Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rose Colored Lenses

[New look...I'm indecisive. It's late so I'll have to finish adding nick-nacks and updating in the morning...]

I had sort of a lazy day today. Normally that would sort of bug me, but I've been traveling a lot lately, and just got in from a trip home last night, so I just embraced the laziness for most of the day. :) I had to get my car inspected back in NC, and I wasn't expecting to have the amazing time that I did. Lots of meaningful conversations and deep friendships made deeper. God is good.

Recently I've been reading a lot in Exodus (no this isn't that other post being resurrected quite yet) and something in chapter 14 reminded me of a concept that my bible study leader last semester, Kelly Minter, brought up in her book that we studied titled No Other Gods. I have this strange feeling that I'm going to butcher this post, so I trust the Lord to do with it what He may in someone's day, because I guarantee you if you get anything from it, it did not come from my checked-out brain.
I know a few of you are familiar with this study (NOGS) either from my previous post or other bloggers, and some of you have done it or are currently. If it makes any difference to those of you thinking of looking into doing it, NOGS was extremely helpful and one of the most timely studies I've ever done. All 5 of us girls that were in the study are all in about the same season of life, and we all got something different from it because it is so specific to each individual and digging into your own walk with the Lord and the idols specific to you. Sorry I'm rambling...ok I like the study. Moving on. :)

Exodus 14. Moses is high-tailing it out of Egypt with the Israelites who are anxiously awaiting their every move. This is the famous parting of the red sea (or tomato soup if you're Bruce Almighty) chapter, but the part I wanted to tell you about is right before that Campbells miracle.

"As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians that to die in the desert."

Anybody ever asked for a death wish in thinking that it would be better to go back to a past that was more destructive than it's worth? Maybe not intentionally (and I don't mean death wish as harsh as that came out), but I'm sure we've all been there. Wishing for days that we just knew would make us happy again, maybe because they were more comfortable. "I'm tired of waiting...just take me back there where I knew how to 'do life'." A harmful or abusive relationship. A life with addictions of any kind. A place that seems easier to sink into and grow "numb" in, rather than pick yourself up and walk out of. We like to conveniently forget all those moments of pain and loss, of hurt and sorrow, and only remember the very few, if any, pleasant moments--as if those handful of smiles would be enough to carry us through a lifetime of regret. (I think that was a run-on.) I've been dealing with this in an area of my own here recently. Longing for a time when a superficial blanket of security, draped on by others opinions and acceptance, sustained my belief in myself and God's ability to use me. So much wrong in that sentence I'm not sure I could tackle it in one post if I wanted. Doubt. Self Loathing. Wallowing. Self-destruction. Lies. Insecurity. Loneliness. Fear. So much fear.

Why on earth with a description list like that would I voluntarily choose to think about taking a trip down memory lane? Because a part of me, no matter how twisted and destructive the rest of me was, liked who people thought I was. Happy. Together. Confident. Not at all struggling with the Lord. Sure of my purpose. I, however, was none of those things. I now find myself in much more of an honest place--secure in who I am because of Christ--and humbled by the ways He is using me despite the corner of the blanket I still try to utilize from time to time. So why the need to go back through an old role of film? Because I'm being challenged. I am out of my comfort zone and it is scary not to know what the future holds. I've been led to a new place and told to wait on some things. Waiting is hard. Really hard. Especially when the world around you promises a million replacements for your prize if you'll just allow yourself the distraction of a temporary pleasure fix. Something to make you feel ok about yourself in the meantime. And then it happens. You look over your shoulder to a time when the temporary at least felt secure, and the ugly fades away. Rose Colored Lenses.

The Israelites are needing some assurance that where they are going is better than where they've been. And so far, they are not convinced. "It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the dessert!" (14:12) They are somehow sure that abandonment is around the corner, not willing to trust the lighted step that is under their feet. They would rather live in slavery than trust the One that is leading them to freedom. I love the next part. "Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." (14:13-14)

So much in these two verses..
**Do not be afraid. God is not out to get you. He is goodness. And He will prevail.
**Stand firm--If we keep our face set upon the Lord (Isaiah 50:7) we will not be put to shame.
**Deliverance. If you notice, when the Lord promises to bring the people OUT, it is matched by His invitation to come IN. He will not bring you out and leave you. But He won't make you follow the rest of the way. It is your choice. Hold tight long enough for Him to do His thing.
**And did you read the rest?

