November 21, 2011

Free Falling

Embrace the Chaos
Photo courtesy of Darkvstar's Blog

I left you in a free fall off the cliff I leaped from awhile back. Meanwhile, I have met the angels who were just beyond my view to slow my descent into the valley of promise. Who knew when I jumped off that cliff that I had a million tiny parachutes filled with good news strapped to my back to soften my fall? I could actually get used to taking such big risks.

Which leads me directly to one of the obstacles I've run into in the task of taking you along for the ride. I have been contemplating why it has been harder for me to write about good news than it is to write about bad news.

If there's something bad to write about, I have no doubt there will be plenty of people to empathize with, understand, and even learn from my experiences. However, if I write about something good, I fear that others will not be able to relate. It's funny how we can all agree on what makes us sad, but it's a little harder to agree on what makes us happy, what makes us come alive, what thrills us. This seems to be as individual as the DNA within us. Perhaps that is why it is such a challenge to come together in true intimacy and unity.

He will command His angels concerning you.
Photo courtesy of Angela Messenger

By now you know that I'm no lily-livered woman when it comes to sharing my life openly, but I have come to the realization that I'm actually afraid to share my good news with you. So, please bear with me and know that even though it appears as though my family and I are still free falling off the cliff with no hope in sight, there is actually wonderful news waiting to be divulged at the right time and in the right way. Before I can share it, though, I feel I must confess my fears and so let you in on this stage of my journey.

It occurred to me today that risk is something very few people understand. Yes, there will be some who will give a shout out as they read what I consider to be victories. They will celebrate my success because they know it means their success is right around the corner. On the other hand, for every one who will celebrate there may be others who will think I have tested God beyond what is my right.

Some will believe I have unwisely jeopardized the well being of our children in order to press into dreams and visions for the future. Still others may believe I've gone off the deep end and become one of those people who do crazy things just for the thrill of the descent (like a relational bungee jumper). Since I know who I am and Who I am following, I'm not actually too concerned about these objectors.

Free Fall
Photo Courtesy of Transcendent Women

It is actually two other groups of people I am hesitant to face. First, those who will allow fear and envy to keep them from being able to celebrate with me. Already I have experienced some rain on my parade. It's not that I'm afraid of the rain so much as I'm afraid I will begin to accept the rain as right and start taking less risk again just to please them. It sounds silly to me now as I write it, but I have caved in the face of disapproval more times than I'd like to admit.

The second group I tremble before is those who will see my good news and think I'm crazy to call it good. What is good for me might be the worst possible thing they can imagine. I realize now these two groups are two sides of the same coin. I have been a compliant person all my life, always trying to fit in with those around me. Never before have I been one to buck the system and blaze my own trail. I was taught that to agree is to be in unity and to disagree is to be wrong. Though I know now that this is not true (in fact, striving to make others just like us is so impossible that it's not even on God's agenda), tendrils of doubt still creep in when I am faced with a loved one who thinks I'm making a bad choice and just deceiving myself that it's good.

So I am afraid, but I am going to press forward and share with you as I am able. I will let you in on this one piece of good news: Rent is paid through December and will shortly be paid through January. The money landed in our checking account the day before we needed it. We have more food than we know what to do with, the heat is on, the kids are happy, and we are entering this Thanksgiving week with hearts full of gratitude, hope, excitement, faith, and love.

November 5, 2011

The Problem with Idols

Divine Embrace
Photo Courtesy of New Mother, New Earth Night Songs

I'm working on some theories about cultural and religious similarities. As I was studying Buddha, I had a simple yet profound revelation. The problem with forming idols is twofold:

1. They are based on someone else's experience.
2. They distract us from having our own experience.

I'm beginning to think some of the enlightened ones truly were enlightened, that they truly had encounters with God the Father in all of His fullness (Divine Love; Holy Spirit, Father God, Jesus; Allah; YHWH; The One True God; The Unnamed God; etc.). I am also beginning to see a pattern across the nations where en masse we idolize someone else's experience in order to avoid the pain and struggle involved in having our own experiences with Divine Love.

