Ideas on “Living” Our Church Better

December 22, 2009

This note was emailed to many this morning, but I believe we can reach more people and engage in better dialogue here… Feel free to add anyone (inside or outside of our current church community) whom you feel may be able to add some salt! (or pepper, even)

Everyone,
I’ve spent much time in recent months deeply in the desert of prayer. I love our church, its people, its mission… its hope. More than anything, I treasure the life giving transformation that happens so often there (my son finding true life, as the most shining example).

I’m sharing a few thoughts I’ve had that would provide a way for us to grow in the blessing of glorifying God through what we already have and do in slightly different ways, as well as a few simple new ways to bring Him glory and us to a more familial place.

The main point here is to begin a discussion with a larger community within our larger “C” Community and gather thoughts and possible volunteers to help us find the steps in our new dance with the Holy Spirit in the diaspora God blessed us with to bring us closer to him in these financially creative times.

Be blessed — in the freedom to know exactly who you are (and are not;-) in the hope and possibility of a God who loves us enough to call us to accountability.

Love,
heather

P.S. – I will help in whatever copy writing/editing may be necessary should any of these ideas move toward fulfillment. I trust that God will stretch my time as He so often has before…

CUMC showers amazing love & grace for those well-connected in the church. What of those on periphery, not sure how to get in? Do we have a volunteer base set up for helping them with funerals, like a funeral committee of sorts, to provide for their needs? Bringing lunch, helping with reception after the funeral, childcare, household help, food donations, etc.?

Art Gallery – With so many gifted artists in our faith community, and so much wall space, why are we not celebrating those gifts by hanging them for a month or quarter? (Understandably, given the economic situation, interested artists should pull together a plan for what they would like to showcase, where & plan to invest their own time in glorifying God by setting those on display themselves after gaining approval.)

Events around town section – to encourage our faith community to be present in the world outside of our church walls as a way to carry the gospel they seek to live into the lives of others by fellowshipping in the midst of life??

Website noodling:
Not just what we do at CUMC, but *why* we believe we are called to do it.

What do we aim to teach our children, young adults, varying adult classes? And why?

What are the classes studying now, or planning to study in the near future?

Major theological ideas we celebrate:
What are they??
(Baptism, reconciliation, communion, confirmation…)

Pertaining to valuable pre-education:
What topics are covered?
Expectations participants should have
What it is that they are doing from a faith perspective, as in bringing their child forth for baptism
Expectations parents (if applicable) should have
The faith community’s role/responsbility in these events, and in the lives of its members

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Boundary Quotes by Henry Cloud

September 23, 2009

Boundaries help us know who we are, as well as who we are not. When we locate where we end, we find that we have freedom to choose to reach across the healthy boundary line and choose to meet others in vulnerable places of need (their needs and our needs).

In contrast to the bodiless chalk outlines of a crime scene murder victim, boundaries bring life. So, I’m sharing some quotes from Henry Cloud’s book about boundaries, entitled Changes That Heal. Brain food. Emotional food. Spiritual food.

“God is a bonded person. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are always connected; they have an eternal “oneness.” However, just as unity is the most basic quality God possesses, he has diversity within this unity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, separate persons. They are not “fused” in a way that they lose their individual identity. They have boundaries between them. They each have their own talents, responsibilities, wills, and personalities. They can be in different places at the same time, and they can be doing different things without losing relationship…. We are to master the art of “being me without losing you.” pp. 94-95

“If we take responsibility for our feelings, we can use them to solve problems.”  p.128

“When we look further at crossed boundaries, we see that we often do not own our own attitudes; instead, we take responsibility for the attitudes of others. People often complain how this person or that person is “putting expectations” on them, as if an expectation were something you could Velcro to someone’s brain…. Whenever we feel “victimized” by another’s expectations, we need to find the attitude that’s allowing us to feel pressured by that expectation.”   p.129

“Our sense of being able to own our own behavior is critical for having a sense of power and a sense of control over our lives.”   p.132

