Knowing and Being Known

Having recently moved, I've been working to form new friendships with my new acquaintances. Within the church, this means becoming friends with people who are already my sisters. One thing I've found awkward in the small group setting is that the intimacy shared may not be proportional to the intimacy of your actual relationship with the other person. We are sisters, but we are strangers. As sisters, we share about our hurts, habits, and hangups as we go through a curriculum, but we've also only known each other for a few weeks, seeing each other briefly on Sunday morning and having meetings on Wednesday night. Of course, the only way around this is to meet up outside of these times. Go out for coffee or lunch and just chat. To actually get to know one another and to be known by one another.

I think it's the same way with God. He's our Father, Savior, and Friend...but sometimes he might also be a stranger to us. None of this is his fault, but rather we hold back our lives or parts of our lives from him. And then we turn around and tell him about our hurts, habits, and hangups every so often. Some realize this disproportionality and simply stop communicating with God across the board, rationalizing that "He doesn't care about my small problems anyway." But my encouragement is to continue to go to God more. He has stood at the door of your heart and knocked, and you have allowed him to come in. He's already inside -- he already "abides" -- in the house of your soul. He extends his arm toward you as the vine, if only you as the branch would abide in you as well.

Meet him more often than Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. Know Him and be known by Him.

Dust and Moth Destroyed

Photographer: Lucretious of Stock Xchng

Text: Blaise Pascal, HT The Resurgence

The Story of Blue Like Jazz the Movie

"Blue Like Jazz" was the second book to change my life in the way that I viewed God and the world. ("Desiring God" was the first.) Now, those who love the book have the opportunity to make movie history by becoming part of the Save Blue Like Jazz campaign and be a part of producing the first American film to be crowd-sourced. If you enjoyed the book's raw "non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality" I would encourage you to participate, so others may be blessed as well.

The Story of Blue Like Jazz the Movie

Poetry Mashup

Photographer: Nils Van Rooijen of flickr under CC2.0. This new work is released under a similar CC3.0 license.

Text: What Frost, Thoreau*, Dickenson, Eliot, and Levertov would say if they went on a walk together.

*Note: I don't actually like Thoreau all that much, but you're not allowed to mention walking in a forest without mentioning him. Also, to anyone who thinks I overdid it with the mashup, my original draft mentioned two roads, one with leaves no step had trodden back. This is actually my edited-down version.

Questions Week: What mistakes do you wish you could take back?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

What makes you poor? What makes your mourn? What mistakes have you made that you wish you didn’t?

I think there’s a pull within Christian culture to either deny our poverty and pretend everything is OK or to deeply mourn our brokenness before God without ever accepting His comfort. Both are equally sinful and both are equally selfish. Both place our works and performance above God’s righteous decree: I will love you. By my stripes you are healed. It is for freedom that you have been set free. There is therefore no more condemnation for those who are in Me. You have been saved by grace, not by works, so that no one may boast.

I’ve done both of these. I’ve had my everything-is-fine-praise-God church face. And I’ve also had my woe-is-me-I-am-of-but-dust-and-to-dust-I-will-return pity party moments. But both these attitudes focus on ME and MY situation and what I have done.

But really, the Gospel is this: Christ died while we were still sinners. 1) We are sinners! We are poor, and we mourn our sorry state. 2) Christ died for us! He knows how we are, and He restores us and heals us and forgives us and brings us into His family.

He gives us the Kingdom of God; it is ours to inherit. He comes to comfort, if we will cast our cares upon Him.

What do you wish you could take back? Will you take it to Christ instead?

Questions week: The Fray

Do you walk above the fray?

This past Sunday when preaching on the Beatitudes, our pastor mentioned that God lifts us above the fray of life, that things can be tough, but God shelters us from it.

Personally, this has not been my experience.

Yes, God helps in times of need. He has never abandoned nor forsaken me. And he never will. But I have never been lifted above the fray. I have always been very much in it. I have felt every blow, every hurt, and every pain. However, God has been with me through all this, and He has sustained me and encouraged me and healed me (though the scars remain.) This isn't to say that I will always be in the fray or that God never lifts us above it. I am merely conveying my personal experience up to this point.