Without this experience of Divine Love, there is no possibility for enlightenment. Enlightenment is simply recognizing that without Divine Love to eclipse our human attempts at love, we will always digress to hatred. There are plenty of myths, legends, and stories in all cultures relating this very concept. Countless literary geniuses on the level of CS Lewis, David Mamet, and whoever wrote all those amazing Greek myths bring this fundamental truth to life.

Photo Courtesy of New Mother, New Earth Night Songs

So many Christians (myself included) have spent a tremendous amount of precious time building walls to keep "outsiders" from encroaching upon our religious views (right, left, fundamental, pentecostal, etc., etc.), and we do this in the name of protecting the innocent, maintaining morality, keeping the peace. Hmm...I don't see much evidence of peace. I see more evidence of people saying peace when there is no peace.

I feel it right now. I feel the rancor rising within you, and I realize I am stepping way out of my comfort zone here with this message. It may even appear to you, my faithful readers, that someone besides Angela is writing these. I promise you, this is me. Raw and full of curiosity and wonder.

More importantly, it is me filled with faith-inspired anger that tells me so many have settled for less than what was promised. So many have bought the lies that religion sells, and we've lived for so long without encountering Divine Love, the only thing that truly sets a person free and gives them purpose and meaning in their life.

Can we all take one giant step back and see that the enemy has crept into every culture? Can we take another giant step back and recognize that germ theory hasn't gotten us anywhere? Can we finally see together that the enemy truly is within each one of us, and he's whispering lies?

Rose Drops
Photo Courtesy of The Alchemical Marriage

Lies like these:


You're no good...you're too good.
You'll never amount to anything...you're all full of yourself and think you're really something special.

No one likes you...they only like you because of what you do for them.
You're too fat, you're too ugly...you're too pretty, you're too skinny.
You're too stupid...you're too smart.

And can we once and for all realize that a price was paid to rescue us from the enemy within us? That price was paid in the name of Divine Love, the love that eclipses all human love and accepts each person at the level their at and then calls them ever higher to reach their unlimited potential.

And then, upon the realization of the great price that was paid for our freedom, can we find the gift of courage planted within us to face the demons within, take authority over them, and evict them forever so that Divine Love can fully inhabit our souls and give powerful life to our spirits? Imagine what kind of peace that would bring.

September 8, 2011

Living with Mystery

Approaching the Unknown
I have a friend, Laura Lavigne, who loves life and art and food. Her primary message is living from essence. In March 2011, when the earthquake hit Japan, she shared a letter from her friend's cousin on her blog.

At the time of her letter, this young woman was living in Sendai, Japan, which was only 80 miles east of the epicenter of the earthquake, prime position for destruction from the tsunami that followed an hour later. Though her village was slightly elevated, protecting it from the worst, the situation was still dire for her village.

The full letter is posted here on Laura's blog. I happened to read that same day a passage in Psalm 18 that gave me pause. There are many things I read in the Bible that give me pause, and I cry out to Him to help me understand His nature, His ways, His mysteries.

Verses That Give Me Pause
(vs. 4-19, God's Word Translation)
"The ropes of death had become tangled around me. The torrents of destruction had overwhelmed me. The ropes of the grave had surrounded me. The clutches of death had confronted me. I called on the Lord in my distress. I cried to my God for help. He heard my voice from his temple, and my cry for help reached his ears.

"Then the earth shook and quaked. Even the foundations of the mountains trembled. They shook violently because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and a raging fire came out of his mouth. Glowing coals flared up from it. He spread apart the heavens and came down with a dark cloud under his feet.

"He rode on one of the angels as he flew, and he soared on the wings of the wind. He made the darkness his hiding place, the dark rain clouds his covering. Out of the brightness in front of him, those rain clouds passed by with hailstones and lightning. The Lord thundered in the heavens. The Most High made his voice heard with hailstones and lightning. He shot his arrows and scattered them. He flashed streaks of lightning and threw them into confusion.

"Then the ocean floor could be seen. The foundations of the earth were laid bare at your stern warning, O Lord, at the blast of the breath from your nostrils. He reached down from high above and took hold of me. He pulled me out of the raging water. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, because they were too strong for me.

"On the day when I faced disaster, they confronted me, but the Lord came to my defense. He brought me to a wide-open place. He rescued me because he was pleased with me."