“As with feelings and attitudes, we must own our own thoughts. Our thoughts have much bearing on our emotional growth…. Our thinking affects how we respond to people and situations…. We must own all thinking that prevents interpersonal relating. Condemning thoughts about others always hurt us. We must own our critical thinking and confess it, allowing God to change the way we think. At the same time, we can’t be responsible for the thoughts of others. If someone is thinking good or bad about us, we must accept it. We can try to affect it, but we can’t control it. We must give people the freedom to think what they will. Ask Jesus. People had some pretty crazy notions about him, which he allowed.”   p.134-135

Always “We” and Never “I”: Toward Intergenerational Understanding

August 1, 2009

We. My grandmother unfailingly used “we” and never “I.” Never. Well, never in any manner that could be in any way construed as positive, victorious, healthy or even solo. When my grandmother did say “I” it stood for the whole herd of female humanity who got the picture that I, in my ass backward state, did not. Perhaps we felt as if we saw two different worlds, because of the personal identifiers we used and had been using all along our divergent roads. I understood that and its rooted ramifications only by the grace of chance, and almost too late.

For my grandmother and others in her social sphere, an “I” did not exist, except in the context of an undeveloped “we” on its way to proper usefulness in marriage. This was the primary language thought construct of my grandmother’s generation of Carolina farm women. Her world was a collective, yet isolated “we.” She even told stories about what she did alone as a child in the context of we. How often in our frustrated attempts at communication did we two growl to each other, “I don’t understand why you have to act that way!” (Thunk of my fists on table or head on cupboard inserted here.) Wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued amongst the rest of the family when we breached the rules of female voicelessness in such fashion.

My grandmother loved me beyond measure, as grandmothers do. It showed when she looked at me in an odd and hidden sort of way, even if it happened to be a day when her eyes could not conceal the judgment and disappointed expectation. I could make neither heads nor tales of the storminess in our relationship — until the day she looked at me with different eyes. And I saw that we had been on the same road. Hers looked back at a history of seeking safety in the collective to avoid the pain of being silenced by stronger measures. I stood back to back with her, stronger because she had walked before, though I hardly gave her proper credit at the time. Our storminess resulted from me being almost a carbon copy of her essence, only framed in a different time. Mine gave the freedom to look forward to those who did not have to be injured if enough of us claimed our individual stories and dispelled the myths.

This picture of us standing back to back, unable to see one another or see that we shared the same road cleared my thoughts as I walked into the hospital. Breathing hurt, because I had no words. Without words, I am not me. It struck me how difficult it must have been for her not to have words, not to have a self that she was allowed to protect, cherish, enjoy, or love. I quietly twisted my way through the cracked hospital room door and saw her seated on the side of her hospital bed, analyzing the lunch tray in front of her. I was the last person she expected to come through the door; we had not spoken for several years. Now, much needed to be said; none of it had words; and that was alright.

I caught a rainbow reflection as a tear slid quickly from her eye. The steely Southern matriarch let the tear make its path without apology, as if it had a long overdue right to be there. Only once before, at my grandfather’s funeral, had I seen her cry, and that was only for a moment as she leaned over the casket for a final goodbye. Had the sunlight not shone exactly as it did, and had the tear fallen at any other time of day, I believe I would have missed it. And in missing that, I would have also missed the legend to the map of my grandmother’s world.

The hardness in her eyes was the outer covering of her forced collective functioning. Beyond that, was the tender “I” she had hidden in order to protect. In the years we did not speak, I told the stories that were not okay to tell. My mother heard some of them; others heard different ones; and they told them to my grandmother. In the hospital that Wednesday afternoon, my grandmother looked at me as a woman in her own right. We saw each other’s portions of the road, and in the gift of that, both of us became more individual and part of a different, more genuine, collective of women who have the perspective of where we have been and the confidence not to limit the road ahead.

