Beloved in the Ordinary Life

I’m in a place of wrestling with my identity and worth in this new city and new season. Yesterday, as I groped for anything to hold onto, anything to help me make sense of where I am and what God’s doing here, I picked up Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning again. Chapter three is titled simply “The Beloved.” Reading through it last night and again this morning, I feel like this is a piece of what God is producing in me in this season.

Manning talks about the difference between the imposter, the false self we manufacture to present to the world around us in hopes of being accepted, and the true self, the self that finds its identity and worth in Christ alone. He writes, “While the imposter draws his identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness. We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary, mystical experiences but in our simple presence in life….We give glory to God simply by being ourselves” (Abba’s Child, p. 51-52).

He also shares a segment from the journal of John Eagan, a high school teacher and a contemplative, where Eagan talks about a visit with his spiritual director:

“Then he states something that I will ponder for years; he says it very deliberately. I ask him to repeat it so I can write it down. ‘John, the heart of it is this: to make the Lord and his immense love for you constitutive of your personal worth. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.’

We discuss it. The basis of my personal worth is not my possessions, my talents, not esteem of others, reputation…not kudos of appreciation from parents and kids, not applause, and everyone telling you how important you are to the place…I stand anchored now in God before whom I stand naked, this God who tells me ‘You are my son, my beloved one.’” (p. 51).

This idea of belovedness apart from what I do or the people around me strikes at a lie deep in my heart. In my head I can protest, “Of course I know that I’m not defined by my possessions or my position….or my lack thereof” but in my heart I still ache for a position that lets me know that I’m significant, that I matter, that I belong. I still crave the praise and appreciation of others that lets me know that I’m needed, I’m wanted, I’m liked. And I still look at my possessions and my lifestyle to see if I look right, if I live right, so I fit in, so I can say I have a place here. This move to a new city has magnified all those insecurities and cravings to an enormous weight of wanting in my heart. This needs to be dealt with, not fed or covered up. This needs the lancing of God’s truth and the balm of His love. Manning insists that if I seek for life and meaning and identity anywhere else but in Him, “I am spiritually dead” (p. 52).

“God created us for union with Himself: This is the original purpose of our lives. And God is defined as love (1 John 4:16). Living in awareness of our belovedness is the axis around which the Christian life revolves. Being the beloved is our identity, the core of our existence. It is not merely a lofty thought, an inspiring idea, or one name among many. It is the name by which God knows us and the way He relates to us” (Abba’s Child, p. 52).

I need to learn that I’m beloved, even apart from any ministry or position, any friendship or sense of belonging. I need to live out of the truth that I am beloved in my ordinary life. I’m beloved as I walk to work, as I bake muffins, as I take photos, as I sit with my husband, as I struggle to maintain patience, as I itch to get my hands dirty in the world of poverty, as I think wistfully of friends back home. Beloved in all these ordinary moments. Beloved right where I am. I need to know that I’m beloved, and that it’s enough. I need to learn to rest in that belovedness.

And as I grow in an awareness of my identity as one beloved by God, I am reminded of my call – the truest call in my life – to loved the great Lover Himself, to find my identity in that call to love and be loved in return and to live out of the truth that this is enough. I don’t need to strive to earn worth beyond this.

God was  speaking this to me the other day through His Presence in the Midst of You, by Charles Elliot Newbold Jr., a collection of letters written as if God is speaking directly to the reader (based on scripture). In it I was reminded:

“The highest service anyone can render unto Me is to worship Me in spirit and truth. I created you for this reason. Men lose their way with Me when they think they have to achieve great works in My name.

I do not want your works. I want you. I want your love, your passion, your desire to be in My presence and for My presence to abide in you.

They who wait upon Me to be refreshed by Me will be My lights in the world. The world will see the sacrifices you make to worship and praise Me, and, through such sacrifices of self, I will  draw others to Me.

Your praise of Me is the greatest testimony you can give in the world. It is your message. Your life of praise is your works. It is your sacrifice of self – laying aside your agendas, your plans, and your programs to allow Me to be all in all.” (p. 4).

I pray that, in this season in particular, God will work these essential truths deep into my heart and life. They changed my life at one time. At one time this idea, that the most important thing I could do for God is to spend time with Him, was so radical that all I could do was sit in the middle of my floor and ponder how this changed everything. It meant a complete change in direction. But that  was over three years ago. In the onslaught of passions and desires, plans and callings, that followed that revelation, the central truth of it dulled. Perhaps this season is a cal to sit in the middle of the floor again and let that enormous truth sink into my spirit and life and chang me once again.


Fix-It Friday

….or Saturday as the case may be?

I found this site today and thought it would be fun to participate,  especially with all the experimenting I’ve been doing with Picasa lately.

Here’s the original photo:

I edited it in Picasa by:

1) Increasing the shadows and highlights for more contrast and sharper colors

2) Warming up the color (because the winter landscape seemed to beg for some warming up)

3) Editing out the random pink line, as well as the white sign, with the retouch tool (I left the yellow signs because I liked the color they added)

4) Adding some soft focus to make the girl stand out more.