A Terrible God?
And who is this terrible God who seems to have been credited in this Psalm with causing an earthquake, or maybe a hurricane or a tsunami, with his anger? Doesn't it sound like He's the one we need to be saved from? I know some people believe exactly that.

And I agree with most of these folks when they talk about this god who brings natural disasters upon us without warning to destroy us in his anger. We definitely need rescuing from that god. I refuse to to follow a god who would destroy his people and call it saving them. We need a different god than this one. Do we have hope???

A Subtle & Crucial Difference
There is a subtle but crucial difference between saying I refuse to believe in a god who brings destruction on his people WITHOUT warning and saying that I do believe in the God of the New Testament, who is the same God of the Old Testament who allowed destruction to befall His people many times WITH warning.

The god I believe we need rescuing from is the one who is angry at people for their sin and is set against them because of it. The God of the New Testament is not angry with people for their sin, and He is not set against any person. He is grieved by our sin, but only because it separates us from Him.

People are not going to hell because God is angry with them. They are going to hell because they have not yet heard or believed the Good News of the Gospel, that they don't have to live in hell because Jesus paid the price for their sin.

Hell is separation from our Father God. It is being afraid of God, as though He is a mad and abusive parent waiting to strike us for our wrong thinking, wrong speaking, or wrong acting. Hell is being a slave to the Old Covenant and therefore to the power of sin and death. It's not believing what Jesus Christ did when He paid the penalty for our sin.

I was living in hell for a long time, even I gave my heart to Jesus in Sunday School when I was six. From hell, I was spreading the message of an angry god with my attitudes, with my behavior, and with my words. I no longer choose to partner with the word that brought death.

What is Fear?
Do I fear God? Absolutely. Am I afraid of Him? Absolutely NOT! The great mystery I search out is to understand the difference, write about my journey, and hope that others will begin to understand the difference along with me. We are not our enemy. Fear is our enemy.

David seemed unafraid of the storm. He seemed to think the storm actually caused confusion and problems for his enemies. What did he see that we can't seem to wrap our minds around?

To be truthful, I am beginning to wrap my mind around it, though I don't know if I can yet explain it. I know the God I serve did not send that earthquake and storm, and He did not allow countless people to suffer without a thought. I know that Love would not be so callous.


Laura's Friend Reflects on the Devastation
(Reprinted with permission) And what about Laura's friend in Sendai? Here are some of her thoughts about the devastation:

"But I am very blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend’s home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful."

"During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes....If someone has water running in their home, they put out a sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets....Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often."

"We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group."

"Other unexpected touches of beauty are, first, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled.  The mountains around Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them silhouetted against the sky magnificently."

"And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no."


"Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that is much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent."

Serving the Same God
I can't fully explain how I know this wasn't God, but perhaps it's not mine to explain. It seems to me that our Sendai friend and I serve the same God. It seems as though watching the media's version of events from our cozy armchairs, we may have missed something important. I don't know, but maybe.

I do know this: I have heard countless stories of people in natural disasters being rescued by the very angels Psalm 18 says God rides on when He comes against His enemies. And I also know this: I am not an enemy of God. He is not against me.

I hope you can say the same thing for yourself.

My prayer for you, for me, and for Japan is this: May the God of hope fill us all with joy and peace as we learn to trust in Him. For as we trust in Him, as He truly is, we will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (paraphrase of Romans 15:13)

Peace & Joy,
Angela

August 30, 2011

Treasure These Things

Mary's Heart
"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."
Luke 2:19

Mary knew the Lover of her soul.

Did you ever have a question so long in the asking, and then one day the answer came with a smack across your forehead and a loud, "Duh!!"? I had that happen recently. I was watching my son behave precisely according to a secret his Creator revealed to me while he grew in my womb.

Mary Treasured These Things
Every time I read this passage about Mary, I would ask the same questions.

What does it mean that Mary treasured these things in her heart?

How did she navigate raising a boy with such a monumental destiny?

Mary's Burden
Didn't it feel like a great weight sometimes to be raising the Son of God?

Mary watched Jesus, knowing who He was and what He would ultimately do for mankind and the world.

Did she tell him the prophetic words that were spoken over him?

Wouldn't they have proven to be a burden to one so young?