The Back Side of Christ

July 30, 2009

Often, phrases become such a norm that the ramifications of what they actually convey slowly fade away. Technicolor fades to sleepy sepia. The full intent contained in a phrase gets a short-cut, indexed, “leave behind” meaning. I admit it; when I hear “body of Christ,” my brain just subs out the phrase and replaces it with “host” or “church,” depending on the context. Simple. Clean. Usual. Routine. Logical. Linguistically normal (it’s called indexing). And crippling.

Crippling especially when it comes to phrases we use in worship, to worship, about worship, or even in our own thinking that is in any way connected with worship. But when my brain is otherwise occupied and those phrases churn around, the intent  sneaks in like a ninja — fully intact and starkly disturbing.

While I played Bejeweled today, I thought about a recent conversation with a friend. We marveled over being connected as the body of Christ without the limits of time or space, forever backward, forever forward, forever embedded in the lives of one another without touching. In my distracted reflection, the back of my brain considered this:

  • We do not always function as the same part of the body of Christ.
  • We all have purpose as different body parts of Christ.
  • I think I used to be Jesus’ elbow when I first learned how to bend but wasn’t good for much else.
  • I know that God has provided opportunities for me to be Jesus’ feet to meet needs.
  • I know that I am sometimes the hands of Christ when comforting or connecting.

And then the nausea came.  Somebody has to be the arse. And the times that I remember playing that role played like a cinematic phenomenon. In spite of all that, God can still use me for his purposes?! Well, that’s a serious blow to whatever feeble excuse I could offer in order not to choose to live with meaning, isn’t it? Perhaps it sounds odd at first glance, but that is real hope! That is real freedom. It goes beyond the little, almost cute goof ups and incorporates the grand idiocy moments we have as humans in service to God and the world. It calls us to stand up and move forward instead of cower in the corner.

Lord, Bite My Tongue (But Only Sometimes), A Prayer (Revised)

July 19, 2009

Lord,

Bite my tongue, (but only sometimes). I’ve spent a lot of time biting my tongue of late, and the headaches I’m getting as a result are seriously diminishing my discernment. I mean it. My empathy with Saint Paul and all that stuff he said about doing the things he hates? Well, I daydream about getting a banner of that (Romans 7:15) to carry around as a disclaimer — in the hope that it will give me a few minutes for my very achy internal censor to kick in.

I am not asking to be relieved of the responsibility for watching my frequently ginsu-sharp tongue. Your precious gift of the ability to use the voice leaves me awestruck (and a little confused at times). I want to use that to share your hope, your grace, your glory. But when life comes at me some days, I need your… well, you. I need you… and especially your higher power, faster acting biting while I learn to be a better steward of this vocal gift you have given.

I am not asking to be silenced. I know that is copping out of closer relationship with you, and I shiver at the thought of choosing to be a verbal chicken over choosing to learn what you can do in the uncomfortable crevice places of life. The courage and boldness you placed in me (whether or not I feel it in the first few steps) takes on possibilities larger than I am or could imagine when your breath ushers the words from a heart resting in you. Not to use that is not a choice, but sometimes my mouth runs on the motor of a stressed out human heart instead of yours. Only as I yield and rest my heart in your forgiving love and grace can I know the difference.

In contrast to some other areas where you and I wrestle, in this one, I am most humbly aware of where I end. So, I’m bringing this one to you and asking, can this be where you begin??

Love,

Me

Crazy Aunt Della and Uncle Ray Who Couldn’t Hear

June 3, 2009

In honor of what would have been my grandfather’s 70th birthday, a peek into two of his favorite family members.

Crazy Aunt Della was married to Uncle Ray Who Couldn’t Hear. Those were their names, exactly like that, said with a blend of happy disbelief, approving astonishment, and complete acceptance for two people completely and entirely who they were – without apology.

I think they’re two of my favorite family “characters,” for characters they certainly were. And yet, character was so deep in them that it permeated their cores, as long as it was not defined by traditional social norms. Stealing cable television in the old folks home to watch Saturday morning cartoons? Well, perhaps not, but there you have it.

