lindbergh
"If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Just a few treasures I found among the junk... and some from unlikely sources (Stephen King???)
Never know what you're gonna find when you do a little cleaning...
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
1) What’s your current obsession?
Really, I have just gotten into blogging, so I'd probably say that. Inside my head, it is probably wedding plans, but I'm still waiting for James to cut me loose with that.
2) What’s your weirdest obsession?
Need to think about that one... I don't think my obsessions are anything spectacular.
3) What are you wearing today?
Right now, pajamas. I am sure that will change as the day progresses.
4) Why is today special?
My nieces will be here shortly, my nephew has his first football game of his senior year (if it doesn't get rained out) - and as I write, my fiance is at a men's breakfast with my dad. Love that. And EVERY day has the potential to be special.
5) What would you like to learn to do?
Sew, to speak Spanish and to cook. I would like to get better with my camera and making photojournalist books. I'd like to know how to get my blogs 'out there' and get better at writing them.
6) What’s the last thing you bought?
Hazelnut coffee for James and his co-worker (James worked a double) and a slice of pizza for me. I was STARVING!!!
7) What are you listening to right now?
The rain outside my window. I am also listening for the arrival of my nieces, which will, no doubt, be preceded by the glass-shattering barks of my parents' toy poodles.
8) What’s your favorite weather?
Summer, on the beach, light breeze, between 78-80 degrees, no humidity.
9) What’s your most challenging goal right now?
Learning patience and trust about my future - the wedding plans, the marriage. I realize that I am a compulsive worrier. I don't think I know how to stop. Trying to juggle my time - to be a good teacher, trying to put time into blogging, and planning a wedding.
10) What do you think about the person who tagged you?
Mandy seems like a girl I would like to be friends with. Wish I could have a conversation with her as she is figuring out where she stands on faith, God, and religion. I'm sure we'd have a good discussion.
11) What's your favorite guilty pleasure?
Anything fattening...probably a big ice cream sundae, or a Blizzard from DQ.
12) Favorite vacation spot?
I dont know if I would call them vacation because I was there on missions trips, but I LOVED Morocco and Brazil. We spent a little time crossing through Spain and it was gorgeous. I'd love to go back there, too.
13) What would you like to have in your hands right now?
14) What would you like to get rid of?
Bad drivers. People are clueless. That would make James a happier person, which automatically makes me a happier person, lol. And terrorists.
15) If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
Probably on a serene beach in Tahiti. It's only an hour.
16) Which language do you want to learn?
I love Spanish - it's beautiful and I'd love to relearn it. Actually, I would love to learn Tachelhayt (it's the oral language of the Berber people in the mountains of Morocco). It is not written down, but I would love to go back and actually speak with them.
17) What super power would you like to possess?
18) What’s your favorite thing about the city you live in?
I would generalize and say Long Island, b/c each town joins almost like one, continuous town. It is beautiful here...lots of good places to be outdoors, very diverse - it's like the country out east - quaint, lots of vineyards, beaches, small town - and going west, you hit NYC.
19) What’s your favorite piece of clothing in your own closet?
I'm a little bored with my wardrobe, actually, but I'd say either a brown Free People hoodie cardigan (very warm and soft), or a pair of Express jeans I got for $10 that actually are sorta flattering.
20) What’s your dream job?
I love my job now, but if I could have other careers, I'd want to be an interior designer or a photojournalist. Full time missions, too.
21) What is the last thing that happened that made you laugh really hard?
Hmmm, probably one of the stories James was telling me about work...how one of the crazy homeless men got mad at him and called him an 'F** B**." We had a pretty good laugh over it.
22) Do you admire anyone’s style?
I'm not really a celebrity stalker, but I'd probably say Jennifer Aniston.
23) Describe your personal style.
It depends on the day...sometimes I'm trendy and bold, other times I'm laid back and relaxed. I just try to be true to myself in the moment.
24) Whose fashion show would you want tickets to?
I don't really like those too much.
25) What talent would you like to have?
I wish I could sing better - or at least sing when I play the piano. I also wish I was a good runner and loved it. Now that I think of it, I also wish I was good at art.
26) What are you most proud of?
Anything good that I've done I don't think I can take credit for...God gave me any bit of skill or wisdom I have...but I would say raising my 15 yr old nephew for 2 1/2 years is something that caused me to feel especially satisified with my life...that if I died, I would know for sure I made a difference in someone's life.
27) If you could choose one person to have lunch with who would it be and why?
Probably Beth Moore. Her ministry has impacted my life so much. Maybe some of my girlfriends that I miss and don't get to see much anymore...
Now the rules of this tag: Respond and rework: answer the questions on your blog, replace one question you dislike with a question of your own invention (FYI - I didn't do this).