Baby in Hands
Having received many prophetic words for my son while he was growing in my womb and after he was born, I again began to ponder these same questions about Mary's experience. This time, the questions took on even greater import as I held his tiny body in my giant trembling hands.

Do I tell him who he is?

Is it even my right to tell him his destiny?

Shouldn't he have the same privilege to choose as the rest of us do, without pressure from me?

Prophetic Destiny

Do I really know how to explain it all anyway?

Some days it did feel like a burden; a tremendous responsibility...

Coronation
Until the day Mary's secret dawned on me, the secret of treasuring all these things in her heart. That day, the slow and gentle rhythm, the gentle crashing of God's great love for me washed upon the shores of my anxieties, finally breaking through my fear and doubt. This gentle washing by His love eroded away the sands of my own human efforts to care and provide for my son a foundation I had no idea how to lay. As more and more of the grains of sand blew steadily away, I saw beneath them my Anchor, my Rock, my Lover, my Friend, holding me AND my son upon the bosom of His love.

It was then that I realized how Mary did it. She had no fear as she beheld her Son, the One who would save the world. The one difference between her and me was that before her boy was born, was that she knew intimately the One who loved her more completely than any other could. When He overshadowed her and impregnated her with His Life, all of her fear vanished. She was no longer alone, and she never would be again.

Knowing Smile
She was the Beloved, and when she "treasured these things in her heart," she was not alone in those moments. When she caught glimpses in her small Son of the Man He would become, I bet her lips turned upwards ever so slightly and a twinkle formed in the corner of her eyes as she gave a silent nod of assent to the Lover of her soul Who highlighted the truth to her. And in these moments of sharing secrets, I imagine that He comforted her with His gentle assurance of His constant presence in their lives.

Stewarding my son's destiny has taken on a whole new meaning since I had this revelation. I, too, have been overshadowed by His love and impregnated by His Life. I am not alone in raising my boy. I was chosen specifically to be his mother. We are both secure in the loving embrace of our Creator, and one day we will both look back and realize that we always walked firmly in our destinies.

August 18, 2011

Living in Tension

Dan Grayber, sculptor
The other day I was inspired to read ahead in my devotional book. My son's birthday is August 19, so I read his day's reading. Of course, it spoke to my soul and inspired me once again to consider the beauty of tension. Having had physical and emotional conditions in the past that caused deconditioning and resulting chronic pain syndrome, I understand the importance of tension, balance, and strength working together to support the physical body.

I have firsthand knowledge that having strong core muscles in concert with the healthy tension created between muscles and ligaments in balance with a healthy spine can allow us to live and move and have our being without pain or discomfort. I have firsthand knowledge that being able to live in the tension of joy and sorrow that floods any given day allows us to live and move and have our being without depression or hopelessness.

Dan Grayber Sculpture
The other thing I learned from my life experience is that there is a major difference between healthy tension and unhealthy stress. In fact, it was chronic stress produced by fear, perfectionism, and avoidance of emotional pain that led to my condition in the first place. Chronic stress floods the body with fight or flight chemicals, and the chain reactions these chemicals set off within our bodies have a profound physical effect (which I dare not try to explain here).

What I can explain is the emotional effect. Pain in every fiber of my being, so exquisite that a simple touch to my arm or leg would cause me to cry out. Constant and chronic, the only relief came from the mind-numbing effects of a brain on overdrive and anti-inflammatory-enhanced sleep. Sleep that was never restful, but welcome only for the escape it offered from a life of unfinished business. Housework piled up around me with only physical agony in store if I tackled it and self-hatred if I didn't. A vicious cycle of pain and misery.

Dan Grabyer, Sculptor
I hid it well, being a sunny optimist and a cheerful lover of all manner of people. But inside I was dying, and my body seemed to be matching step for step the death march my soul was intent on making. I know this may seem dramatic to you, but if you've ever lived with fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome, you'll know I'm not exaggerating. It is impossible to explain, and most people either compassionately offer whatever help they can or they avoid the sucking sound I made when I walked into a room.