Here’s the finished product:

8 Months, 1 Week

This Matters More

“Simple Devotion” – Misty Edwards

Over and over and over and over again
I will stir up my soul to lay hold of You
Over and over and over and over again
I will stir up my soul
To lay hold of that which I cannot comprehend
Over and over and over and over again
Over and over and over and over again

And then I’ll just lean into sovereignty
I’ll embrace a mystery
And I’ll just rest in You
As I bathe in truth
Over and over and over and over again
This is my simple devotion
My walk of faith, day by day
Over and over and over and over again

And then I hear You say
As You gaze over the balcony of heaven
I hear You say as You peer through the lattice of time
I hear You say as You stand in heaven
I hear You say as You rejoice over me
“O Angels! O Angels! Look and see!
Through that dark night of faith
She is gazing at Me!
O Angels! O Angels! Look and see!
Through that cloud of unknowing
She’s gazing at Me!
And You have ravished My heart
My sister, My bride
With one glance of your eye!

Over and over and over and over again…

This is the truth. This is how He sees me. This matters more. More than the frustration of my failures. More than the ache of hope deferred. More than the sting of their judgment and accusations. More than the weight of loneliness. So I will stir up my soul to lay hold of You, over and over and over and over again.

Learning the Secret of Being Well Fed and of Going Hungry

I think it’s about time for another update.

By now we’ve settled in enough that the exciting newness of the move is wearing off and I’m faced with the reality that we’re in a new city, a new community, 800 miles away from friends and family. I know it takes time to build relationships in a new place and I need to take the initiative in connecting with people, but in the meantime I feel kind of isolated. This past week especially has felt a little rough.

And sometimes I get frustrated with living in Brookside. The houses are large and beautiful. The lawns are spacious and well-kept. The sidewalks and roads are clean and maintained. It’s very nice. But I feel out of place. My heart is still with the poor, the outcast and rejected, with the hurting and the broken. Not that there aren’t broken people in Brookside (I’m sure there are), but my heart yearns for a rougher place, as odd as that may be. I feel segregated here, isolated from the kind of people and neighborhoods that stir my heart. The reality of those other parts of Kansas City sometimes fades when I don’t encounter them on a regular basis. I know God has placed us here for a purpose and we’re blessed to live with Maria and Abel, but I struggle with it sometimes.

I think God is working on the position of my heart in this season, though. I believe He’s calling us to a way of life, not just a specific “ministry” or a set of actions. I should be able to follow that call, regardless of our location or circumstances. Like Paul, I want to be able to say: “I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and In all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need” (Philippians 4:12). While I balk at being in a place where I can’t clearly define my purpose and I don’t feel accomplished, where I feel distant from the life I yearn for, this may be exactly where I need to be so God can address the foundations of my heart.

And in that process, we’re still praying for direction and watching as God unfolds His plan for us. We’re still praying about doing CPX together this fall, but leaning away from it because All Nations is geared more towards people going overseas for long-term missions. While I love missions, our hearts are tugged towards the inner city here more than for other nations. We’ve heard that the Boiler Room is hoping to start a training of some sort and may do a “trial run” of sorts this fall, so we’re curious to see what happens with that (apparently the same month that we contacted the Boiler Room again, after deciding not to join the ROCK, ten – yes, ten – other families contact them about moving to Kansas City for training and equipping. Hmm…). I discovered that I’m working with another intercessor (a sweet older woman who loves to pray). And recently I discovered that one of my other co-workers lives in a missional community in an old church near 47th and Prospect. She’s getting married next week, but when she comes back, I’m hoping to get a chance to talk to her about her community. The little bit I’ve heard intrigues me and resonates with the things on my heart.

So while I struggle to wait patiently and to let God take over control of my heart, I’m curious to see what unfolds and where He leads us.

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord, and I will change your lot.” – Jeremiah 29:11-14

The National Day of Prayer is Ruled Unconstitutional

A friend of mine posted a link to this article about a judge in Wisconsin who ruled that the National Day of Prayer, which was authorized by Congress in 1952 and has been celebrated on the first Thursday in May since 1988, is unconstitutional. She ruled that it “violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on government endorsement of religion” because “it goes beyond mere acknowledgment of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context”. “In this instance,” she wrote, “the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.”

Now, in general I’m in favor of the government staying out of religion, because I appreciate the freedom to practice my faith and think that the government shouldn’t be dictating too many of our personal beliefs and morals (except to protect people, like in the case of murder, etc.), but this ruling seems like a misapplication of the First Amendment.

Just as a refresher, the First Amendment says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The national day of prayer does not promote a specific religion or form of prayer (though it’s obviously aimed at those who worship a deity — or deities). It’s also not mandatory for anyone to participate, including the president (though Bush held a gathering at the White House each year to commemorate the day, last year Obama chose to merely issue a proclamation). And frankly, the day of prayer is not widely publicized, even within the church. As far as I can see, it doesn’t prohibit anyone’s freedom to choose who/what/when/how/if they want to worship.