Then tag a few people to answer the questions. I tag the following people below.
Diana because I'm new to blogging and don't know anyone else, lol.
Enjoy your day!
Friday, September 4, 2009
Last year, I gave out report cards for my kids to fill out on how I was doing as a teacher. I did well in most categories, but on more than a few cards...well....let's just say I scored 'less than stellar' on 'Makes Class Interesting.'
I have been teaching for eight years - and the same courses, no less - and yeah, it's true. I've gotten lazy. I've gotten comfortable.
So, my goal for this year is to really do my best to amp things up in the interest department and not just rely on what I've always done. I also try really hard in that first week to develop a safe, warm, inviting classroom climate - you know, get to know you activities, engage them in talking and participating. I think it's really important that we become more than one-dimensional people to each other.
Well, the first three days went great. I felt like there was good energy, good attitudes, good participation. I love being a teacher the first three days. But already, I can see some of them getting that far-away look in their eyes... and that scares me a little. What does it take to keep their attention??? Their attention spans are so short. Can I do this? Am I really up for this? Sometimes it feels like a losing battle :(
But overall, I'm optimistic. I know I will need to be on top of my game this year. I know it will require more work on my part (nothing new about that as far as teaching goes). I know it will require me to put myself in their shoes and stretch my imagination a bit.
I just gotta remind myself that it's worth it. They are worth. Every life, every student is important. To me. To God. He is the parent of every one of my students.
And if those reasons weren't enough, it's my act of worship to the Lord:
"Whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, not unto men." (Col. 3:23).
As we like to say in our school - Welcome to your 180 day missions trip.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
It was the evangelism training day. We were learning 'The Hand' in presenting the gospel:
The thumb: Heaven is a free gift - can't earn it and don't deserve it.
The pointer: Man is a sinner, can't save himself.
(I'll only for that far for now due to the relevance to the story. It actually goes through all five fingers).
Our teacher that day was telling us how to decipher if a person was truly saved by how he answered the question, "If you died today, what would you say to God as to why He should let you into Heaven?"
I began to think of what I would say if someone asked me that question. Well, I "grew up Christian" and I know that at 13, when I was on the bus ride home from school, I made a decision that I was going to follow Jesus for the rest of my life. That was it for me.
But, then, I began to think - when I did I receive His gift of salvation? When did I realize that Heaven was a gift I didn't deserve and could not earn, and when did I actually RECEIVE that gift through my belief (faith) in it???? When did I TRUST in Jesus to be saved? And that's when the light started brightening...
I think I skipped that step somehow. I knew I needed salvation. I knew I was a sinner. I knew Jesus' death paid the penalty and bought eternal life. But when did I receive that and take that reality into my life? I don't think I did.
I knew the right way to act, the right way to be, the right decision to make. So I did THAT. And continued doing it. But, when did I receive His grace and live by and from THAT??? I decided to follow Jesus, but when did I let Him choose me, save me, and GIVE me that gift - and when did I actually receive it?
It's like the Galatians - they were saved by grace - or at least knew they were, but then they tried to live out that salvation in their own strength. Maybe I was like that too, but only worse, I think. I don't know if I ever received the grace gift at all; I just knew the right things to do following salvation and that is where I set my sights for the next twenty years.
So, here I am...over twenty years later, and finally - I have run out of steam. I have gone as far as my own strength can take me. And, I'm worn out TRYING to be a good Christian...trying to save myself. Because, in reality, that is exactly what I am doing.
As I was going through the codependency book this week, one of the statements said:
"We have difficulty turning our lives over to God because we lack the skills to trust in His grace."
Whoa. So that was it. The realization hit me: I don't trust His grace. I feel safer trusting my ability, even though it is hopelessly inadequate. So, if I don't trust His grace, all I have to trust is myself. And I can see what a scary and precarious scenario I create for myself. No wonder I feel so driven. No wonder I feel the pressure to be perfect. Because it is all I have. It is all I am trusting. My life has become "I have to" and "I should"...which eventually results in "I can't"...which results in guilt and shame...which is, well - welcome to my world.
And that is what I live with. In the back of my mind, there is always the feeling that "It's not enough. I can't do this." And always the pressure to keep trying. And the remedy to all this is so simple: just stop trying. The way out of codendency: surrender.
The statement was made: "Codependent Christians separate grace - the source of perspective and power - from the Bible's high moral and ethical expectations."
I had to think about that for a little while. I am obsessed w/ God's stardards and expectations - and somehow feel like I'm supposed to be able to meet them if I try hard enough. I don't see them through GRACE:
- God's perspective (You can't do this on your own)
- God's power (but I can help you do what you can't).