I remember the day when things started to change. It was easily three years ago, maybe four. I was standing my kitchen staring at the counter and the floor, and I said to God, "My life is not a testimony to your goodness. I am a mess, and I do not exhibit any of the fruit of Your Spirit that the Bible talks about. I am depressed, irritable, and downright crazed sometimes. I'm always in pain, and I have no energy. I want off this carousel. Please help me."

Dan Grayber, Sculptor
Things got worse before they got better, but slowly and steadily my mind began to be washed with the refreshing water of His Spirit. At first the message came through lots of static, and it seemed like my behavior actually got even worse as I noticed more and more the muck I was drawing up from the dirty well that had become my heart.

Over time, the message become more powerful. I was even able to begin giving it away, but I still didn't believe in my very core that what He was telling me was true. Today, four years later, the message has sunk to my core and I now draw good clean water from the well of my heart. My muscles are still rebuilding, and my soul still has some work to do, but my spirit is strong and the chronic pain is gone. The pain I experience now is the same as anyone else who is building up strength or who sits in the same position too long (like at the computer).

Life is Beautiful
What is the message?

It's simple.

God really loves me.

Hazel Eyes
Not because He has to...


but because He made me wonderful.


And who am I to argue with God?


Dan Grayber, Sculptor

Grayber Scultpure
His work is astounding, and his philosophy is refreshing. "Dan Grayber creates mechanical objects that are intricately designed to resolve their own problems or shortcomings."


"Objects are invented in order to satisfy particular needs, specifically, human needs. With my sculptures I investigate the concept of need when the human is removed from this equation. I do this by replacing the human with the object itself. My sculptures are invented only to sustain themselves, functioning as self-resolving problems.  The result is an object that has been invented only to compensate for the complications created by its own existence. The piece alone represents the need and the resolution."

"Many of my pieces are small, spring loaded, mechanical objects.  They are intricately designed and fabricated to accomplish one of the most simple, yet most essential tasks that an autonomous object can.  This task, this need, is that of holding itself up.  In most cases, my pieces accomplish this by actively attaching themselves to specific architectural features and individual objects."

Green Swirls
My own thoughts on the topic: When we attach ourselves to God through His Son Jesus, then we become autonomous, "able to resolve [our] own problems, able to compensate for the complications created by [our] own existence, representing both the need and the resolution."

Link for pictures of Dan's work: http://www.dangrayber.com/portfolio.htm

Sorrow & Joy

Sorrow & Joy
Here are some excerpts from the August 19 reading:

"Sorrow was beautiful, but his beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the woods. His gentle light made little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss of the forest floor. And when he sang, his song was like the low, sweet calls of the nightingale, and in his eyes was the unexpectant gaze of someone who has ceased to look for coming gladness. He could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to him.

"Joy was beautiful, too, but hers was the radiant beauty of a summer morning. Her eyes still held the happy laughter of childhood, and her hair glistened with the sunshine's kiss. When she sang, her voice soared upward like a skylark's, and her steps were the march of a conqueror who has never known defeat. She could rejoice with anyone who rejoices, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to her.

A Garden Piece (May Morris)
"Sorrow longingly said, 'We can never be united as one.' 'No, never,' responded Joy, with eyes misting as she spoke, 'for my path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom when I arrive, and songbirds await my coming to sing their most joyous melodies.'

"'Yes, and my path,' said Sorrow, turning slowly away, 'leads through the dark forest, and moonflowers, which open only at night, will fill my hands. Yet the sweetest of all earthly songs--the love song of the night--will be mine. So farewell, dear Joy, farewell.'

Altar Frontal (embroidered by May Morris)
"Yet even as Sorrow spoke, he and Joy became aware of someone standing beside them. In spite of the dim light, they sensed a kingly Presence, and suddenly a great and holy awe overwhelmed them. They then sank to their knees before Him.

"'I see Him as the King of Joy,' whispered Sorrow, 'for on His head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. And before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness. I now give myself to Him forever.'

by William Morris
"'No, Sorrow,' said Joy softly, 'for I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of terrible agony. I also give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy I have ever known.'

"'Then we are one in Him,' they cried in gladness, 'for no one but He could unite Joy and Sorrow,' Therefore they walked hand in hand into the world, to follow Him through storms and sunshine, through winter's severe cold and the warmth of summer's gladness, and to be 'sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.'"