Just my two cents.

If the government does cancel the National Day of Prayer in the future, though, I won’t feel crushed. Is it unconstitutional? No, I don’t believe so. Is it necessary? Again, no. Regardless of whether the government proclaims a day of prayer, prayer will continue. And really, the church is still the one who should be responsible for the call to prayer for our country. As of right now, we are free to issue that call whatever day we want.

On Days Like Today….

I really miss….

....going to Wildwood

.....with these people

....and these people

.....and going to the Botanical Gardens

....with these crazy people

....and her of course

....not to mention hanging out on Peak St.

....with all our neighbors

....including these lovely kids

....and porch sitting

Yes, I am admittedly homesick for Toledo today.

Fine Tune Our Hearing

This past week we were reminded again of both God’s provision in this move to Kansas City, and the sureness of God’s voice leading us.

Derek has been diligently job hunting since we moved here. He’s run into frustrations every step of the way, though, from sketchy jobs (like the ice cream truck driving job) to transportation issues (he had to cancel one interview because he couldn’t get there without walking two miles) and even weather (every time he would set up an interview or go to fill out applications, it would rain….no joke).

Last week we remembered my interview experiences when we were here at the beginning of March. I had two interviews in the same day, one with the after-school program and the other for a server position at a hotel (as well as a third one, which I turned down because of transportation issues). The first interview went really well. I walked away excited and at peace, somehow sure that I would be offered the job, as unlikely as it seemed (because they wanted someone who could start that Monday). The second interview felt completely different. I had frustration after frustration in trying to get there (I couldn’t get off the bus where I thought I could, so I had to take a second bus, and then I accidentally went to the wrong hotel). When I finally found the right place and sat down for the interview, the guy interviewing me told me that he knew even before I came for the interview that he wasn’t going to hire me because he needed someone right away, but he offered to give me his number so I could call him if I moved to Kansas City without a job because he might be able to help me then. I was irritated, to say the least. By the time I finally got back to the Boiler Room, I’d been gone about five hours. I was so frustrated and really felt God telling me to take a break from job searching the following day to just seek Him.

When we remembered that experience, we felt like God was highlighting that difference between what it felt like to walk in His will (the peace about the interview with the after-school program, who later offered me the job) and what it felt like to strive to find something on my own (all the mess and frustration and lack of peace with the second interview).

So when Derek received another call for an interview and was filled with peace about it, we really believed that this was the job. Sure enough, when he went in last Tuesday for the interview, they told him on the spot that the job was his if he wanted it. He’ll be working in the garden center of Home Depot (though he’s employed by an outside company which is, rather ironically, based in Michigan), organizing trees, shrubs, and perennials. The position is seasonal, but full-time with a somewhat flexible schedule (he goes in around 8:30 and can leave once the work is done). The pay should be more than sufficient for what we need to earn for the tuition for CPX. And for the most part he’ll have weekends off! We have no doubt that God set up this job for Derek, just as much as He set up the job at the after-school program for me.

I feel like this is a season of God highlighting that difference between His will and everything else. On Sunday, as I prayed about all this, I felt like God was saying that in this season He is fine-tuning our spirits hear His voice more clearly. Specifically, that God is teaching us acute hearing, to be able to discern the difference between His voice and our own, His call and that of the voices around us. He begin this while we were still in Toledo, but even just in the past couple weeks I feel like He’s intensifying my awareness of that. I’m beginning to feel that difference in His will, to recognize that familiar “yes” in my spirit that feels like a puzzle piece finally fitting into the place made for it.

And I’m reminded again of God’s promise in Isaiah:

“The Lord will give you the bread you need
and the water for which you thirst.
No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
‘This is the way; walk in it,’
when you would turn to the right or to the left.” – Isaiah 30:20-21

Father, I am waiting….

This has been one of my favorite songs for a while, but it seems to particularly fit my heart’s cry right now. Abba, please speak Your heart to us. We want Your approval more than anything, more than the approval of anyone else. We want to hear Your proud and tender voice say, “Well done, my good and faithful children.” Abba, we are waiting. We need to hear from You…

In Your Presence – Jason Upton

Father I am waiting,
I need to hear from You.
To know that You’re approving
of what I say and do.

Cause nothing really satisfies
like when You speak my name.
So tell me that You’ll never leave
and everything will be okay.

In Your presence, all fear is gone,
in Your presence.
In Your presence, is where I belong,
in Your presence.

Father I’m returning
to things I used to do.
Cause somewhere on the journey
I think I lost hold of the truth.

But nothing really satisfies
like when You speak my name.
So tell me that You’ll never leave
and everything will be okay.

In Your presence, all fear is gone,
in Your presence.
In Your presence, is where I belong,
in Your presence.

Hope from Haiti

A friend (who worked as a missionary in Haiti for a while) posted a link to this video. I am so excited and encouraged watching this! And this is just the beginning of what God will do in response to the brokenness of the Haitian people…