He called me “My Peanut,” possessive article included, for ever and for always. To a nine-year-old, rather awkward, and definitely a tomboy, to be loved ridiculously without reason or explanation was the best thing the world had to offer. The fact that I was “My Peanut,” as in personally connected to him by chosen endearment, apparently covered a multitude of sins. He would state that I was his peanut in response to a myriad of things, and I loved to watch as his eyesbrows scrunched together in my defense as he said it.

Uncle Ray (actually my grandfather’s uncle) was mostly deaf and epileptic. My Grampy used to tell me stories of when he was a kid with Uncle Ray at the house. He told of how they would hold the napkin up to shield Ray’s face if he had a seizure at the dinner table. It wasn’t a big deal. It was just how it was. They kept him in the midst of everyone, but at the same time they gave him privacy. That way, if he had an intense seizure, he could call for someone to pin his tongue with the safety pin he kept on his shirt. Gruesome in some respects, but so tender at the same time.

And Crazy Aunt Della — she had to have been created expressly for Uncle Ray Who Couldn’t Hear. At family reunions, you could tell that everyone wanted to have that free and funny and happy and alive kind of crazy that she had. The only thing that really messed with her was the damned Smurfs who she swore were always stalking her. You see, she had a very intense love for cartoons. It was almost as intense as her preference for wearing just one pigtail. Strange at first, but once you got used to it, it was all part & parcel of who Della was.

After they died, it was discovered that Ray and Della had rigged the cable after the people at the home removed it. Hey, cartoons can be very important. The perfectly, wonderfully crazy thing about it was that they had been flying under the radar with stolen cable so long that the attorney’s letter requested a few thousand dollars to cover the payment. A fitting legacy of laughter for them to leave…

Filters & Grace

April 8, 2009

I’ve been trying to sit still lately — the undergirding, deep in the pit of my spirit, past the fear, past the pride, past the egocentrism, willing to be made uncomfortable in the fields of grace kind of sitting still. I don’t always know when I’ve gotten to that place, because sitting still from God’s perspective apparently can be a very active thing. It isn’t about my outside sitting so much as my inside sitting.

When I take God off of the leash it is so easy to accidentally put on him, trust that he’s a pretty good planner, and look to see where he’s been watering the clay & molding my life… it is amazing how much activity can happen without draining my personal reserves.

There’s a linguistic theory that I love called The Conduit Theory. Basic idea: sometimes the way we communicate assumes that we can put intended meaning into a container of some sort that will arrive & be processed exactly how we (the sender) see it. Whoa, doggie, does that assume an awful lot and set the stage for miscommunication!

We discount the “receiver’s” point of view and risk thinking we have sent the high def version instead of the good old static-lovin’ rabbit ears version. I think I’ve gotten better with flesh & blood people in that area, and I look forward to learning more about people and their worlds. There’s such freedom in giving people the opportunity to tell Paul Harvey’s “rest of the story.”

As I begin to see how the static can happen, it becomes easier to love other people where they are and want to hear and understand their stories. They are free not to be just like me. (Can I get a whooping amen here?!) Not only are they free to be uniquely who they are, I am free to learn to appreciate and celebrate them — while remaining who I am designed to be. I get such a freedom kick from that! God is just too cool for words (literally).

And that leads to my new area for growth — remembering that with all of God’s experiences & filters (seriously, he’s seen it all), he has a lot more grace, understanding, and ways to encourage than I give him credit for having. I’m going to be more intentional in looking for those every day.

I’m also going to look for opportunities every day to step outside of my grace limits and acknowlege that God’s filters should make me see things differently than my own (frequently jaded ones) do.

Multi-directional Leadings?