A few posts back, I referred to a Denise Levertov poem. I love her poetry because she speaks with a frankness about human suffering and God's comfort. Here are a few lines from her poem "Suspended."

I had grasped
God’s garment in the void
but my hand slipped
on the rich silk of it

I have not plummeted

I love this quote because sometimes, God doesn't lift us above the fray, but he doesn't let us plummet, either. We are suspended by His grace, whether we feel His embrace or not. Even if we cannot grasp His cloak in the crowd or understand the richness of it, He is there.

What has your experience been when suffering? Did God lift you above the fray? Did He let you experience it, but also suspended you and kept you afloat by His grace? Is "How to Save a Life" as stuck in your head as it is in mine right now?

Questions Week: What would you like to change?

What would you like to change about yourself?

I certainly know what I should change about myself. I should want to be more godly, more discerning, more self-controlled. I should want to become more loving and meek, service-oriented and hospitable. I should want to be more humble. And these are things I legitimately want. But they aren't the first things that come to mind.

When the pastor asked us Sunday morning what we would like to change (a question that I've heard posed hundreds of times), do you know what my gut reaction was? I want to know the future. I want to control the future. Specifically, I want to know my personal destination and control how I get there. In other words, I want to be God.

Well, glad we got that out in the open. To be sure, this isn't normally my knee-jerk reaction. I would normally say one of the first responses I listed (and sincerely mean it.) It's just that yesterday my career path seemed to become a bit muddled. Things didn't turn out the way I wanted or expected or hoped. And I was a bit confused. And in that confusion, I wanted answers. And to be honest, I wanted to be God.

For the record, wanting to be God- bad idea. Really bad idea. Like Lucifer-bad. Like introducing death to an entire planet and countless generations of people- bad.

And I've since repented. And instead of wanting to control the world and re-make it in my image and wanting to know all the answers, I've since understood that being God is not my place in the universe. I know my place. All man is like grass, the wind blows over it, and it is gone. I don't know the number of hairs on my head or the days of my life. I can make plans for tomorrow and say to myself, "I will go here" or "I will do business there," but really, in the end, all control is illusory. However, I know the Person who IS in control and who DOES have a plan. I just need to acknowledge Him in all my ways, and He will make my paths straight. That's how I want to change.

What would you like to change about yourself, really? Or what desires of yours did you realize were actually sinful ones? Or, simply, how has God changed you?

Wholistic Being

Being Stewards

As God's chosen people, we have been created to do good works which God has chosen and equipped us to do. What we do with that equipment is called "stewardship." We are to be good stewards of our money, for instance, and remember that the money we have is not ours but God's. The way we use our money indicates where our hearts are.

Stewardship of ourselves

The same, however, can be said of stewardship of ourselves. Who are we? We consist of our mind, body, and spirit. Christianity and spirituality obviously address the "spirit" part. but what about the rest? Often, I feel myself neglecting one or two of these to work on the other. I spend time at church worshiping or in the library studying, but I don't go to the gym. Or I'll study and exercise but neglect serving others. Or I'll be SO busy serving others and neglect my studies.

However, when one area falls, so do the others. If you don't sleep and take care of your body, you won't have enough energy to to handle your school /work duties, and you definitely won't have enough energy to be serving the church. (I know I've been using "serving the church" as a substitute for spirituality here. I'm using it because it's an outward indicator of an inward attitude, though don't take this to mean that the indicator is necessarily right.) Or if you neglect your personal spiritual disciplines, you'll probably end up more frustrated and more grumpy and less focused on work and school. Or if you aren't on top of your school and work duties, you'll be frustrated and stressed, and these emotions can easily effect your spirituality.