~Excerpted from Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman

August 16, 2011

Multifaceted

Loose Ends
So, I am in a season of tying up loose ends. I'm going back in my files and finding posts I started, but never wrote. I'm really looking for articles I can actually submit for publication, but I'm also closing down a long season in my life while I do it.

I found this post that I never published. I wrote it on April 8 of this year, and so much has happened since then, but it still speaks of the ongoing revelation that God is bringing to my life. Rather than change it, I'm just writing this brief intro. It's no longer spring here, so it is very warm here now. That's really the only thing that's no longer "true." Hope you enjoy reading it!

Loose Ends Tied Up
(04/08/11) It's been awhile since I've written. My life has been full of organizing, decorating, loving on my kids, and enjoying the warm sunshine and the sound of playful laughter. It's cooler here this week, as a cold front has moved in. So instead of playing outside until naptime, my daughter and I read a couple of stories on the couch.

One of them, "Quick as a Cricket," inspired me to write this post today.

Quick as a Cricket

Here are the last few lines of the story:

I'm as tough as a rhino,
I'm as gentle as a lamb.
I'm as brave as a tiger,
I'm as shy as a shrimp,

I'm as tame as a poodle,
I'm as wild as a chimp.
I'm as lazy as a lizard,
I'm as busy as a bee,

Put it all together,
And you've got ME!

Embracing Yourself
I have been pondering for many months now the habit I have of labeling aspects of my personality as good and others as bad. It seems that the Holy Spirit keeps whispering to me, "When we made you, we pronounced you good."

This flies in the face of many teachings I've heard about the deceitful wickedness of man's heart. I know the verse. I'm sure you do, too.

It's found in Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." I've heard many messages that hinge on this verse which leave me wondering if there is any hope for mankind.

I've been suspicious of my motives and those of others, and I've begun to label parts of myself as sanctified and parts of myself as fleshly...wicked...hopeless.

Unsanctified (Narcissus)
Lately, though, I've been hearing some other messages; messages that tell me I am sanctified, that I am perfect, that what Jesus did on the cross finished the work. These messages are coming from inside of me when I read Scripture, and when I'm alone with my God.

I was taught that Jesus' death on the cross just started the work, but when I read the Bible, especially Revelation, I am beginning to understand and see more clearly that His death finished the work.

I'm beginning to see myself from a whole new vantage point. I am less inclined to call myself names like Stupid, Bumbling, Loud, Overbearing, and Selfish. I have begun to recognize that I don't know everything and that I don't always know how to achieve every result I desire.

Both/And
I have begun to recognize that although being loud in the prayer chapel isn't maybe the best attribute, being loud on a busy street when you need to get your kids' attention is a very good thing. It has occurred to me that being bold and brassy may put some people off, but when I need something I am able to persevere until my needs are met. And finally, I have begun to recognize that taking care of myself is not the same as being selfish.

Is my heart deceitful? I don't know. I know that sometimes I'm deceived. I know that I have deceived others in the past. I know that I'm not always certain of the purity of my motives. But I have to say this about the matter...Jesus died for my sins, including the deceitfulness of my heart; He is the cure.

Is My Heart Deceitful?
Verse 10 of Jeremiah 17 says, "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."

And Luke 6:45 says, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart..."

I don't always have control of my motives, but I always have control of what I do and what I say.

Embracing Yourself

August 11, 2011

Unless We Become Like Children

Tabula Rasa
This week has been an interesting mix of filling space and allowing for the space. I know one thing, space creates a ravenous hunger which I've been filling with a lot of reading material, research, and time with my family. We watched Star Wars Episode IV as a family the past two nights. I forgot how good and cheesy that movie is...how sappy Mark Hamill was as Luke Skywalker and how stunning Harrison Ford was even in his first movie. By the way, did you know Luke Skywalker played the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series!?!? That is growth indeed.

Luke as the Joker
In fact, that is a perfect segue to something I've been pondering the past couple of days. I'm a writer...a fairly young writer in the scheme of things. When I put my thoughts down in these blogs and then send them out to all of you, sometimes I feel like I'm really hanging out there. In fact, I would say that this is one of the deadliest foes I face in writing these posts.