March 22, 2009

Sometimes, to my human perceptions, it appears that God is leading me in more than one direction at the same time. I stand there, uncertainly holding one foot in the air. I’ve not yet decided whether I’m more like the karate kid or a flamingo with an inner ear balancing issue when those things happen. <shrug>

For a while that’s been a puzzle. During these times, it’s hard to figure out where to put down the foot that I’m holding in the air. More often than not, it is easier for God to order and direct my steps if I am actually stepping. I know. So basic, but such a challenging process, until I learn it. Undoing patterns can take several reworkings of steps, and happily, God has patience — loads and loads of patience. (Remember the Israelites?)

He knows where and what he’s directing. And his picture, much larger in both scope and time, sees patterns where my humanly limited perspective does not. My aim is to keep stepping in faith as he orders my smaller steps along, around, and over the path in a beautifully patterned dance along this walkway of grace. He gave me a peek of confirmation today. The studies that make my heart sing now, he will weave for use within his house. That makes me amazed and happy.

In my natural state, I crave and institute order. But, what I am excited to learn is that God sees order in places that I don’t. <deep breath of relief>  And those messy, at times chaotic, places are where I find his face, hear his voice, and feel his life-creating breath in the most transforming ways. It’s as if this tapestry of which we are all part gives each of us an opportunity to be the brightly colored thread in the hand of God. At times, we gather with threads from other parts. At times, we are tightened into a many-colored image. At times, we remain attached to the larger work, but are alone.

And then, there are the times where God picks up our thread, nods his head with the certainty that ours is exactly the thread for a specific purpose, straightens out the tangles, and ties us into our purpose for exactly that place in his handiwork. And then he says that it is good.

I pray that we are able to spiritually hear that we are good in the eyes of God, that we are able to seek and accept his love, and that we are able to extend that love as comfort to others in the humility and generosity of love that we see in Christ Jesus — and that we trust others enough to let them love and comfort us in that same way, too.

Metaphors of Voicelessness

February 28, 2009

How does a person become voiceless? We talk about those who do not have a “say” in a variety of aspects and for a variety of reasons. We resolve to look at the truth of unjust situations and do something. We become “a voice for the voiceless” or resolve to  “help others to find their voices.” But what about the roots of the voicelessness? What are those? Certainly, no one aspires to reach adolescence, young adulthood or any other phase of life with the hope of attaining voicelessness. Yet, those I meet who are chronically without a social voice frequently appear baffled and overwhelmed by the idea of using their own voices. Many friends who generally have voices, so to speak, have shared about moments where they “just didn’t feel like they could say anything.” What is the support structure that reinforces those circumstances?

I’d love to say that I have an answer, but I don’t (yet). Just a handful of questions — and the hope of collecting stories that will help locate those things under what people say. I suspect those under-things sustain the impairing belief that one does not, or should not, have a voice.

I hoped the audio recorder I ordered would arrive on Friday, but, alas, my patience gets to grow over the weekend and press on to Monday! My aim is to invite people to share their stories and allow me to record them. The narratives definitely have great value for the simple sake of being stories. However, I believe that looking into the crevices between the lines of those stories will produce evidence of thoughts that fly under the radar and cripple valuable people in similar ways. Finding those similar ways means that a framework for discussion can be built. At any rate, I’m going to check it out and hope to formulate a piece to begin a new conversation of hope.

God’s Womb

February 20, 2009

A while ago, I learned that the part of Jonah’s story that is generally translated as “God had a heart for them” (in Nineveh) reflects the Hebrew conceptual picture that “God had a womb for them.” What a difference that perspectival shift makes.  It’s been a while, and it still blows me away! Whoa, in the exponential sense.

Before a child even knows that s/he IS, much less the details of that being, groups of people are actively loving that child for the simple fact of existence. Whether the child realizes that or no does not affect the love. Nothing done by the child “earns” that love. Nada. Just there, thoroughly unaware, growing, wrapped in its own womby world — being loved.

This blew open the doors of God’s “mother love” and made me wonder if I’d been keeping Him all shut up in a box of my own perceptions (again;-)

Jesus and the Dirty Robe

February 4, 2009

There is significance of Jesus in the glowing, clean robe, and, no doubt, I think of his glory on a regular basis like that. To be that clean, and that bright, after walking through and touching so much speaks volumes. But when I read the words he said and the stories of the daily stuff of Jesus’ life, I picture the man’s robes as dirty, especially around the hems.