Juggling is bad

I think the first thing to do is realize that all of these things are linked. And they're all YOU. YOU are your mind, your body, and your spirit. The second thing to realize is that you need God. God isn't just for the "spirituality" part of your life, but He is for every part of your life. Not only does He provide "for" every part, but He wants to be "in" every part. If you study or do your work for the glory of God, then you'll want to do your best, and He'll enable you to do so. If you take care of your body and eat well and exercise for the glory of God, then again, you will see health and growth in this area. And, of course, if you seek God with all your heart, soul, and mind, the spiritual part of you will flourish as you abide in Christ and He in you.

Final Note

I also want to recognize that some people live with impairments. Some are intellectually challenged. Others deal with physical ailments. These conditions take time to address and should be discussed separately, but I did also want to acknowledge that such limitations exist. However, regardless of where one is- intellectually, physically, spiritually, no one is ever outside of God's reach or outside of God's power. God meets us where we are and transforms us into the people we need to be. So let that be a lesson for us this week.

To live is Christ, and this encompasses ALL areas of living, as we are living sacrifices as our act of spiritual worship.

Random notes to my readers:
I finally caved in to the pressure and got a Twitter account. I already decided that I won't use it to post the mundane details of my life (after all, that's what FB is for.) Instead, I'll be using it to RT or reply to other Twitter-ers in the Christian circles I run in (mostly the young, restless, and reformed circle, in case you haven't been able to tell yet.) I'll also be posting original (or semi-original) thoughts of my own as an extension of this blog. If you're interested, you can follow me on jo_of_tsn, and the hashtag I'm using for this blog is #threestarnight.

A Tribute to Mr. Moth

Photographer: danmachold of flickr under CC2.0. This new work is released under a similar CC3.0 license.

Note: I apologize for the image not working on Monday. The trouble was with imageshack because it would only work sporadically, but I switched image hosting sites, and it seems to be working now. Special thanks to Emily for pointing the problem out.

Singing: Not my Gift, Spiritual or Otherwise


Photographer: savioseb of flirckr under CC2.0.

1) Yay thumbnails.  Click to enlarge.
2) This happens a lot more when you switch churches.  Also awkward: when you think the leader will go low and you go high instead, and you're the ONLY ONE going high.  These two situations happened to me about 10 times in 15 minutes of worship yesterday.
3) I'm going to drop off the "does not suggest endorsement of the new work" part of my credit blurbs.  I'm linking the CC, which should be enough.  From here on out, just take it that none of the photographers or people pictured in the photos endorse my work.

God is Missing

The reason why the blogging schedule has been a bit wonky lately is because I've been a bit wonky lately.  It seems like there has simply been too much jostling for my attention.  This excerpt from a Levertov poem comes to mind

Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.

However, it's not that I've been ignoring God entirely.  It's been much more subtle than that.  I'll ask myself: how can I glorify God in law school?  Answer:  Study to the best of my ability.  Or how can I glorify God in my relationships?  Answer:  Get to know the people around me, love, and serve them.  And then I try to do these things, but inevitably I'll fail because doing everything to the best of your ability, while admirable, is also tiring.  And when you're tired, it's hard to love and serve others.  And when you fail at stuff, you don't feel very good about it.

 However, though I wanted to glorify God in my actions, do you realize what is missing?  God.  I've been wanting to do these things for God instead of with God.  I tried to do everything using my own power and didn't get very far.  My cup ran dry, but I didn't go to the one who overflows it in the midst of my enemies and my "courtiers" alike.

This is a very basic Christian-living concept.  But isn't it the basics that are the easiest to ignore?  Have you been doing things for God or with Him this past week?

Goldengrove and Sorrow's Springs

Photographer: jesuino of stock.xchng

Text/ Title: Based partly on Spring and Fall: to a young child, one of my favorite poems

Expectations, Fractures, and Fractals

Photographer: Barabeke of flickr under CC2.0, and this new work is hereby released under a similar CC3.0 license.

For future reference: Looking through pages of fractals at 2 in the morning can make you really dizzy...
Also, I'm sorry for the lack of posting on Friday.  I meant to do a "Part 2" for "Easy A," but I got involved in a couple of epically long conversations that started on my Facebook wall.  Thanks for your understanding.