When I look back on my journals from ten years ago, I see a naivete and idealism that can sometimes bring me to a full on blush, which is no small feat these days. I read what I wrote about myself and about God, and I shake my head in wonder at how far I've come. This is a great thing when it's me reading my own journal entries ten years later. It's a bit of a different breed when you're talking about writing for public consumption, wondering what people are going to think ten years from now about the things I wrote about, what I'm going to think about what I wrote.

Tabula Rasa Door
This new perspective on writing as an art form has given me so much more grace for leaders in all spheres. I have had so many transformational experiences in the past two years that I definitely understand that I must allow within myself and others the possibility for growth and maturity and a change in perspective.

This is the focus of my prayer life this week. That I would learn to live in the grace of accepting everything about today's reality while at the same time leaving plenty of space for tomorrow's reality to come forth from the seeds that I planted yesterday. Tightrope walking is a skill I am going to master in my life. Here's an excerpt from a book I'm reading about this very topic.

Childlike Faith
"One of Jesus' favorite visual aids is a child. Every time the disciples get into head games, he puts a child in front of them. He says the only people who can recognize and be ready for what he's talking about are the ones who come with the mind and heart of a child. It's the same reality as the beginner's mind. It's so hard to go back, to be vulnerable, to say to your soul, 'I don't know anything.'

Everything Belongs
"Try to say that. 'I don't know anything.' We used to call it tabula rasa in Latin. Maybe you could think of yourself as an erased blackboard, ready to be written on. By and large, what blocks spiritual teaching is the assumption that we already know, or that we don't need to know. We have to pray for the grace of the beginner's mind. We need to say with the blind men, 'I want to see.'" ~Everything Belongs (Richard Rohr, 1999)

Everything Belongs
Yes, I am embracing my inner child today, allowing myself to make mistakes, to write things I won't believe in ten years, to wax eloquent and stand on my soapbox about issues that won't matter to me later, to ponder the hard questions and allow them to answer themselves in a kazillion different ways over the remainder of my lifetime. To find and encourage you to find "the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are, [and thereby learn to understand that it is] only when we live and see through God can 'everything belong.'" ~Everything Belongs

In Peace & Joy,
Angela

For photo credits, click the links below. The captions represent the search terms I used to find the pictures on Google Images.

August 4, 2011

A Blank Canvas

A Blank Canvas
Hello friends,
I'm back from my trip. I've been thinking of writing for the past couple of days, but haven't known what to write about. I decided that writing about what I'm thinking about is the best place to start. What I'm thinking about is space...not the black stuff with the stars and planets (though that is something worth a post at another time). I've discovered that space comes in seasons. I know I've given in to the discomfort of these seasons before. Rather than allowing the space to remain, I've filled it with activity, drama, or depression.

Thankfully, regardless of how I've stewarded past seasons, a new one always comes around. 'Tis the season for me now. This means that my most painful season of transition has finally come to an end. As such, I gladly welcome this space and have put forth my best attempts not to fill it with too much activity or drama. Depression is no longer a friend, so he doesn't even have an invitation to this party.

Wide Open Spaces

So, I have a few specific thoughts on this topic. First, that "home" isn't what I thought it was. I went "home" on my trip, but it no longer felt like home. When I returned "home" to California, I realized it doesn't fully feel like home either. Does that mean I'm homeless?

Second, that space is meant to be enjoyed and not always filled. I have read countless books, blurbs, and posts about the value of stillness, living in the moment, and practicing silence. It is my hope that all of this reading will translate into a rich practice in my life of living in the here and now, living with internal silence and peace, and living intentionally out of contemplation rather than reaction.

Open-Ended
As a writer, one of my favorite treatises on the importance of space refers to the white space on a page which allows us to read a book. Without margins and spaces between letters, it would be chaos to try to read. Have you ever done those puzzles where you have to determine where the spacing goes? Believe you me, we wouldn't want every book to be one of those.

My final thought is that the space itself creates a type of void that wills to be filled. It is my hope and prayer that I will resist the urge to fill all the space and that what I choose to fill this time will be filled with the best that God has for me rather than the good, mediocre, and poor that I've had a penchant for choosing in the past. To that end, I am moving slowly toward filling the space.