Jesus went to people — where they were. He traveled. He climbed in and out of boats. He walked through towns and got his feet all caked up with dirt. (They had that foot-washing by the servant custom for a reason.)

From the brambles, I see that robe that tells the story — the story of how many places off the beaten path that Jesus has been to show himself to the missing ones. Grass stains, dust, stripes of dirt and mud. I remember all of the times that life felt like brambles off the pathway. I remember what it feels like to look up from the scratched up hiding places to see the hand reaching out to call me back into the grace of being. I remember marveling at how many places he must have gone to have a robe like that. How many he loves into being by going those places of the outstretched hands.

Christmas Prayer of Thanksgiving

December 30, 2008

Lord, you love us so dearly. And it multiplies the closer we learn to come to you. The Christmas stories we celebrate show person after person daring to live in expectation, risk and hope because of your Holy Spirit’s call. We look at all of those people and begin to see clearly how your promised peace does come, and your promised joy does come.

Thank you for peace that comes in whispers when we listen. Thank you for joy that comes in the remembered voices of loved ones you bring to mind. Thank you for the gentle peace that comes in the memories as we smell the Christmas recipes passed down through generations, and thank you for the stories that accompany them. Thank you for the joy of unbidden smiles too big to conceal. Thank you for relaxed peace in the warmth of our muscles when we’ve laughed too hard with loved ones. Thank you for the contagious joy in the excited dances of happy children with sparkling eyes and the freshness of unfettered gladness. Thank you for filling us and our homes with the wildest of hopes as we dance with you and dare to be free because of our strength in you.

We ask your grace to hold us and coax us into that place where we are renewed by your love, find strength in it, and take it out into the world with us.

Book of Ruth’s Influence

December 4, 2008

Recently, I had to write on which biblical book had the most profound impact on me. Here ’tis.

Impact of Ruth

Ruth determines to live with tenderness, grit and integrity as she confronts calamity and uncertainty. Her tenacity reminds me to continue walking through uneasy places with trust. She shows how difficulty puts me in unique situations to see just what freeing treasures God plants in the fields of discomfort. Challenges happen. Life gets ugly sometimes. How I respond in the pressed seasons teaches me who and where I really am, and where to begin going.

Why the Book of Ruth?

Ruth brought me face to face with the need to confront doubts and fears and continue toward God, to learn that contentment comes along the road, not at the end of it. Contentment is not a destination; it is a decision. Challenging seasons in life left me wondering if there could be enough grace to sustain me, much less to bring good or glory from the situation. Ruth 2 particularly called me on the carpet for functioning as if I held more information than I did. The glowing underbelly of that truth is that acknowledging that God has more inside information than I do prompts me to put down my burden stones for God to use as altar stones. Yes, I rationally understood that God knew more than I did, but my life choices did not reflect it. How often had God answered my unasked questions or provided for my unmet needs before I had strength or nerve to reach out for help? In knowing that God chose to mold and guide my world (even when I was unaware of His tutelage and care), would I seek the courage to step out from the brambles and onto a frequently dusty and uncertain path to see the possibilities for what God knew I could do and be? Would I stop choosing to ask for scraps in the corner and come to the table where I had been invited, but somehow feared to sit?

Contributions to Faith Development

God provided more for Ruth than the bare minimum to survive. Boaz’s actions jolted me into an understanding that I had been living with a charity of God mentality without a fellowship with God mentality. God did not send scraps to a corner for Ruth; he placed Boaz in her life, who invited her to share in his meal at the table, turning labels, assumptions, and exclusions aside. Not stopping there, God saw to it that her provision included protection and additional yield for her labors in the fields. After existing in a survival framework for so many years, this story urged me to set aside previous notions and learn that God offers abundance, not mere survival.

