Jun 28, 2011

From Resentment to Gratitude

I've been trying to post on this blog for about two weeks. However, my computer wouldn't let me sign-in. Alas, someone from computer services helped me out today. Do forgive my lapse.

At the beginning of this month I realized something was quite wrong with my soul; I couldn't figure it out though. It was nearly 11 p.m. one night when I said to Shawn, "My soul is sick and I am not sure why." Before I went to bed, I reread a portion from a collection of Henri Nouwen's works in the book Spiritual Formation (with Michal J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird).

God used Nouwen to cut me to the quick. I discovered that I was full of latent resentment. Frankly, I didn't know it. But resentment seepage was making its way through my soul, spreading like a cancer. I was aghast at my condition. I had been blind to it. Aren't we all blind to things in ourselves? Of course we are.

So, I began confessing every conceivable thing that I was resentful for. After initially realizing that I was full of resentment, it didn't take me long to start identifying what I was resentful about. Then--Purification. Cleansing.

I also confessed this resentment to my husband Shawn and some spiritual friends, and another lady that serves as sort of a spiritual director. Sometimes we're the last to know what is wrong. But I could tell I was off because internally, I had a critical spirit about several things. Granted, other people do feel the same way I do about these situations that were agitating my spirit, but that doesn't give me an excuse to let particular circumstances rule over me.

I was internally agitated and fuming. The Lord reminded me that if I was to be blameless in such a corrupt generation then I couldn't make a habit of complaining--even internally. But let me not kid myself, my complaints were surfacing more and more frequently sort of like a previously dormant but now active volcano. I was spewing volcanic ashes of complaints to a select few; it wasn't long though before my resentment would poison not only me but those around me. It had to stop.

That's why my soul was sick.

Thankfully, the Lord showed me what the problem was after I had implored him. Since then, I've been thanking him full-throttle for everything I can think of. I am seeking to find the grace in the difficult circumstances, circumstances that fuel my resentment. I can't get into detail here about what they are because of confidentiality. That's probably good; there's really no need to rehash them. I thank God instead of fume the moment I feel any resentment rising. It has set me free. The burden has lifted and I wish the same for you should you find yourself full of resentment.

Jun 14, 2011

They Always Say It's The Little Things

I've been away for nearly two weeks. I've had little access to the internet. I don't own a laptop, so I am dependent on the availability of the internet and of time wherever I am staying. But it has been a good two weeks. In Rochester, NY I conducted a workshop on writing as the mission of God in the world at Northeastern Seminary's Annual Conference on Ministry. Andy Crouch, who wrote Culture Making, was the plenary speaker. He was fantastic, genuine, and knowledgable.

While there, we visited our friends (who are indeed family). I certainly cannot thank God enough for the role that the body of Christ at Rochester Christian Reformed Church has played, and continues to play, in our life. They are our mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and children. 

As we left Rochester, we headed west to Toledo, Ohio to visit my husband's family. We stayed briefly. Just over night, for we were headed northwest to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a wedding. It was beautiful wedding. Our daughter was the flower girl.

We arrived home late this afternoon. Daddy and daughter nap while I catch up and offer some thoughts. I will soon have to wake them for dinner.

On the way home today, I was thinking again about how much little things matter. And isn't the seemingly little things, the things we must do on a daily basis and that our lives are made up of, the hardest? For example, I am to love my the members of my family every day in the little things. Suppose that day after day I don't do that. What role do I then have in the destruction of my daughter's and husband's life? If I don't love them on a daily basis, it'll add up to not loving them throughout my life. Instead of offering them life, I offer them death.

Daily love or lack of love adds up.

Now, I am not responsible for what they do with my love--they could reject it.  However, I am responsible to God for doing my utmost to love them.

I fall short. Yes, I do. But, I need to beg God for the grace and the strength to love them. Then I have to decide to love them in his grace and strength.

It's not only love though. Things like exercise and eating right either add up for the good or the bad.  The little decisions we make every day about whether to eat right or to exercise add up.

Doing our work well or abysmally every day adds up. So does treating others well or harshly.

Daily communing with our Lord or not communing adds up.

I am not saying anything new; I am just reminding myself and whoever happens to glance at these words of the truth of these matters.

How often do we wish to take a vacation from the mundane because it all seems so meaningless?

Yet, it is in loving God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds in the every day details of our lives that makes holy lives--saints.

I think of the lyrics from the song Day by Day:

Day by day

Day by day

Oh Dear Lord

Three things I pray

To see thee more clearly

Love thee more dearly

Follow thee more nearly

Day by day

O Dear Lord! Have mercy on us sinners! Give us strength to love you in the details of our days. Forgive us for loving ourselves and for loving ease. It's in your name, Jesus, that we pray. Amen.

Jun 8, 2011

Would Jesus Throw Up If He Came Back?

I am on vacation. This is a repost from one of my favorite quotes from Buechner.

"There is the slow poisoning of what we call 'the environment' of all things, as if with that antiseptic term we can conceal from ourselves that what we are really poisoning is our home. It is no wonder that the books and newspapers we read, the movies and TV we watch, are obssessed with the dark and the demonic, are full of death and violence. It is as if the reason we wallow in them is that they keep our minds off the real death, the real violence. And God knows the Christian faith has its darkness and demons too, so discredited by religious crooks and phonies, so distorted for political purposes, and in thousands of respectable pulpits proclaimed so blandly and shallowly and without passion, that you wonder sometimes not only if it will survive but even if it deserves to survive. As a character in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters puts it, 'If Jesus came back and saw what was going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up.'"

Frederick Buechner

Jun 1, 2011

God's Joy

One of my favorite excerpts from the Divine Conspiracy. Such freeing truth found here:

"We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtedly he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseperable from his infinite joy. All of the good and the beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilirating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness . . . . Great tidal waves of joy must wash through his being . . . . Now, Jesus himself was and is a joyous, creative person. He does not allow us to continue thinking of our Father who fills and overflows space as a morose and miserable monarch, a frustrated and petty parent, or a policeman on the prowl . . . . So we must understand that God does not 'love' us without liking us--through gritted teeth--as 'Christian' love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all of his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core--which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word love."

~ Dallas Willard in the Divine Conspiracy pp.62, 63, 64