Abide in Me
As for the question of home, I've decided home is not a place. Here are the verses I've found to help me wrap my mind around this concept.

Colossians 1:19
"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

John 15:4-5, 7
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you."

I'm getting ready to start asking, but this time I'm going to ask more carefully!

In Peace & Joy,
Angela

July 11, 2011

Vacation

Sabbatical
I'm taking a much needed vacation from writing for the next few weeks. I'll return at some point during the second week of August. Until then, I hope you will enjoy going back to some of my older posts. It has been quite a journey for me this past year, and I hope you will find encouragement and hope when you get caught up or go back to some of your favorites. I look forward to bringing you more from my heart after I'm better rested.

May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you and give you peace.

~Angela

June 27, 2011

Addendum to #2: Seasons of Forgiveness

This series of photos I found was inspired by a search idea I had about the seasons of forgiveness. There are things in our lives that happen to us that go so deep that we can forgive at one level, only to find ourselves once again cycling through the seasons of forgiveness. I wanted to take a few minutes to expound on my thoughts for each of these pictures. The captions are the search terms I used to find the photos in Google Images.

WINTER

The Winter of our Discontent
Winter is a season where everything appears to be dead, but within barren tree trunks and underneath the frozen ground life is as active as ever. This is a great metaphor for this season of forgiveness. Just when we least expect it something triggers us, and it feels as if we are right back where we started.

We realize that yet again that person or event has gotten under our skin, and we are bereft to find a way to break free from their spell. We may cry out in despair at the roots of bitterness still left behind after the last round of forgiveness.

We may ache as we walk through the incident once again, looking for the key to releasing our loved one (or enemy as the case may be) once again. It is in the winter months of forgiveness that we realize forgiveness has very little to do with the one we are forgiving.

SPRING

Spring Has Come
Spring comes on the heels of winter. All that life that has bubbled below the surface during the bleak and dreary hibernation comes into contact with the increasing warmth of the sun, and just when you think winter will last forever that life suddenly bursts forth in vernal hues of pink, lavender, sky blue, spring green, and soft yellow.

When the grueling labor of forgiveness is finally over and the cries of your heart for freedom have built to a steady crescendo, there is a moment, a tipping point when your heart releases those tendrils of bitterness, and Love comes pouring in over you once again.

The sleepless nights come to an end, and with more rest you begin to see the color in your life once again. Your heart begins to feel tiny pricks of joy at the little things, and you know that spring has come. It is a time to celebrate and to await the growth of fruit from your labor.

SUMMER

Trees Laden with Fruit
Typically we associate summer with vacation and time off, which do happen for most of us during the summer. However, my inspiration for choosing summer to represent the harvest came from the sweetest fruit of the year, which begins to set in the springtime and is actually ready for harvest throughout most of the summer.

It is in the summer of forgiveness that we begin to taste the fruit of our labors. We realize the renewed sense of vulnerability and trust we've gained with those who have stood by us on our journey.

We realize that we can look at the ones who have hurt us with compassion, and we may even begin to reach out for ways to bridge the great divide that has separated us. The warmth of Love continues to deepen our hunger for peace and full reconciliation.

AUTUMN

Autumn--All Things Must Die
As the streams begin to dry up and the water table begins to lower, the trees begin to batten down the hatches for the impending cold. The fruit is long gone, and as the daylight and water supply decreases, the trees stop making food. As the chlorophyll begins to seep out of the leaves, they turn the brilliant orange, red, and yellow hues indicative of autumn.

It is the season of surrender, when the old must pass away and make room for the new that will grow under the surface once again during the winter sleep. What is left of the food supply must be reserved and rationed to allow the trees to endure the winter months with no means to generate new food.

In terms of forgiveness, autumn represents the seasons when our cries for reconciliation go unanswered. We find it hard to extend trust again to the ones we have forgiven, and the ones who have forgiven us are still having a hard time trusting us.

It is in the autumn of forgiveness that we must allow all of our agendas, our expectations, and dreams for these relationships and what they will become to fall away. We will be surprised still at the brilliant shades these hopes will take on as we release them into the care of Love. As we surrender yet again to the possibility of another winter and the labor of love associated with forgiving our brothers and sisters seventy times seven times.