Moving out of a limited Heather perspective and into the larger God perspective frees me to make choices that move toward fulfillment, as Ruth did when leaving all she knew. We lose many things, suffer many wounds, and endure losses, and God still sends fulfillment into our lives. So, I choose to walk toward Him, doing those things that I know to do, deciding to be content. That is not to naively conclude that I am called to be completely satisfied with the situation of the moment, ignoring and avoiding the dissatisfaction inherent in the human state. I do believe this story teaches me to acknowledge that God is in that moment with me, and that this moment is a temporary step on the way to a deeper moment. I need that hope and that reminder during life seasons that crush and oppress. I also need that strength to see beyond my own perspective.

Effects on Practice of the Christian Life

Ruth’s story bold print italicized the importance of trusting God as an ongoing, daily event rather than a one time or occasional faith leap. The trusting day by day keeps my arms open for God to touch them – and for me to be particularly aware of that touch. Though trust in God’s provision reverberates through Scripture, Ruth brought it to me in such a way that I could comprehend God’s joy in giving, and marvel at how He incorporates those who love Him into that process. Accepting help historically caused me actual physical pain, because I believed that it showed weakness and ineptitude.

Ruth was a catalyst for dealing with my pride issues, as well as dealing with the tender places in need of healing that they masked. Strength is not defined by self-sufficiency, but by standing in truth even when the truth does not present me to the world in ways my pride prefers. What tremendous freedom! God’s stance as the Great I Am calls me to learn to be the lower case representation of that same spirit, connected by the very esse of a still actively “being” Creator.

Jumping on Water

December 2, 2008

Part of my mind drifted during a meeting tonight, a chain reactor series-esque leaping from thought to thought. A good moment in a sermon ignites a thought, and bang! I am an “intuitive processor,” so frequently arrive at places without knowing all of the steps that it took me to get there. Increasing the fun factor is my inability to turn off my analyzer.

Part of my mind generally spends time watching what my spirit would look like if the spiritual event were to occur here in the regular old stratosphere, and in its freedom my spirit does some wildly funny and endearing stuff. I’ll bring her over sometime.

Bent forward with my eyes closed, I listened to the message a neighboring district superintendent brought, puzzling in a thankful way for coming into a conversational kind of closeness with Christ. We converse a lot, an ongoing, lifestyle style of chatting. We’re comfortable enough that He has zero problem interrupting me mid-thought, repeatedly interrupting if I’m having a stubborn day. I dig that kind of truthfulness.

Water images make up much of my prayer picture life lately, and this continued the theme. I watched my spirit (who runs around in a lovely but very dirty dress with the long, curly unbrushed hair of an adventurous 5-year-old). Her hands were clasped behind her back, as she leaned ever so slightly forward, swaying back and forth with each heavy step as if she were a very heavy and sulky elephant. She was analyzing, trying to retroactively identify the steps that brought her down this path far from home. She was thinking so hard that what actually surrounded her failed to register. She stopped…looked down between her feet…and her mouth fell open. The standard path veered off around a bend, but her path led her directly into the water. Except that her feet were on the water, not in it. No movement. Nary a twitch. Energy built up to volcanic levels, but she hesitated to cease marveling at her situation.

For a few seconds anyway. And then, she got it! It was not the steps that mattered so much; it was the conversation with Christ. A simple act of “being.” Being with Him, seeking Him, she forgot to focus on the steps so her life just flowed right into the realm of miraculous. Her head still bent forward, a smile crept (and kept on creeping for a good ways) across her face. And she jumped, still watching the water. Only now, there were ripples. She jumped, watching the ripples move farther and farther with each jump, laughing, “Look! Just look at that!”

Rain began to dribble down. She tossed that smile up to the sky, arms overhead to touch the rain on its way down and laughed again, “Look what you were doing when I wasn’t looking! I had no idea you could do all that while we were just talking!”

Precisely.