God understands all of that and is OK with it... but somehow, I'm not. I guess I just don't want to need grace.
What would happen if I didn't separate God'sSo, all I have left is my "own guilt motivation and [my] own will" to achieve this. Which results in failure. Which results in more guilt and shame.
And all of this because being perfect gives me a sense of worth; I can't swallow the realization that I am imperfect but still loved.
I had to do a devo on the prodigal son for the teachers this week and I was struck by the two sons.
The first son realizes and is fully aware that he is NOT WORTHY to be called a son. He is more comfortable going to the servant status because He is looking at what he (the son) has done and not the character of His father.
The second son also looks at what he (himself, the son) has done and thinks he IS WORTHY: "I've always obeyed; I've always done right..."and not at the character of the Father as well.
One son thinks he doesn't deserve his Father's love, blessing and acceptance because of what he has done; the other son thinks he does deserve it because what he has done. The Father negates all of that by blessing them both, showing that it is neither. It is because of Who the Father is - all the evil or all the good isn't the deciding factor in the end in whether or not someone can receive God's goodness and grace. It is the character and heart of the Father, of His own free will.
The first son's evil didn't disqualify him from his Father's goodness; the second son's righteousness didn't ensure it. And that is how grace works. It is at the discretion of the giver, not won or lost. The only thing required of BOTH sons was to choose to RECEIVE that Father's goodness. Not their actions prior to His offering it, just their responses to His offer itself. Both could - and would - be blessed. But only if they received it.
In this scenario, I'm both. Usually I'm the second son first...I try and try to be good enough and present to God all my good works and what I've done. He says, "It's already yours. Stop trying." Then when I fail, I'm like the first son and realize my failure and see that I don't deserve anything at all and instantly relegate myself to servant status. And He basically ignores my protests and treats me like His daughter with all the goodness and blessing a gracious and giving Father can present. But, either way, if I receive it, I win.
God has already decided to freely give grace to those who are humble enough to:
1. acknowledge their need for it
2. actually accept it
"God gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6) and "He gives grace to the afflicted" (Prov 3:34). By trying to earn it, it is a form of pride and self-sufficiency, and scarily enough, that very act is what could disqualify me from getting it: "God is opposed to the proud." And thinking I'm not worthy enough to receive it is also pride, because I'm completely dependent on myself for God's favor.
So - the lesson this week that is like drinking a glass of cold ice water - that refreshing and that clean - is to accept God's grace and to actually live by it and in it.
Peter, one who lived out the reality of both sons, encourages us: "GROW in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." - 2 Peter 3:18
**The four cornerstones are built on the only solid foundation there is - God's grace.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
And this ties into God because I don't think I've ever understood, really, the whole religion vs relationship. Again, intellectually - yes; experientially and emotionall - not so much.
In Nicaragua, I was really getting a sense of the whole relationship with God. That we can talk and share - and it is not so pressure-filled as I usually think. There is some flexibility - because it is not linear. It doesn't have a set path to follow; it just morphs and changes and evolves to just be what it is becoming.
But one distinction that just sort of hit me this morning as I was doing my workbook is that their are characteristics of functional relationships. It came up in the context of family, but I see that they are characteristics of all functional relationships. That helps, because I can sort of test the health of any relationship - and know how to try to get it back on track.
It's like this:
- It's OK to feel (respect for someone as a person with a right to his/her own emotions)
- It's OK to trust (consistency and dependability make this possible)
- It's OK to talk (time taken to listen and value what they say)
- You are special (worth is based on who they are)
- You are loved even if you make a mistake. (worth is not based on performance)
So, that was helpful to me - because God is the ultimate functional Father. And while the traits mentioned are the cornerstone of my faith, I feel like this gives a little definition of what a relationship on those cornerstones should look like.If this is true (and it is), then He:
- loves me - I am special in His sight.
- loves me no matter how great my mistakes
- desires me to trust Him (because He is consistent and dependable)
- desires me to share my feelings (validates my right to feel what I feel)
- takes time to talk to me and listen to me (not just tell me what I'm doing wrong and what I need to do - cares about me as a person)
Revelation 3:20 - "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. "
Saturday, April 11, 2009
I went to the Holtsville Ecology site to walk and I definitely sensed God the Father with me taking me on this walk to get to the bottom of this. The revelation came to me about the foundation of my faith. I realized, that, I have been the foundation of my own faith. Not His love, not His grace and redemption, but ME. How well I can do the Christian life. And, if I mess up - well, then...there goes the whole structure.