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."

I'll not comment on that last verse let it speak to you how it may. Cause it shouted at me.

Some goodbyes are meant to be a good thing. When God moves you on from something that is holding you captive, that is a good goodbye. Don't fall into the deception that you are missing out on something that was once there. If you say goodbye externally, make sure your heart doesn't remain attached to a memory that will prove empty or deceitful once you cross the red sea. Don't waste your grief and sadness over things that don't need to be mourned. Girlfriend, practice your princess wave and walk into newness with delight. Reclaim that ground that was taken from you and embrace your freedom with confidence and a dose of humility.

God is good, all the time. And all the time...GOD IS GOOD. :o)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Misfit Returns

So I’ve sort of had a blog fast for a while. My bad. But honestly, it has done me some good. Quite a lot has happened while I’ve been away. Here’s a quick recap before we get too serious. :)
(1) Dropped my phone in my coffee cup. Dead. Got old phone reactivated.
(2) Almost got eaten by a camel. Will post picture later.
(3) Spilled coffee in my white purse. Now borrowing roommates until I can afford another something to carry my wallet…and 135000 other unnecessary things.
(4) Watched a lot of bad performances on American Idol, and some even worse group singing. Very happy they are in the top 12 now. (Or however many there are left.)
(5) Saw Carrie Underwood at Walgreens last Wednesday night. So random. Yes, she really is that pretty. Hate her. (Ok I don’t.)
(6) Remembered my love of banana flavored things. Weird.
(7) Bought a card at Hallmark for my husband-to-be. No, I’m not engaged, dating anyone, or even close to any of those things. That makes the 3rd card I have bought him. Yep, I have a ‘him’ box.
(8) Almost bought a Dora the Explorer coloring book. For myself.
(9) Gotten reacquainted with my Pilates DVDs. Sort of.

(Sorry I can’t think of a 10th.)

Ever go through those seasons where you fee like so much is being thrown at you and you only have so many arms to play catch? I don’t mean experiencing multiple tragedies or being kicked when you’re already down. (Although we’ve all been there, done that, and don’t wish to repeat.) I just mean…lessons, enlightenment, realizations, the rebirth of gratitude, being stretched, understanding…PEACE. Lately I’ve been in one such season. Most days that I sit down to write a post, I don’t do it all at one time. I’ll write some, go do something, come back and read through what I wrote, maybe add a little more…you get the idea. But with everything I’ve been taking in recently, I’ve found it hard to even complete a thought. (Then when I do, Blogger erases it and it takes me 2 more weeks to post. Grrr.) Every time I get a part of something down, I decide to write about something else instead. (Clearly this is a masterpiece already…oh geeze.)

When I was in college a girl friend of mine and I would have coffee dates often just to talk about life and be REAL for a bit. It’s funny you think people get out of all that silly trying-to-be-someone-you’re-not stuff after high school, and you go on with life and there it still is. This friend and I had a way of keeping one another on the ground and intentionally dealing with and talking through issues that we had. One time in particular she looked at me and said,

“Abby, do you feel like you fit in here?...
(Long pause…me trying to figure out if she was about to break the news to me that I didn’t because I was weird or something…)
….Cause I don’t feel like I do.”

And something about the look on her face made me know exactly what she meant without her saying another word.

“I know what you mean…and I don’t either.”

That was the first time that with the words of both our hearts, we sort of understood that Christian phrase often used, “we were not made for here.” I never really got what that meant when I was younger. I knew that I was going to live in heaven one day, but I couldn’t really grasp the idea around the rest of it.

I’m starting to get it. We were not made for here. Not for the violence, the hatred…the sin, the shame, the guilt…the crimes, the murders, the stealing…the sadness, the separation, the darkness...We were not made for here. Something that I have been blown away by these last 8 months is the GOODNESS of God’s character. God is good. Not just God acts good, or God does good…He IS goodness. He IS love. The very definition of. For a lot of people, their current circumstance tends to determine the beauty and attractiveness of their character in another’s eyes. (I mean, we all have our days.) But His character is always good…and constantly better as we grow deeper and learn to perceive Him in new ways and through an experienced, more seasoned eye.