Perspective from the Big Forever: Romans 8:15

November 11, 2008

We’re going to talk about perspective in a minute, but first I want read through a passage from Romans 8:1-17 (excerpted) from The Message Translation. I got so excited when reading it that I had to share it with you. It’s gorgeous.

1-2Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

3-4God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. …

And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. …

12-14. … God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15-17This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.

There’s one particular verse that I want to look at more closely, and you may be more familiar with it in the NASB translation. It’s Roman’s 8:15.

15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”

The word translated here as “received” denotes action in its original context — to lay hold of, to take with the hand, to take up to carry, to take & make for one’s own. They all have active participation! Yes, there is still the meaning of giving, but there is active involvement in the receiving, a reaching out and claiming for ourselves. We put out our hands and touch that spirit we are going to receive, and sometimes we’ve taken hold of the one that was not intended for us to hold.

Do we sometimes lack proper perspective and take hold of fear as our inheritance instead of adoption? If you fight the same temptation I do, maybe you’ve grabbed fear around the neck a few times and kept staring it in the face so it didn’t get away and go somewhere you couldn’t see what it was up to. Staring at the fear can be a great and wonderful thing so we know what’s going on, but if we get stuck there, stuck where we only see that and lose perspective of the larger part of things, that is not so great and wonderful. I don’t always do that, but sometimes things come up that get me wrapped around the altar & I know I need God to give me a new perspective — to back me up and show me the world through the eyes of Christ instead of my own.

He can be very personal in this process. I’ve had some perspective shifts that absolutely assaulted my pride, and then showed a larger picture that was filled with grace. That was exactly what needed to happen, and I think that was exactly the point. But it was some reality check.

For example: I saw a blueberry. God saw a seed to be planted. I had to see myself as much smaller, and not nearly as far along in growth.

FEAR

Sometimes we let that spirit of fear affect how we see and define ourselves. God sees His adopted children as seeds of possibility, as new creations in Christ. How will we to choose to see ourselves in light of that? Still through the fears?

Or will we put down the lens of fear and see ourselves as the seed? Smaller. Small enough for the winds of the Spirit to blow over us and cause us to be moved to a different place? Do we leave behind the places of pride, control, and comfort inherent in our fear state? Do we step out for the riskier places of trust and patience? Do we choose the perspective of the finished fruit of human limitation or the sacred seed not yet planted?

INSTEAD OF FEAR, WE CAN LAY OUR HANDS ON OUR ADOPTION:

We can step forward into a new identity in Christ.

We can be humble enough to see all that went before & begin a process of new growth, knowing dirt may be tossed on our heads and the grace waters coming in to stimulate new growth are probably going to uncover things that we may not want to see. Can we forego who WE THINK we are and strive to be who GODKNOWS we are able to be? Will we trust Him to plant us in the good soil? He will. Jesus loved His privilege as the intimate Son of God the Father into each of us through the Holy Spirit, giving us the right to cry out, Daddy, to God who wants to communicate with us.

We cry out Abba, Father! In Jewish society, Abba was not a casual thing at all, but a very, very intimate term of endearment that also denoted privilege because of how close a relationship would have to be for this to be appropriate.

Holman Bible Dictionary touches on the customs, explaining the offense that using this title inappropriately could cause. Using this term when not really that close to someone was the utmost display of arrogance and presumption. — And yet, THIS is how our Jesus teaches us to view our relationship with God.

Will we trust enough to be that fledgling plant — vulnerable, reaching up, and growing in the possibility found in grace granted to us in Christ Jesus?

Growth possibilities from God’s perspective are big. God has the perspective of the Big Forever, because He is the Big Forever. Because He is the beginning and end, the Owner of all minutes, you can point to any one of yours, whether it’s a past, present or future minute, and He will tell you, HERE I AM. He has the power to be inside and outside of every single minute with you — if you’re crying, mourning, frightened, excited, celebrating, or so happy you can hardly stay in your skin. He’s there… whispering, HERE I AM. Will you dare to listen?