And, I realized that this mentality was sort of thrust upon me before I even knew that what I was doing. Not to get all psycho-babble, but let's just say that as a kid, I learned very early to make sure you obeyed and did right before you got in trouble for doing wrong. And, that definitely translated into my spirituality. So, I never even had a foundation of God's love for me from the inception of my faith. It was, more or less, motivated by a fear of getting punished. I knew intellectually God's love, but not really emotionally or experiencially. I've felt it at moments over the years, but never something that has been consistent. Or foundational. It just sort of floated in and floated out at different times.
So anyway, all that to say - I realized, 'Oh, crap - my foundation is ALL WRONG. So how do I rebuild this thing???"
Well, I felt the Lord say that the foundation needed to be dismantled and a new one built. I didn't even know what some of those messed up building blocks were and what they needed to be replaced with. Didn't even know where to start.
This morning, in my study, I think I came upon it. It isn't anything I haven't heard, but in my mind, it made sense - at least in the way of this whole foundation metaphor.
So, here they are - the 4 false beliefs and the 4 cornerstones (as I am going to call them) for my new foundation:
False Belief #1: I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself (Fear of failure).
Cornerstone #1: Because of justification [Christ's work, separate from my actions], I am completely forgiven and acceptable to God [Right now, as is. His righteousness applied to me].
False Belief #2: I must have the approval of certain others to feel good about myself (Fear of rejection).
Cornerstone #2: Because of reconciliation [Restored friendship through Christ], I am totally accepted by God [and His opinion is all that matters].
False Belief #3: Those who fail (including myself) are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished (Guilt).
Cornerstone #3: Because of propitiation [Christ took my punishment for me and covers my failings; He shows me grace and favor as a result], I am deeply loved by God. I no longer have to fear punishment or punish others.
False Belief #4: I am what I am. I cannot change. I am hopeless (Shame).
Cornerstone #4: Because of regeneration, I have been made brand-new, complete in Christ [I am being transformed into this new person little by little].
One of the best things I read in there, too, was "Patterns of behavior that reflect a false belief system take years to develop. Change will not occur overnight." For a Type A perfectionist, there is a bit of relief to that. I don't need to figure it all out today. God is in charge of the pace of this journey. He is the builder, the Author and Finisher. I am HIS workmanship, not my own.
"One step, one stone, one line at a time"
(Note: Taken from Conquering Co-Dependency workbook, Pat Springle. Items in brackets - ie [ ] - have been added by me)
Friday, April 10, 2009
I don't want to overspiritualize this, but the idea of 'journey' and 'process' have been showing up on my radar lately, and I think this (blogging) is part of my journey, a way God wants me to process all I've been internally experiencing.
It's weird, b/c I've had a lot of inner turmoil over the past few months - maybe even the past year and a half. I can probably attribute it to several things, but not knowing the source has been one of the most unsettling aspects about it. And the part I can't escape is that it is not just something I'm feeling because of my circumstances; there is something inside ME that isn't right.
So, in many ways, I know it has to do with some gaps of understanding about God, about myself. Yeah, yeah, that is no surprise. But what to DO with all that??? I know I need to deal with my fears and insecurities...and 'co-dependency.' It is such an embarrassing word. I don't think anyone wants to label themselves as that.
But I have this book that Mom gave me a while ago - a workbook on co-dependency. I started a while ago, stopped it, and I just feel like I need to go through it. At least finish it and see where I land. I guess the basic premise is that some of our behaviors and unhealthy patterns are due to repressed emotions, our view of God and ourselves, etc. One of the recommended ways to 'feel' and get these emotions out is through journaling. I do this already, but I'm wondering if blogging might be another venue to process some of this stuff in a different way. Maybe, in a way, by putting it out there, I will have to 'own' what I feel and think; once they are out there, I will have to commit to my own feelings and not stuff them. Does that make sense?
I'm hoping, on the other side of this, I will have more peace in my soul. I don't know what it will mean for me, but I remember a time when I was relentlessly seeing the truth, no matter what. I think I fear that a little. And even admitting that, I think, is a first step toward truth. Because the truth is, I think I'm afraid to face the truth.
One thing I am learning is to just to even accept this about myself - that I have issues of fear, insecurity, co-dependency. Not just acknowledge it but accept and embrace it in myself. That God loves me and I can love myself, even with these broken parts. That is a hard step for me, b/c I know I am such a perfectionist. Hard on myself, hard on others. It is very humbling for me to admit these things. But I know I need to be honest even about who I am right now - and accept myself, flaws and all.
I'm trying to take comfort, by believing God is with me in this. I don't have to be afraid. Fear is a terrible thing, and I don't want to live in fear. Of anything. So here we go...I don't know if this 'trail' was on the itinerary for this journey but apparently a detour is needed:
Left turn: Recovery Lane.