Simple as it is, one of my most favorite things I’ve ever heard said is, “God isn’t just a big us.” He’s not just some over-sized human sitting up there playing boss. He isn’t messed up. He doesn’t have a dark side, and He is not out to get us. We were meant to live in perfection with Christ. And things took an ugly turn a while back right around a certain apple-producing tree. We were not created with the intention of being manipulated and tortured by life, though that is the reality that much of the world finds itself in now—a place we’ve all felt on certain days. A few such instances have really hit home to me here recently.

The first was the death of Eve Carson, the student body president at UNC-Chapel Hill, where I graduated from last May. Eve’s car was hijacked, and she was shot multiple times; her lifeless body left on the side of the road to die. Innocence stolen from the very ground I walked on for 4 years. That could have been me. Why, is the only word that comes to mind in situations like that. Why did those men need that car so bad to have to steal it from a girl who had a lifetime of plans ahead of her. And even if they took the car, why did they have to kill her? What harm was she to their world?

The second story that would have knocked me to the ground had I not already been sitting when my roommate told me, was that of a young 20-something girl who attends Belmont University. Not two weeks ago, this young woman received a phone call that would change her life forever. There was a fire in her house back home and everything she owned is now a pile of ashes. All that is hers is what is with her at school. And what is worse…the second part of that conversation where she found out that her parents were home at the time of the fire, and they didn’t make it out. Thankfully her younger sister, about to finish her senior year of high school, wasn’t home at the time. But can you imagine that phone call? Just gone to a friends house, and the next thing you know literally all you have in the world are the clothes on your back.

There are countless others. People who are killed by cancer, and other diseases. Children orphaned by their parents choice. Drug and alcohol addictions that twist and shred minds and bodies daily. Kidnappings. Thieves. Child abusers. And a multitude of other horrible, unimaginable things happening to people all over the world. Everything can be fine, and then like a really bad magician, the table cloth gets pulled out from under you and everything in your world appears shattered.

How in the world do we get up in the morning? Because of this weekend. Because of today. Because the one thing that could have separated us from a loved one for eternity was conquered by Jesus Christ. “The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” (Matthew 28:6) Sin has lost its power. Death has lost its sting. We grieve lost ones, as we absolutely should. But we grieve with hope, because we know their story isn’t over.
HE. IS. ALIVE. And He is coming back for us. That truth has never been made more real to me than in the last few weeks. Those days when I struggle to understand the foreign images of violence and hatred around me, it is nearly all I cling to stay afloat. I am daily learning to embrace my “misfit” feelings and allow them to serve as a constant reminder of my purpose on this earth. Ultimately, our citizenship is in heaven, and I can not wait to get there. But we are also called right here, right NOW—to live in the world, but not be a product of it. You are His, and not a thing in this world can keep you from Him, except yourself. This is only the beginning. We’ve an eternity of praise ahead of us, and I have found that in the moments I am struggling most, if I’ve the strength to raise my eyes and gaze at His…love has never looked more beautiful.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to a song by one of my most favorite artist, inspired by part of a C.S. Lewis quote. Keep clinging to Him…and hope you’re having a marvelous Easter. :)

“The C.S. Lewis Song” (Brooke Fraser)
If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary
then of course I'll feel nude when to where I'm destined I'm compared

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan
As I wait for Hope to come for me

Am I lost or just less found on the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way
Is this a soul that stirs in me, is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?
Cause my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan
As I wait for Hope to come for me

We are not long here
Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it
And I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know you

Hope is coming for me
Hope, He's coming...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

False Alarm

I just spent the last 2 days writing a 3-page, single-spaced post/word doc that I was actually quite proud of...that blogger is now saying does not exist.

I'm sorry...WHAT.
Oh. My. Goodness. Upset much? Understatement of the century.
I shall return when the color in my face isn't red and silently screaming angry words at the computer screen.

(And wasn't saved as a word document on my computer so my enormous supply [more like a thought or two] of documented knowledge on the first 9 chapters of Exodus is now lost in internet land forever. If I have the patience later, I'll shall try once more to enlighten you with my two syllable words and over-use of parenthesis...But I will not be happy about it.)

I do miss you.